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Summer Semester

• Goethe University Frankfurt, Campus Westend

Seminar & Symposium


Daniela Ortiz dos Santos

This research seminar intersects twentieth-century architecture discourse and international organizations. It cuts across architectural historiography, archival research and transnational history. We invite participants to reflect on the ideas of modern architecture, historic monument and cultural heritage as inventions, created in the context of collaborations, negotiations, conventions, consensuses, power relations and disputed views.

Our main argument implies that the history of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and the history of architecture and the built environment intersect and are shaped by one another.

Between 1945 and 1975, UNESCO produced a massive amount of visual and written material – bulletins, magazine and books, not to mention an impressive photographic collection – whose themes and approach affected the professional and scientific field of architecture and the built environment at global scale. This organization also promoted and supported a series of international congresses, being the Congresses of Architects and Specialists of Historic Buildings among the most studied. In this booming production period, for example, the idea of ‘world heritage’ was conceived. Correspondingly, the category of ‘Latin American architecture’ gained new political significance and forms of use.

These were also years of intellectual and scientific diaspora; thus, being critical to examine the role of immigrant architects and historians in both constructing and repositioning international networks and transnational cooperation that operated within international forums. Their practices and representations are here argued to have added a new dimension to knowledge transfer and creation. Two international architecture forums, whose institutional histories intersect with that of UNESCO shall be particularly useful in this seminar: the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM, 1928-1959) and the International Union of Architects, founded in 1948.

We begin by discussing a series of exemplary events that took place in the European context and that preceded UNESCO’s creation in 1945. We continue our analysis by looking at a selection of documents and records dated from the late forties until the early eighties, besides examining contemporary perspectives and writings to engage participants in critical thinking. The reading sessions shall be followed by a workshop using archival records and an international symposium.

In this research seminar, our efforts are to shift from a panoramic overview in the history of architecture and building preservation; instead, we propose a platform to exchange situated positions, concepts and contexts. Furthermore, we invite participants to engage into a discussion on methods and sources in architectural history.

This seminar has been conceived as part of an ongoing research project that explores Latin America as a category and the architectural historiography of the region during the Cold War era. It integrates the international symposium “Architectural History and International Organizations: Reflecting on Sources and Methods,” in which guests, who work at the intersection between transnational studies and architectural historiography, will present their own research projects. Our guests are Anat Falbel from São Paulo, Hélène Jannière from Université Rennes 2, Corinne Geering from Leibniz-Institut für Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa, Rute Figueiredo from Escola Superior Artística do Porto and Andreas Kalpakci from ETH Zurich.

This project is carried out at the Center for Critical Studies in Architecture of the Goethe University Frankfurt and has received funding and support from the Goethe Research Academy for Early Career Researchers (GRADE).