Bernard Rudofsky (1905-1988)

Designer and architect who focused on the problems of everyday design

Updated: November 27, 2012

Bernard Rudofsky was an influential designer and writer who focused on designing goods and spaces for everyday use. Born in Moravia, he earned a Ph.D. in architecture in Austria. Prior to his emigration to the United States in 1941, he worked in several European countries as well as Brazil. 

Rudofsky's interests were wide-ranging and included architecture and urban design as well as fashion and various forms of modern industrial and product design. He first came to the United States on invitation from the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) as part of a design competition. He remained in New York City, and throughout the postwar decades organized several noted exhibits at the MoMA. He also taught at various institutions including Yale, MIT, and the Royal Academy of Fine Arts in Copenhagen. In 1944, he spent time at Black Mountain College, which was at that time a center for emigré artists and modernist designers, including the Bauhaus's Joseph Albers. 

In much of his work, Rudofsky challenged postwar design traditions and standardization practices, arguing for humane and practical design solutions. In this he found himself often at odds with the designs of American mass consumer goods by Raymond Loewy et al., but also with the at times overly rational design of modernist European designers, such as e.g. Ferdinand Kramer. Instead, Rudofsky explored what he considered to be alternatives to the Western (or transatlantic) tradition and looked to Asia and the Mediterranean world for inspiration. In the area of urban design he attacked the functionalism of postwar American cities and argued for a return to mixed-used streets and pedestrian plazas modeled particularly on Italian cities.

Selected Publications

Rudofsky, Bernard. Are Clothes Modern? An Essay in Contemporary Apparel. Chicago: P. Theobald, 1947.

Rudofsky, Bernard. Behind the Picture Window. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955.

Rudofsky, Bernard. Streets for People: A Primer for Americans. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1969.

Selected Bibliography

Architektur Zentrum Wien and Getty Research Institute. Lessons from Bernard Rudofsky: Life as a Voyage. Basel: Birkhäuser, 2007.

Guarneri, Andrea Bocco. Bernard Rudofsky: A Humane Designer. New York: Springer, 2003.

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