IXth International Conference on Urban History

August 27-30, 2008

Lyon France
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 Session description

Migration/displacement and the dissemination of urban planning expertise in the mid 20th Century in non-Western areas

Through the expansion of the geographical scope of scholars working on 20th Century architectural and urban history, that has resulted in a growing literature on hitherto neglected regions and countries, we are beginning to understand how urban models and ideas have ‘travelled’ and became disseminated from one place to another. As several studies remind us (Morse, Coniff & Wibel 1971; Lortie, 1995; Coquery-Vidrovitch & Goerg 1996; Almandoz 2002; Nasr & Volait, 2003; Lejeune 2003), this is, for sure, not an exclusively 20th Century phenomenon. Yet, one can argue that especially since the 1920s and 30s, the scale and the speed with which ideas and models on how to plan environments became disseminated augmented exponentially. Various mechanisms are at work in this dissemination: the prevalence of certain educational institutions (attracting students from worldwide); international conferences that facilitated the exchange and discussion of new ideas and expertise; publications that, as periodicals such as l’Architecture d’Aujourd’hui or Das Neue Frankfurt claimed, reached a professional audience in all corners of the globe (or almost); and various forms of displacement and migration of professionals (architects, designers, planners).

This session focuses on the latter mechanism: the dissemination of ideas and models that is linked with the physical displacement of ‘experts’ during the mid 20th Century. While the wanderings of protagonists such as Walter Gropius, Mies Van der Rohe and Le Corbusier (for whom “the world was his building site”) have since long entered the historiographical accounts of the 20th Century, the sometimes surprising trajectories of other prominent figures have only recently been documented. We can think of Carl Brunner and José Luis Sert in Colombia (Andreas Hofer, 2003; Hernández Rodriquez, 2004) , of Ernst May in East Africa (Herrel, 2001) or of Bruno Taut in Turkey (Nicolai, 1998; Bozdogan, 2001).
We seek contributions that highlight the trajectories of designers who were mainly working on an urban scale (even if trained as architects) and were operating in hitherto neglected or little documented geographical areas; areas however that, within the context of remarkable differences in their politico-historical (colonial), urban-morphological and cultural backgrounds, did not react in the same way on the exchange of models and practices.
While biographical in defining the case, papers should address critical and theoretical issues that have a more general relevance to the complex relationship between displacement/migration and the dissemination of urban planning expertise. A selection will be made in order to arrive at a geographically wide scope of cases illuminating different professional profiles and approaches. By bringing together such an array of cases, this session hopes to provide a better understanding of both the global and local conditions at play in the dissemination and/or perception of models.

Session conveners:

  • Johan Lagae
  • Marijke Martin

Session type: Specialist Session

Classification: M - Modern


Lauchlin Currie : ideas about urban planning in Colombia 1949-1993

Author(s): Goossens, Maarten 

Leisure is Everybody’s Business. Josè Luis Sert in Havana during the 1950s: the paradoxical effects of the Funtional City.

Author(s): Caramellino, Gaia 

Michel Ecochard in Lebanon and Syria in the 1960's

Author(s): verdeil, eric 

Otto Koenigsberger and the domestication of Neighborhood Planning in India

Author(s): Baweja, Vandana 

Techno-Cosmopolitanism at Work: The Atelier des bâtisseurs and the migration of urban design practices in Morocco and Algeria

Author(s): Avermaete, Tom 

Urban Modernization from Far East to Eastern Europe: Tange Kenzô and the Reconstruction Scheme for the Centre of Skopje

Author(s): Flores Urushima, Andrea Yuri ; Jacquet, Benoit