Commons Conversations

Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the 20th Century

Commons Conversations
09 Nov, 2018

Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the 20th Century

Mediterranean Allied Air Forces, Aerial photograph of Venice with 25 monuments marked. March 10, 1944. Image courtesy of NARA

with Lucia Allais
Associate Professor of Architecture, Princeton University

Between 1943 and 1945, the Allied Air Forces produced aerial photographs of 79 Italian cities, annotated them with the location of monuments, and appended them with elaborate instructions for aerial bombers on “how to miss cultural sites.” Similar lists and maps of monuments were produced by the Allies for almost every country in Europe, alternatively expanding and shrinking to fit various phases of fighting. The longest German list was 150 pages; one map of 23 monuments for the whole of France was once made. What kind of media were these? To what use were they put; how did they partake in the technologies of precision that were the core of Allied aerial strategy, and how did they help inaugurate a new global regime of cultural preservation? Lucia Allais will narrate and analyze this remarkable episode, drawn from her book, Designs of Destruction: The Making of Monuments in the 20 th Century (Chicago: 2018), which chronicles the rise of the cultural monument as a modern, global, building type between the 1930s and 1970s.

About Lucia Allais

Lucia Allais is a historian and theorist of architecture who works at the intersection of architecture, preservation, politics and technology in the modern period, with a special focus on international institutions and global practices. Her first book, Designs of Destruction (University of Chicago Press, 2018), addresses the rise of the cultural monument as a global building type, due in equal parts to the success of bureaucracy as a tool for global governance, the availability of modern architectural techniques to maintain buildings old and new, and the banality of destruction as a historical fact.

Allais has published a number of articles on related themes, including: “Integrities” (Grey Room 50), “The Design of the Nubian Desert” (Governing by Design, 2012), a translation and commentary Superstudio’s “Salvages of Italian City Centers” (Log 22), and a history of architectural rendering (“Rendering and Experience,” forthcoming 2019). Allais also writes about contemporary design; in 2014 she curated “Legible Pompeii,” an installation at the Venice Architecture Biennale. She has received a number of grants and fellowships for her scholarship, notably from the Princeton Society of Fellows, the CASVA and the Radcliffe Institute. She is a member of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative, and an editor of the journal Grey Room.

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