Buildings, Texts, and Contexts

The atomic bomb, spring break, existentialism, jet travel, the polio vaccine, India and Pakistan, the transistor radio, abstract expressionism, LSD, the United Nations, ISO containers, Pop Art, nylon, structuralism – these are some of the inventions that exemplify the extremity of political, economic, aesthetic, and cultural change that took place during the three decades following World War Two. Postwar architectural discourse showed a keen awareness of the importance of these changes, and postwar architectural practices consisted of concomitant attempts to accommodate them. This module explores these repercussions in architecture by following the broad transformations, extensions, and reorientations of architectural modernism. By 1945, the discursive center of gravity had shifted from continental Europe to the United States and Great Britain, and modernism was soon diffused through Latin America and parts of Asia as well. Though new works by the prewar masters – Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Frank Lloyd Wright – continued to have a profound influence, diverse and different practices soon emerged in mainstream and peripheral architectural culture as parts of a broad reaction to the consolidated inheritance of prewar modernism. The lectures of this module will consider this reaction as a consequence of the postwar situation, in which the erosion of modernisms authority and legitimacy – the erosion of the \’grounds\’ of architecture – provoked varied attempts to reestablish the legitimacy of architectural practice. Several prominent themes of postwar architectural discourse will be presented, bound together by the conceit that postwar architecture was fundamentally a serial (and perhaps hopeless) attempt to recuperate a lost ground of architectural authenticity.