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.
This dissertation follows several generations of German architects, engineers, planners and scientists, across Central Europe, the United States, and colonial Africa, whose work gave shape to new forms of technical expertise through involvement in internal and external colonization projects and housing programs. Borrowing a pivotal concept from Timothy Mitchell, this study argues that a new and enduring ‘rule of experts’ developed within the circuitry of certain infrastructural technologies—colonial camps, settlement commissions, housing estates, transnational networks—that shaped a modern image of the architect as an intervention-oriented planner. It explores the spatial politics of the social reform movement of the 1880s and its legislative legacy—from coercive tenancy laws, to the development of colonial infrastructure, and land-use policies—and tracks its influence on the cultural logic of avant-garde housing estates and interventionist development programs. In drawing such an arc, this study demonstrates how architectural technologies shaped an infrastructural network of European power, and reframed the relationship between the body and the state.
The chapters of this dissertation cover a wide range of episodes that span both ends of a turbulent history, from the failed democratic revolutions of 1848 in the European states, to the Berlin Congo Conference of 1885 and the establishment of the Prussian Settlement Commission, to the dissolution of the Weimar Republic in 1933, the rise of Herman Sörgel’s Atlantropa Project, and the onset of war. Following Yair Mintzker, I argue that in the era of the fully de-fortified city in nineteenth century Europe, the question of security became increasingly important to the expanding (and increasingly scientized) discipline of architecture. By the turn of the century, architectural culture in the German states had become gradually more focused on discourses of infrastructural intervention, marked by a new vocabulary of terms such as “development,” “integration,” “reform” and “intervention.” The building programs and plans that arose from this new world-building discourse had a profound impact on postwar modernization and development planning, from the Strasbourg and Marshall Plans to Desertec, which drew directly from the legacies of the PSC and Atlantropa. From the architects of the Settlement Commission to Herman Sörgel, this study traces a significant trend in aesthetic thought premised on what Markus Krajewski describes as “the colonization of the environmental remainder.”
This dissertation examines ideas of California’s natural advantages including healthy climate, geographic location, and productive lands to ask how they were utilized by real estate developers, railroad executives, and boosters who developed seaside resorts, historic neighborhoods, and city parks starting in the closing decades of the nineteenth century. Tracing the creation of these recreational spaces as a means to investigate the ways that commercial interests—as opposed to major figures of environmental thought advocating wilderness discourses or nature preservation ascendant at the same time—can lift out the ways that contrasting, though related, ideas about natural beauty, recreation, and society were articulated and put into build form. Privileging the values and actions of business and cultural elites, pitted ideas of the environment, health, and natural beauty as commodities with other commercial uses of natural landscape, which resulted in economic, racial, and social strife. Focusing on recreational landscapes, buildings, and visual material—from hotels to scenic highways to World’s Fairs—as vital technologies for articulating and stabilizing environmental ideas and visions, this dissertation highlights the uses of environmental thought as an index to political and economic powers, and the influence of capital, markets, and corporation in shaping environmental understandings and ideas of natural beauty.
firstname.lastname@example.org Pollyanna Rhee is a PhD candidate in History and Theory of Architecture at Columbia University. Her work focuses on the relationship between architecture, environmentalism, and social thought in the twentieth-century United States with a particular interest in the ways that environmental ideas are mobilized in policy and through transformations in the built and natural environments. Her dissertation explores the conservative roots of modern environmentalism in the United States. This research has been supported by the American Society for Environmental History/National Science Foundation, the Society of Architectural Historians, and the Huntington Library.
A striking feature of the Anglo-American academic accounts of architecture history in modern Egypt (mid-19th century-present) is the virtual absence of a scholarly examination of Egypt’s architectural debates and production during the period from the 1930s-1950s. Largely informed by postcolonial theory, these accounts lack a rigorous treatment of Egypt’s locally initiated and sustained efforts at the time to advance, what could be identified as, an indigenous modern architectural movement.
Taking shape during the 1930s-1950s, at a critical phase in the country’s ongoing socio-political struggles, when the quest for national liberation from British colonial rule was joined by, and expanded into, the demand for a larger project of social modernization, the Egyptian modern movement sought, from the moment of its inception, to develop an indigenous architectural response that is national in character in precisely being modern. That is, in its very engagement with the modern demands and material conditions of Egyptian society, the majority of which belonged, at the time, to the rural class.
While emerging in the late 1930s during the years of Egypt’s semi-independence status under British colonial rule (1922-1952), with the aim of developing a distinctively modern-national architecture, I argue that the dictates of the Egyptian modern architectural movement were, in effect, revered in the early years of the country’s postcolonial phase in the late 1950s. It was thus a distinct modern movement, the attributes of which could not be granted to a colonial legacy, or reduced, in a linear fashion, to a simple precursor to the country’s subsequent phase of postcolonial modernization efforts.
The significance of this modern movement lies in its far-reaching theoretical implications, which extend beyond its specific socio-historical context. Not only did the inception of the movement lay the foundation for the subsequent development of the architectural field in Egypt, but it did also aspire to an architectural vision of social modernization, the examination of which would pose a certain predicament to the postcolonial architectural approaches concerned with the relation between modernity and the so-called “non-West.”
Ashraf Abdalla holds two Master of Science degrees (CCCP & AAD) from Columbia University. Abdalla participated in the architectural symposium “Architecture and Representation: The Arab City” at the GSAPP (Fall 2014) and the CCCP’s workshop initiative “The Venice Observatory” at the 14th International Architecture Venice Biennale (2014).
Prior to pursuing an academic career, Abdalla gained professional experience working in architectural offices in both the U.S. and Egypt.
This dissertation examines relations between England’s colonization efforts of the early seventeenth century and the cultural production arising in and around the courts of James I (1603-25) and Charles I (1625-49). While both phenomena have long been acknowledged as indispensable to an understanding of seventeenth century England, relations between the two have gone largely unexamined. Historians of empire and colonization have viewed this period as one in which England turned its attention outward, seeking colonies in hopes of competing with rival Spain. In much the same way, architectural historians have viewed the period as one in which England turned away from a medieval (even a neo-medieval) past and towards the classicism of the Italian Renaissance. Two watershed events then: one economic, one cultural; both pursued by court and crown alike; both employing the built environment as medium, yet for all these similarities little attempt has been made to relate the two. Historians of England and its emerging empire have largely ignored culture, focusing instead on the political and economic consequences of colonization. While historians of culture, architectural historians among them, have ignored colonization (both in its built manifestations abroad and its influence upon so-called “high” culture), focusing instead on the cultural innovations of the court.
Through an expanded geographic scope, and a willingness to place the seemingly mundane qualities of colonial environments in dialogue with the more spectacular examples of court culture, this project seeks to bring these two phenomena into relation with one another. In doing so, it argues that England’s relation to its new world was much like its relation to the Italian Renaissance. Both were known at a distance—through books, images, and travel accounts rather than first-hand; artists were crucial to the “discovery” of both; and the acceptance and rejection of aspects of each became key elements in defining an “Englishness” made newly urgent by both discoveries. Drawing from the fields of art history, archaeology, ethnography, and media studies, I construe the built environment as a realm of contestation that not only had a hand in defining the “New World” in and for the English imaginary, but served as a medium by which to define and differentiate English civility from its colonial other.
Aaron White is a PhD candidate in Architectural History at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation. White holds an MA in Architecture from Pratt Institute, where he was awarded the Stanley Katz Award for design excellence; and a BA in Architecture from the University of Idaho. His research focuses on the history of seventeenth-century English architecture, particularly in its relation to colonization efforts in Ireland and North America. His writing has appeared in AD, CLOG, Studio, Urban Omnibus, Think Space Pamphlets, and The Building (Lars Müller, 2017). He teaches studios and seminars at Pratt Institute and the New School.
This dissertation develops a theory of translation in architecture, and explores the history of cross-cultural exchanges that transformed the land settlement policies and residential culture in Germany and Turkey during the first half of the twentieth century. When a country opens itself to what is foreign, it generates processes of alteration in its political institutions and cultural forms, which transform the local norms through these encounters. By focusing on the work of immigrants, travelers, collaborating local architects and international students, I analyze how architectural movements, styles, information and technologies travel across geographical space, and how they get transformed in their new destinations. Translation is elaborated here as a field of study that develops a vocabulary to discuss various patterns of cultural encounters, and one that evaluates different experiences of the “other” in a given context. This research has led me to three intertwined legacies of translation in residential culture between Germany and Turkey, mobilized by architects and planners some of whose work received little scholarly attention: the pre-war garden city ideal, the Siedlung and the “new building” debate, and finally the discourses around national vernacular types (“German house,” “Turkish house”). It is also argued that translations are always ideologically charged and should therefore be theorized as contested contact zones that are shaped by the tensions and conflicts created by the perceived inequalities between places.
Daniel A. Barber
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.
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.
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.
This dissertation explores the relationship between interest in ideal architectural geometries and radical reform movements in the United States during the first half of the nineteenth century. Focusing on the example of octagon buildings, I argue that numerous antebellum Americans, from Thomas Jefferson to Orson Fowler, saw geometrically distinct architecture as a tool to cultivate new kinds of private “selves”–stronger, healthier, more rational subjectivities capable of negotiating and transforming an emergent capitalist and democratic society. Octagon architecture was imagined as a kind of private utopia—the individualistic counterpart to the era’s myriad radical communes and colonies, as well as its prisons, hospitals, and other emerging typologies for reforming human subjects. Long dismissed by most architectural historians as follies, this dissertation investigates antebellum octagon buildings as a cipher through which to unravel relationships between ideas about individual subjectivity, architecture, and radical reform at a critical period in U.S. history.
Patricio Del Real
My dissertation examines the idea of Latin America as a symbolic transnational territory constructed through Modern architecture in the 1950s. I start from a simple formulation: if there is a Latin-American Architecture, as manifested in countless uses of the term, there must be a “place” called Latin America. I search for this place by examining three architectural exhibitions that occurred in the 1950s: (1) the architecture section of the 1953 Bienal de São Paulo, Brazil; (2) Latin American Architecture since 1945, organized by the Museum of Modern Art, New York, in 1955, and (3) Arquitectura Panamericana, prepared by the Instituto Nacional de Bellas Artes, Mexico City, Mexico, in 1957. My premise is that Latin America was assembled through iconographic images of Modern architectural projects in a dynamic exchange with actual buildings. As an institutional site for the production of cultural images the museum was central to the construction of Latin America during the early years of the Cold War. I aim to challenge the now-customary confrontation between Latin America and the United States by revealing the museum as a site that facilitated two-way exchanges and negotiations by creating a cosmopolitan citizen.
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.
On the cover of its August 1963 issue, Architectural Design presented a striking view of the city of Lima, with its “barriadas” or squatter settlements squarely dominating the foreground. By juxtaposing modernist mass-housing projects with barriadas and aided self-help housing schemes, the magazine positioned these heretofore marginal practices as equally viable solutions warranting serious consideration. This dissertation examines the emergence of such projects as a solution to the provision of low-cost housing in Peru,1955-1986 . The period opens with the arrival in Peru of John F. C. Turner, whose writings advocating self-determination through the provision of self-built shelter had a significant impact internationally, and ends with Hernando de Soto’s neoliberal manifesto El otro sendero: La revolución informal, promoting the dynamism of informal housing, trade, and transport as key drivers of economic growth. The dissertation focuses on three intersecting areas: the social and political conditions which made Peru a fertile site for innovation in low-cost housing; the influences within architectural culture leading to these alternative approaches; and the context in which international development agencies came to embrace these projects in furtherance of their larger goals. In the process the dissertation aims to undertake a critical reexamination of self-help housing strategies, reassessing their potential in contemporary practice.
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.
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.
Stanley J. Mathews
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.
This project reexamines histories of modernist design by proposing to view them through a theory of “semiotic apartheids”, traces of which can first be detected in early strains of European liberal political philosophy and epistemology, eventually manifesting themselves through the putative binary of conscious versus unconscious processes of production. In the twentieth century, the categories of conscious and unconscious thought became pivotal to formulating new semiotic and aesthetic technologies, such that a peculiar association between technics and “savage thought” (the latter identified with unconscious creativity) came to underlie new methods of artistic production in Western Europe and the United States. Nolan argues that class inequalities under capitalism have been linked to the ongoing formulation of these two distinct—albeit tacit—constructs of epistemic subjectivity: one whose creative intellectual processes are believed to constitute personal property, and one whose creative intellectual processes—because these are deemed rote or unconscious—are not regarded as the property of those who wield them. This is despite the fact that the unconscious psyche or, the “Savage Mind,” was, at the same time, repeatedly invoked by modernist designers in their efforts to formulate creative technologies that tended towards digital modes of production.
Ken Tadashi Oshima
This dissertation analyzes transformations in the Japanese architectural profession, focusing on both the home and the city during the pivotal interwar decades. In contrast to previous scholarship (primarily in Japanese), which isolates Japanese modern architecture from architecture in the Euro/American sphere of influence, this study traces the multi-lateral connections between Europe, the Americas and Asia. Rather than relying on a monograph, a dichotomy or an overall view, I have focused on the careers of three leading modernists in Japan: Yamada Mamoru (1894-1966), Horiguchi Sutemi (1895-1984), and Antonin Raymond (1888-1976). Their practices spanned an era of “international architecture” in which architecture became subject to rapid change world wide, not only through technological innovation but also through an exchange of information and an increase in global travel. In their distinctive ways, each architect sought to create a new architecture comprising modern forms, materials, and programs – at once responsive to the physical and social-cultural context of Japan, yet fully aware of an emerging “international” idiom. These separate careers provide a concrete means to explore several professional and personal experiences, thereby suggesting multiple ways in which modernism was configured within both local and global contexts. Although most of their works addressed in this study have been demolished and no longer exist today, this dissertation reconstructs the nature of design practice together with the materiality of structures through archival material and photographs. Seen collectively, this re-constitution affords insights into the lived and imagined experience of the interwar period, so as to provide a further foundation for our understanding of the international practices of Japanese architects today.
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.
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 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.
Through a detailed study of the journal Quadrante and its circle of architects, critics, artists and patrons, this Ph.D. dissertation investigates the relationship between modern architecture and fascist political practices in Italy during Benito Mussolini’s regime (1922-43). Rationalism, the Italian variant of the modern movement in architecture, was at once pluralistic and authoritarian, cosmopolitan and nationalistic, politically progressive and yet fully committed to the political program of Fascism. An exhaustive study of Quadrante in its social context begins to explain the relationships between the political content of an architecture that promoted itself as the appropriate expression of fascist policies, the cultural aspirations of an architecture that drew on contemporary developments in literature and the arts, and the international function of a journal that promoted Italian modernism to the rest of Europe while simultaneously exposing Italy to key developments across the Alps.
Inderbir Singh Riar
This dissertation explores the visionary architecture of Expo 67. In particular, the thesis studies the how the official theme of the Universal and International Exhibition - “Man and His World” - was deliberately conceived as an urbanistic ensemble, notably through its parsing into massive pavilions dedicated to fields such as “Man the Producer”, “Man the Explorer”, and “Man the Provider”. Like the nineteenth-century precedents of Paxton’s Crystal Palace or Dutert’s Galerie des Machines, the theme pavilions continued the modernizing project of world’s fairs to situate spatially the relations between “man” and his objects. Yet, taken together, the pavilions were seen as ways to thoroughly re-draw or, better, re-map the “world”; their architecture would be the ultimate medium to convey what the Expo 67 organising committee had envisioned as the first fair “opposed to both corporations and nations”. The technics of long-span construction, especially the use of space frames, was instrumental to realising this extra-national project. These structures, which included Moshe Safdie’s celebrated Habitat 67 housing complex, gave contour to a growing belief among architects in notions of “flexibility” and “indeterminacy” - concepts central to three intertwined conditions impacting the programming and realisation of Expo 67: first, a Canadian architecture culture favourably disposed to discourses of systems building and systems theory; second, an international discussion on the “megastructure”, whose viability was given proof by the architecture of the fair; and third, an emergent social context popularised as “the open society”,“post-industrial society”, or “the knowledge society”.
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.
Hyun Tae Jung
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.
This dissertation, The Itinerant Red Bauhaus, or the Third Emigration, addresses a movement of architects from Europe to the Soviet Union during the interwar period. These architects (who include Hannes Meyer and Ernst May and their respective brigades) mostly relocated before the war, and many returned to Europe after the war. This larger frame helps to situate the specific group of architecture students from the German Bauhaus who followed Meyer to the Soviet Union in 1930 after he was expelled from the directorship of the Bauhaus: the Red Bauhaus Brigade. Driven by collectivist ideology, Meyer and his short-lived brigade staged an itinerant extension of the interrupted ‘second’ Bauhaus. Part of the research focuses on Meyer’s pedagogical project in order to unfold the education received by the students and understand the evolution of their architectural ideas after they moved to the Soviet Union. The dissertation concludes in the postwar period in the countries where the Brigade members Tibor Weiner, Konrad Püschel, Philipp Tolziner, and René Mensch were independently active as designers, city planners, teachers, polemicists, and political activists. Their distinct professional approaches can be read against their Bauhaus origins and Soviet experience, but are not reducible to them. Shifting the focus from Meyer to his students allows the foregrounding of the point of view of these secondary characters, activating a new reading of the period studied and an in-depth evaluation of an overlooked Bauhaus legacy.
Athenians are very proud of their city’s long heritage. At the same time they feel enormously negative about the urban development of the first half of the twentieth century, characterized by the polykatoikìa (poly = multi, katoikia= dwelling), the most ubiquitous local building type, and a blind spot in Greek architectural history. The proliferation of this housing type in the twentieth century, a direct result of the influx of internal migrants and the urgent need of shelter, has been endlessly criticized for being haphazard, unsightly and the cause of urban chaos. This dissertation situates the success of polykatoikìa urbanism within architectural history and explores it as an expression of a wider set of cultural, social, and political events that marked Greek history from the inception of the modern state to the late twentieth century. As the polykatoikìa was produced without much involvement by architects or planners, this dissertation had to construct a methodology or an approach towards marginally legal or informal development. This approach included bringing together insights from architecture, anthropology, cultural and gender studies, literature and cinema, and thinking about the ambiguities and cross-overs between Architecture-as-Art, craft processes and the local reception and appropriation of Modern Architecture against older patterns of building. The study of Athenian informal development raises the question of how to study non-architect-designed buildings and artifacts, a question that architectural history needs to open up more broadly.
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.