Apocryphal and Apostolic Modernism: Forgotten connections between religion and architectural modernism, 1945-1970

Nederland, Nijmegen, 1988 het beeld van Thomas van Aquino wordt bij de nieuwe aula van de Radboud Universiteit (destijds Katholieke Universiteit Nijmegen ) geplaatst. Foto: Flip Franssen

This project revolves around an analysis of the connection between religious and philosophical concepts and the theoretical discourse on architectural modernism from the period 1945-1970. The project is structured around two different research-questions that, to a certain extent, mirror each other. The first one is: in what way has religious thinking, of Catholic origin, influenced the theoretical discourse on architectural modernism? This part will focus on the writings of a number of European architects (mainly German, French) who migrated to the United States right before, during or immediately after the Second World War. Their substantial reliance on religious ideas could constitute an “apocryphal modernism”: although their theoretical concepts did root in religious traditions, that link has been forgotten. Canonized views on modernism have, unjustly, neglected and even excluded this complex form of religious imagination. The second research question is: in what way did non-religious, philosophical and aesthetic concepts influence the theoretical discourse on religious architecture? This part of our research will focus on European, ecclesial art-theoretical journals from the fifties and the sixties that reflect on the necessity to innovate religious architecture in line with modernist ideals. The texts that we base this part of our research on constitute what can be termed an “apostolic modernism”. This project will detect and analyze the diverse aesthetic theories that were mobilized to safeguard a ritualistic or sacred understanding of the built environment in an increasingly technocratic society.

Funded by the BOF-KU Leuven

Supervision: Rajesh Heynickx and Stéphane Symons

Phd-student working on the project: Samuel O’Connor