ISA Istituto di Storia e Teoria dell'arte e dell'architettura
Building Politics of Civil Religion
Uses and interpretations of historicist architecture in Washington, D.C.
Mercoledì 27 settembre 2017, ore 18.30
Palazzo Canavée, Aula C3.89
In his founding master plan of 1791 engineer Pierre Charles L’Enfant, in close cooperation with President George Washington, conceptualized the newly founded capital of the United States as a symbolic space representing state and nation. The government invested in an extensive construction program, including federal buildings and national monuments. Religious institutions, too, developed national aspirations expressed through architecture and commissioned monumental churches.
In my presentation, I focus on the uses and interpretations of historicist architectural formulas and iconographic programs from the nineteenth century until the late arrival of modernism in Washington in the 1940s. Historicist styles are not simply an expression of individual aesthetic preference for certain traditional architectural forms, but have to be considered as a deliberate choice of style with its inherent qualities and imagery of the past. This particular system of beliefs and values in historicist architecture and iconography was adopted by federal and religious institutions to create powerful buildings and monuments in Washington. I analyze how architectural landmarks were conceived to communicate national cultural and religious identity as much as US-American hegemony over the “Old World” of Europe by using representations of the past. I will discuss ambitions to establish a national style reflecting American identity and normative patriotic values.
Anna Minta is professor of History and Theory of Architecture at the Catholic Private University of Linz, Austria. She is head of the SNSF-research project “Holy Spaces in Modernity. Transformations and Architectural Manifestations (SNSF-Professorship 6/2014-5/2918).
She has studied art history, modern history and communication studies in Berlin. She received her Ph.D. from Kiel University, Germany, in 2003, analyzing architecture, town planning and preservation politics in Israel after the foundation of the state in 1948. Her habilitation (second book, 2013) at Bern University, Switzerland, discusses contested historicisms in Washington’s architecture and identity debates. Her recent research focusses on campus architecture in a global perspective. She has published extensively on the history of architecture in Europe, Israel/Palestine and the USA, analyzing the appropriation of architecture in identity constructions and discourses of power.