The Berlage

Session Room K

On Narrating the Globe

Petra Brouwer

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Front cover of Narrating the Globe: The Emergence of World Histories of Architecture.

Petra Brouwer will present her recent book, coedited together with Martin Bressani and Christopher Drew Armstrong, entitled Narrating the Globe: The Emergence of World Histories of Architecture. This anthology examines how notions of progress, beauty, and cultural superiority structured the genre of nineteenth-century world histories of architecture—and shaped the discipline as we know it today.

The nineteenth century saw the emergence of a new genre of architectural writing: the grand history of world architecture.This genre often expressed a deeply Eurocentric worldview, largely dismissing non-Western architecture through narratives of historical progress and stylistic beauty. Yet even as nineteenth-century historians worked to construct an exclusive architectural canon, they were engaged in constant debate over its categories and constraints.

Narrating the Globe
traces the emergence of this historical canon, exposing the questions and problems that prompted the canon's very formation.Bringing together architectural historians from around the world, this collection of essays—the first comprehensive examination of the nineteenth-century architectural history survey as a literary genre—includes overviews of the origins and legacy of the global architecture survey genre, as well as close examinations of key works, including books by lesser-known but intriguing authors such as Louisa C. Tuthill, Christian L. Stieglitz, and Daniel Ramée, and the more famous surveys by James Fergusson, Franz Kugler, Banister Fletcher, and Auguste Choisy.

Petra Brouwer is an architectural historian at the University of Amsterdam who specializes in the history of modern architecture and town planning. Author of an award-winning study of postwar design of Dutch new towns, she has also served as editor-in-chief for the journal Architectural Histories.

The Berlage Sessions, a seven-part seminar series entitled “About the Book,” examines recent scholarship and their respective book production, from building biographies and academic anthologies to memoirs and novels. Topics will include El Lissitzky’s project for a “horizontal skyscraper,” a meditative tour of a family’s house on the Sardinian Coast, an account of the life and work of the architect Minoru Yamasaki, the role of modernism and material culture played in the aspiring Black American middle class of the early twentieth century, a critical-paranoid investigation of the paradoxes of OMA’s enigmatic Villa Dall’Ava, the emergence of world histories of architecture, and the tenuous relationship of eighteenth-century England to late-capitalist modernity through the lives and times of ceramics entrepreneur Josiah Wedgewood. The series will conclude with a reflection on how and for whom is architectural history is written.

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