Modern architecture cannot be considered independent of an understanding of tuberculosis – the dominant medical obsession of the period. If architectural discourse has, from its beginnings, associated building and body; the body that it describes is the medical body – one that is reconstructed by each new theory of health. Avant-garde architects in the early decades of the 20th century presented their new architecture as a health-inducing instrument, like a piece of medical equipment for protecting and strengthening the body. The symptoms, if not the principles, of modern architecture seem to have been taken straight out of a medical text on the disease. 19th century architecture had been demonized as unhealthy; so, in the twentieth, sun, light, ventilation, exercise, roof terraces, hygiene, and whiteness were offered as means to prevent – if not cure – tuberculosis. Modern architecture was, first and foremost, a cure.
Beatriz Colomina is a professor of Architecture and the founding director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. Her books include Domesticity at War, Cold War Hothouses. She is the curator, with a team of Princeton Ph.D. candidates, of the exhibition Clip/Stamp/Fold: The Radical Architecture of Little Magazines 196x-197x in 2006. More recently she co-curated Playboy Architecture, 1953-79, which opened in Maastricht in 2012. Her next two forthcoming books are X-Ray Architecture: Illness as Metaphor and Manifesto Architecture.