Modern Architecture and Culture in the Mid-Twentieth Century: From Exporting to Importing the New

The aim of this research project is to question some of the ways in which relations between mainstream Western and supposedly peripheral cultures have been dominated by a one-way model of innovation and exportation, flowing irreversibly from Western Europe and North America outwards towards other regions. The main focus is an alternative reading of the history of modern architecture in its relationship not to the ‘core’ Western nations in which it initially developed but rather to the ‘outlying’ regions (such as Scandinavia, South Asia and South America) that protected and promoted an international style when it fell out of favour at ‘home’. In importing the new, the patronage of ostensibly peripheral cultures changed the forms and meanings of modern architecture, which ceased to be a passively consumed export with a monopoly on innovation and became instead the material for the forging of new local meanings and functions. This focus on building style will be complemented by an investigation of a broader context within which cultural artefacts are produced through the circulation of ideas and representations between places in terms of an ongoing, two-way process of translation and re-appropriation. An emphasis on local patrons, especially women such as Marie Gullichsen, Corina Kavanagh, and Phyllis Lakofski, will challenge the previous one on émigré architects. The project will involve bringing into dialogue researchers engaged in the disciplines of architecture, art history, languages and literatures in the first instance but with a view to widening the conversation to relevant fields with overlapping concerns.

Projects Leaders:

Professor Kathleen James Chakraborty
UCD School of Art History and Cultural Policy 
+353 (1) 716 8148 

Professor Douglas Smith
UCD School of Languages, Cultures and Linguistics 
+353 (1) 716 8108

Research Outputs

Our research strand has hosted three events.  On 8 February the architect Valerie Mulvin gave a lecture entitled Translation East which highlighted her firm McCullough Mulvin’s work at Thapur University in India.  On 18 April Prof. FENG Jiang of South China Technical University gave a lecture entitled “Topography as Memory: Stories of two recent cases in China — Litchi Bay Canal Project, Guangzhou, and Huqiu Campus, Sichuan Fine Art Institute, Chongqing.”  More recently on 8 October Prof. Tom Avermaete of the ETH, Zurich, presented “Modernism and its Regimes of Circulation.”  Total attendance thus far has been about 150 people.  On 29 Dr. Pamela O. Long, an independent scholar and holder of a MacArthur grant, and Prof. Nandini Das of the University of Liverpool will give lectures on early modern migrants, which should provide historical context for contemporary investigations into transnationalism.

Recent Publications by Kathleen James-Chakraborty

  • “A Whisper Rather than a Shout: Ursula Wilm and Heinz Hallmann’s Topography of Terror,” in Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Elizabeth Otto, Art and Resistance in Germany (New York: Bloomsbury Visual Arts, 2018) 173-89.
  • “Von der Leinwand zum Körper: Die Kleiderentwürfe von Sonia Delaunay,” in Karl R. Kegler, Anna Minta and Niklas Naehrig, eds., RaumKleider: Verbindungen zwischen Architekturraum, Körper und Kleid (Bielefeld, transcript, 2018) 79-98.
  • “Architecture as a Fine Art: The Implications for the Writing of Architectural History,” Architectural Journal 595 (2018) 78-83 [published in Chinese].
  •  Modernism as Memory: Building Identity in the Federal Republic of Germany (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2018).
  •  “Darmstadt in Context — Architecture and Design Reform c 1900,” in Landesamt für Denkmalpflege Hessen, der Wissenschaftsstadt Darmstadt and the Deutschen Nationalkomitee von ICOMOS, eds., “Eine Stadt müssen wir erbauen, eine ganze Stadt!,” Die Künsterkolonie auf der Mathildenhöhe (Wiesbaden: Landesamt für Denkmalpflege, 2017) 61-68.
  •  “Is Modern Architecture Good?” in Peter Voggler and Stefan Graf, eds., Architecture in Asmara: Colonial Origin and Postcolonial Experiences (Berlin: Dom, 2017) 38-45.

Kavanagh Building Buenos Aires