טכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל
הטכניון מכון טכנולוגי לישראל - בית הספר ללימודי מוסמכים  
Ph.D Thesis
Ph.D StudentFershtman Dorit
SubjectThe Making of an Architectural Canon
Mies Van Der Rohe in America
DepartmentDepartment of Architecture and Town Planning
Supervisor Professor Alona Nitzan-Shiftan
Full Thesis text - in Hebrew Full thesis text - Hebrew Version


Abstract

My research examines the formation of architectural canons in specific national, cultural and intellectual landscapes. It argues that the efficacy of an architectural canon results from its capacity to conceptualize and mediate - in design and material form - the intellectual paradigms that are being shared and debated by parallel disciplines. Such a perspective helps us unravel the ways certain architectural expressions gain power in particular contexts, and as a result delineates the relationship between the center and margins of architectural discourse and the broader landscape. 

I suggest demonstrating the lacuna that such research fills through the modern canon of Mies van der Rohe in light of its pertinence for a broad cultural and ideological context. Thus, drawing on theories of the national symbolic sphere, sources in the philosophy of science, and developments in art criticism, I aim to examine the congruence of American architectural modernism and major cross-cultural intellectual strands in the middle of the twentieth century.

Three avenues of inquiry guided my research:

First, in the American national sphere, I draw on the symbols and signs that fulfill the period's national quest for an ideal culture, one that manifests America's stature as the leader of “the free world”. I argue that contemporary scholarship on the International Style, with Mies as its exemplar, diffused the boundaries of the national and the universal, and helped create a canon that was construed as universal while also gaining acceptance as a national symbol.

Second, I turn to the parallel realm of philosophy, specifically the field of analytic philosophy. I study the parallels between this philosophic approach and Mies's architecture in this period, focusing on their shared theoretical interests in procedures of inquiry and in abstract models of language.

Third, I examine the advent of formalism in the period's critical thought. Juxtaposing two of the era’s critical scenes - of art and architecture - highlights the formal critical tools used in each of these scenes, and the relationship of these tools to their respective canons, the abstract expressionists and Mies, respectively.

These interdisciplinary inquiries ultimately link Mies's work to the period's formation of a lexical expression of American culture, and thus look at the ways art and architecture and their canons are tied to the period's intellectual thought and national and cultural trends. These ties allow for a better understanding of the way social structures generate their own symbols and how they in turn manifest them.