Léa-Catherine Szacka is a Lecturer in Architectural Studies at Manchester Architecture Research Group (MARg), the University of Manchester. Her work focuses on the history of architecture exhibitions, the history and theory of postmodern architecture, and, more broadly, the relationship between media and architecture since the 1970s. She has investigates these topics through extensive historical and archival research and using oral history and micro-history as methodological tools.
Léa-Catherine received a PhD in Architecture History and Theory from the Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London in 2011. Before joining The University of Manchester she had taught both design studios and history and theory undergrad courses and postgrad seminars at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design (AHO), the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Versailles, the École nationale supérieure d’architecture de Paris-Malaquais, the École nationale supérieure d’architecture Paris-Val de Seine, Nottingham Trent University and the Manufacture – Haute École Spéciale de Suisse Occidentale.
Léa-Catherine is the author of Exhibiting the Postmodern: the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale (Marsilio, 2016, winner of the SAHGB 2017 Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion) and co-author, with Sara Marini and Samuel Lorrain, of Le Concert: Pink Floyd à Venise (Éditions B2, 2017). She has also contributed to international journals such as Log, OASE, Arch+, AA Files, the Journal of Architectural Education, the Journal of Architecture, Les cahiers du musée d'art moderne, Domus, Architectural Design and Volume, as well as to numerous books including Exhibiting Architecture: Place and Displacement (Lars Müller, 2014) and the recent Re-Framing Identities: Architecture’s Turn to History, 1970–1990 (Birkhäuser, 2017). Her research has been supported by the Social Siences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, The Canada Council for the Arts, The Centre Pompidou, The Laboratoire d'Excellence Création, Arts et Patrimoine, The Royal Insitute of British Architecture and the Gerda Henkel Stiftung.
Léa-Catherine has lectured and published widely on postmodern architecture and has acted as editor, with Charles Jencks and Eva Branscome, for the 2011 re-edition of The Post-modern Reader. An important output of Léa-Catherine’s research on postmodern architecture is the recently published monograph Exhibiting the Postmodern: the 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale (Marsilio, 2016). Looking at the institutional changes, exhibition techniques and exhibition spaces, as well as the discourses and controversies between advocates of modern and postmodern architecture, this book narrates the development of architectural exhibitions as a ‘genre’ of cultural manifestations, while expanding on both the history of the Venice Biennale – and, more generally, of Italian architecture in the 1970s – and the history of postmodernism. More recently, Léa-Catherine has explored the role of media on the development of postmodern architecture when co-charing, together with Véronique Patteeuw, two international conference sessions (EAHN 2014 and SAH 2014) and co-editing (with Patteeuw) the volume Mediating Messages: On the Role of Exhibitions and Periodicals in Critically Shaping Postmodern Architecture (Bloomsbury, forthcoming 2018). Together with Dr. Silvia Micheli (The University of Queensland) Léa-Catherine is currently working on a book on the work of Italian architect Paolo Portoghesi. This research has been supported by a visiting fellowship at the Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre (ATCH), University of Queensland (2015). Léa-Catherine is also a founding member of the EAHN Postmodernist interest group.
Architecture Curating and the History of Architecture Exhibitions
Léa-Catherine’s interest in the history of architecture exhibitions started more than a decade ago with a particular interest for the history of the Venice Architecture Biennale. From 2010 to 2014 she was part of the Centre Pompidou’s research group on the history of exhibitions. In early 2014, she co-organised a major international symposium on architecture exhibitions at the Centre Pompidou, and as a result, she co-edited a special issue of the cahiers du musée national d’art moderne (fall 2014). Last year, Léa-Catherine acted as project manager for the After Belonging Academy, an educational forum organised by the Oslo School of Architecture and Design as part of the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale’s core program. Also in relation to the Oslo Triennale and out of her interest for Bi/Tri-ennials manifestations, Léa-Catherine co-curated a series of public debates under the banner “2016-ennials: A Geography of Temporary Territories".
Ephemeral Architecture in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Century
Drawn from her interest in exhibitions and her fascination for the postmodern era, Léa-Catherine pursued work on the history of ephemeral architecture, mainly in late twentieth century, and their relation to urban spaces and politics. In 2014, Léa-Catherine was invited to present her research at the 14th International Architecture Exhibition – la Biennale di Venezia. The installation “Effimero: Or the Postmodern Italian Condition”, was part of OMA’s Monditalia exhibition. Following on her Biennale installation, Léa-Catherine co-authored, with Sara Marini and Samuel Lorrain, the book Le Concert: Pink Floyd à Venise (Éditions B2, 2017). She also published and presented work on the 1867 Palais de l’Omnibus and its representation in the nineteenth Century illustrated Press. In 2016, she chaired, together with Véronique Patteeuw, a session on ephemeral architecture (That which does not last: Ephemeral Architecture after Modernism) at the 69th SAH annual conference in Pasadena. More recently, she worked on the book chapter “Le populisme de l’éphémère: Postmodernism et scenographies urbaines en France et en Italie [1976-1989]” soon to be published in the edited volume La Fabrique des Images: L’Architecture à L’ère Postmoderne (In Folio, forhtcoming 2017).
The Afterlife of Postmodernism
Expanding her previous work on postmodern architecture, Léa-Catherine’s current research is looking at postmodern buildings’ preservation, adaptation and eventual dismantlement or demolition. Based on empirical and archival research as well as oral history investigations, this project will explore the history of a body of architecture built between the 1970-90s, landmarks that are often difficult to like and largely despise since their first appearance. Stemming from a very practical and pressing question – that of the historical value of postmodern buildings – this research endeavour has a broader objective: tracing a history of postmodern architecture that encompasses not only discourses (i.e. the realm of publications and exhibitions), but more specifically concrete realisations and tangible traces of postmodernism left in our cities. Exploring concepts such as materiality, context, colour, ephemerality, authenticity, monumentality, obsolescence, the relation interior/exterior, and public opinion or taste value, this forthcoming project will also be integrated in Léa-Catherine’s research-led teaching at the University of Manchester via a workshop for master students to take place in 2017-2018.
Recent Publications (selection)
Szacka, L.-C., Exhibiting the Postmodern: 1980 Venice Architecture Biennale (Venice: Marsilio, 2016).
Szacka, L.-C., Marini, S. and Lorrain, S., Le Concert: 1989, Pink Floyd à Venise (Paris: éditions B2, 2017).
Szacka, L.-C., ‘Criticism From Within. Kenneth Frampton And The Retreat From Postmodernism’ OASE Journal of Architecture, 97, Action and Reaction in Architecture, November 2016, pp. 109-112.
Szacka, L.-C., 'The Materiality of the Immaterial: S, M, L, XL as Postmodern Manifesto?' Journal of Architectural Education, 69 (2), September 2015, pp.163-165.
Szacka, L.-C. and Parcollet, R., 'Writing Institutional Exhibition History: On the Centre Pompidou’s Catalogue Raisonné’s Project' Journal of Curatorial Studies, 4 (2), 2015.
Szacka, L.-C., 'Irony; or, the Self-Critical Opacity of Postmodern Architecture by Emmanuel Petit', The Journal of Architecture, 19(3), June 2014, pp. 457-464.
Szacka, L.-C., 'La Strategia della Maschera: OMA in Venice', LOG, 20, Fall 2016, pp.83-86.
Szacka, L.-C. and Micheli, S., 'Paolo’s Triangolo', AA Files, 72, June 2016, pp.98-106.
Szacka, L.-C., and Micheli, S., 'Paolo Portoghesi and the Postmodern Project' in Akos Moravanszky and Torsten Lange (Eds.) East, West, Central, Re-Framing Identities: Architecture’s Turn to History, 1970-1990 (Basel: Birkhäuser, 2017).
Szacka, L.-C., 'Exhibiting Ideologies: Architecture at the Venice Biennale [1968-1980]' in Pelkonen, E.-L., Chan C., Tasman D. (Eds.), Exhibiting Architecture: A Paradox ? (New Heaven/Barcelone: Yale School of Architecture/ActarD, 2015).
Szacka, L.-C., 'Debates on Display: E-A at the 1976 Biennale' in Arrhenius, T., Lending, M., Miller, W and McGowan, J. (Eds.), Place and Displacement: Exhibiting Architecture (Zurich: Lars Müller publisher, 2014), pp.97-112.
Szacka, L.-C., 'Roma Interrotta: Postmodern Rome as the Source of Fragmented Narratives' in Holdaway, D., and Trentin, F. (Eds.) Rome, Postmodern Narratives of a Cityscape (London, Pickering and Chatto, 2013), pp.155-169.
Recently Awarded Research Grants and Fellowships
Visiting Fellow, Architecture Theory Criticism History Research Centre, University of Queensland, Australia (2015)
Postdoctoral Marie Curie Fellowships in the M4HUMAN program (Mobility for experienced researchers in historical humanities), Gerda Henkel Foundation (2013).
Research Trust Award, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) (2012).