Modernity Beyond the West: A Review of Kathleen James-Chakraborty’s Architecture Since 1400

By Rixt Hoekstra
Architectural Histories

Architecture since 1400With Architecture Since 1400 another volume has been added to the list of authoritative surveys of architectural history published in recent years. With 30 bit-like chapters and some 300 illustrations, this book is an ambitious attempt to write a global history of architecture that focuses on the arrival of modernity. The central idea of this survey is the shift away from the Weberian approach that views modernization as emanating from the West. Instead, in this book modern architecture is rewritten according to a global approach that allows for multiple perspectives in a multipolar world. This decentring approach is also pivotal for other parts of the book. For example, there is the much-needed effort to include women in the canon. In addition, the author exchanges a stylistic history for a social history and combines this with a narrative that maps the agents of the built environment, thus complementing the narrative of the genius-architect with that of the role played by clients, patrons and critics. In this way, Lina Bo Bardi or Zaha Hadid not only take their place next to Le Corbusier or Brunelleschi, but in addition Eleanor of Toledo is mentioned as an influential sixteenth-century ruler next to her husband Cosimo I, and Hardwick Hall in England is now considered the outcome of the cooperation between the architect Robert Smythson and the landowner Bess of Hardwick.

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