PH.D Program in Architecture Current Research

Architecture, Technocracy, Silence: Building Discourse in Franquista Spain

María González Pendas

This dissertation examines the emergence of a distinct form of architectural culture in Spain during the Franquista regime (1939-1975), and draws connections between the modernization of architecture and the ideological and institutional evolution of the dictatorship. Throughout its thirty six year span, the fascist Sate led by Francisco Franco transitioned from a military autarky to a technocratic state of sorts, all the while retaining the ultraconservative, Catholic, and authoritarian values that were essential to its inception. Opus Dei cadres who came to control the governing and cultural apparatus of the regime led this particular process of reactionary modernization. This dissertation reveals ways in wich buildings, architects and ideas about the built environment participated of this shifting scenario, arguing that the intersection of aesthetics and politics assumed the paradoxical discursive form of silence. If architects undermined the symbolic aspirations of their designs by means of abstraction and the formal and technical tropes proper to modernism, there was also a foreclosure of critical discourse and an emphasis on building as disciplinary domain. Through a series of analysis of buildings that remain silenced in the history of architecture—or emptied out of their ideological significance and that include the Tarragona Government Building and the National Pavilion for Expo'58—I make them speak of the politics of Franquismo, of the architecture culture they encompassed, and of the ways in which silence was instrumental to both. The apparent depoliticization of architecture by way of technological and formalist detours is hardly a local phenomenon. With Franquista Spain as case study, this dissertation adds to the lasting disciplinary debate on the role of, and ultimately the need for a critical ethos as a means of confronting the political agency of architecture.

The Psychotechnical Architect: Perception, Vocation, and the Laboratory Cultures of Modernism, 1914-1945

James D. Graham

Technological rationalization has often been held as one of the defining characteristics of architectural modernism, as the engine of industrial modernity was fueled by a quantitative sense of Arbeitskraft through which labor power was rendered knowable, abstract, and exchangeable. But this caloric understanding of the urban worker was frequently shadowed by an interest in perceptual rationalization as well. If Taylorist empiricism implied an architecture of efficient work, where did that leave the figure of the architect? Could design and experience be rethought as kinds of work, and rendered similarly empirical? Such was the promise of Hugo Münsterberg's invention of "psychotechnics" in 1914—a parascientific discipline that blended industrial management with perceptual psychology, creating data from phenomena and human capacities that had previously resisted quantification. Psychotechnics promised a vocational bureaucracy through which to judge not just architecture, but architects (with aspiring students finding themselves on both sides of the scientific apparatus, as researchers and as subjects of inquiry).

From its naming in 1914 through the close of the Second World War, a number of architects took interest in this since forgotten field, which held the significant possibilities for new directions in design pedagogy, architectural practice, urban planning, and more generally understanding the interface between human subjects and the spaces and systems of the industrialized city (whether communist or capitalist). In the search for a modernism beyond the formal precepts of the "modern movement," the architectural laboratory became the central scene of action, grounding architectural production in new models of research that redefined architecture's status as a discipline. Following a number of attempts at psychotechnical architectures through the United States, Germany, and the Soviet Union—by figures such as Hugo Münsterberg, Hanns Riedel, Hannes Meyer, Walter Moede, Nikolai Ladovsky, Pavel Rudik, Frank Gilbreth, and László Moholy-Nagy—my research traces the contours of an evolving discourse of expertise, aptitude, and spatial sensibility as the discipline of architecture remade itself on simultaneously aesthetic and political grounds.

Modernity’s Body, 1850-1930: The Architecture of Norm and Type in East Central Europe and German Africa

Hollyamber Kennedy

At the 1930 World Energy Conference in Berlin, the architect Herman Sörgel unveiled his technological vision for Atlantropa—a new Mitteleuropa, a 'postnational' state represented by an infrastructural map that linked the 'arid' lands of Africa and the Middle East to the industrial centers of Central Europe.  Under the banner of an 'efficient' hydroelectric colonialism, an expanded Germany would absorb the 'surplus populations' and raw materials of the African continent and the Middle East.  For Sörgel, it was a matter of risk management: Threated by American capital to the west, and "the Yellow Menace" to the east, Atlantropa would draw its power along an extended north south span that stretched "from pole to pole," dissolving the Westphalian border system in a flood of synthetic light.  It would be, Sörgel argued, a modern electrical deluge: "Instead of dividing walls: binding power lines! Only a common interlinking with a high-voltage network achieves a European Union."   Drawing on the work of Phillip Sarasin and Roberto Esposito, I argue that Sörgel's map conceptualized the immunitary principle at the core of sovereign power—the problem of the conservatio vitae first expressed in Hobbesian legal theory—as an infrastructural practice.

As such, Sörgel's presciently postcolonial 'world building' exercise stands as a key example of what I identify in this dissertation as a 'border discourse' central to the development of architectural modernism in Central and East Central Europe.  I argue that this development, which emerged within a statistical paradigm of risk and optimization, was intimately linked to Germany's colonization project across the African continent, and took shape as a network of aesthetic languages focused on the body—both as a discrete unit and as a representation of the 'body politic,' or, in liberal governmental terms, the population.  This network, and its role in configuring the heuristic of the modern body as a medium for visualizing both disease and political belonging, is the focus of my study.  Following the work of Gottfried Semper, Robert Koch, Max Weber, Hermann Muthesius, and Sörgel, this dissertation tracks the 'typed' and ultimately 'normed' body as it travels through and is altered by the disciplines and techniques of architectural standardization, infrastructural systems building, ethnographic display and public health management.  It opens in London, on the eve of the Great Exhibition of 1851, and concludes in 1930 at the World Energy Conference in Berlin.  Over the course of five chapters, it suggests an alternative archeology of architectural modernism that draws together new housing types, public hygiene and environmental reform, transnational dams and electrical systems, quarantine camps and bodily-oriented curatorial methodologies.

Working title: Feminism in American Architecture, 1968-2000

Andrea J. Merrett

My project – an examination of the impact of feminism on American architecture from the late1960s through the 1990s – explores the ferment that shook architecture during these pivotal decades. Second-wave feminism emerged out of the turmoil of the late 1950s and early 1960s, and was well established as a movement by the time women in architecture began organizing associations and conferences in early 1970s. From early concerns about improving their numbers and status in the profession, feminist architects and architecture scholars expanded the knowledge of women’s involvement in the built environment, and challenged the boundaries of the discipline. The 1990s saw a proliferation of scholarship and academic conferences which, reflecting a broader shift towards theory in architecture and feminism, took up gender and discourse analysis. Through careful archival work, supported by extensive interviews, I seek to uncover the history of the feminist movement in architecture and assess its present-day legacies.