Ines Weizman: Light, Air and Viruses. The Architectural Arms Race to Conquer Berlin’s Sky


Friday, November 10, 2023

10:00 am

Location: Kensington Campus, Lecture Hall

The history of modern architecture and that of medicine are intertwined. Public health and personal hygiene were amongst the most powerful engines of modern architecture. It is thus no coincidence, as many observers have noted, that when the International Style emerged at the end of World War I, its white walls and cleansed surfaces resembled those of hospitals. If this similarity existed, it wasn’t only because of the war-wounded – though the Bauhaus did begin in Weimar in the same building as a hospital for them; it was also in response to the exceptionally deadly global pandemic of H1N1 influenza, also known as the »Spanish Flu« (1918–1920). The architectural and urban design of Weimar Republic modernism responded not only to an emerging new society, but to its coexistence with another species.Buildings, neighbourhoods and cities were designed to respond to the way viruses spread through aerosols across and through them. This lecture explores the relationbetween viral contagion and spatial measures across these scales.

»Light, Air and Viruses« is a pun on »Light,Air and Sunshine«, the famous slogan of the modernist architecture of the lateWeimar Republic. This lecture follows the Cold War’s architectural “arms race”:public buildings, tower blocks, boulevards, infrastructural projects and public amenities built to dominate the skyline of divided Berlin. This race also included medical measures and institutions built in response to viral pandemics that were, of course, impossible to view separately.

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