Architecture and the German Construction of the Ottoman Railway Network, 1868-1919

Workshop with Peter Christensen

Organized by the Max Planck Research Group "Objects in the Contact Zone - The Cross-Cultural Lives of Things" directed by Eva-Maria Troelenberg

The study will examine the architectural, urban and cultural production that occurred in tandem with the German construction of the Ottoman rail network. Specifically, it considers the central role played by German architects, engineers, archaeologists and orientalists and their formative interactions with Ottoman bureaucrats, craftspeople and laborers in the construction of four discrete railway projects: the railways of European Turkey, the Anatolian railways, the Baghdad Railway and the Hejaz Railway and its Palestinian tributaries. The study seeks to capitalize on the ambiguous colonial nature of German "expertise" in the architecture, engineering and urbanism of the late Ottoman Empire and situate it as a variegated and occasionally dialogic model of European cultural expansionism. While the construction of these railways operated most obviously within geopolitical and economic imperatives and lacked conceptual and axiomatic aesthetic values, it nonetheless materialized a site for some syncretic mutations in architectural and urban form. Rather than placing an emphasis on the description or formal value of those mutations, the study seeks to understand how they did and did not occur, their processes and their meanings without diminishing their geopolitical and economic substrate.

Peter Christensen is a Ph.D. Candidate at Harvard University and Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at the Technische Universität München. His research centers on the geopolitical aspects of architecture, architectural theory and urban production in the 19th and 20th centuries, with a focus on the intersection of Central and Eastern Europe and the Middle East. He is the co-author of 'Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling' with Barry Bergdoll (The Museum of Modern Art, 2008) and the co-editor of the forthcoming volume 'Architecturalized Asia: Mapping a Continent Through History' with Vimalin Rujivacharakul, Ken Oshima and Hazel Hahn (Hong Kong University Press and University of Hawai'i Press, December 2013). His articles and criticism have appeared in 'Muqarnas', 'The Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians' and 'The International Journal of Islamic Architecture', among others. He is the recipient of fellowships from the Fulbright Foundation, the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD), the Historians of Islamic Art and Association (HIAA) and is the recipient of the Phllip Johnson Book Award from the Society of Architectural Historians (2010). He is currently completing his dissertation, entitled "Architecture and the German Construction of the Ottoman Railway Network, 1868-1919."

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
Casa Zuccari - Sala terrena
Via Giuseppe Giusti
50121 Firenze
Anna-Maria Gogonjan  

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