Beatriz Colomina, “The Secret Life of Modern Architecture or We Don’t Need Another Hero”

The secrets of modern architecture are like those of a family and it is perhaps because of the current cultural fascination with exposing the intimate that they are now being unveiled, little by little. There is increasing interest in the ways in which architecture works. It is as if we have become just as concerned with the “how” as with “what.” And the “how” is less about structure or building techniques—the interest of earlier generations—and more about interpersonal relations. The previously marginal details of how things actually happen in architectural practice are now coming to light.

“With,” and not “and,” is the way in which women are usually credited alongside men in the official records, if they are credited at all. Women are the ghosts of modern architecture, everywhere present, crucial, but strangely invisible. Unacknowledged, they are destined to haunt the field forever. But correcting the record is not just a question of adding a few names or even hundreds to the history of architecture. It is not just a matter of human justice or historical accuracy, but of opening the field to its own productive complexity. Architecture is deeply collaborative, more like moviemaking than traditional visual art. But unlike movies, this is hardly ever acknowledged. Until recently, it has been a secret carefully guarded.


Beatriz Colomina is Professor of History and Theory in the School of Architecture and founding director of the program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. She has written extensively on questions of architecture, art, sexuality and media. Her books include Are We Human? Notes on an Archeology of Design (Lars Müller, 2016), The Century of the Bed (Verlag für Moderne Kunst, 2015), Manifesto Architecture: The Ghost of Mies (Sternberg, 2014), Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196X-197X (Actar, 2010), Domesticity at War (MIT Press, 2007), Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media (MIT Press, 1994), and Sexuality and Space (Princeton Architectural Press, 1992). She has curated a number of exhibitions including Clip/Stamp/Fold (2006), Playboy Architecture (2012) and Radical Pedagogies (2014). She was curator with Mark Wigley of the third Istanbul Design Biennial (2016). She has been the recipient of diverse awards and fellowships, including the Samuel H. Kress Senior Fellowship at the CASVA (Center for Advanced Studies in the Visual Arts), SOM Foundation, Le Corbusier Foundation, Graham Foundation, the CCA (Canadian Centre for Architecture), The American Academy in Berlin and the Getty Center in Los Angeles.


This event is organized by Women in Design at the GSD as was planned in conjunction with International Women’s Week 2018.

Anyone requiring accessibility accommodations should contact the Public Programs Office at (617) 496-2414 or [email protected].