Book Review: Josep Maria Montaner, History of Contemporary Architecture Movements, Ideas and Creators in the Second Half of the 20th Century (Greek edition 2014)

Book: Greek Edition of: Josep Maria Montaner, History of Contemporary Architecture Movements, Ideas and Creators in the Second Half of the 20th Century, ( Ιστορία της Σύγχρονης Αρχιτεκτονικής: Κινήματα, Ιδέες και Δημιουργοί στο Δεύτερο Μισό του 20ού Αιώνα, trans.: M.Paleologou, A.Giakoumakatos, Nefeli: Athens, 2014)
Reviewer: Kostas Tsiambaos, Lecturer, School of Architecture, NTUA
Published on: “Art History” [Istoria tis Technis] Vol.4 – Summer 2015, Futura: Athens, 2015

Montaner’s book still remains an important and valid contribution more than 20 years after its first publication. The writer’s historiographical skills are apparent and his use of various interpretive tools borrowed from sociology, philosophy, political theory, cultural studies, etc. allow him to perform in many levels. Therefore, while required to walk on an unstable ground, he manages to adequately control an extremely huge research field, quite extended in time, without losing his main guiding lines. While Montaner’s Hegelian methodology helps him read the various movements as emerging branches of older architectural roots there are though a few cases where his interpretive scheme seems vulnerable. These cases are mostly related to his analysis of peripheral architectural idioms and his, sometimes latent, evaluation of Mediterranean or Latin-American identities as alternative and original/indigenous paradigms in a globalized world. It is not such a hard task to deconstruct this clear distinction between the ‘center’ and the ‘periphery’ which, when talking about contemporary architecture, is actually more ideological than actual. Without negating their distinctive context we have to admit that the cultural descriptions, translations, establishments and reestablishments of these alternative idioms are founded on various superimposed and interweaved historical-theoretical layers which cannot be separated using geographical or spatial criteria only.

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