Approaching the History of Modern of Architecture from Out There

Capitalist expansion is a crucial factor in explaining modern art (e.g., \”Primitivism\” and Cubism). This factor, however, is ignored in explaining modern architecture, as can be witnessed in canonical narrations that omit the existence of imperialism. According to Raymond Williams, a British scholar, renovation of this canonical tale requires a multiplicity of visions that exist outside of the Euro – North American point of view. In The Politics of Modernism, Williams explains that Nineteenth-Century immigration played a central role in the development of the most creative, but today the most canonized, phase of modern art and culture. Williams proposes that to reinvigorate that creativity, new ways of seeing are needed. \”It is time to explore (that phase),\” Williams writes, \”with something of its own sense of strangeness and distance, rather than the comfortable and now internally accommodated forms of incorporation and naturalization….It involves looking, from time to time, from outside the metropolis: from the deprived hinterlands, where different forces are moving, and from the poor world which has always been peripheral to the metropolitan systems.\”The purpose of this seminar is to examine – by taking into account events that occurred throughout the world as a result of capitalist expansion – the material and cultural transformations that gave rise to modern architectural paradigms. Modernity, by definition, implies an impulse toward the disappearance of local boundaries, and toward universal hybridization. Our intention, in this seminar, therefore, is not to discover, or to describe, or to enhance any \”regional\” alternative, because in doing so, we would make the original mistake: colonizers are also colonized. Some of the issues we will examine are the new (colonial) types of built environments, territorial systems (railroads), the discovery of \”others\’\” creativity (\”Primitivism\” and Orientalism), the influence of tropical conditions, the discoveries in the architecture of ancient non-Western cultures, the application of new urban schemes, the loss of roots, and the new sense of landscape. We will also examine the emergence of the \”Third World\” following World War II, and with it the expansion of shanty towns; the attraction of exoticism, from Tropicalism to Informal Urbanism; the foundation of new capital cities; the formation of new international institutions; the discovery of the boundaries of modernistic \”universalism\”; and the experiences of exiles. As can be gleaned form this description, we will be dealing with a very open subject. For this reason, this course will be a reading and research seminar: its overall success will depend highly on the creativity and intense dedication of its participants.