Designing the Institutions: An Architectural History of Twentieth-Century Globalization

Seminar Architecture and the City II / IV (056-0002-01)
Organizer: MAS ETH GTA
Lecturers: Dr. Susanne Schindler, Marie-Anne Lerjen
Time: Fridays, 1.00-4.30 pm

Bildquelle: Filmstill aus Gordon Hyatt, Between the Word and the Deed..., New York 1970.

Link: Gordon Hyatt, Between the Word and the Deed..., New York 1970.

The seminar considers the history of European twentieth-century architecture through the lens of the institutions designed, founded, and used by architects and planners in light of the challenges arising from new forms of globalization.

The end of empire following the first and second world wars fundamentally changed the global network of power and trade of the late-nineteenth century. It was replaced by a new world order based on sovereign nation states, ideally democratically legitimated. In the course of the twentieth century, however, a new series of global actors emerged. Some, like the UN, insisted on the primacy of democracy and universal human rights. Others, like GATT and WTO, aimed to protect the movement of capital from the interference of democratically controlled states.

How did the tension between these two globalizing tendencies affect architecture and planning? In the seminar, we will seek answers by focusing on institutions that worked in the grey zone between state authorities and the private sector. These include professional associations, clubs, philanthropies, research institutes, popular movements and lobbying groups. What notion of world order, and which economic and political assumptions guided the design of institutions like Heimatschutz and Werkbund, UN-Habitat and the environmental movement? Conversely, how did their legal and organizational form shape the architectural and planning proposals of their members?

The seminar’s learning goals are, first, to better understand and describe the entanglement of the realms of the architectural, economic, and political; second, to consider the design of institutions, just like the design of buildings or cities, an architectural task.