CfP: SCANDALOUS SLABS
THE SEMANTICS OF THE MODERNIST OFFICE-BUILDING AFTER 1945

If Sigfried Giedion is right (Space, Time and Architecture, 1941), the Rockefeller Center’s RCA Building was barely completed when critics responded to its size, width and provocative flatness by using the term „slab“. Both the form and the nickname enjoyed an extraordinary longevity. In the 1930s, the Slab had already become the blind passager of the Functional City promoted by CIAM. Redefined after 1945, it has played a critical role both in the Modern Movement’s global unfolding and in its conceptualizations of progress, burocracy and civic pride.

Despite the fluctuating fortunes that have marked its quasi centennial existence – including famous maledictions by critics as diverse as Norman Mailer, the Prince of Wales, or Vincent Scully – the type has not only proven to be extraordinarily prolific and pervasive: with its ability to continually regenerate itself, it has constantly fuelled the public’s imagination across a spectrum of seemingly irreconcilable emotions ranging from fascination to resolute opposition. While the origins of the slab-shaped building are as banal as those of the box-shaped containers of matches, cigarettes or cleansing tissue, the discovery of its magic as abstract form has implications that depend on multiple agencies and thus refer as much to the logic of corporate representation, the rhetoric of marketing as it obviously does to the art of building and its rules and contexts.

We are seeking for papers that explore the building techniques, the corporate ideologies, the aesthetic as well as the political agendas invested in the making of such buildings as well as the ways in which the type has been appraised, criticized, re-appropriated and invested with meaning by various social actors across a multiple range of disciplines and media, from popular culture, cinema, tv and contemporary art practices.

Session chair: Stanislaus von Moos, University of Zurich, svm@khist.uzh.ch

Deadline: June 9, 2015

Call for Paper SAH: http://www.sah.org/conferences-and-programs/2016-conference—pasadena-la

 

 

 

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