Despina Stratigakos will speak at the Modern Design History Seminar on Wednesday, February 17 at 6 pm. Her talk is entitled “A Dictator’s Evil Decor: Reflections on Writing Hitler at Home.”

Despina Stratigakos is an architectural historian and writer interested in the intersections of design and power. She is the author of A Women’s Berlin: Building the Modern City (University of Minnesota Press, 2008), a history of a forgotten female metropolis and winner of the German Studies Association DAAD Book Prize and the Milka Bliznakov Prize. Her latest work, Hitler at Home (Yale University Press, 2015), investigates the architectural and ideological construction of the Führer’s domesticity. Stratigakos has also published widely on issues of diversity in architecture, and her forthcoming book, Where Are the Women Architects?, will be released in 2016 by Princeton University Press. Stratigakos has served as a Director of the Society of Architectural Historians, an Advisor of the International Archive of Women in Architecture at Virginia Tech, a Trustee of the Beverly Willis Architecture Foundation, and Deputy Director of the Gender Institute at the State University of New York at Buffalo. She received her PhD from Bryn Mawr College and taught at Harvard University and the University of Michigan before joining the Department of Architecture at SUNY-Buffalo.

At Bard Graduate Center, Stratigakos will examine how in the mid-1930s, Adolf Hitler’s inner circle refashioned the Führer’s private persona, transforming him in the eyes of the world’s media from an oddball bachelor to a gentleman of fine taste and morals. Domestic architecture played a key role in that public makeover, which coincided with major renovations of Hitler’s three residences—the old chancellery in Berlin, his Munich apartment, and his mountain home on the Obersalzburg. Positive lifestyle stories that focused on the off-duty Hitler and the warmth and elegance of his homes appeared not only in German newspapers and magazines, but also in the foreign press, including in the New York Times, Homes and Gardens, and LIFE Magazine. By the eve of the Second World War, this coverage had created a powerful image of the private Hitler as a gentle, refined man—an image that has been given new life today by the Internet. Design historians have largely ignored Hitler’s domestic spaces as either too mundane or kitschy to deserve scholarly attention. Hitler at Home argues for taking them seriously, both as design and propaganda, and for the historian’s responsibility to deconstruct their lingering power.