Lay summary

The medialisation of architecture is one of the most intensively debated topics today. Specific images of architecture shaped and propounded by interest groups or institutions appear more likely to rivet public interest than any one individual or built project. To be sure this is nothing new. What is new, by contrast, is the increasingly functional differentiation of these groups and institutions and their various forms of expert knowledge. First symptoms of this trend can be identified in the architectural discourse of the 1950s and 1960s. The present project aims to assess how significant a role interest groups and institutions have played in shaping, disseminating and implementing specific forms of architectural knowledge since the late Modern period. It thereby draws on the Congrès Internationaux d’Architecture Moderne (CIAM) in the post-war period as its prime example. The development of CIAM reflects and to an extent also drove a fundamental change in architectural production. Its impact on architectural practice can still be felt today.

CIAM was founded in 1928 as a small, avant-garde interest group yet grew in the post-war era to become a leading, international institution. The proposed research considers that organizational aspects of CIAM crucially defined its agenda. The post-war CIAM, seen from this angle, comprises an authoritative, powerful, benchmarking, broadly networked architectural association that endeavoured to do no less than establish modern architecture worldwide in the post-war era. The research seeks, on the one hand, to illustrate the mechanisms by which the institution CIAM made an impact on architectural and academic discourse of the 1950s and 1960s; and on the other, to scrutinize CIAM participants' architectural and urban planning projects; and it thereby uses their concrete practice to demonstrate both the impact and the limits of the types of normative knowledge proposed by CIAM. The renown and sheer number of participants in the post-war congresses, their pivotal role in international and state institutions or in tertiary education, and the worldwide impact of CIAM doctrine on post-war practices leave little doubt that the CIAM's organizational structure was a singular achievement in the architectural field – yet the potential and the risks that this implies must also be acknowledged.

In contrast to previous research, which has addressed the post-war CIAM primarily in the light of its chronological development or internally debated positions, the present proposal considers that the structure and organisation of CIAM were decisive for its institutional dimension. It thus assesses CIAM as a body emblematic of the new relations and interests established in the post-war era between architecture, the economy, politics and society; and consequently considers it within this broader framework, particularly with regard to similar institutions such as the UNESCO or the UIA, with which it competed for public attention on the international stage.

The proposal hence takes two separate paths in pursuit of a single explicit objective: to demonstrate the increasing divergence of institutional policy and architectural practice. "Organising Modernism: The Case of Post-War CIAM" encompasses thus a dual focus. Each aspect will be explored in a separate PhD thesis: Project A, "CIAM: An Architectural Institution" examines the mechanisms by which the post-war CIAM made an impact – or tried to do so – both as an institution in its own right and by institutionalising Modernism. Project B, "CIAM Projects: Architecture and Urban Planning" focuses on architectural and urban planning projects, evaluating them both as a concrete means by which CIAM sought to realise its objectives in the post-war period, and as a crucial motor that drove internal debate within the CIAM movement.