Mark Crinson gave a lecture on Thursday, April 11, 2019 at the Amphitheater of the New Library in the Athens School of Fine Arts, Athens, Greece. The lecture was organized by the Association of Greek Art Historians (EEIT) in collaboration with the MA in Art Theory and History of Art, Athens School of Fine Arts (ASFA).
The talk given by Crinson was entitled Babel as Modernism. It discusses the implications of the ethic of internationalism – its hopes, its failures, its various forms – for modern architecture, which have long been set aside by architectural historians. In a book published in 2017 – Rebuilding Babel: Modern Architecture and Internationalism – Crinson tried to revive interest in this relationship, arguing both for its centrality to modernism and for its relevance for the present-day. In the present talk, he examines one form of internationalism in architecture, which he calls the ‘serried array’ and which he argues attained exemplary status in the Rue des nations at the 1900 International Exposition in Paris. While this is familiar material, Crinson casts it in a new light, first by thinking of it as a ‘fantasy-structure’, and then by showing how it was taken up by the modern movement that emerged in the 1920s with its close links to the international dispensation that was the League of Nations. He suggests that the serried array was transferred into modernism, if in a shifted form, without the same version of historical time and certainly without its surface effects of eclectic national identities, but with a very similar sense of national representativeness and of a collapsed geographical space.
Mark Crinson is Professor of Architectural History at Birkbeck (University of London) where he directs the Architecture Space and Society Centre. He has published several books: Empire Building: Victorian Architecture and Orientalism (1996), Modern Architecture and the End of Empire (2003), Stirling and Gowan: Architecture from Austerity to Affluence (2012), Rebuilding Babel: Modern Architecture and Internationalism (2017), Alison and Peter Smithson (2018), and (with Richard J. Williams) The Architecture of Art History (2018). He is currently working on a study of Manchester in the nineteenth century, provisionally titled After Shock: Architecture and Image in the First Industrial City. He is president of the European Architectural History Network.