A Spotlight on the Margins of Venice

Ludovica Galeazzo, Venezia e i margini urbani: L’insula dei Gesuiti in età moderna. Memorie: Classe di scienze morali, lettere ed arti, vol. 144. Venice: Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti, 337 pages, 2018, ISBN 978-88-95996-78-3 (ISSN 0393-845 X).

Today, the margins of Venice preserve the precious remnants of the daily life of the ever-shrinking number of inhabitants. In historical studies, however, they have been often classified as the periferia, in contrast to the more dynamic urban centres of Piazza San Marco and the Rialto market. As Castelnuovo and Ginsburg highlighted four decades ago, peripheral zones are often regarded as refuges for unsuccessful artists or as the repository of old-fashioned works of art (Castelnuovo and Ginzburg 1979: 285–352). Yet the edges of Venice were not always so marginal: visitors from the terraferma arrived by boat from the north; important doges such as Andrea Gritti and Leonardo Donà chose peripheral sites for their palaces; and the views towards the mountains were cherished by Titian from his house in the Biri grande.

Ludovica Galeazzo’s exemplary monograph on a specific peripheral neighbourhood of Venice studies the intersection between time and space — or between history and geography —from the 15th to the 18th century. Outlined by canals on the northern margins of the city, the area of study is known as the ‘insula dei Gesuiti’ because the Jesuits settled there on their return to the city in 1657. From medieval times the island was the home of two religious institutions: Santa Maria Assunta, the seat of the Crociferi or Crutched Friars (later to be occupied by the Jesuits); and the Augustinian nunnery of Santa Caterina dei Sacchi. Within the complex web of social, economic and religious connections explored in this book, private individuals and local confraternities also influenced the site’s development. On the cover, a stunning detail from a watercolour map of about 1500 encapsulates the rich collage of life in the area: its churches and monastic buildings, houses with red tiled roofs and huge Venetian chimneys, a boatyard, a building site, and a florid Gothic palace (Figure 1).

Figure 1 

Cover of Ludovica Galeazzo, Venezia e i margini urbani: L’insula dei Gesuiti in età moderna. Photo credit: Istituto veneto di scienze, lettere ed arti, 2018.

Although the insula might have seemed marginal from the perspective of the government, the Republic needed to retain control of the fringes of the city in terms of both topography and society. In particular the state had to monitor land reclamation. Lack of urban space meant that the temptation to reclaim land at the edges was ever present, and indeed, a number of private individuals, not to mention the nunnery of Santa Caterina, indulged in unauthorised reclamation. Meanwhile, social control depended in no small part on the religious institutions, which helped to diffuse peripheral social unrest by means of charitable acts and spiritual consolation.

Galeazzo’s book is divided into three main sections, within a broadly chronological framework. The first concerns the ‘conquest’ of urban space, and recounts the establishment of the two convents and the piecemeal land reclamations, which culminated in the construction of the Fondamente Nuove along the northern fringes of the city between 1590 and 1610. The second section, on the ‘construction’ of urban space, considers the interaction of the various occupants of the neighbourhood in their daily lives and the impact of such relationships on the character of the area. The final section chronicles the architectural and urban ‘renewal’ in the 17th and 18th centuries, especially the major building programme undertaken by the Jesuits. Each section is accompanied by a set of illustrations in colour and black and white — not only photographs, plans, drawings, maps and engravings, but also reconstruction models, diagrams and computer-generated views. The richness of this illustrative material generates a layered mosaic of the development of the insula over the centuries. For instance, the book demonstrates brilliantly, through both documents and diagrams, how the hospital of the Crociferi, rebuilt in the mid-16th century at the instigation of the Zen family, was set back to make the new Palazzo Zen more visible. In this study the gaps between buildings are just as important as the architecture: a large public open space such as the Campo dei Gesuiti reflects a long history of religious and ludic activities.

At the end of the book is an invaluable catalogue, illustrated by numerous thumbnail images. Here we find details of the island’s most important buildings, together with the works of art still, or formerly, contained within them: namely, the churches and convents of the Crociferi and Santa Caterina, the hospital of the Crociferi, the Jesuit church and college, and Palazzo Zen. Unusually, the catalogue is written in the past tense, for each description records a particular moment in history based on descriptions at the chosen date.

The book’s content is underpinned not only by enterprising primary research, but also by reference to a wealth of more recent literature in many disciplines. The references to other publications are a little challenging to the reader because of the curious editorial decision to use the ‘author + short title’ abbreviation in the footnotes, yet to arrange the bibliography in chronological rather than alphabetical order.

The two original churches explored in the book are not easy subjects for investigation. Santa Caterina, deconsecrated in the Napoleonic period, became part of a secondary school, but it suffered a serious fire in 1977, which badly damaged its precious ship’s-keel ceiling. Fortunately, many of the church’s works of art are still preserved in Venice, chiefly in the Accademia and the Palazzo Patriarcale. The church of the Crociferi, superseded by the church of the Gesuiti in 1714–28, has already formed the subject of the pioneering doctoral thesis by the late Allison Sherman, unpublished because of her premature death, but her work is generously acknowledged in this book (Sherman 2010).

Galeazzo is an architectural and urban historian who recognises the inherent interdisciplinarity of her field. She not only shows great skill in tracking down visual and documentary evidence and interpreting its complexity in lucid, rational terms. She is also unafraid to confront economic data (including tables), social and religious factors, and family history. The nunnery of Santa Caterina, for example, rented out land to industrial activities such as sugar refining, invested in land on the mainland, and performed a crucial social function in housing large numbers of undowried women from noble families. The prominent families in the parish included two of particular significance: the noble Zen family, whose huge palace was rebuilt in the 16th century; and the fabulously wealthy cittadino merchant and entrepreneur Giacomo Ragazzoni, who was buried in Santa Caterina. Galeazzo reveals the small area of the insula dei Gesuiti as a microcosm of intersections between economic production, environmental concerns, social welfare and spiritual life, reflecting issues that are still relevant today. Her book is a model of urban micro-history.

Socialism and Architecture: Building in Non-Aligned Countries

Łukasz Stanek (2020), Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War, Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 369 pages, 2020, ISBN 9780691168708

Architecture in Global Socialism studies the activities of architects from Eastern Europe in the global south and makes an important correction to architectural history’s neglect of detailed studies into West Africa and the Middle East (Figure 2). It focuses on architects from Socialist nations working during the Cold War in countries associated with the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), or nations not formally aligned with, or against, any major power bloc. Łukasz Stanek’s publication adds to the understanding of architectural knowledge exchange between Eastern European architects and those from the West, depicting the competing ideologies in the design and production of architecture. One of the great merits of this book is that it shows that nations such as Ghana, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE encouraged architects from Western nations to work there in the same time period, depicting how architects from dissimilar political and economic systems worked alongside one another; this book contributes not just to the history of architecture but of Socialism too.

Figure 2 

Cover of Łukasz Stanek’s Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War. Photo credit: Princeton University Press.

The structure of Architecture in Global Socialism allows for concentrated debate through separate analysis of geographic areas — the Middle East and West Africa — forming a narrative of each case study’s location as the focus of each chapter. In doing so, it weaves architects and their projects into a broad geographical analysis. The first, essayistic chapter introduces the main themes of the book, contextualises ‘worlding’ and explains terminology such as the ‘global north’ and ‘global south’. Accra (1957–66) is the focus of the second chapter, and Stanek assesses its architecture through the narrative of Ghana’s geopolitics, and the overarching aims of the ensuing Kwame Nkrumah prime ministership (1960–66). A recurring theme in this chapter is the importance of the International Trade Fair (ITF) — the architecture it procured and encouraged, but also its relationship to Nkrumah’s drive for development in Ghana. A broader appraisal of Nigeria’s architectural development between 1966 and 1979 is found in the third chapter, with arguably more focus on architecture procured by Westerners than any other chapter of the book. Much of the analysis is into the peripatetic careers of Karol (Charles) Polonyi, Zbigniew R. Dmochowski and Zoran Bojovic, which contributes to the overall understanding that Nigeria and other member states of the NAM were neutral in the Cold War, willing to use international experts where necessary.

In the final two chapters the focus moves away from Africa and towards the Middle East. Chapter four offers a coherent and detailed understanding of the new Socialist orientation of Baghdad’s architecture between 1958 and 1990, showing the tangible effects of the 1958 revolution on the work of the Polish practice Miastoprojekt-Krakow in Iraq. Abu Dhabi and Kuwait City between 1979 and 1990 are the focus of the fifth chapter, adding immeasurably to the Kuwait-specific literature which has proliferated in recent years, particularly with the works of Asseel Al-Ragam (2013), Farah Al-Nakib (2016) and the gazetteer edited by Roberto Fabbri, Ricardo Camacho and Sara Saragoça (2016).

An important function of Stanek’s book is the pitting of relatively unknown Socialist planners and architects against the more well-known Western schemes that perhaps went unrealised. Throughout Architecture in Global Socialism a deliberate lack of Western contextualisation forces the reader to engage with previously underexamined Socialist architects’ work without comparisons to Le Corbusier or Mies van der Rohe, customary in Western literature. Notwithstanding, Stanek gives attention to Western architecture that had a direct effect on the schemes analysed, such as the detailed discussion of the work of Maxwell Fry and Jane Drew in Ghana and of Doxiadis Associates in Baghdad; others have pointed out that the variety of locations in which Doxiadis Associates worked would suggest they were not politically aligned and did not have an ‘imperialist agenda’ (Pyla 2008: 3–19). Stanek provides necessary and important context on Baghdad’s pre-1958 epoch, mentioning — but not lingering on — Western architectural input in Baghdad, featuring the likes of Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright, helping the reader navigate this complex architectural landscape. Stanek successfully escapes too much focus on these often-told architectural histories, using them only to explain, describe and contextualise the influx of architects and planners from Socialist nations that continued Iraq’s development after the Iraqi revolution (Pieri 2008: 32–39).

It was commonplace for Socialist planners and architects to expand and alter previously unrealised works in Iraq, such as Max Lock’s extensive New Basrah Plan (1956), to fit the requirements of the state. Stanek thus dispels the assumption that Western-led projects planned in the preceding period went completely unrealised. In Lock’s case, his plan failed to provide the road and train links necessary to connect the former three Ottoman provinces, or vilayets, that made up Iraq. In 1962, Stanisław Jankowski adjusted Lock’s plan, likely enhancing these neglected areas. Further examples of modification include Doxiadis’ plan for Baghdad (1955–58) and Raglan Squire’s for Mosul (1955). One of the key examples Stanek uses is the replacement of Minoprio, Spencely and Macfarlane’s lightweight 23-page, diagram-heavy plan for Baghdad (1956) with Miastoprojekt-Krakow’s later four-volume plan for the city in 1962.

To understand the habitually overlooked projects, Stanek employs a mix of methodologies, such as in-depth interviews and extensive archival material supplemented by many high-quality illustrations. The final pages of the book disseminate his research into detailed diagrams, each depicting the links between subject nations, architects and the nations they hailed from. Instead of structuring the book around architects’ nationalities, Stanek makes clear through these diagrams that there is a well-reasoned response to the geographical structural focus and lines of inquiry concerning Socialist exports of architecture to NAM nations.

Stanek is fluent in English, Polish and French, while much of the material was in Hungarian, Serbo-Croatian, Romanian, Bulgarian and Arabic, meaning translations were made to assess a greater breadth of sources contributing to the success of the book. This brings forward two points about the corpus. Many of the pictorial sources are annotated in both the architect’s native language as well as in English, demonstrating that this was a globalising world and that people were working across languages, translating both linguistically and architecturally. The other point is that at this juncture, if one were to be captious, Esra Akcan’s Architecture in Translation (2012) could have aided the text, given its relevance to Stanek’s methodologies, through her analysis of cultural exchanges extending beyond language and into visual fields. That is not to say at all that the text is lacking in other literature; the bibliography is extensive, and the angle from which Stanek chooses to approach architecture, through mondialisation and worlding, with his background publications on Henri Lefebvre, is clear (Stanek 2011; Stanek 2015).

Throughout the book, Stanek reveals a depth of research in his introduction to schools of architecture in Ghana, Nigeria, Iraq, Kuwait and the UAE that led to the training of important architects from these nations. In this respect, the book prompts many questions for future studies regarding the careers of those trained in the newly established institutions as well as those from Socialist nations. Numerous architects are mentioned who have received little critical attention in the historiography and whose contribution to global architectural development is largely unnoticed. These include the surveys of Mohamed Makiya in Baghdad (particularly his surveys of the city), the designs of the Nigerian architect Oluwole Olumuyiwa, Ghazi Sultan’s input on Kuwait’s architecture, and the work of John Owusu-Addo in Ghana.

As these architects’ importance grew, changes in technology allowed for new forms that favoured intricate ornamental designs, which Stanek illustrates using Stojan Maksimović’s designs for Bayan Park that feature elaborate mashrabiya, an ornamental technique that was commonplace across the Gulf at the time. Notable Western examples include the forms of Basil Spence’s Kuwait Law Courts (1983), Henning Larsen’s work in Riyadh at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (1984) and the same architect’s work at the Danish Embassy of Riyadh (1988). Stanek points out that complex designs, similar to these, were not possible without the increased availability and improving power of Computer Aided Design (CAD) software. While CAD and the use of standardised materials point to a degree of homogeneity, these developments also encouraged greater variety in form.

Other points of interest in the book include planetariums and the place that this typology holds within the modernisation of nations, as well as in the wider Cold War context. The scale was impressive, with the construction of planetariums in numerous nations, including Libya, Kuwait, China, Poland, India, Colombia and the Philippines, and involved teams led by Carl Zeiss, all of which adds to the global interest in space exploration. Stanek also provides stimulating narrative elsewhere in the book through depicting the act of constructing buildings as gifts, as with a stadium in Banako, Mali, and a centre for agriculture education in the city of Katibougou.

Socialism and western ideas of globalism were clearly at odds, which was manifested in the architectural scene of the NAM nations featured in this book through the proliferation of Socialist-led planetarium building and the construction of buildings as gifts. Not only is the book a clear contribution to Socialist histories, but Stanek shows that the production of architecture became more homogenous through its methods while at the same time retaining the potential for more variety and expression in designs representing the locale.

A Feast of Architectural Images

Mark McDonald. Architecture, Topography and Military Maps. The Paper Museum of Cassiano dal Pozzo. Series C. Prints, Part 2, 3 vols. London: The Royal Collection Trust and The British Library in association with Harvey Miller Publishers, 2019, ISBN 978-1-912554-21-8.

The three volumes of Architecture, Topography and Military Maps represent the second half of the catalogue raisonné of Cassiano dal Pozzo’s print collection. Born in Turin in 1588, Cassiano was raised in Tuscany, studying law at Pisa before settling in Rome in 1612, where he found employment in the household of Francesco Barberini (1597–1679), who became cardinal in 1623 (Figure 3). Cassiano accompanied Francesco on embassies to France and Spain in 1625–26, and on his return began to assemble what he called a Museo cartaceo (‘Paper Museum’), avowedly emulating the thirty manuscript volumes compiled by Pirro Ligorio on every aspect of antiquity. The extant Paper Museum comprises about 6,200 drawings and 3,300 prints, illustrating not only a range of Greco-Roman antiquities, from statues to everyday objects such as weights and measures, but natural history, including citrus fruits, fossils, birds, an Aztec herbal, as well as architecture, religious, civil and military — the subjects of the current volumes.

Figure 3 

Cover of Mark McDonald, Architecture, Topography and Military Maps. Photo credit: The Royal Collection Trust and The British Library, 2019.

The majority of the drawings in the Paper Museum were commissioned as copies, of either original objects or earlier drawings. But, in the case of architecture, many are original 16th-century drawings, acquired, apparently solely for their documentary value, with little regard to the renown of the draughtsman. After Cassiano’s death in 1657, his brother Carlo Antonio (1606–89) continued to augment the collection, which was frequently consulted by scholars and people on the Grand Tour. In 1703, the heirs sold the Paper Museum to Pope Clement XI, who passed it to his nephew, Cardinal Alessandro Albani, in 1714. He included it among the 200 volumes of prints he sold to King George III of England in 1762. The sale was negotiated in Rome by the architect James Adam, who kept six volumes of architectural drawings (now in Soane’s Museum), for himself and his brother Robert. Most of the remaining drawings are now at Windsor Castle (with a few outliers), some in original Dal Pozzo bindings, most rebound and reordered.

In the 1990s, the publication of the catalogue raisonné was initiated by the Royal Collection in two series: Series A for antiquities (17 volumes) and Series B for natural historical subjects (13 volumes). Although the presence of prints in the Paper Museum was already known, the decision to include them in a Series C was only taken much later, when it began to be clear that their existence might explain some of the otherwise strange absences of some prominent buildings among the architectural drawings. A day’s foray into the Map Room of the British Library by myself and Henrietta McBurney revealed several prints and albums with a hitherto unrecognised Dal Pozzo provenance, for example the Hieronymus Cock album (cat. nos. 2407–2452) and loose prints by Melchior Tavernier (cat. nos. 2898–2905), not only demonstrating that there was much more to be found, but that the Paper Museum could not be fully understood without them. I am therefore doubly delighted to be able to review the conclusion of that process.

In the first part of Series C, Ceremonies, Costumes, Portraits and Genre, comprising three volumes published in 2017, Mark McDonald catalogued 1,675 prints, mainly figurative in subject, preceded by introductory essays, including three pages by Francis Haskell and Henrietta McBurney on the nature of the Paper Museum, summarising what they say at greater length in the volumes devoted to drawings. The second essay is a magisterial 72-page discussion by McDonald on the formation, identification and context of Cassiano’s print collection. For the present volumes of part two, the Haskell and McBurney essay is repeated but McDonald’s is reduced to ten pages, which nevertheless is perfectly adequate for those whose principal interest is in the subject matter of the 1,624 architectural, topographical and military prints he catalogues.

McDonald stresses that, while the Paper Museum is the largest early modern collection known, the catalogue far from represents its totality, including only prints which can be regarded as belonging to it beyond any doubt. Many more, especially the magnificent collections of maps of early modern Italy in the British Library, almost certainly also belonged to the Paper Museum, but because they were subsequently closely trimmed, all evidence of their previous ownership is lost.

McDonald first catalogues the prints preserved in albums, followed by those that are now loose. Each section gives an overview of the contents, providing much immensely valuable new information on the prints themselves and their context. He begins with the misleadingly named Templa diversa Romae, entirely devoted to 61 prints of St. Peter’s in Rome, ranging in date from 1517 to 1635. This group includes prints showing both what was built and also several unrealised projects. Mostly the prints were published individually rather than forming a coherent series.

The second album, Templa diversa, is again assembled from different sources rather than a coherent series, just over half showing churches in Rome or its immediate vicinity. Among the most interesting is a 1590 version of the famous 1575 print of the seven major pilgrimage churches published by Lafreri, here updated to show various obelisks erected and the completed dome of St. Peter’s (cat. no. 1784). The following print (cat. no. 1785) shows St. Peter’s Square around 1600, with a rare view of one of the fountains before they were remodelled by Maderno in 1614. Another print, dated 1541, is a puzzle (cat. no. 1793). It shows an octagonal domed building which is doubly identified as a Roman temple rededicated as a Sacrament chapel and as a Temple of Neptune at Pozzuoli, probably meaning one of the octagonal thermal pavilions which survive in the Campi Flegrei. The print’s ambiguity perhaps explains its placement at the end of the Roman sequence and the beginning of the second part of the album, which includes some churches in northern Italy, 14 prints of the Escorial palace-monastery, and 9 from France, all probably acquired on the embassies in 1625–26. One slight regret is that a drawing of the exterior of the Lateran Baptistery on the verso of print 1739, which shows the structure’s interior, is not reproduced. It is difficult to imagine where else one could find this.

Among the 300-plus prints in Popish Ceremonies II, a title given to this group after they arrived in the Royal Library, are again many churches in and around Rome, including more of St. Peter’s, with different schemes for the façade and the piazza, as well as altarpieces and obelisks, 10 more prints showing the 7 pilgrimage churches, and even the odd secular building such as the Villa Ludovisi. A couple of observations: McDonald’s surmise that cat. no. 1845 is by Israel Silvestre is confirmed by his signature appearing on other less trimmed copies, but the subject is not S. Sabina as the caption claims. It is rather a reversed view of the southwest corner of the Aventine showing S. Maria del Priorato before its remodelling by Piranesi. Cat. no. 1877 surely shows the Piazza Navona, looking south towards the Palazzo Lancellotti, before the remodelling of S. Agnese in Agone and the creation of the Palazzo Pamphili.

Two albums, Palazzi di Roma, the first containing 41 prints by Pietro Ferrerio (published in 1655), the second with 57 by Giovanni Battista Falda (published c. 1670–77), span the end of volume one and the beginning of the second. Both series are well known, but McDonald’s overview throws new light on their genesis, helped by the fact that they are the best-preserved impressions known.

Volume two continues with the album Palazzi di Genova, published by Rubens in 1622, then another, Antiquitates Romanae, combining Hieronymus Cock’s Operum antiquorum Romanorum (1562) and Praecipua aliquot Romanae antiquitatis (1551). The final album is a Speculum Romanae magnificentiae, with 122 prints with an assured Dal Pozzo provenance. (Some prints thought to have been inserted while the collection was in Albani ownership in the early 18th century are not catalogued here.) As is well known, no two Specula are identical as they were assembled from loose prints, sharing only a common title page. Those here were published between 1535 and 1589 and concentrate exclusively on architectural subjects (perhaps implying a lost album of sculptural subjects?), including nine from the magnificent series reconstructing the Baths of Diocletian, published by Cock in 1558.

The loose prints begin with at cat. no. 1574 with 90 mainly from the King’s Topographical Collection (‘K. Top.’), now in the Map Room of the British Library. As explained above, only prints which can be securely connected to the Paper Museum are included, so that many which almost certainly belonged to it have been omitted. The subjects include more Roman palaces and villas as well as a few elsewhere in Italy and France, plus gates and fountains.

Finally, occupying the last third of volume two and all of volume three are 606 loose prints of military subjects (mostly King’s Military Collection (‘K. Mil.’), housed at Windsor, along with a few strays now in K. Top.), ranging in date from 1532 to 1685, many unique and published here for the first time. The consistency of the mount sheet sizes implies they were all originally bound in albums, but they were dismounted in the late 18th century and integrated with similar material in a broadly chronological sequence. While the majority show battles in progress, including 11 prints of the Battle of Lepanto (1571), perhaps not striking one immediately as of interest to architectural historians, many include images of lesser known fortresses and towns, not only across Europe and the Mediterranean, but as far as the Dutch East and West Indies. Aside from their informational value, many, such as the ‘Siege of Philippsburg’ (cat. nos. 1652 and 1653, published in 1644), a battle in the Thirty Years War, are staggeringly virtuosic.

In sum, architectural historians as much as print specialists will find this a priceless resource for decades to come. All the words I wanted to use in praise of this work, ‘monumental achievement’, ‘a treasure trove’, etc., have already been claimed by reviewers of the first three volumes. The best I can add is ‘hear, hear’.

Mediating Modernism: The Architectural Journal in Post-War Europe

Torsten Schmiedeknecht and Andrew Peckham, eds., Modernism and the Professional Architecture Journal: Reporting, Editing, and Reconstructing in Post-War Europe. London and New York: Routledge, 222 pages, 2019, ISBN 9781138945227.

Over the past twenty years journals have shifted from being key resources for architectural historians to objects of historical research in themselves. Readers will be familiar with the work of Hélène Jannière, David Rifkind or Beatriz Colomina on the topic, as well as large-scale research projects such as the Printed and the Built (2014–18) at the Oslo Centre for Critical Architectural Studies. Previous scholarship has focused on a particular journal, changing forms of publication, and the role of print culture in the overall mediation of architecture. In Modernism and the Professional Architecture Journal, editors Torsten Schmiedeknecht and Andrew Peckham explain that their interest in media led them to explore the role that professional architectural journals played in forging different forms of modernism across Europe (Figure 4). Although the scope of some essays shifts to the early 20th century, the main temporal boundaries of the book are between 1945 and 1968, thereby examining the various roles played by modernism in the reconstruction in Europe during the post-war era. Each chapter focuses on a single European nation, from Switzerland to Great Britain, Sweden to Hungary, Spain to West Germany. At the same time, some authors focus on a single publication whilst others explore an assortment of titles. By exploring differences and commonalities between specific architectural journals, the contributions in this volume reveal how post-war architecture, its theories, debates and products, and in particular its response to modernism, were perceived and disseminated across Europe.

Figure 4 

Cover of Torsten Schmiedeknecht and Andrew Peckham, eds., Modernism and the Professional Architecture Journal: Reporting, Editing, and Reconstructing in Postwar Europe. Photo credit: Routledge.

A central question for many of the contributors is the continuity of pre-war and post-war eras that played out in the debates surrounding urban reconstruction. For example, Schmiedeknecht charts the difference between the journals Baumeister and Baukunst und Werkform in West Germany, where the fundamental question was whether to rebuild or build anew. This debate was further complicated through discussions around the accuracy of reconstruction, the emulation of traditional styles through the adaption of local building techniques, and the construction of completely new buildings using fully industrialised building methods.

Another theme that is addressed by several authors is the influence of conservative regionally orientated voices and the intervention of central and local governments on architectural discourse. Ana Esteban Maluendna explains how the Spanish Civil War paralysed the production of architectural journals in the country. Following the end of the war in 1939, the political and economic situation had changed so drastically that new titles were created in keeping with the new social context. The mouthpiece of the new state agency for post-war construction, Reconstrucción, was largely illustrated with images of urban devastation and the subsequent repair and contemporary reconstruction, essentially serving a propagandist role. By contrast. architectural associations and technical institutes in Madrid and Cataluyna had their own titles, each presenting a different image that was more in line with the interests of their members.

A third theme that emerges from the various contributions is the internal struggles regarding editorial policies and their role in directing particular periodicals. For instance, Das Werk published few Swiss modernist projects between 1942 and 1959, when Alfred Roth was editor. Roth decided instead to give more space to architectural ideas, including sketches of Le Corbusier’s work in Algiers, a theoretical text by Augustus Perret and even student design projects from ETH Zürich. However, despite the important part played by particular figures, in Modernism and the Professional Architecture Journal there is perhaps too much of a focus on the role of editors, thereby individualising the collective the process of mediation through print. Remarkably absent in the book are discussions on advertising, the commercial aspect of construction and the extent to which a journal could be understood as the mouthpiece of particular institutions, avant-garde groups or the profession as a whole.

Clearly, however, the architectural journal transmitted ideas across various national borders in the post-war period. Many editors of these journals understood that a broad European community was looking for new ideas and buildings through journals. Beginning in 1952, Forum included abstracts in English to widen its appeal, which helped increase its standing (and the polemic position of its editorial board) outside the Netherlands. English texts not only widened the appeal of a journal but also became the raw materials for particular editors and journals to position themselves in a competitive marketplace. Individuals such as Carlos Flores, 30 years old when he was promoted to the editorship of the Spanish journal Hogar y Arquitectura in 1961, specialised in identifying less well-known but nevertheless important material from foreign sources, such as the transcription of Henry-Russell Hitchcock’s ‘Forum Lectures’, originally transmitted on American radio in 1960–61, and issues devoted to emerging figures such as Álvaro Siza and the Archigram group before they were formally established outside of their respective countries.

Despite many enlightening aspects, this book has gaps and absences that can only be rectified by further research, as is often the case with edited volumes. None of the authors discuss production processes, printing technologies or the distribution networks that made possible the role of the journals as an active agent in the transmission of modernism. Another gap is the theme of professionalism, which is hardly addressed, despite current discussions in the social sciences that professions are neither fixed nor immutable entities, but ones that continue to undergo renegotiation among different parties. This renegotiation was very apparent in the socio-political context of post-war Europe, where the role of the architect, be it on the building site, in popular culture, or in the planning process, was repeatedly questioned both within and without the profession. In many cases contributors do not make the distinction between journals read by the profession (L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui) and those that are the product of professional institutions and associations (Das Werk), therefore treating the question of genre and the journals rather lightly.

Despite these absences, through its geographical breadth the volume does offer us a greater understanding of the scope, ambition and content of the architectural journal in the period when modernism was a central issue. The various contributions explore how a specific idea of modernism was framed through editorial choices, mediated by photography and situated by the position of the journal in the marketplace. By adding complexity to a well-worn narrative, the study of the post-war journal allows us to better understand the range of perceptions about modernism and its protagonists in Europe’s post-war reconstruction.