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M+M: Claire Zimmerman with Brigid Doherty, “The Promise and Threat of ‘Photographic Architecture’”

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N107, Princeton School of Architecture, 5:00pm

Claire Zimmerman (University of Michigan)
with Brigid Doherty (respondent, Princeton University)


The Promise and Threat of Photographic Architecture

Photography of architecture became intrinsic to professional architectural practice as industrialization became fully operational in Europe and North America. This talk surveys some of the conditions of that relationship, focusing on a traumatic case study: Germany in the immediate wake of 1945. As published images arrived from abroad, and local journals began to reappear after the war, Germans were faced with startling contrasts between their cities and those of the Allied powers. As the American juggernaut of wartime and postwar construction gave ex-patriot German architects the opportunity to build at an unprecedented scale and pace, photographs of their work traveled back to Germany in exhibitions, journals, books, and snapshots. The rhetorical power of these images of remote steel and glass architecture acted on a nation confronting destroyed cityscapes, physical emblems of greater destruction, through the minds of its architects. The documents prepared the way for later building projects on German soil, such as the New National Gallery or the huge Gropius-Stadt, both in Berlin. While abstraction and the reductions of architectural publication were well established even before the war, postwar architectural debate was nevertheless ethically charged by the reality of ruined German cities set against the image of American might.


Claire Zimmerman is Associate Professor of History of Art and the Coordinator of Doctoral Studies in Architecture at the Taubman College of the University of Michigan. She teaches courses on architecture, media, and the built environment. Zimmerman’s book Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century (University of Minnesota Press, 2014) joins a co-edited essay collection, Neo-avant-garde and Postmodern: Postwar Architecture in Britain and Beyond (with Mark Crinson) that appeared as Volume 21 in the Yale Studies in British Art (Yale University Press) in fall 2010.

Brigid Doherty Brigid Doherty holds a joint appointment in the Departments of German and Art and Archaeology and is an associated faculty member in the School of Architecture. She currently serves as director of the Program in European Cultural Studies and as a member of the executive committees of the Program in Media + Modernity and the Council on International Teaching and Research. Professor Doherty came to Princeton in 2003 from her previous position as associate professor in the Department of the History of Art and the Humanities Center at The Johns Hopkins University.

Program in Media+Modernity
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