Jan. 24/ 2013
Histories of the Present III: Media and Architecture
Next Week (Jan. 31) – Exam 1 – Begins at 9am
20% of grade
IDs primarily slides marked by red asterisk
Architect first names don’t matter
Location – city and country
Year – decades are accepted
Identify dates (decades)
Defintions (terms defiend in lectures)
(see lecture slide for example)
Out of site/ In Plain View: on the Origins and modernity of the Architecture Exhibition
Prof. Barry Bergdoll (from Columbia University)
The Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design @ The Museum of Modern Art,
New York City
Tues. Feb. 5, 4:30pm in University College, Room 140
Definition of Media
1. Channel or system of communication.
2. After mass media- newspapers, radio, etc. collectively as vehicles of mass communication.
3. Anything that mediates between two things (a medium – an intermediary – a go-between) Beatriz Colomina (author from reading)
Authority on Media and Architecture.
Thomas Demand, 1997
Thomas Demand builds full-scale models out of cardboard of crime scenes, then photographs the
Circulation of architecture in mass media matters almost as much as its physical existence.
Architecture does not only appear in media but is itself a form of media.
―…I have been arguing for some time now that modern architecture is a form of media, that it is
not just a set of buildings in the streets but is built as image in the pages of magazines and
newspapers. This is not just because architects are trying to sell a product – although that is also
clearly the case – but before that, the image is itself space carefully constructed by the architect.‖
The Intermediary Agent
We experience buildings/ landscapes through an intermediary agent (a.k.a. medium/ media) –
this agent could be a photograph, plane, etc….
Aerial view carried significant importance for Le Corbusier (frequently designed as
though city was being viewed from above)
Mediated experiences of built environment does not only change perception of environment but
also translates into ways of making the environment.
The North American experience is often experienced in the car (L.A. – impossible to
walk) – North American cities made to be experienced this way
The reciprocity of how things appear and how they are made.
Colomina’s argument of the centrality of media – architecture is not just the built environment
but also the discourse surrounding itself.
Our experience of architecture is almost always mediated.
Media transforms architecture into images.
Impact of these images have been so transformative – even in the presence of the actual building,
visitors often view the buildings through the images they have already seen.
(Image) Walter Gropius, Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925-1926
Visitors frequently photograph this building in the same way. They are viewing this building mediated through famous photographs.
(Image) Mies van der Rohe, Glass Skyscraper, Berlin, 1922
Mies was last architect of the Bauhaus
In 1922, Germany did not yet have the technology to build skyscrapers.
Mies made a model – photo-montaged the model.
His model is referred to as a ―media construction‖ – does not correspond to physical
architecture – only exists as media
Swiss -French architect – active in modern movement
Wrote Vers Une Architecture (Towards an Architecture), 1923
Collection of newspaper clippings
―Architecture or Revolution‖ chapter: revolution can be avoided through architecture –
Corbusier is deeply involved in socio-politics – politics are always present in modern
Peter and Alison Smithson
Created House of the Future (image)
Created out of cardboard – media staging – not a real house
(Image) Mies van der Rohe, Barcelona Pavillthn, Barcelona, 1929
One of the most important buildings of 20 C.
Influenced modern architecture – even after demolished.
Though its physical life was short – its life in media continued.
Exhibition about the Pavillion Building at MoMA
Due to the fame of its images in mass media – building was reconstructed as physical entity.
Image representing a building – today it is the reverse
Today it is difficult to tell if you are looking at the photograph of a rendering of the
Relationship between modern-media and modern architecture (relationship between
representation and making)
20 Century architect is one who knows how to manipulate images – how to stage space in
(Image) Glimpses of USA
Multi-screen exhibit. Film: Powers of Ten
Uses architectural concept of the scale.
MoMA attempted to formulate what was modern and what was post-modern through
Alfred Barr – first director of MoMA
MoMa put on the map through the purchases of Picasso and Gogain (sp??)
Models of Museums
Princely collection – princes/ aristocracy would collect art for personal enjoyment and
occasionally make it publicly available for viewing.
Public Museum – tries to be universal – would collect anything.
MoMA – aspired to be completely different (not Princely, not Universal). – aspired to be
an institution that determines course of contemporary art – in order to control present,
must control the past.
(Image) Cubism and Abstract Art, 1936 – Alfred Barr
Barr canonizes certain artists and certain movements.
Barr constructs a history – a genealogy – ex. gives the impression that Jackson Pollock was made
possible by Monet.
(Image) Exhibits at MoMA
MoMA taken an active role in shaping discourse on architecture.
Takes on socio-political issues.
MoMA Exhibit – The Modern Moment
Modern Architecture – International Exhibition
Director of MoMA- Barr
Curator – Philip Johnson
Architecture Historian – Hitchcock
―Present exhibition is an assertion that confusion of past century may shortly come to an end‖
Claim – modern movement is a radical break from what came before.
Work featured in exhibit thimarily from 1920s and 1930s – modern architecture defined as being
a very narrow entity in 20 Century Featured architects:
J.J.P. Oud (designed Dutch housing)
Frank Lloyd Wright (controversially included)
Wright is reluctantly included –his designs are more technical than artistic – therefore not fitting
with conception of modern moment – modern moment is anti-academic architecture
Enemy of modern movement – academic tradition – the architecture of the Beaux-Arts
―Modern architecture is dictated by modern material, techniques and functional necessity‖—Barr
Functionality becomes very important.
The modern architecture has no qualms about ignoring conceptions of harmony.
Modern architecture avoids ornate detail – it is technical and functional.
modern architecture Modern Movement
At some point in 20 C. modern architects circumscribe meaning of Modern Movement
Emergence of Modern Movement linked to media events
o Publication of ―Vers une Architecture‖ by Le Corbusier
o 1926 – competition for League of Nations for building in Geneva
Corbusier and Jeanneret propose a building – they didn’t win.
Modern architects come together in their opposition to the winning
o Housing Prototype s of Stuttgart – gained much media attention
Mies excluded local architects
In opposition, local architects photo-montaged middle-eastern figures into
image – to make anti-Semitic comment.
Modern architecture is thought to be connected with ruthlessness –
Mies’s group of architects come to be known as leftwing
o CIAM (Congrès internationaux…) come together to concretize meaning of new
o Publication of series of books by Sigfied Giedion – secretary of CIAM –
spokesperson for modern movement.
Modern Movement was invented in Media – MoMA exhibit put a label on Modern
Movement to call it ―International Style‖.
Avant-garde – A group of artists who claim to be at the forefront of artistic developments
Critique of the Modern Moment Exhibit Conception of modern architecture presented in exhibition is narrow.
Modern architecture is not a break from the past but a continuation in novel ways.
Functionalism is a fiction of modern architecture.
Utilitarian concerns will never fully account for aesthetic choices made by architect.
Ex. Barcelona Pavillion – ineffective and not cost-effective design
Neglected to mention social aspirations of Modern Movement
Did not take up the issue of housing shortage in Europe – although they did feature J.J.P.
Oud’s housing designs.
MoMA Exhibit – The Post-Modern Moment
Architecture of the École des Beaux-Arts, 1975
The repressed concepts often make a come-back.
Irony: 1932 exhibit was against the Beaux-Arts – announced its death – the same museum hosts
Critique, Charles Jenks: ―Modern Architecture died in St Louis Misuri when this infamous
housing project was destroyed by dynamite‖ double check quote online
Drexler formulated problem of modern architecture in terms of media – modern movement is too
preoccupied with truth and facts.
Drexler found it disturbing that Mies has made a model of a building that looked exactly
like the constructed building.
o Architects in modern movement subscribe too much to identical relationship
between model and building.
o By contrast, Kahn understood the abstraction of a model – model is not
synonymous with building.
New-found interest in language – post-moderns like writing inscriptions on buildings.
Perspective – the technique of representing parallel lines as converging in order to give the
illusion of depth and distance.
Modern Movement Critique – subjective because must assume a single perspective.
Post-Modern Movement – perspective makes a comeback.
Axonometric – the technique of representing parallel lines as parallel.
Viewed as more objective than perspective drawing.
White v.s. Grays
Most important debate of post-modernism.
Question of language in architecture. White Side
Led by Peter Eisenman
Architecture should withdraw into its own medium – should concern itself with nothing
Formal preoccupation with internal language of architecture – speaks only in terms of
lines, parallels, etc…
Led by Venturi
Interested in question of architectural language
Wanted to embrace vernacular traditions, populism
A desire to communicate/ appeal to the masses
Postmodernism critiques Modern Movement’s purported functionalism.
Postmodernism has a renewed interest in history (all the theories the modern movement declared
severed ties with).
Bauhaus Exhibit – The Contemporary Moment
Bauhaus: Workshops of Modernity
Another return of the oppressed
Functionalist ethos put forth by previous two exhibits- taken apart (destroys assumption that
1932 and 1975 – modernism turned Bauhaus into shorthand for functionalism.
Functionalism – architecture is informed by necessities of structural and problematic
Modern movement is about functionalism
Architecture Jan 24 2013
Midterm next week. Wahooooooo 9am sharp!
Feb 5 Barry Bergdoll
4:30 UC 140
Histories of the present 3
Media and Architecture Media: Channel or system of communication, after mass media. Also use it as anything that
mediates between two things.
Colmina who taught at Princeton was the first to come up with this idea (we just read her stuff).
Demand: photos of crime scenes usually. Usually interiors. Builds full scale models of these things
out of cardboard and photographs them. Models can be made of whatever, you can make them look
real. It is a time consuming way. “artist working almost as slowly as an architect”.
Colomina argues that architecture does not just appear in media but is media. Built in pages of
magazines, and photos as well as on the street. Experience architecture through mass media, things
we would never actually see.
Media and a medium. Mostly experience buildings and landscapes through media.
Aerial view was important, especially for LeCorbusier. Designed as if he viewed architecture and
cities from above.
These mediated experiences of the built environment did not only change out perception of the
environment BTU also translated into ways of making the environment.
NA cities not only experienced in the car, some you walk in, but they were made to be viewed in the
How things appear and how they are made. Modern architecture form of media is parallel to the
idea that when we say architecture as a discipline, we mean the discourse around the environment
as well as the physical structures and features. Experience of architecture is mediated, rarely do we
get to experiences iconic buildings in person.
Impact of images have been transformative, so that when people see the building after the image,
they try to make it look like the picture in their braaaiiiins.
Staging in architecture, Colomina refers to this as media. When people make models, so realistic,
they look real in photos.
Mies designed a particular kind of skyscraper. > glass skyscraper. Made a model, Germany did not
have the technology to build actual skyscrapers, made a photo montage. Despite the fact that it
didn't exist, it was still very important.
LeCorbusier – Vers un Architecture. Collected clippings from newspapers and magazines. Made
collages of these.
Peter and Allison Smithson – House of the Future: claimed it was made of plastic, but was really
mocked with plywood, plaster and paint. Attempting to imagine the future of architecture.
Barcelona Pavillion: 1929, existed briefly for an international exposition. Seen by a limited number
of people, then demolished. Became one of the most important buildings of modern architecture.
Physical life short, but continues in media. Reconstructed later.
20 century architect knew how to manipulate images. Manipulating or staging spaces important.
Film – Powers of ten
Emphasize relationship between representation and making.
We used to find images looking like real buildings, now we see images of real buildings that look
like models. (Marilyn Towers)
Modern and postmodern.
Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) Founded by Rockefeller, as a private collection of art. Originally in
a townhouse, then other places. Alfred Barr was the first director. They purchased Picassos when it
was unsure what his position would be. This museum differed from other museum collections.
Princely collection: origin of the modern idea of collection, aristocracy would collect art for
themselves and make it available occasionally to others. After French revolution this changed,
Louvre opened, and this was also the first time labels were placed next to artworks. Before it was
assumed that if you knew your history, you would know the piece.
19 c public museums would collect all kinds of art. Universal comprehensive. MOMA wanted to be different. “If you want to control the present, you need to control the past”.
Wanted to have both qualities. Understanding past explains future. Barr - “Cubism and Abstract
Decided importance of modern artists decided by purchases made as well as future purchases.
Constructed a genealogy of art. The way the collection was made and displayed, dictated the course
of modern art and architecture. 2010, MOMA started to care about social issues.
Three MOMA exhibitions
1932 Modern Architecture
2009 BauHaus... what kinda modern?
1932: International Style Exhibition
Barr director, Phillip Johnson, curator, helped by Hitchcock. Made case for Avant-garde
architecture. International style was not a style, criticized those who tried to do that, no beauty, 2,3.
Functional necessity. Beaux-art rules disregarded in modern architecture, and avoided ornament.
Barr claimed that the modern movement was a radical break with what came before it. We
understand architecture as a quite narrow field at this point with a few heroes. Walter Gropius ,
Mies, Oud, Frank Lloyd Wright (reluctantly), Hood.
Where are the weak spots in the statements above. Conception of modern art presented was very
narrow. Many architects before, after, and outside of this style of international style, consider
themselves modern. Spatial arrangements of LeCorbusier's villas were similar to other, older villas,
continuing past traditions in novel ways. Function and efficiency not part of modern architecture.
Barcelona pavilion, formal and aesthetic choices made by architect. May violate beaux-arts rules,
but can not be described as most efficient way of building.
They missed an important aspect of their exhibition: social aspirations. Would show architecture,
but not explain its implications. Ex: Oud, and his housing in the Netherlands. Argument can be made
that modernism of a certain kind crossed the ocean from Europe to America, it lost some of its
social concern. LeCorbusier, revolution can be avoided through architecture.
Call this politically conservative or progressive. Undeniable that he was deeply engaged in politics.
It was always and aspect of modern architecture, and it was completely unmentioned in 1932
modern architecture > Modern Movement
Avant-garde: group of artists who claimed to be at the forefront of artistic developments.
Linked to a series of media events:
Publishing of Vers un Architecture
shift at Bauhaus, exhibition in 1923, where the director decided to shed all interest in mysticism
and medieval, align itself with new stufff.
Competition in 1927, League of Nations competition. Le Corbusier and his cousin proposed
something for this, didn't win and threw a hissy fit. Asked why, since his was the best, didn't win?
Avant-garde artists came together and opposed the beaux-arts theme of the new winning building.
Weissenhof Siedlung outside of Stuttgart.1927
New kind of modern architecture came to be a cohesive whole.
Mies excluded local architects from this exhibition.
In opposition, local architects photomontaged images onto circulating image (anti-Semitic). Made it
look Middle-Eastern. Crystallized role of political engagement of architects.
Modern architecture associated with ruthlessness, judaism, left wing politics. ??
1928, founding of CIAM, formulation of new avant-garde architecture. Second meeting focused on
housing for the masses. Publication of books by Sigfried Giedion.
The modern movement was invented in media, books, magazines, competitions and exhibitions.
“International Style” 1975 Exhibition Architecture of the Ecole des Beaux-Arts.
Came back to the institution that announced its death.
Fact that the show about the history of architecture was actually about the current architecture.
International style had treated the problem of the city wrongly.
“Modern architecture died when...” Pruitt-Igoe housing was destroyed. Death of modern movement,
international style. Implication was that the type of architecture and urbanism was now bankrupt.
Drexler was more subtle, equated it with Bauhaus, modern movement, international style. Wanted
to return to Beaux-Arts, to find out more about the tradition that Bauhaus had replaced. Modern
movement was too preoccupied with truth and facts. Compared models, Mies and Louis something.
Drexler found it disturbing that Mies had made a model that looks exactly like the building after it
was built. He claimed that architects subscribed too much to fact in the modern movement. Said
model was just an abstraction, and looked nothing like the building after, in the building he
He said modern architecture denied the possibility of fiction in postmodern architecture.
No functional explanation for things, in Mies.
Phillip Johnson made no pretention that form followed function. Mies did not say this, but it was
implied through his work.
Signalled a new found interest in language.
Gideon and Drexler like things like Biblioteque Ste-Genevieve for different reasons.
Interest in architectural drawing. Use of perspective. Flawed because it was subjective, from
someone's point of view.
Axonmetric, seen from above, parallel lines to not converge and are not subjective.
White vs Grays: presented as a big deal but is really a pseudo debate.
Interested in the idea of language in architecture, in different ways.
White: led by Peter Eisenman, claiming that architecture should withdraw into its own medium,
should concern itself only with architecture. Concerned only with architectural language.
Grays: Venturi, question of architectural language, indebted to vernacular traditions. Popularism.
Desire to communicate to others, appeal to the masses.
Internal vs external languages.
Renewal of interest in history. Postmodernists wanted to claim back everything that MoMA
discarded in 1932.
Completely left out of Whites and Greys, experimental architecture. Criticism and reevaluation of
modern movement. Post moderns wiped this out of history.
1932 and 1975 exhibitions opposing. Implicitly opposed the idea that modernism had turned
Bauhaus into functionalism.
return of the repressed again.
Technology and industrial production was not the main focus, he showed that Bauhaus draws on
other things, folk traditions, etc.
Functionalist ethos was taken apart.
Kurt Schmidt: form and color organization. Borr