This dissertation describes the active discourse regarding solar house heating in American architectural, engineering, political, economic, and corporate contexts from the eve of World War II until the late 1950s. Interweaving these multiple narratives, the aim of the project is threefold: to document this vital discourse, to place it in the context of the history of architecture, and to trace through it the emergence of a techno-cultural environmentalism.
Experimentation in the solar house relied on the principles of modern architecture for both energy efficiency and claims to cultural relevance. A passive “solar house principle” was developed in the late 30s in the suburban houses of George Fred Keck that involved open plans and flexible roof lines, and emphasized volumetric design. Spurred by wartime concern over energy resource depletion, architectural interest in solar heating also engaged an engineering discourse; in particular, an experimental program at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology led to four solar houses and a codification of its technological parameters. Attention to the MIT projects at the UN and in the Truman and Eisenhower administrations placed the solar house as a central node in an emergent network exploring the problems and possibilities of a renewable resource economy.
Further experimentation elaborated on connections between this architectural-engineering discourse and the technical assistance regimes of development assistance; here by MIT researcher Maria Telkes, who also collaborated, at different junctures, with the architects Eleanor Raymond and Aladar Olgyay. The solar house discourse was further developed as a cultural project in the 1958 competition to design a solar heated residence, “Living With the Sun,” which coalesced the diverse formal tendencies of mid-century modernism to promote the solar house as an innovation in both lifestyle and policy.
Though the examples described are not successful as either technological objects and cultural projects, the story of the modern solar house excavates a history of the present anxiety concerning the relationship between environmental and social conditions. Perhaps most cogently, the narrative reconfigures the role of architecture within such discussions, as a site for both technological innovation and for experimentation in the formation of an environmentalist culture.
In this dissertation, I investigate connections between French philosophy and the theory of architecture from the mid-1960s to the early 1990s. In the mid-1960s, many architects became acutely aware of the crisis of modern architecture embodied in the failings of social housing, the routinized corporate modernism of the postwar period, and the commodification of design. They questioned the principles of the Modern Movement and emphasized the “arbitrary” nature of the relationship between form and function while turning to French structuralism, semiology, and post-structuralism for potential answers. My period of study spans from the the period of political uprisings of the 1960s to the advent of digital design in the early 1990s.To date, little in-depth research has been done on the close relation between French philosophy and architecture in this period and its role in foreshadowing postmodern developments.
My dissertation addresses this gap by presenting case studies of the theoretical work of six different architects: Aldo Rossi, Alan Colquhoun, Mario Gandelsonas and Diana Agrest, Bernard Tschumi, and Peter Eisenman. These case studies share a common thread: a preoccupation with structuralist and poststructuralist concerns with language. However, concepts such as “structure,” “event,” and “meaning” often have different meanings for each of these architects. Thus, my project could be described as a history and criticism of architectural theory—one that focuses specifically on the dissonances and contradictions present within the theoretical writings of these architects, while examining the polemics and discussions between them. I consider their built work only to the extent that it helps to elucidate or challenge theoretical concepts.
Thus, in my case study on Aldo Rossi’s writings, I interrogate the analogy between the structuralist concern for articulating discrete and finite linguistic units and the latter’s notion of “type” and urban morphology. In the chapter on Alan Colquhoun, I discuss the influence that the work of Roland Barthes, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Ferdinand de Saussure had on his reflections about “meaning” and “convention” in architecture. In the case study on the work of Diana Agrest and Mario Gandelsonas, I examine the extent to which their understanding of “theory” and of “ideology” is indebted to the work of Louis Althusser and trace the influence of Roland Barthes, whose seminar on S/Z they attended in Paris before moving to New York in 1971. Likewise, I analyze the role that thinkers such as Henri Lefebvre, Roland Barthes, and the Tel Quel circle in the late 1970s, and Jacques Derrida in the early 1980s had on Bernard Tschumi’s writings on the “polysemy of meaning” and on the “event.” Finally, I examine Peter Eisenman’s collaboration with Jacques Derrida in the 1980s questioning Eisenman’s eclectic appropriation of Derrida’s philosophical concepts.
Besides elucidating this significant period of architecture in which many of the fundamental principles of modern architecture were overturned, in the conclusion of this study, I discuss briefly the “post-critical turn” in the architectural scholarship of the past two decades with the hope of challenging its basic assumptions. My hope is to contribute, through its critical reevaluation, to theory’s renewal.
Since antiquity the term polis has captured both the idea of city as physical settlement and that of city as community/state. This thesis will explore this constituent ambivalence as it took form in the early-modern period, tracing a series of historical shifts in the way the city was envisioned in France from the reign of Louis XIV until the Revolution. I propose to study the urban imaginary of this period by comparing the figures of the city produced by architects and utopian writers to the ideas formulated under the rubric of “police science,” the theory of the government and administration of the city.
The thesis will examine two historical phenomena and their mutual relation: first, the emergence of a new “rationality” of the city, as it developed in the discourse and practices of the police, the institution that most controlled urban transformation; and second, a profound cultural change in the way the city, in both its material and political sense, was conceived. My hypothesis is that the new ideas and representations of the city that emerged in the eighteenth century involved a fundamental rearticulation of the relation between State and civil society–the police offers a critical means to understanding that rearticulation.
My dissertation is a study of Marco Zanuso (Milan, Italy 1916-2001). The study will show how the methodology of this architect and industrial designer, formed during the second World War and the 1950s in Milan, emphasized the engagement of current capabilities in production; inventive reuse of physical and logistical structures; and attention to social need. These themes will be explored through case studies of individual objects, including factories, domestic buildings, schools, and industrial design objects such as furniture and televisions.
Analytical comparisons to projects by contemporaries in the reconstruction mood of1945-1960 will include Milanese architects who made similar use of “béton brut” and elementary construction systems, such as Vittoriano Viganò and Figini and Pollini; and designers who shared Zanuso’s proclivities for mass design and design with roots in preexisting cultural forms and productive capacities, notably Achille and Pier Giacomo Castiglioni. The central chapters of the study seek, through these investigations, to understand Zanuso’s notion of “mass” design in architecture and design, and to compare this notion to the “machine age” idea described by Reyner Banham (1) entailing, on one hand, the application of technology to the enhancement of everyday life and invention of new forms of living; on the other hand, rejection of the formal tastes associated with “academicism” in traditional architecture. Further, the study probes the limits of this età della macchina, in particular the decline of the machine-age style in Zanuso’s work amid the twilight of the industrial development for which such projects were optimized, as industrial production and cultural structures were replaced with those of a “tertiary” economy and other post-industrial cultural manifestations in the early to mid 1970s.(1) Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (London: Architectural Press, 1960).
The nineteenth-century American building world assembled an unprecedented armature of professional knowledge. This dissertation reconstructs that armature by sampling from the profusion of technical and institutional documents that helped architects, engineers, and builders reckon with the enigmatic abstractions of liberal and industrial capitalism— along with the regimes of labor, infrastructure, and resource management they introduced. Typically ignored by architectural historians, these documents form a valuable archive of cultural texts and evidential indices.
As a system of knowledge, they tether design to a series of political-economic conflicts. Revolutionary Philadelphia carpenters and reactionary Anglican specifiers alike found in printed numbers sources of authority and claims on temporal power. Postbellum architect-engineers like John C. Trautwine and Frank Kidder used pocketbooks to transfuse the logics of locomotives and lumber mills into the core of architectural practice. Through a professional sleight of hand, institution-builders like Richard Upjohn and Richard Morris Hunt distanced themselves from the appearance of calculation while depending upon it ever more, encrypting it in drawings, institutional scripts, and legal precedent.
In their work with architect H.H. Richardson, general contractors James and Orlando W. Norcross most fully realized the potentials of this system, synthesizing technical literature, industrial capital, and a proprietary mythos of materials to achieve the apotheosis of American architecture. I plumb this obscure world of literate builders and architect-engineers to map such architecture as an expanded field of infrastructural practice, arguing that industrial modernity was perhaps best glimpsed not in an iron frame but in a carefully-sourced palette of quarry-faced sandstone.
Military architecture and urbanism have played a significant yet overlooked role in the expansion and maintenance of British colonial rule within India, not least during its turbulent first century while under the private government of the East India Company (1757-1858). This dissertation traces the development over this period of the Company’s singular military formation—the cantonment—exploring how this permanent camp was conceived, developed, and spread in large numbers, especially across the subcontinent’s northern hinterlands or mufassil, those vast provincial, rural, and frontier areas of India.
I argue that there was a strategic reluctance within these spaces for these entities to appear fully crafted, fully completed. This not only enabled both their planning and function to adapt to countless situations, but also allowed for a degree of stealth in their deployment, producing a slow, psychic violence through an ambiguity of intent entirely consistent with the means and ideology of territorial extension by the British, and in the securing of this territory. Such “lack of completion” could be described as preserving the effect of a diagram or a plan in its realization, bypassing the normal requirements of translation into an architecture of open representation. This almost-aesthetic gave it a peculiar power; and this type sits distinct from the ideologies of “progress” subsequently embraced bythe Raj.
A key theoretical thrust of the research, therefore, is to explore the colonial cognitive dissonance between permanence and impermanence, and lived experience and abstraction, through the operation of the cantonment system across several phases in the ideological development of Indian colonialism. It is to determine if and what were the causal relations between the two (the system and the ideology), joining the varying scales of design and construction, internal social economy, border security, tax and revenue collection, logistics and infrastructure, and wider political and conflict strategies.
In the late-1960s, a handful of young, countercultural Americans, inspired by E. F. Schumacher’s concept of “intermediate technology,” founded the Appropriate Technology, or AT, movement in the United States. Although Schumacher’s project focused upon the ways in which technologically sustainable methods could gently and prudently support the modernization of underdeveloped nations, American proponents of AT recognized, in this approach, an opportunity to mitigate the overdevelopment of the Western world. By advocating, promoting, and effecting sustainable techniques from a grassroots to governmental level, practitioners of appropriate technology sought to prevent the further environmental, economic, and social degradation of American communities.
The mission of AT was synergistic: by implementing “appropriate” methods of energy production, building design, transportation, education, health care, and communications, appropriate technologists attempted to create comprehensive change. This disciplinary and conceptual inclusivity encouraged the organization of a diversity of AT proponents into cooperative, multifunctional groups, which acted both from within governmental bureaucracy, in the case of California’s Office of Appropriate Technology and the National Center for Appropriate Technology, and outside the Establishment, in the case of the New Alchemy Institute and RAIN collective. My dissertation centers upon these four groups – in particular, their realized projects, community outreach programs, and numerous publications – emphasizing the ways in which the initial philosophy, politics, and focus of AT evolved as the movement transitioned from a countercultural pipe dream to a widely supported solution for America’s energy problems in the wake of the 1973 Oil Crisis.
This dissertation explores architectural building types as critical components of, and unique points of interface with, three infrastructural systems, built or re-built in New York City in the decades after World War II. While contemporary infrastructure is enmeshed in regional and global networks far beyond the administrative bounds of the five boroughs, an architectural focus reveals these systems as inescapably local, tied to political struggles surrounding the siting, design, and construction of buildings; to socio-technical imperatives of density; to material consequences like traffic and air pollution; and to aesthetic effects like beauty, monotony, and monumentality. Three case studies—in food distribution, telephone service, and sewage treatment—explore different spatial techniques involved in the management of commodities, information, and waste. Reading each through the social history of technology, as well as the disciplinary tools of architectural history, brings to light unique aspects of architecture’s participation in the political, social, and technological landscapes of the contemporary city.
This dissertation looks closely at the prewar roots and postwar creation of New York’s present-day systems: the adoption of the infrastructural buildings we see today, and the rejection of alternatives in design, values, and policies. It argues that the city’s vital systems, and their architectural manifestations, were largely designed according to the needs of various elite groups, in ways that supported the long-term deindustrialization and stratification of urban existence, though not according to a consistent or coherent plan. Well-studied postwar phenomena such as decentralization, automation, demographic change, and “urban crisis” take on different casts as familiar characters like politicians, property owners and architects are joined by monopoly corporations, technicians, and neighborhood organizers. Granular study of the processes that led to the adoption of particular plans, and the rejection of alternatives, reveals the city’s visual and functional landscape as one shaped by a wide—though far from democratic—range of actors.
Today, these same infrastructures, physically durable even as their social use has been redirected or transformed, continue to participate in an ostensibly postindustrial and rapidly gentrifying city. By reexamining the narratives of these systems’ design and construction, the study of infrastructural architecture illuminates this inequitable history, while revealing moments of resistance and supporting calls for the further democratization of urban life by those whose needs have been discounted.
Chicago architect Dwight Perkins was a pivotal figure in the progressive social and political reforms that were especially strong in the Midwestern United States during the opening decades of the twentieth century. He held several municipal appointments, lobbied successfully for the passage of conservation legislation, and had personal and professional connections with prominent local reformers such as Jane Addams, the founder of Hull House settlement, John Dewey, a pragmatist philosopher and pedagogue, Charles Zueblin, a leader in the City Beautiful Movement, and Jens Jensen, a landscape architect. My contention is that this milieu shared a set of socio-political ideals that revolved around the goal of fostering a mutually responsible social democracy in place of laissez faire individualism and that the realization of this goal took on architectural form through Perkins’ designs for new social centers, namely: settlement houses, public schools, playgrounds, parks and recreation facilities.
Perkins and his compatriots envisioned these spaces as loci of democratic exchange, and when grouped together they operated as a town planning formula for creating self-governing democratic communities. This dissertation seeks to explore: 1) the substance of the social reforms desired by Perkins and his fellow progressives, which touched on issues such as assimilation, the role of public education in molding citizens, the importance of group recreation and nature study in promoting democratic behavior, as well as an emphasis on health, hygiene, safety, and efficiency; 2) the way in which Perkins’ social centers institutionalized certain middle-class values, especially with regards to gender roles and economic class; 3) the way Perkins’ realized and symbolized these agendas in his architectural designs, particularly through his use of materials, his development of new plan types, and his creation of hybrid architectural forms that often incorporated historical motifs.
The opening decades of the twentieth century saw the marked rise of three interrelated fields—applied psychology, vocational education, and occupational therapy. This dissertation explores the effects of these emerging fields on architectural modernism, as it turned to perceptual science and vocational bureaucracy as a means to judge not just design but designers. This took shape especially in a field known as psychotechnics, a discipline that blended industrial management with applied psychology and was a central but understudied legacy of the First World War. This research explores the links between architectural design (in practice and pedagogy) and the emergent bureaucracies of vocational placement and occupational therapy in the Soviet Union, the United States, and Germany, showing the sympathies between psychophysiological research (particularly that of Hugo Münsterberg) and the designs and teaching methods of figures like Nikolai Ladovsky, Moisei Ginzburg, Hannes Meyer, and László Moholy-Nagy. In the search for a modernism beyond the formal precepts of the “modern movement,” the architectural laboratory became a central scene of action, grounding architectural production in new models of research that redefined architecture’s status as a discipline.
Each chapter traces a particular thread of this encounter between psychotechnics and architecture. Chapter One explores its implications for pedagogy, exploring the influence of applied psychology (explicit and latent) in two much-discussed sites of interwar European architectural education—the Bauhaus in Dessau (particularly under Meyer) and VKhUTEMAS in Moscow, where Ladovsky instituted a Psychotechnical Laboratory of Architecture. Chapter Two asks whether Münsterberg’s psychotechnical work on distinctly urban occupations, notably those having to do with operating vehicles, implies something of a theory of the city, tracing the influence of psychotechnics in projects of urban design, whether by the Soviet ARU or in the planning of the German Autobahn. Chapter Three focuses on an emerging understanding of disability in the years following the First World War, asserting that the new fields of rehabilitation and occupational therapy are unspoken but central participants in shaping the modernisms of figures like Moholy-Nagy. What these episodes illuminate is a vision of an architecture whose modernity is not defined on the visual or technological grounds of the building, but rather in the nature of architectural “work” itself, understood in the aftermath of the First World War on a newly vocational basis.
In surveys of American architecture the so-called colonial period, from the founding of Jamestown in 1607 to the war for independence in the 1770s, has generally been viewed from an “Anglo-American” perspective. Focusing on the British colonies that would become the United States, the architecture of the period has been characterized as a direct transplantation from the “mother country” according to what architectural historian John Summerson describes as “English standards pure and simple.” So firmly has this historiographical paradigm been established that an essential “Englishness” continues to define the history of colonial America and its architecture. While recent efforts have been made to increase the diversity of those represented, one dimension still missing is the influence of Ireland in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century. And yet, these Irish connections have long had a presence in the publicly available historical evidence. Therefore this dissertation will draw on that evidence for an alternative view of American colonial history, collecting the available Irish materials and tracing the threads that tie Ireland to America, either directly or as mediated by England. Through the assemblage of what has often been relegated to footnotes, asides, or ambiguous citations, it fashions a counter-narrative that spans the Atlantic from the Tudors to the early Hanoverians. In doing so, it explores a diverse constellation of elements including landscapes, plans, buildings, and monuments, while situating them within a larger context, thereby reframing some of the canonical events, individuals, and artifacts that appear in surveys of American architecture. With a shift in perspective comes a shift in the history, one that complicates, challenges, and at times upends, traditional or Anglo-centric readings of colonial America and the transformation of its physical environment. In fact, when seen from the perspective of Ireland a more complex story emerges, one that displaces old binaries while revealing a history that has been hiding in plain sight. Finally, the dissertation addresses both the historical and the historiographical conditions that have resulted in the gaps, ambiguities, and erasures that have contributed to keeping this history hidden.
Taking Summerson’s Architecture in Britain, 1530-1830 as a starting point and guide, the dissertation begins in the 1530s with the pre-conditions for colonization and their entanglement with architecture, then builds on historiographical foundations already laid linking the English plantations in Ireland and Virginia to trace the continuity and multiplicity of connections that run through the colonies, from New England and the “Middle Colonies” to the American south, before ending in the 1730s. In the process, well-known American works long associated with England are incorporated into a larger, intergenerational story that is intimately, and inextricably, tied to Ireland and to “Irish” networks in England and America. In addition, by examining both the historiographical as well as the historical dimensions, and placing the history and the historiography in dialogue, this dissertation hopes to offer some insights into the production of the history of the American colonial period, as well as its plans, spaces, and objects. In doing so it calls into question the essential “Englishness” of the field as it has been constructed from the late nineteenth-century onward.
This dissertation charts a spatial, architectural, and landscape history of German settlement colonialism (Siedlungskolonialismus) in the Prussian Polish Provinces and German South West Africa, between 1884 and 1918. It situates this study from the framework of Germany’s late nineteenth century project of internal colonization (innere Kolonisation), which forms an almost exact temporal parallel with Germany’s external colonial interventions and can be seen as an indispensable part of its broader apparatus, which points to new connections within its entangled fields of operation. Following several generations of German architects, planners, social scientists, and settlement practitioners (Ansiedlungspraktiker) working at the borders of empire, this dissertation asks how the colonial question of land shaped modern planning discourse at the turn of the century. Broadly speaking, I look at how state control over the freedom of movement, colonial land reclamation, and the resistance these interventions encountered contoured modernism’s politics of land. This study illustrates how the languages of German architectural and planning modernism were marked by asymmetric and discordant processes of colonial spatialization—a multivalent transfiguration of the landscape in which the local, indigenous, and pre-colonial populations played a central, if often unacknowledged, role. This project seeks in turn to read that resistance, as interlocutor, back into the history of German colonial intervention in the two regions under discussion in this study. Finally, I argue that placing these episodes together within the same discursive framework, tracing the spatiality and aesthetics of German imperial expansion from the analytic of settlement, opens up a new set of questions regarding the role of enclosure and its epistemologies in architectural modernism. This brings the often-sidelined issue of agrarian modernity and the disciplining of the landscape (in the Foucauldian sense), to bear on modern architectural histories.
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Central to Canadian identity is a national consciousness of inhabiting a country of vast wilderness landscapes. This thesis explores the role of the Canadian Pacific Railway in constructing these wilderness ideals during a crucial period of national expansion, economic growth, and cultural development. In alignment with federal projects of cultural nationalism, the transcontinental railway promoted land-grant sales and tourism by representing Canadian landscapes as untouched wildernesses to be at turns tamed by agriculture, preserved as scenic locales, or assimilated to a folk heritage.
Part 1 examines the railway’s ready-made farm program of1884-1889 , which envisioned the redemption of sprawling Prairie wilderness areas through agriculture. Part 2 examines a tourism program initiated in 1887, in which luxury hotels were constructed in locations seen as exhibiting the scenic properties of sublime wilderness. Part 3 examines CPR festivals initiated from1925-1929 , in which Natives were assimilated to images of untouched wilderness settings belonging to a distant past. This thesis questions how both the railway infrastructure itself and its landscapes came to be constructing as aesthetic objects, relating to landscape traditions in Europe and North America, and contributing to the conceptualization of wilderness as an integral part of cultural nationalism.
This dissertation explores Israeli architectural and construction aid in the first decades of sub-Saharan African states independence. In the Cold War competition over development, Israel distinguished its aid by alleging a postcolonial status, similar geography, and a shared history of racial oppression to alleviate fears of neocolonial infiltration. I critically examine how Israel presented itself as a model for rapid development more applicable to African states than the West, and how the architects involved negotiated their professional practice in relation to the Israeli Foreign Ministry agendas, the African commissioners’ expectations, and the international disciplinary discourse on modern architecture. I argue that while architectural modernism was promoted in the West as the International Style, Israeli architects translated it to the African context by imbuing it with nation-building qualities such as national cohesion, labor mobilization, skill acquisition and population dispersal. Based on their labor-Zionism settler-colonial experience, as well as criticisms of the mass construction undertaken in Israel in its first decade, the architects diverged from authoritarian “high modernism” to accommodate the needs of weak governments.
Focusing on prestigious governmental and educational buildings such as the Sierra Leone parliament, Ife University in Nigeria, and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ethiopia, this study brings to the fore the performative capacities of these buildings in relation to the national and international audiences they addressed as vehicles of governance and markers of a desired modernity. In other words, this study charts the international political and economic mechanisms that facilitated these projects, and the national infrastructure they were supposed to catalyze and sustain. Cutting across North-South and East-West dichotomies, the study of this modality of transnational exchange sheds new light on processes of modernization and globalization and exposes their diverse cultural and political underpinnings.
*This research is supported by the International Dissertation Research Fellowship of the Social Science Research Council, and the Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life at Columbia University.
This dissertation is an account of two of the most forward-thinking and socially innovative architectural projects from Britain in the 1960s: Cedric Price’s Fun Palace and Potteries Thinkbelt. Price’s architecture was a response to the changing character of postwar British society, but it also served as a catalyst for transformation. In these projects, he developed an indeterminate and socially responsive architecture which encouraged individual freedom and political agency by emphasizing participation, initiative, and improvisation.
The Fun Palace was based on a constantly varying design for a new form of leisure center. Common citizens could entertain and educate themselves by assembling their own environments using cranes and prefabricated modules in an improvisational architecture. The project suggested some of the most constructive and creative uses of free time in postwar England.
In his 1966 Potteries Thinkbelt, Price further pursued new architectural ideas in the service of the failing industrial sector and its now jobless workers. In it, he proposed the conversion of a vast area of England’s once-thriving industrial heartland into an enormous High Tech think-tank, with mobile classrooms and laboratories mounted on the rail lines, moving from place to place, from housing to library to factory to computer center. Price hoped to break down the traditional wall between “pure” and “applied” science and technology, lure the scientists back to Britain, and put the nation at the forefront of advanced technologies.
Coinciding with England’s economic and industrial decline and the disastrous period of the “brain drain,” the Fun Palace and Potteries Thinkbelt integrated concepts of technological interchangeability with social participation and improvisation as innovative and egalitarian alternatives to traditional leisure and education. At the same time, these projects suggested new models of housing, building construction, and industrial production for post-industrial society. This dissertation posits the Fun Palace and Potteries Thinkbelt as integral to the social and architectural discourses of the time, and traces the reasons why these projects have been influential on the subsequent development of architecture.
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.
Andrea J. Merrett is a graduate of the professional program in architecture at McGill University in Montreal, Canada, and practiced in Montreal and Dublin. She is interested in women, gender, and feminism in architecture and is writing her dissertation on the history of feminism in American architecture. Part of her work is collecting oral histories and archival material from participants in the various feminist activities of the 1970s, 1908s, and 1990s. Andrea has received support for her work from the Buell Center, Schlesinger Library, and the International Archive of Women in Architecture. She is a founding member of architeXX.
Alvar Aalto’s relationships with architectural modernism can best be understood in terms of two intersecting trajectories: the large historical transformations caused by modernization (in this case, the birth of nation states on one hand and the increased internationalization of societies on the other) and the particularities of his own persona (certain restlessness and malleability). As a biography, this dissertation engages what sociologist Anthony Giddens has called the “extensionality” and “intentionality” of modernity. Aalto is examined as a subject whose actions were informed by the intellectual ideas and social situations around him as well as an agent motivated by personal preferences, calculated choices, even limitations.
The dissertation highlights that Aalto, well before he was exposed to architectural modernism, was aware that the ability to transcend national origins lies at the heart of becoming “modern.” As a consequence the relationship to his native Finland was ambivalent as increased exposure to other cultures through travel and media allowed Aalto to transform from a small-town-boy first to an aspiring cosmopolite and further to an active member in the international Modern Movement. I will acknowledge that this exposure to other cultures effected his relationship to his country of origin. The chapters, organized chronologically, will trace how Aalto addressed the relationship between national culture and international influence in his writings; how he came to represent these ideas in his buildings; how he saw his role within the international arena at different times (a cosmopolite, a mediator, an Anti-Finn, a patriot); how he was influenced by Finnish and foreign theories about the Finnish nation; and lastly, how he responded to his international reception, which often saw him in essentialist terms as a quintessentially Finnish architect. I will even argue that Aalto’s openness to other cultures was shaped and in turn shaped how Finland as a nation came to define its position within the international community.
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.
This dissertation explores the paradox of precision in postwar architecture, when dissonant aesthetic desires and concerns regarding environmental regulation forced a reconciliation of material techniques with theoretical accuracy. The modern ideal of exactitude was frequently at odds with the divergent processes of building research, engineering, manufacturing, and environmental management. Suspended within the strata of newly developed curtain walls was a suddenly critical technical and architectural problem: how to achieve the kind of modulated environment implied by the highly regulated lines and taut materiality of the glazed envelope. Unlike outwardly legible structural systems, typically celebrated as modernism’s heroic force, techniques of enclosure defined modern interior atmospheres. Precision was key to demarcating the interior environment, and architects relied upon the burgeoning building products industry for research on the most advanced techniques in glazing, component assembly, solar control, sealants, air-conditioning systems, and weathering.
The dissertation is structured as four case studies of enclosure details from buildings accommodating diplomacy, industrial production, risk management, and global financial operations: the United Nations Secretariat building (1952), two factory buildings for the Cummins Engine Company (1966 and 1975), the headquarters of insurance broker Willis, Faber & Dumas (1975), and the headquarters of the Hong Kong and Shanghai Banking Corporations (1986). While the research centers on fragments of much larger building projects, the analysis of particular enclosures unfolds to address the spatial reverberations of progressive societal shifts over the period, from internationalized conceptions of architecture and statecraft following the Second World War, through western corporate growth and global expansion during the 1960s and 1970s, to the emergence of a neoliberal economic regime inflecting the formation of corporate space during the 1970s and 1980s. The details scrutinized here delineate interiors that operate as microcosms mirroring global social and economic circumstances.
This dissertation focuses on a conservative, affluent, and white community—Santa Barbara, California to chart the rise a popular, aesthetic environmentalism in the twentieth-century United States. Acknowledged by environmentalists and historians as a principal site of the emergence of modern environmentalism after a 1969 offshore oil spill, the city’s reputation had long rested on the idea that the place epitomized California’s—and thus the nation’s—riches of natural beauty and climate. Beginning in the 1920s residents came together in a shared project of transforming the urban fabric under the belief that their city situated between the mountains and ocean could enjoy the benefits of modern, urban American life while avoiding its excesses and ills. Their work underscores how commitments and visions shared among individuals became a domesticated and inwardly-oriented and highly localized environmental politics that functioned as a lateral way to depoliticize ideas about the environment, urban life, and community belonging. Physical transformations structures conceptions of the environment over time, but were also constituted and provided visible evidence for them. Exploring granular details including specificities about place and local attachments put into relief the possibilities, but also the shortcomings, of lived experience as a catalyst for environmental action.
The first chapter, “‘Education Not Legislation’: Environmentalism Comes Home,” tracks the ways the domestic spaces and neighborhoods became a primary location of environmental action. Civic voluntary organizations run primarily by women championed uniform designs for single-family homes and across Santa Barbara in an effort to make community values and melioration visible. The seemingly nonpolitical heart of the domestic realm aligned with conceptions of the environment and nature as equally outside of politics and therefore a neutral arbiter for delineating community norms. The second chapter, “Controlling Environments: Nature, Civilization, and the Americanization of California,” interrogates how this advocacy expanded in the wake of an earthquake in 1925 that destroyed much of Santa Barbara’s downtown. The chapter presents a novel interpretation of the ways that responses to earthquakes through earthquake-resistant architecture both undermined and reinforced notions of American and Western European cultural and technical superiority. In Santa Barbara, the reconstruction privileged Spanish-Colonial revival style architecture as the form most compatible with the city’s climate, environment, and geology. This aesthetic uniformity came about through a combination of public and private means including police power to mandate architectural unity. Supporters of this urban self-fashioning argued that the style acted as a bulwark against the reigning tendencies in American urban development focused on efficiency and economic development above all else. In the context of national restrictions on immigration and the legal implementation of racial distinctions between Hispanic and non-Hispanic whites, the embrace of Spanish-Colonial revival architecture by affluent whites as a general and natural feature of California’s environment contributed to a modified narrative of California’s past that emphasized connections with the American northeast rather than indigenous, Spanish, or Mexican influences. More insidiously, the third chapter, “Nature and Nurture,” explores how social and environmental thought intertwined in discussions about California’s native plants and gardens. Prominent conservationists used plants as a means to advance human eugenics as well as environmental and conservationist concerns through the 1930s. While this has been noted by historians, these ideas permeated many facets of American life and culture.
If the first part of the dissertation focuses on ways the community attempted to better their environment, the second part centers on an attempt to maintain what they had by placing limits and boundaries on certain types of growth. The fourth chapter, “The Right to Beauty: Growth, Limits, and Maintenance,” presents the ways Santa Barbarans found themselves enmeshed in those debates and unwittingly touched upon a central implication of environmentalism—the idea that humans should limit growth and production for the sake of the earth. But this belief also had significant and sometimes unintended social implications. The desire to maintain an image of urban living aligned with an unchanging and ideal nature in the face of new population and infrastructural pressures renewed support for the idea of natural beauty as an objective and comprehensive, yet vague, means to establish boundaries for urban development.
The final chapter, “Entitled to Environment: Oil, Expectations, and the Ends of Environmentalism,” ends with the 1969 Santa Barbara oil spill which catalyzed national environmentalism while city residents stood against oil companies and the federal government. Images of Santa Barbara’s pollution and passionate rhetoric about the violation of this environment galvanized popular attention and precipitated proposals for federal environmental protections. But it also inspired a different stance. After the first Earth Day in 1970 largely inspired by the oil spill, geographer and Santa Barbara resident, Norman Sanders realized that “neither big business nor big government was solving environmental problems.” For Sanders and others, the best way to protect the environment was by tackling local problems through local citizen action. This belief provided credence to an anti-statist vision of environmental responsibility out of a personal sense of injury and loss. More broadly, the national resonance of the oil spill exposed environmentalism as a movement that raised questions regarding what citizens should expect out of a democracy and how they should live. Perhaps more significant is the ways Santa Barbarans’ experiences brushed against the idea that environmentalism, taken to its logical end, required limits on human affluence and freedom.
The Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians Reservation was established in 1876, the same year as the transcontinental Southern Pacific Railroad completed a station in Palm Springs. These overlapping events would both enable and problematize the settler colonization of the Agua Caliente’s land, creating a checkerboard pattern of “fragmented jurisdiction” that was fundamental for its transformation into one of the wealthiest resorts in the United States. The territorial conflict between the Tribe and the U.S. would only begin to be legally resolved in 1977, when the Agua Caliente won the right to zone and plan their own lands. This dissertation examines how architecture, urbanism, and infrastructure mediated the technical, legal, and ideological struggles that took place in this period; sometimes enabling Imperial dispossession, other times structuring Tribal assimilation and decolonization. The dissertation historicizes and theorizes these processes by examining the modern architecture and urbanism of Palm Springs as a specific settler-colonial, “post-industrial” mode of development which was made possible by the particular territorial configuration that emerged out of nineteenth century Imperialism. It posits a correlation between settler colonialism and the settler imaginaries and material processes of technological progress, capitalist accumulation, natural resource extraction, and cultures of leisure that were uniquely developed in Palm Springs through modern architecture. Critically dismantling the connections between modern architecture, “post-industrial society,” and settler colonialism, this dissertation argues, is a necessary condition for the development of decolonial epistemologies and strategies of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist resistance.
Manuel Shvartzberg Carrió is a graduate of UCL’s the Bartlett (BArch and Diploma), and CalArts (MA in Aesthetics and Politics). He has published and exhibited his work internationally and has taught design, history, and theory at various institutions, including CalArts, University of Southern California, Woodbury University, and Columbia University. Previously, he was project architect for David Chipperfield Architects in London, where he led a number of international projects between 2006 and 2012. He has also worked at OMA in Rotterdam and with Barozzi/Veiga in Barcelona, among others.
The dissertation is a historical and theoretical analysis of modern mass housing in Singapore and Hong Kong after the Second World War prior to the establishment of a full-fledged public housing program. The comparative study examines the aesthetic and technological extension of the colonial apparatus in which the intersection of architects, housing design, media and politics transformed the postwar landscapes of the Asian colonial city-state. The immediate years following World War II was a period of political, economic and urban restructuring in Singapore and Hong Kong. New housing types and urban configurations were built in Singapore in response to the immediate crisis of post-war population boom and post-fire housing shortage. Designed by British architects and British-trained Straits Chinese in the Colonial Office, the new housing types paralleled the public housing experiments in the west. During this transitional period, housing provision revealed developments in the notion of the public, the public sector and public space in the two crown colonies, despite adopting different philosophies, approaches and planning practices in their public housing programs from the 1960s. From the onset, the modern housing estate was imbued with British social ideals - propagated by figures like Ebenezer Howard and Patrick Abercrombie - such as an undifferentiated mass population with a collective public life who would enjoy the public provision of green open spaces and amenities. The modern flat embodied imported notions of civility and public behavior. Never before were the predominantly Chinese population so visibly housed and the divisions between their public and private lives so clearly delineated. Heralded in governmental annual reports and professional publications like the RIBA journal and Far East Builder as testimonials to the continuing dominion of the Empire, modern mass housing bore economic, technological as well as political import for the colonial governments and the succeeding local governments. Educating the populace on the spaces and objects in the modern home and the appropriate conduct of modern living became a parallel project to resettlement and town planning. Apropos, this dissertation will also offer a cross-cultural perspective on the development and deployment of modern mass housing from the machine aesthetic of the first freestanding block to the first housing estates in these cities and how developments in the sphere of public housing provision realigned social relations and the collective identity of a largely immigrant population.
From the onset, the modern housing estate was imbued with British social ideals - propagated by figures like Ebenezer Howard and Patrick Abercrombie - such as an undifferentiated mass population with a collective public life who would enjoy the public provision of green open spaces and amenities. The modern flat embodied imported notions of civility and public behavior. Never before were the predominantly Chinese population so visibly housed and the divisions between their public and private lives so clearly delineated. Heralded in governmental annual reports and professional publications like the RIBA journal and Far East Builder as testimonials to the continuing dominion of the Empire, modern mass housing bore economic, technological as well as political import for the colonial governments and the succeeding local governments. Educating the populace on the spaces and objects in the modern home and the appropriate conduct of modern living became a parallel project to resettlement and town planning. Apropos, this dissertation will also offer a cross-cultural perspective on the development and deployment of modern mass housing from the machine aesthetic of the first freestanding block to the first housing estates in these cities and how developments in the sphere of public housing provision realigned social relations and the collective identity of a largely immigrant population.
How did a large-scale architectural practice begin and become successful in the United States in the mid-twentieth century? By investigating, at once historically and iconographically, the firm of SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), the dissertation explores the trajectory of ‘corporate architecture.’ It focuses on the firm’s early history from 1936 to 1956, during which SOM grew from a small design firm to a large architecture-engineering firm.
SOM went through drastic transformations in organization and design in its early years. In the late 1930s, the small architecture office was highly influenced by industrial design. During World War II at the town of Oak Ridge, TN, for the Manhattan Project, the firm fully employed modern design idioms and developed a new organizational structure drawn from collaboration with the ‘military-industrial complex.’ After the war, the firm became known as both the dominant producer of corporate architecture and an efficient organizer of large-scale projects.
Over the years, SOM has had a critical impact on the prosperity and the dominance of modern architecture in America. However, a critical analysis of its history has not been done. The dissertation illustrates how by combining flexible organizational structures with an efficient design production, SOM was able to produce post-war office spaces that were repetitive yet organic.
Dating back to the Edo Period (1603-1868) in Japan wherein Mitsui was a powerful merchant, their devotion to the agricultural-commercial deity—Inari and its emissary, the fox—continued after their transformation into the business conglomerate, Mitsui Zaibatsu, that established a bank, trading company and mining company in the late nineteenth century. I am investigating how architecture of the conglomerate mediated their folk-religiosity and valorized its respective sites, while also internalizing other forms of folk-religiosity, often in conflicting ways. Those sites include Mitsui’s tutelage shrine, business headquarters in Tokyo and, in particular, coal mines in Fukuoka. The dissertation intends to demonstrate that fox-related folk practices, such as Inari worship, of coal miners and corresponding structures, rooted in their previous social relations, were synchronized into capitalist processes. While Mitsui received a “gift” from the processes in the form of coal, the miners did not earn the blessing, experiencing instead a shortage of rice—the metonym of their life force. As Inari was originated in an agricultural deity, it remains profoundly ironic that Mitsui’s Inari worship did not provide enough rice for its workforce. My research deciphers this vulpine exchange at work in the making of the capitalist landscape in Japan.
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This dissertation traces the career of Otto Neurath (1882–1945), a Viennese intellectual who played a central role in establishing two key movements in European philosophy, the Vienna Circle and the United of Science movement, both of which rejected metaphysics and embraced empirical science. Neurath himself abhorred speculative thinking in all its cultural and social guises and spent his life trying to put his philosophy into practice. Although he is typically regarded as a philosopher of knowledge and innovator in graphic design, he pursued a range of careers that gave expression to his theoretical concerns. Between 1917 and 1940, he helped organize countless museums and exhibitions in over a dozen countries, and between 1921 and 1925 he was a leading housing officer in socialist Vienna. He brought to bear on these appointments his Austro-Marxian brand of empiricism, which was heavily utilitarian and anti-Idealist in outlook.
As a housing director, Neurath had nothing but disdain for priceless artifacts and rare artistic collections. He thought that they absorbed the subject’s attention without stimulating his or her intellect; they fetishized the “spectacle value” of objects at the expense of being socially informative. As a housing advocate and city planner, meanwhile, Neurath was an ardent critic of picturesque and Baroque planning schemes and a foe of both laissez-faire urbanism and anti-city utopianism. He believed that overly concentrated urban development bred disease and inequality, while its inverse harmed worker productivity. Most of all, he detested Beaux-Arts and Sittesque urban planning on account of the priority they gave to aesthetics, beauty, and “good taste.
Neurath’s approach to solving urban and museological issues, I argue, consisted in organizing his thoughts around facts rather than artifacts. Facts, he contended, are interconnected—they’re governed by rules rather than exceptions. Artifacts, on the other hand, project the illusion of autonomy; like the "curiosity cabinets” of the 17th century, they are defined by their relative uniqueness or singularity. They pique the imagination, he contended, but they also breed irrationalism—an escape into disorder.
For Neurath, extinguishing this “auratic” urge was central to the project of installing a truly rational culture. In the area of museum administration, I explore in my thesis how Neurath pioneered the use of mechanically reproducible media—photographs, lantern slides, graphic diagrams, and the like. Most famously, he invented a language of pictoral communication known as the International System of Typographic Picture Education (“Isotype”), whose hieroglyphic signs are all but ubiquitous in today’s airports, restrooms, and city streets. In the realm of city planning, Neurath was one of the earliest advocates of standardized mass housing. He developed innovative schemes for rationalizing the production of agrarian settlements and organizing and educating building cooperatives. He was instrumental to the careers of countless Neue Sachlichkeit modernists, including Margarete Schutte-Lihotzky, Le Corbusier, Josef Frank, and Cornelis van Eesteren, and carried on an extensive correspondence with the sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies.
In the dissertation, I conclude by critically considering the contradictions and tensions implicit to Neurath’s cultural and urbanistic philosophy. I suggest that his example does not simply reflect the musings of an isolated historical figure, but are emblematic of the holistic aspirations of Enlightenment reason.
The Confucian metaphysical philosophy devalued material artifacts, as a result, architecture was not traditionally seen as a scholarly field. Architectural study as an academic discipline only began as a formal discipline in the last decades of the Qing dynasty (1644-1911) when it was introduced by westerners. Since then, Chinese scholars have produced a significant body of architectural history which has helped to shape the way that Chinese people think of architecture. Given the influence and importance of these texts, a thorough account of the historiography of these works is necessary, but has yet to be done-either in English or in Chinese. The objective of this analytical study is therefore to cover the writings of the most important architectural historians that worked during the first stage of the discipline’s development in China from both within China and beyond.
Noting that the asynchronous modernization was an unspoken factor acting on all of these architectural histories, this dissertation examines the texts with a specific interest in the nationalistic ideology under-pinning their interpretation of architectural images both traditional and modern. Five types of architectural historians who were involved in the formation of this discipline are examined. They are: western sinologists including John Calvin Ferguson (1866-1945), Walter Perceval Yetts (1878- 1957), Osvald Sirén (1879-1966), Carroll Brown Malone (1886-1973), Paul Demiéville (1894-1979), Gustav Ecke (1896-1971), etc.; progressive Chinese intellectuals Yue Jiazao (1868-1944), Zhu Qiqian (1872-1964) and their fellows of the Society for Research in Chinese Architecture (1930-1945); culturally conservative architectural professionals trained abroad, represented by Liang Sicheng (1901-1972) and Lin Huiyin (1904-1955); architectural modernists, among them the most insightful was probably Tong Jun (1900-1983); and socialist writers Hu Man (1904-1986) and Feng Zikai (1898-1975).
It is found that the historians stated above actually interweaved native learning skills and architectural history, a discipline originated from the West, to fulfill the need for a national identity caused by the asynchronous modernization. This is particularly embodied in the methodologies and historical styles that they remodeled. Contrary to most prevailing post-colonial theories, their methodologies and historical styles exemplify a positive and confident local response to foreign input. By scrutinizing these historical texts, this dissertation provides a new perspective on the early history of global architecture.
This dissertation examines links between architectural and colonial discourse in order to provide a new account of England’s fascination with the “all’antica” manner in the late-sixteenth and early-seventeenth centuries. I argue that the allure of classicism during this period was directly related to imperial ambitions awakened by the consolidation of the Scottish and English crowns. Seeking models for their nascent empire, architects and colonial “planters” looked to their own history as a Roman colony.
Shared references to antiquity facilitated an unprecedented commerce between artistic and political discourse. Architects in England and colonizers abroad both fashioned themselves as the “new Romans,” reconceiving English identity as a product of Britain’s former subjugation. While classicism provided newly required symbols of empire, it also challenged traditional notions of “Englishness,” embroiling architects in cultural, political, and religious debates that transformed architecture and the status of architects.