Event Date: 

Final Public Oral Exam of Matthew Mullane

Posted By: 


Princeton University School of Architecture

Announces the Final Public Oral Exam of

Matthew Mullane




Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 10:00 a.m.

S-118, Architecture Building



Spyros Papapetros (Princeton University, Adviser)

Federico Marcon (Princeton University, East Asian Studies, History, Reader)

Jonathan Reynolds (Barnard College / Columbia University, Examiner)

Martin Bressani (McGill University, Examiner)

Zeynep Çelik Alexander (Columbia University, Examiner)


ABSTRACT“World Observation: Itō Chūta and the Making of Architectural Knowledge in Modern Japan” historicizes the relationship between architecture (kenchiku) and observation (kansatsu) as both ideas were simultaneously imported, taught and critiqued in late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century Japan. I show how Western definitions of scientific observation were translated in such a way to allow for the integration of supplemental values from naturalism, art, Buddhism and folklore to support a new paradigm of architecture history, research and design that reflected the aims of the new Japanese nation. As a path through this complex cultural and intellectual history, I focus particularly on the work of Itō Chūta (1867-1954), Japan’s first world architecture historian, high-ranking designer for the Japanese Empire and vocal advocate for a Japanese style of observation. I trace his work with Buddhist priests, state bureaucrats, ecologists, naturalists, anthropologists, philosophers and artists as he developed a global theory of cultural exchange and designed a new architecture across the Japanese Empire to train others how to observe it. The dissertation offers a new theory of how epistemological values like observation were translated and critiqued outside of Europe and beyond the strict discursive realms of science. This contestation of observation was exercised through the development of not only new world histories, but new formats of art and architectural research, including novel textual collages, highly illustrated notebooks and new styles of building.

The dissertation’s analysis is segmented into three different observational acts: translating, drawing and training. The chapters are respectively dedicated to theorizing how observation was translated to write the first world architecture history in Japanese, how drawing was used to visualize both the material and immaterial aspects of world historical change, and how new architecture was designed and implemented throughout the empire to train citizens and imperial subjects to learn about Japan’s role in world architecture history. Across each of these actions, I show how observation was actively shaped by the specific media conditions of language, images and buildings, and by the social and political expectation to verify the legitimacy of imperial expansion.


A copy of the dissertation is available for review in S-110.