The Canadian Centre for Architecture (CCA) is soon to launch the major exhibition Architecture in Uniform: Designing and Building for the Second World War. On view from 13th April until 18th September 2011, the exhibition investigates the consequences of the Second World War on the built environment and reveals the immense development undertaken and responsibility carried by architecture during these years.
Architecture in Uniform is the first in-depth study to analyse the modernisation of architectural theory and practice during the period spanned by the German bombing of Guernica in 1937 and the Japanese surrender following the American bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
While many architects were called to serve as active combatants, others were able to pursue their professional work in the service of an intensified industrial production. The war drew upon every aspect of architectural expertise and led to significant design innovations and advances in technology and production. As a result, architects were almost as strategically indispensable as engineers and scientists in contributing to their respective countries’ war efforts.
“The war was a process of transformation involving all components of architecture in its mobilisation. This militarisation of the field forced the pursuit of the new in order to meet the demands of war production: new materials needed to be implemented in new ways, and new technologies needed to be put to new uses,” states exhibition curator Jean-Louis Cohen, Sheldon H. Solow Professor of History of Architecture at New York University.
Among the defining characteristics of World War II were its total industrialisation and the elimination of the traditional combat front as aerial attacks brought the war to cities far removed from the front line. Architects were involved in defining new offensive and defensive tactics, planned and built factories to realise unprecedented production pressures, devised urban schemes for civilian housing, as well as concentration camps, and influenced the occupation, destruction and reconstruction of cities.