1

At first we found such a local distinction surprising. We never think of the Renaissance as a specifically Italian style of art; even though it is inescapably Italian, it forms part of the world’s heritage and its value is therefore global.

2

That’s how World Cultural Heritage is defined in the UNESCO Convention.

Classroom Experiences: In Favour of a Global History of Architecture 2

Hall of Nations at the New Delhi fairground (Pragati Maidan), designed by architect Raj Rewal, inaugurated in 1972 and demolished in 2017.

On the first day of class we presented the syllabus for the History of Architecture course: Greece-Rome-Romanesque-Gothic-Renaissance-Baroque. In just 15 sessions, students had to acquire knowledge of all the main historical periods of Western architecture, and also sit two partial exams. A student of Asian origin asked, “Why do we study so many things about Italy?”1 The following year, we included two more subjects, albeit schematically: Traditional East Asian Architecture and Byzantine Architecture. New connections and new visions immediately emerged regarding Europe’s Mediterranean architecture. One student answered the exam question about Byzantium with a description of how Hagia Sophia in Constantinople influenced the architecture of the Ottoman Empire and the Islamic world: one more subject to add to the course syllabus, even though it would have to be covered even more skimpily.

Likewise, the history of modern architecture rarely addresses the “alternative modernities” of the Socialist countries, post-colonial Asia and Africa, the atomic era or the post-socialist period. But it was there that modern concepts – the teachings of the Masters of the Modernist Movement – were taken to their very limits in a process of negotiation with the relief, climate, materials, expertise and technology of the local environments. It’s just that, to display all the virtues and vicissitudes of modernity, those concepts had to be adapted to cultural realities and political and ideological dictates that were sometimes very different from those that marked their origins.

Manuel Saga’s article made me reflect on my teaching experience in the field of history and theory over the last few years.

Architecture schools are becoming more international by leaps and bounds, a trend which is perhaps more commonly seen in the private sector where many subjects are already being taught in English as a means of training architects to work in different environments. Meanwhile, student exchange and study abroad programmes are also making it necessary to broaden perspectives. There is even growing interest in including the history of urban development and architecture in other humanities and economic disciplines which are now very firmly positioning themselves in the global market. Inevitably, this receptivity to other cultures and professions raises issues regarding syllabuses and history teaching methodology.

It seems that there is an increasing need to reconcile two ways of explaining architecture: as a series of objects and as a result of different processes of negotiation and adaptation. The latter approach tends to be interdisciplinary. Because ultimately, we study history to learn from it, but also to protect the monuments, groups of buildings and sites2 that make up our cities, our identity and our diversity.


Text translated by Andrew V. Taylor

Notas de página
1

At first we found such a local distinction surprising. We never think of the Renaissance as a specifically Italian style of art; even though it is inescapably Italian, it forms part of the world’s heritage and its value is therefore global.

2

That’s how World Cultural Heritage is defined in the UNESCO Convention.

Autor:
(Belgrado 1972) Arquitecta por la universidad de Belgrado (1998) y Doctora por la UPC de Barcelona (2006) con la tesis sobe representación e ideología en la obra arquitectónica. Ha co-comisariado con Jaume Prat e Isaki Lacuesta el pabellón Catalán en la XV Bienal de Venecia, en la edición anterior participo en el pabellón de Corea ganador del León de Oro. Ha investigado la modernidad arquitectónica del mundo socialista, escrito y dado conferencias en diversas universidades europeas. Colabora con el departamento de Historia contemporánea de la UAB y es miembro del comité científico del Premio Europeo del Espacio Público.

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