MIT Architecture | Fall 2020 Lecture Series
In collaboration with the History, Theory and Criticism of Architecture and Art as part of the HTC Forum
This talk analyzes the racial politics that subtended the Museum of Modern Art’s 1932 International Style exhibition, which polemically defined modern architecture as a progressive social project of the EuroAmerican avant-garde. The artificial polarities that were established between so-called “primitive” and “modern” world cultures has subsequently trapped the cultural productions of people of color in a never ending loop of outright dismissal and cultural appropriation. Revising this definition to accommodate the modern subjectivities that people of color have created in the interwar and postwar periods breaks this loop and opens new grounds for a revisionist history of architectural modernity.
Charles Davis II will present his work in conversation with HTC PhD candidate Dariel Cobb. HTC co-chairs Indrani Saha and ElDante Winston will host the event.
Charles L. Davis II is an assistant professor of architectural history and criticism at the University at Buffalo. His academic research examines the integrations of race and style theory in modern architectural debates from the late nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. He is co-editor of Race and Modern Architecture (University of Pittsburgh), which collects 18 case studies on the racial discourses of modern architecture from the Enlightenment to the present. His current book manuscript, Building Character: The Racial Politics of Modern Architectural Style is forthcoming in the Culture, Politics and the Built Environment series of the University of Pittsburgh Press. This intellectual history traces the historical integrations of race and style theory in paradigms of “architectural organicism,” or movements that modeled design on the generative principles of nature. His research has been supported by grants from the Canadian Center for Architecture, the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture and the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.