A Curious Constellation Modern Architecture and an International Sensibility

Gupta, Naina (2021). A Curious Constellation Modern Architecture and an International Sensibility. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.000134c7


Kant’s essay ‘Project for Perpetual Peace’, written in 1795, was seminal in the relationship it constructed between the individual, national governance and international relations. Peace became a rallying cry after the Napoleonic wars and for a century, societies for peace sprouted across the Anglo-American and European landscape. During the nineteenth-century, peace was equated with social justice. This thesis begins at the tail-end of the peace movements - the turn of the twentieth century - at the junction when individuals, enthused by visions of peace, used architecture and other spatial practices to change relations between people towards an equal modern world society. I call this attitude an international sensibility and through this research display its contribution to modern society and its institutions.

I am narrating an alternative history of internationalism that focuses on the part played by individual agency, social reform and architecture in moulding a working everyday definition of what it meant to be international. By viewing internationalism through the lens of the individual and the body, both as initiator and subject, it is repositioned as an integral part of the everyday life rather than simply understood to be concerned with geopolitical relations between nations and their institutions. The thesis questions the artificial dichotomy purposed between the national and the international. In addition, in its study of social hygiene this research advances a discussion of the role of eugenics especially neo-Lamarckism in the development of modern architecture.

I focus on transnational institutions, which in the current work it is limited to Europe (including Britain) and the United States; nevertheless, the research furthers methods and issues that could benefit further studies of the multi-directional transference of institutions and ideas beyond this part of the world.

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