Seminar "Urban traces of violence"

In the context of the recent 10th anniversary of 9/11, this course proposes to re-evaluate the role of often-ignored destroyed architecture in the current cultural heritage discourse.  Destroyed architecture as well as the process of destruction is usually written out of the histories of urban production and discussed only as a by-product of violence, assumed to be foreign to the contemporary city.  In her book Enduring Innocence (2005), Keller Easterling argues that destruction (or what she calls “subtraction”) has been “at least as important as the making of building during the last half-century” but that surprisingly architecture as a discipline “has not institutionalized special studies of subtraction.”

What is the place of destruction and indeed of violence in the 21st century city?  What architectural forms bear traces of violence and how do we commemorate those traces?  Do plaques, tablets or monuments in our cities help remember a civic or military resistance to violence or do they reinforce the violence itself?  What is the relationship between violence, architecture and a city’s memorial landscape?  Which institutions determine acceptable heritage practices and how do these practices function within a larger academic discourse on modernity and modernism?

These broad questions will guide students through a series of lectures and design workshops that study post-war/industrial/colonial urban traces of violence:  their materiality, morphology and tectonic specificity.  Students will address the ruin and its place in modernist planning in aesthetic, architectonic and cultural terms.  They will engage with the discourse on violence and culture by tracking how the ruin (and its representation) entered public aesthetic sensibilities in the form of artificial and authentic ruins, reconstructions, memorials, models, photographs and films.  From wartime and post-industrial decay, to heritage zones and holocaust memorials, students will survey current literature on the representation of violence on architecture.  They will examine heavily destroyed Eastern and Central European cities such as Warsaw, Berlin and Dresden as well as North American cities such as New York (World Trade Center commemoration) and Detroit (commodification of the post-industrial ruin). 

During a final two-day design charrette students, working in small groups, will propose, situate and document their own architectural interventions within the fabric of Weimar.

Attendance and participation: 20% (including student-led sessions and peer review)
Blog posts (3): 20%  (including presentations)
Design charrette30% (entire group graded)
Critical essay: 30%

Meant for: Europäische Urbanistik / Advanced Urbanism, Internationales Promotionsprogramm Europäische Urbanistik, other englishspeaking master students