Titular Professors Chair for the Architectural History of the Modernity
Prof. Dr. Ita Heinze-Greenberg

An Architectural History of Modernity?

In principle, the notion of modernity implies a renunciation of history and the claim to a timeless presence. "However, ‚historylessness’ is also an historical construction" (Werner Oechslin, 2012). In the course of progress, modernity has long been absorbed by history. Even though the protagonists vehemently rejected the idea of ​​style, modern architecture was already subjected to a style canon in Johnson and Hitchcock's MoMA Show of 1932.

Novelty as an all-embracing innovation remains, even in retrospect, the moving force of modernity. The ‚New Man’ is the great obsession at the beginning of the 20th century. The heirs to the Industrial Revolution mobilized the entire range of innovative technologies plus the potential of new materials and products to implement aesthetic, cultural and social-political reforms. They found their best expression in Befreites Wohnen (Sigfried Giedion, 1929). Rationality models à la Taylor, such as standardization and serial production, culminate in typification efforts that become a tightrope walk between total and totalitarian coverage.

Ernst Bloch deemed to recognize a migrational character in modern architecture: "Today in many places, the houses look as if they are ‚packed to leave’", he writes, attesting to Western architecture a delicate foreboding of architecture under Hitler. Exile gives birth to the myth of modernity, which postmodern and post-postmodern criticism was to subject to fundamental revision.

Our ongoing task focuses on the reassessment of modernity, its remarkably diverse accomplishments and its many disturbing paradoxes. Above all, it is the attempt to gain knowledge about the objects of our curiosity and the historical developments to which they owe their possibility of emergence and agency. This evokes continuous and dynamic translation work which approaches its historical objects with ever-new and contemporary interpretations and thus brings them about into present.


Prof. Dr. Ita Heinze-Greenberg