The seminar explores the intersection between textile arts and architectural historiography, with a goal of finding ways to conceive a more global and inclusive approach to architectural historiography. To be sure, textiles have been conceived around the globe for eons, and they are a ubiquitous part of dwellings, past and present.
The seminar is organized around three parts: Prehistories, Textile Industry and Its Discontents, and Textiles and Modern Architecture. We will begin by experimenting with various textile techniques identified by Semper in Style in the Practical and Technical Arts (1876) and explore his idea of how textiles evolved into the primary space defining element. We will consider his idea of the material “origins” of architecture and explore the prevalent tent typology and the portable architecture of early societies and of various nomadic tribes.
The second segment discusses the role textile industry played in spreading capitalism and colonialism around the globe and creating conditions for slavery and economic disparity in its wake. On the brighter side will also look how the advent of textile industry has forged conversations about dignified labor, cultural identity, self-realize, and decolonialization and consider how global textile trade has sponsored knowledge transfer in a manner that makes us rethink boundaries between local and global, and our attitudes towards cultural appropriation. The readings in this segment range from Sven Beckert’s prize-winning book Empire of Cotton: A Global History (2014) and Mahatma Gandhi’s Wheels of Fortune (1921).
The final segment is dedicated to the relationship between textile arts and modernism, beginning with Henri van de Velde’s and Adolf Loos’ ideas about gendered wear and spaces, followed by Constructivist micro-environments and the Bauhaus weaving workshops. The role of gender continues to be highlighted through a survey of significant collaborations between architects and designers, including Mies van der Rohe and Lilly Reich, Eliel and Loja Saarinen, Eero Saarinen and Alexander Girard, Sheila Hicks and Kevin Roche, and Rem Koolhaas and Petra Blaisse.