Università
della
Svizzera
italiana
Academy
of Architecture

 
 

Cattedra Borromini 2018-19

 
Cattedra Borromini - Accademia di architettura - Barry Bergdoll, Meyer Schapiro Professor of Art History, Columbia University, New York

Barry Bergdoll,

Meyer Schapiro Professor

of Art History,

Columbia University, New York

As the institution and the practices of the modern museum and art gallery evolved from the mid-18th century, slowly a culture of exhibiting architecture also developed.  As is well known from the first architecture differed from the other arts in that to exhibit it was to work with representations, either of an existing building or of a future one.  Paintings and sculptures often might be moved from place to place in many cases, and rapidly the practices of the fine arts developed in symbiosis with the rising culture of the museum.  But architecture was less obviously adept to new cultures, institutions and practices of display.  Yet, paradoxically, once architects found their way onto the walls of the Salon in Paris, the Royal Academy in London, and other places of artistic display, sociability, and criticism, a culture of architectural exhibition took hold.   A series of four lectures will look at key aspects of this new practice in four different initiatory moments, and in four different settings, each creating a new possibility for architecture.  Common to all practices is the idea, frequently, of the display away from the actual site of construction in a new context which adds meaning, tensions, and possibilities for architecture. 

Immovable paradoxes:
architecture on display since 1750

This first lecture will trace the use of the exhibition as a means of engendering, or channeling an emergence sense of public opinion about matters of taste, urban form, and public policy from some of the earliest displays of architectural competitions, notably for the design of a new City Hall in Dublin in the 1760s, through the relationship of exhibition to Revolution in the 1790s to the Soviet Union in the decade after 1917, to recent uses, notably in the wake of the September 11th attacks in New York in 2001.

1.  Architecture and public debate

This second lecture will trace the use of display of architecture abroad in the context of the World’s Fairs of the 19th century with the rise of the national pavilions, the competition among nations on both the economic and the cultural plane, and the desire to create a unity of a national culture even in a period of radical economic, technological and even territorial transformation.   From these world’s fairs would emerge debates on the proper expression of national identity, not only in temporary show architecture abroad, but on the changing urban scene at home.  That changing urban scene in turn occasioned new debates on the relationship of architectural authenticity to the vernacular.  World’s fairs and the discourses on the vernacular were two of the forces that led to the invention of the open air museum, a novel solution to the problem of representations as the principle technique for putting architecture on display.  It’s later day descendents include such local spectacles as Swissminatur, nearby!

2.  Style on the world stage

The very condition of an avant-garde in architecture is dependent upon the possibility of creating outside the normative conditions of networks of finance, law, and even the statics of materials and structures.   The role of galleries in the announcement of the avant-garde, in the definition of a common purpose -most famously perhaps with the Italian Futurists -- is only the beginning of this trend.  Soon spaces of exhibition became venues for projecting concepts of architecture that defied all convention and suggested the possibility of creating experiences in display unknown –as of yet – in built architecture.   Here the conflict between critique and distraction is to be examined critically. 

3.  The architectural avant-garde and the techniques of display

The final lecture will offer a panorama of the role that displaying architecture plays in today’s experience economy, analyzing in particular the rise of the culture of the biennale and both is possibilities and its limitations for architecture’s relationship to the challenges of today’s environment, both urban and rural, at the scale of the neighborhood and at the scale of the globe. 

4.  The architecture exhibition in the 21st century: between spectacle and activism