The Modern Pavilion and the Disappearance of Architecture: Art, Architecture, and Landscape
2023-2024 (January - February)
Michelangelo Sabatino is a publicly engaged architectural historian, curator, and preservationist whose research and writing focuses on modern architecture and the built environment. He is Professor of Architectural History and Preservation at Illinois Tech’s College of Architecture where he directs the PhD program and is the inaugural John Vinci Distinguished Research Fellow. Sabatino’s first book, Pride in Modesty: Modernist Architecture and the Vernacular Tradition in Italy (2011), won multiple awards. More recent books include Canada: Modern Architectures in History (with Rhodri Windsor Liscombe, 2016), Avant-Garde in the Cornfields: Architecture, Landscape, and Preservation in New Harmony (with Ben Nicholson, 2019), Making Houston Modern: The Life and Architecture of Howard Barnstone (with Barrie Scardino Bradley and Stephen Fox, 2020), and Carlo Mollino: Architect and Storyteller (with Napoleone Ferrari, 2021).
Arguably, the modern pavilion has led to a paradoxical “disappearance” of architecture or, at the very least, a game-changing transformation of its fundamental qualities. During the second half of the twentieth century, designers of pavilions simultaneously absorbed avant-garde as well as traditional approaches toward space and place while drawing upon a range of multimedia and multidisciplinary expertise. Artists, architects, and landscape architects have conceived and realized groundbreaking pavilions in the countryside and within urban settings, in the Americas, Europe, and Asia; these hybrid spaces have expanded our appreciation of what is “modern” about modern art and architecture. While some research has already been conducted on this type, much remains to be explored and analyzed especially in terms of 20th-century architects and their transatlantic sources of design inspiration during a time when some protagonists claimed that the modern was a total break with historical precedents. The pavilion is paradoxically the most modern of architectural types and one of the most ancient, as it can be traced back to the Renaissance and Antiquity. By shedding conventional ideas of what constitutes architecture by way of a roof and a wall, just to reference two of the most typical structural elements, the pavilion imagined by artists allows for a new hybrid spatial experience that has broadened access to the public ever since it became the go-to type used in world fairs and public parks from the late nineteenth century onwards; in these contexts the pavilion cuts across a diverse range of cultural, economic, and social conditions. The new book, to which Sabatino’s research at I Tatti as Visiting Professor will contribute, seeks to rewrite the history of modern architecture from the perspective of art, gardens, and landscapes.