Design and Revolution in Twentieth-Century Europe

Do objects have politics? This course will examine intersections of design and ideology in objects, buildings, and built space across the various political, cultural, and economic revolutions that rocked Europe in the twentieth century. Design’s relationship to major historical events, including World War I, the Russian revolution and the rise of socialism, the student and worker protests of 1968, and the Cold War and eventual dissolution of the USSR will be discussed, as will the role of design in connection with sociocultural developments during the period, including the quest to define national identity in an increasingly globalized context, the postwar explosion of consumerism and its backlash, the rise of feminism and civil-rights advocacy, and the postmodern crisis of authorship. At the core of our consideration of these large-scale political revolutions and more diffuse cultural shifts is the interrogation of design’s fundamental premise in the twentieth century: that design can, and should, be an active force in imagining and shaping the future. 3 credits.