Wolfe prefers ornate stylings, such as in Louis Sullivan's Bayard Building (left), to the unadorned boxes of glass and steel, such as Mies van der Rohe's IBM Plaza.
Wolfe bluntly lays out his thesis in the introduction to From Bauhaus to Our House with a riff on the patriotic song "America the Beautiful"
O beautiful, for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, has there ever been another place on earth where so many people of wealth and power have paid for and put up with so much architecture they detested as within thy blessed borders today?
Wolfe criticizes the tendencies of modern architecture to avoid any external ornamentation. Wolfe praised architects like Louis Sullivan who, from the late 19th century to his death in 1924, built a number of ornate buildings. Wolfe turned his criticism on the International Style and Modern Architecture exemplified by architects such as Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Le Corbusier and Walter Gropius (the founder of the Bauhaus school in Germany, whose ideas influenced Modern Architecture, and from which the title of the book derives). Wolfe believed that the buildings of the International Style and Modern Architecture could barely be appreciated by those who had to work in them.
Wolfe's critique, however, was not purely aesthetic. As in The Painted Word Wolfe was critical of what he saw as too much adherence to theory
. Wolfe characterized the architecture as based on a political philosophy that was inapplicable to America, arguing, for example, that it was silly to model American schools on "worker's flats" for the proletariat. The architecture world—like an art world dominated by critics, and a literature world dominated by creative writing programs—was producing buildings that nobody liked. Many architects, in Wolfe's opinion, had no particular goal but to be the most avant-garde.