shu and joe

In the Desert of Modernity – Haus der Kulturen der Welt

Published on September 2, 2008

aka House of World Cultures

“In the Desert of Modernity” investigates cities in North Africa and their attempts at modernization following European colonization. The exhibition is unsurprisingly dense, housing a maze of easels holding various charts, images, and historical ephemera relating to post-war Africa to the present day. From the website:

The exhibition reveals the ambivalences in the relationship between colonial tyranny and the utopias of modernity, showing the degree to which civilising and modernist utopias are grounded in colonialism, the ruptures within colonialism and resistance to it. It also vividly displays the events, projects, activities and visions which, at the time of decolonisation between North Africa and Europe, once played – and continue to play – such an important role. The exhibition traces the histories of inhabitants, architects, colonialists and scientists involved in the debate over modernity and modernisation.

Unforgivingly dubbed the “Pregnant Oyster” by locals, the building was the USA’s contribution to the INTERBAU 1957 building exhibition. The architect was Hugh Stubbins, a former assistant to Walter Gropius. Stubbins described his design as being “completely free.” By this he implied that “there would be no restrictions on the freedom of intellectual work” that would no doubt flourish inside the structure.


The exhibition had some nice projections displayed on ordinary-looking pieces of cardboard.


Sidi Othman, Casablanca, 2008 (Photo & (c) Marion von Osten)


Cité Verticale im Carrières Centrales, ATBAT-Afrique, Casablanca, 1953


Carrières Centrales, Casablanca, ca 1953. (c) Photothèque de l?École Nationale d’Architecture de Rabat, Maroc

Filed under: Architecture, Berlin
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