Call for Papers: Taking a Stand? Bauhaus and Modernity under National Socialism, in Emigration or Exile and in Divided Germany. Berlin, 29-30 November 2019
Concept: Andrea Bärnreuther, Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung
100 years after the historic Bauhaus was founded, the optimism and experimental spirit that characterised housing construction and policy in the Weimar Republic were replaced by profit maximisation and neo-liberal urban planning. In view of the ever-increasing problem of “affordable housing”, politicians in particular long for the Bauhaus and associate it with a “social attitude” that is viewed as sorely lacking today.
This forms the point of departure for the symposium. It focuses on the Bauhaus and modernity in the field of tension of politics and economy. It asks how the “social attitude” identified with Bauhaus and modernity, and the associated emancipatory impetus, seeking to shape and change society, became operative in the Weimar Republic. And it considers how these were reflected and transformed in the work of Bauhaus and Neues Bauen architects and Bauhaus designers in the context of various political and economic systems and social formations after the National Socialists seized power.
The symposium also asks how our understanding of the Bauhaus and modernity has changed as a result of debates on modernity and postcolonial critique of modernity’s claim to universality. What is the significance of the pluralization and decoupling of the concept of modernity from teleological, historical-philosophical models and normative connotations such as democracy, which are linked to the optimistic Western paradigm of progress? What are the implications of a paradigm shift in architectural historiography that corrects the notion of a victorious worldwide transfer of modernity by architects persecuted under National Socialism in view of its repressive, hegemonic and racist elements and that understands globalising modernity as a polycentric process of colonial expansion and self-confident local transformations? And how can processes of learning, un-learning and re-learning that are triggered by the Bauhaus and modernity be made effective for today’s challenges?
The symposium is aimed not only at experts in the field, but also at a broader audience, including in particular secondary school pupils, who will prepare their own contribution in advance. In keeping with this objective, the symposium seeks not simply to present the latest research results, but also to transfer these to the public realm. We are looking for papers that place these findings in a broader context and develop questions and perspectives that are of general interest and can stimulate discussion – also about contemporary issues – with all target groups. The public part of the symposium will begin at 6 p.m. on 29th November with an opening lecture by Professor Winfried Nerdinger. This will be followed on 30th November by three two-hour sections, each with three to four individual contributions (maximum 20 minutes each), a 30-50-minute panel and a one-hour final discussion to sum up results.
The focus of the individual contributions and panel discussions on the three sections (National Socialism, Emigration or Exile, Divided Germany) will examine issues pertaining to shaping society and lifestyles, in particular through the prism of urban and settlement planning, public housing and design. The symposium is underpinned by the question of how architects, planners and designers conceptualise their activities – their professional, aesthetic, political and ethical ideas – and the scope and limits of action in the dynamic balance of power between planning and politics. Papers should consider the framing political, economic and social parameters, including specialist discourses and the way architects and planners deal with these preconditions in their basic planning assumptions. This also applies to planning, design and construction processes (including unrealised plans) as well as to the material and aesthetic dimension of buildings and their presentation and reception in various media. The user perspective, i.e. forms of appropriation in changing times, including ways in which these diverge from programmatic educational approaches, is an integral part of this analysis. Last but not least, the issue of the agency of architecture and its socio-critical potential or scope to change society also arises, along with issues of aesthetics and sustainability.
The full synopsis of the three sections is available here.
Researchers and students in the fields of Art and Cultural Studies, Political and Social Sciences and Science of History as well as Art, Architecture and Design History who wish to participate in this symposium are invited to submit by 15th August 2019 at the latest an abstract of their academic contribution (maximum 1,200 characters) and a condensed version (maximum 800 characters) for the workshop on 29th November, which is an integral part of the symposium and is intended to establish connections between scholars and pupils. Please send both together with a short CV in German or English to Andrea Bärnreuther, Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung. You can also contact her in advance should you have any questions or queries or should you need more detailed information or concrete proposals.
The organisers will reimburse travel and accommodation costs of all conference speakers (lump sum payment).
Dr. Andrea Bärnreuther
Bauhaus-Archiv / Museum für Gestaltung