Shifting the Stones of Little Magazines: the Translation and Transformation of Otto Wagner’s Moderne Architektur

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Proceeding from Manfredo Tafuri’s discussion of historical writing as a process of shifting stones, this paper perceives all revisionist architectural criticism as an act of mining, to unearth the implications of both the verbal and visual discourse founded on the modern concept of architecture as language. This mining is particularly evident in the surge of European to English translations published within post-modern architectural little magazines. For the purposes of this essay, I examine the case study 9H journal, produced between 1980 and 1995 by a voluntary editorial team of Master of Science students at the Bartlett School at University College, London (UCL). 9H was one of the first British little magazines to mine Eurocentric revisionist theory to form international relationships with theorists and practitioners. In 1983, 9H translated Otto Wagner’s nineteenth-century manifesto ‘Modern Architecture’. A comparison of Wagner’s original and 9H’s post-modern publication reveal no shifts in verbal language, yet significant transformations in visual language through the editorials selection of images. Through a historic framework constructed from the writings of Kenneth Frampton, Roland Barthes and Beatriz Colomina, identifying both the text and the rhetoric of the image as transmitting linguistic and cultural meaning, this paper seeks to address the following: to what extent does the interaction of language and images in architectural publication influence the reading of the text? What post-modern interests did this translation serve through the ways the 9H editorial transformed Wagner’s visual language? Finally, what is obscured from Wagner’s language through 9H’s visual transformation? This investigation proposes mining within architectural historiography as a critical method to navigate the discursive formations that emerged within the counter-culture of mainstream post-modernism, and in a current milieu where the image dominates, it encourages theorists and practitioners to understand the important connoted meanings embedded in photography and drawing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the 33rd Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians Australia and New Zealand
Subtitle of host publicationGold
EditorsAnnMarie Brennan, Philip Goad
Place of PublicationMelbourne, Australia
PublisherSociety of Architectural Historians of Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ)
Number of pages11
ISBN (Print)9780734052650
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventGold: 33rd Annual Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand - University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia
Duration: 6 Jul 20169 Jul 2016




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