Richard Sennett, Professor of Sociology at LSE, has been awarded the Heinrich Tessenow Medal, an honour which, until now, has been reserved for architects and designers.
The award was created in 1963 to 'honour people who have achieved distinction in craft and industrial form-making and in the teaching of the culture of living and building, and who have through their life's work acted in the spirit of Heinrich Tessenow', the German architect who died in 1950.
Professor Sennett is best known for his study of social ties in cities and the effects of urban living and working. The German-language edition of his book The Craftsman, which sought to examine the wider cultural significance of craftsmanship, was published this month and was singled out for praise by the Heinrich Tessenow Society.
Professor Sennett grew up in Chicago, where he began studying music, particularly the cello, but had to give up as a result of an unsuccessful operation on his left hand. He then studied sociology at Harvard and later history, and counted Hannah Arendt among his teachers.
He first achieved fame with his book The Fall of Public Man (1977). Amongst his subsequent books are Flesh and Stone: The Body and the City in Western Civilization (1998) and The Culture of the New Capitalism (2005).
He deals with Tessenow's concerns, without direct reference to his work, as they impact on present-day conditions, and analyses current economic and social processes and the consequences of new technological developments. In this way Sennett's work can be understood as an updated and extended version of the ideas of Tessenow.
Tessenow analysed industrial development and its significance for people in essays like Craftwork and Factory Work and in his 1919 book Craftwork and Small Town. He analysed the meaning of work for the individual, its effects on living conditions and relationships, as well as the prerequisites for humane living conditions.
In 1951, the architect Rudolf Wolters wrote, 'Tessenow was no discoverer like Behrens, no revolutionary like Gropius, no aesthete like Mies van der Rohe. He was the philosopher amongst architects.'
The award ceremony next month will be at the Art Library of the State Museums of Berlin where the artistic estate of Tessenow has been conserved since 1979.
For more information contact LSE Press Office on 020 7955 7060
13 January 2009