Industrial Architecture, Situated in the Twentieth Century by Claire Zimmerman / TPOD, ACHT, THEMA, HITAM


Event details

Date 10.04.2024
Hour 12:3014:00
Speaker Claire Zimmerman.
Category Conferences - Seminars
Event Language English

This talk examines modern architecture between political economy and daily use. Taking up recent work that explores private capital and state power mediated by buildings, the talk presents findings from a new book on Albert Kahn Inc. (forthcoming 2024) that grounds this mediation in industrial buildings, their role in society, and their daily use. To characterize industrial building as the inverse of architecture “proper” may overstate the case; but such a claim nonetheless illuminates this investigation. Detroit’s Hudson Motor Company, for example, sits at the opposite end of the economic spectrum from sumptuary buildings in the same context– the villas, mansions, and museums of those making automobiles in 1910–that are funded by the profits of the factory that sells increasing numbers of cars. Manufacturing facilities, one of the fixed costs of doing business, immovably house the fluctuating and variable costs of raw materials and labor, exerting downward pressure on the wages of their occupants. Such a structural antagonism between buildings and their inhabitants is striking. And yet, it can be frequently found in the built environment writ large. The regular disappearance of industrial buildings—another point of difference with the history of architecture as a history of durability—is part and parcel of the socioeconomic work that they do. Inherently mutable, they are regularly demolished, retrofitted, or replaced. With them goes the history of those who worked inside their walls, who are thereby doubly disadvantaged. These buildings provide a counter history of architecture that may prove the rule, through the exception, but they also chronicle mass society. Sitting at the juncture between social revolution, welfare capitalism, and the fully automated building machine, their architectural capacities are still poorly understood. Thus are they cut off from possible futures grounded in environmental and functional efficiencies, social welfare programs, and architectural amenity—the protocols of early twentieth-century industrial building.

Claire Zimmerman is an associate professor at the Daniels Faculty at University of Toronto. Zimmerman’s work focuses on “protocols of modernization and modernity” in architecture and the built environment. She is the author of Photographic Architecture in the Twentieth Century (2014) and Albert Kahn Inc.: Architecture, Labor, and Industry (2024).

Neighbours Lecture Series Vol. 3

13/3 - Pier Vittorio Aureli (EPFL). Architecture and Abstraction: Book Launch with Sarah Nichols, Christophe van Gerrewey, and Alfredo Thiermann
20/3 - Tatiana Efrussi (L’atelier des artistes en exil). Hannes Meyer’s Kinderheim Mümliswil: From Utopian 'Home' to National Memorial
27/3 - Sarah Gainsforth (Journalist). Challenging the New Housing Question
10/4 - Claire Zimmerman (University of Toronto). Industrial Architecture, Situated in the Twentieth Century
24/4 - Álvaro Sevilla-Buitrago (Universidad Politécnica de Madrid). Against the Commons: Elements for a Radical Planning Theory
1/5 - Spyros Papapetros (Princeton University). Pre/Architecture
8/5 - Anna-Maria Meister (Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz: Max Planck Institute, KIT and saai archive Karlsruhe). Fragile Objects, Coded Knowledge
15/5 - Platon Issaias (Architectural Association) & Ioanna Theocharopoulou (Columbia University). On the Polykatoikia and its Discontents

Practical information

  • General public
  • Free


  • The presentation is part of the Neighbours Vol. 3 lecture series on the History and Theory of Architecture. It is organized jointly by Pier Vittorio Aureli (TPOD), Christophe van Gerrewey (ACHT), Sarah Nichols (THEMA), Alfredo Thiermann (HITAM) of the EDAR School.


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