Platform 6 Exhibition

March 24, 2014–May 16, 2014
setta S. Elkin
, curator

Global Connections

The Harvard Graduate School of Design prides itself on the wide scope of its global aspirations, collaborations, and projects. Every semester a large portion of our programs engage in work that explores the interrelationship between themes and geographies. As a School, we are deeply interested in the conditions giving rise to new topics that benefit from the design imagination of our students and faculty across a range of fields and practices. This approach is not so much new as it is intentional, forming a deliberate cornerstone of our mission and pedagogy. We wish for our projects to be transformative in multiple locations and in richly varied geographies, societies, economies, cultures, and political circumstances.

In this context it is worth remembering that the founding of the GSD was inextricably linked to the internationalization of modern architecture. Walter Gropius, the first chair of the department of architecture (1937) within the newly established GSD, had years earlier referred to the concept of “Internationale Architektur,” even before Henry-Russell Hitchcock and Philip Johnson’s use of the term “International Style.” Although the aims of this movement were fundamentally tied to specific conditions in Europe, its tenets were presented as a universal response to the necessities of building. And yet, the very attempt to see architecture as an endeavor that transcends locality ironically resulted in the unintended embrace of a diversity of people and cultures, though there remains an undeniable hegemonic dimension within the ethos of this architecture.

Such contradictions aside, from its early days the School attracted large numbers of faculty and students from various parts of the world, a manifestation of its influence and outreach. The appointment of Gropius, the first director of the Bauhaus, was followed by that of Spanish architect Josep Lluís Sert as Dean. The celebrated Japanese architect Fumihiko Maki, a student during Sert’s tenure, later became one of the key members of the Metabolist movement that promoted a deviation from the universality of the International Style, marking a shift from architecture as a style to architecture as a condition.

We are cognizant of the value of the histories, traditions, and conventions of the disparate design disciplines and see our task today as one involving the continued advancement of landscape architecture, urban planning, and urban design, in addition to architecture. In light of interrelated and ever-changing global sites and situations, we need the expertise embedded in each of these disciplines as well as their interconnections to be able to respond in radical new ways to the host of challenges that face our planet today. The projects presented in this book all play their part in taking up this planetary imperative.

Mohsen Mostafavi

Dean of the Harvard Graduate School of Design and Alexander and Victoria Wiley Professor of Design