AIA CES Credits
AV Office
Abstract Publication
Academic Affairs
Academic Calendar, Columbia University
Academic Calendar, GSAPP
Admissions Office
Advanced Standing Waiver Form
Alumni Board
Alumni Office
Anti-Racism Curriculum Development Award
Architecture Studio Lottery
Avery Library
Avery Review
Avery Shorts


STEM Designation
Satisfactory Academic Progress
Skill Trails
Student Affairs
Student Awards
Student Conduct
Student Council (All Programs)
Student Financial Services
Student Health Services at Columbia
Student Organization Handbook
Student Organizations
Student Services Center
Student Services Online (SSOL)
Student Work Online
Studio Culture Policy
Studio Procedures
Summer Workshops
Support GSAPP
This website uses cookies as well as similar tools and technologies to understand visitors' experiences. By continuing to use this website, you consent to Columbia University's usage of cookies and similar technologies, in accordance with the Columbia University Website Cookie Notice Group 6

Óskar Arnórsson

Óskar Arnórsson is a Doctoral Candidate in Architecture at Columbia GSAPP. Arnórsson is a historian of transnational governance through architecture and the built environment, with an emphasis on mid-20th Century intergovernmental architectural and environmental practices. At Columbia GSAPP’s program in Critical, Conceptual and Curatorial Practices in Architecture (M.S.CCCP), he completed an award-winning thesis on the renovation of the United Nations headquarters in New York, bringing together architecture and contemporary geopolitics. Through mixed media—drawings, models, presentations, and text—he showed how the UN’s renovation of 2015 paradoxically reinforced the universalist ideals of the late forties and early fifties, while adopting new ones—those of security, sustainability, and accessibility, covertly through the details—inside of soffits, mullions and picturesque buffer zones.

This interest in how architecture governs transnationally has carried on into his dissertation work. As a teenager, walking around post-industrial Reykjavik, he would frequently learn that this or that building was a remnant of the Marshall Plan and the US military occupation of the country after WWII. They hinted that there must be structures like that across the European continent, erected by Europeans at the USA’s behest, covertly guiding European subjects through new standards of comfort, life expectancy and economic growth.

Through the unearthing of such structures, in either built or mediated form, The Marshall Plan provides him with an ideal “object.” Even so, the plan is also an ambiguous object, through its simultaneously grand historical imaginary and mixed record of accomplishments, both in terms of politics and architecture. It is an object through which he can show how any instance of governance must happen through space which is designed, whatever the intentions that went into this design. The stakes are therefore whether and how architecture partakes in transnational history at all, and if so, it is his task to explore the mechanisms by which it does.


Dissertation Title: Architectures of the Marshall Plan in Europe, 1947-52

“Architectures of the Marshall Plan in Europe, 1947-52” takes as its object the European Recovery Plan (ERP) commonly known as the Marshall Plan. Through research in archives in four countries, the United States, Germany, France, and Greece, it reveals how aid was spent on architecture and infrastructure, as well as on technical training of the administrators, architects, and engineers implementing it, across Europe over the duration of the plan. Each chapter presents a separate thesis building on the one before it. After an introductory chapter on the underpinnings of the plan, the second chapter looks at the ECA’s Visual Information Unit and its director, American architect Peter Harnden. Here, the unit’s most famous curatorial device, the traveling exhibition train, projects the perfect image of European connectedness through American aid. In the third chapter, the German architect Walter Gropius fails to participate in German reconstruction, leaving it to a generation of protégés of former NSPD architects such as Rudolf Hillebrecht in the German city of Hannover. In the fourth chapter, C.A. Doxiadis’ work on the reconstruction of Greece is evaluated as a test case for American development, to be re-exported elsewhere after the Marshall Plan. In the fifth chapter, I turn my attention to the technical assistance program and the visits of French architects, engineers, and their industrial suppliers to the USA to learn new methods of technocracy and efficiency. Together, they combine to tell a story of a new era of American power, manifested in European buildings and infrastructures, even if one may not always know where to look for it.