Sokratis Georgiadis gave the West 86th Lecture at Bard Graduate Center on Tuesday, April 3, at 6 pm. His talk was entitled “Technology, Wondrous or Fatal: Seventy Years of Giedion’s Mechanization Takes Command.”

Driven by his own enthusiasm for the achievements of modern technology, the Swiss art historian and spiritus rector of the International Congresses of Modern Architecture (CIAM), Sigfried Giedion (1888–1968), in his Mechanization Takes Command leads the reader in a breathtaking tour d’horizon. He takes us from the experimenting laboratories of ingenious eighteenth-century inventors and the US Patent Office to Cincinnati’s mechanized slaughterhouses and Henry Ford’s car factories in Detroit; from the muggy nineteenth-century private interiors and the fully engineered equipment of modern dental practices, railway cars, bathrooms, and kitchens to Aalto’s and Breuer’s modernist furniture designs. Giedion accompanies all this with archaeological flashbacks reaching into antiquity and the Middle Ages. However, in Mechanization Takes Command, which he was working on during World War II, Giedion refrains from repeating modernity’s happy message from his bestselling Space, Time and Architecture (1941). Instead, he expresses profound scepticism towards the ideology of progress and the potentialities of unlimited growth and development. In the advances of modern instrumental reason, he rather seems to perceive an existential threat to the foundations of human life and civilization.

Sokratis Georgiadis was born in Thessaloniki, Greece, in 1949, studied architecture at the Technical University of Berlin, and received his PhD from the University of Stuttgart. From 1987 to 1994 he held a research and teaching position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology Zurich (ETH). During that time, he also held temporary teaching posts at the Universities of Zurich and Bern. In 1994 he became Professor for Architectural Theory and Design at the Hochschule für Gestaltung in Berlin-Weissensee and, shortly after, Professor of Architecture and Design History at the State Academy of Art and Design, Stuttgart, where he still teaches. He has lectured widely in Europe and North America, writen numerous articles for architectural magazines, and organized architectural exhibitions and conferences. His research interests include architectural history and theory in the 19th and 20th centuries and, more recently, ancient Greek architecture. His studies on Giedion include book publications (An Intellectual Biography, 1989 [English translation: 1993], The Project of a New Tradition [co-editor of the exhibition catalogue, Museum für Gestaltung Zürich, 1989 / German], Introduction to Giedion’s Building in France, Building in Iron, Building in Ferroconcrete in the Text & Documents Series of the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities, Epilogue to the German reprint of the same book [2000]) and various articles. He is currently working on the edition of the papers of Giedion’s unfinished book-length project Die Entstehung des heutigen Menschen (1929-1938, The Development of Contemporary Man).