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The Collaborative Divide: Crafting Architectural Identity, Authority, and Authorship in the Twentieth Century



The Collaborative Divide:

Crafting Architectural Identity, Authority, and Authorship in the Twentieth Century


Steven I. Doctors

Doctor of Philosophy in Architecture

University of California, Berkeley

Professor C. Greig Crysler

The object of study in this dissertation is a discourse promulgated by architects for much of the twentieth century that assigned transformative attributes to collaboration relative to the purpose and potentiality of the profession. Underpinning these aspirations was an assertion of the fundamentally collective character of architectural production, yet realization of the purported transformative promise of collaboration recurrently fell short of its idealization. My intention here is to examine this historical divide by considering: motivations fueling the idealization of collaboration; its engagement in the crafting of architectural identity, authority, and authorship; the mechanisms of professional and state authority employed in its promotion and dissemination; and the socio-economic forces acting upon practice that precluded realization of its transformative promise.

To enter into this topic, I draw upon primary archival materials to construct an historical narrative contextualized by socio-economic and political forces, with an emphasis on protagonists whose contributions to the American discourse on collaboration are most representative of specific moments in the twentieth-century. In each instance, the idealization of collaboration operates at the boundaries of the profession, the edges where architects affirm the collective nature of architecture by engaging with non-architect `others' in the conception and production of buildings. Tensions between the advocacy of collaboration as a transformative means and concurrent quests to articulate the identity, authority, and authorship of the architect tell us much about the efficacy of collaboration as a signifier of collective action, how architects wished to be viewed by non-architect `others,' and more broadly, the implications when theories of practice differ from their realization. I begin at the close of the nineteenth century with a prevailing historicist paradigm that glorified architecture as art and a concomitant agenda of collaboration intended to resist the temptations of an emerging modernism. In the second case study, I examine modernist dominance of the Depression-era discourse, and competition between collaboration and cooperation as the ideal basis of collective action for social change. In the third and final case study, I consider the rise of a process-oriented collaboration stripped of stylistic affiliations in a post-Second World War milieu in which techno-military accomplishments and a burgeoning global American presence inspired seemingly infinite possibilities for architecture as a science-based profession.

The principal contribution of this dissertation is a foregrounding of the historical problematics of collaboration specifically as it pertains to architects in their engagement with non-architect `others.' By examining tensions between the architectural promotion of collaboration and the crafting of architectural identity, authority, and authorship, I establish a framework for assessing the twenty-first century re-emergence and idealization of collaboration as a transformative practice, in this instance, one characterized by connectivity empowered by information and communication technologies.

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