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Supervisor: Dr Maximilian Sternberg



Research overview:

This research investigates how Wilhelmine architectural discourse acted as a nation-building tool against transnational patterns of industrialization and strong regionalism in architecture and design. This is embodied by the writings and various form of activism of Hermann Muthesius, and by the relationship to history in German late nineteenth-century architectural theory. Through a transnational perspective, the research of national aesthetic could be situated within industrial modernity. This study relies mostly on architectural and design reviews of that period such as the Centralblatt der BauverwaltungGartenstadt or Dekorative Kunst. These reviews are considered as both part of an extended architectural practice and exemplary discourse on modernity. In particular, part of the thesis is dedicated to optimistic or at least pragmatic attitudes to the city in Germany. While many scholars focused on a disputable cultural despair, there was a wide range of different reactions to urbanization in Germany – from the pragmatics trying to deal efficiently with urbanization’s negative sides to the one advocating a forward-looking or at least future-oriented civic pride. Thus, the research aims at situating these reactions and their sceptical pendant within the cultural and historical legitimation project of Wilhelmine modernism.



Mohamed Derbal began his PhD in October 2020. He is supervised by Dr Maximilian Sternberg and is a Wolfson Scholar at Peterhouse. He is also a Visiting Scholar at Columbia University in the City of New York for the academic year 2021-2022. Prior to that, Mohamed gained an MPhil in Architecture and Urban Studies at Cambridge, as well an MA in History from the École normale supérieure and a first degree in philosophy and history of art from the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne.