12 May 2022 -

Hidden Histories: Gender in Design interview: Laura Martínez de Guereñu

Session six of our Hidden Histories: Gender in Design seminar series looks at collaboration and collective practice. Ahead of her paper on Lilly Reich’s contributions at the 1929 Barcelona International Exposition, Laura Martínez de Guereñu, Associate Professor of Architectural History and Theory at IE University in Madrid, and Humboldt Research Fellow at the Architekturmuseum der TUM in Munich, tells our Ambassador Alexandra Banister more about her research.

To attend the seminar on Thursday 12th May, please register for free via Eventbrite:

Alexandra Bannister: What is your background and how did you develop an interest in design history?

Laura Martínez de Guereñu: I am an Associate Professor of Architecture at IE School of Architecture and Design in Madrid, Spain, where I teach in and coordinate the architecture history theory sequence. I currently hold a Fellowship for Advanced Researchers from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation, which I spend in intermittent residency in the Professorship of History of Architecture and Curatorial Practice at the TUM Department of Architecture in Munich, Germany.

As an architect, I have always had a strong interest in design history. It probably grew exponentially when I developed the project that reconstructed some display elements that Lilly Reich had originally designed and built in 1929, which later occupied the space of the reconstructed German representative pavilion in Barcelona in 2020. By reconstructing a display case and display table, I was able to transform a canonical space of modernism and to make a statement in recognition of a silenced authorship. I could only perform that intervention after thoroughly researching the design history of those display elements. The development of the project made me gain consciousness of the power of design history as a tool to reveal unrecognized contributions in collaborative and collective practices.

AB: What does your research focus on?

LMdG: Historically, architects have traditionally defended the territories of their creation as if they were peaks reached on one’s own, even though individual design is more the exception than the rule. With my research, I am trying to write a history that questions sole authorship and that broadens the context in which canonical works were created, to help develop a more inclusive and sustainable means of practice. I study silenced and superimposed authorship, to expand the notion of design signature and to reveal the absences that the canon of architectural modernism has overlooked. I am writing a book on the design history of the German Representative Pavilion of Barcelona (1929), which will bring to light the input of many forgotten key players, and the crucial contribution of the partner in the project Lilly Reich.

AB: Your talk is part of a wider seminar series on Hidden Histories: Gender in Design, how does this apply to your work?

LMdG: Both in my research and in my seminars and lectures at the university, I am trying to shift the attention of students from the architect as a single figure and the building as object, to architecture as collaboration of many different players. The seminar series on Hidden Histories: Gender in Design is offering many insightful perspectives and case-studies to immerse on. I am happy to bring to light a hidden history of collaboration and collective practice in architecture that was not sufficiently included in the mainstream discourse of architectural modernism and that can help us dwell on questions of contemporary relevance.


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