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Document Details :

Title: Een interieur van popcultuur als propaganda en kritiek
Subtitle: Bernard Rudofsky en het Amerikaanse paviljoen op Expo 58
Author(s): DEVOS, Rika
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Interieurgeschiedenis en Design
Volume: 37    Date: 2010-2011   
Pages: 191-209
DOI: 10.2143/GBI.37.0.3017270

Abstract :
The Viennese-American architect Bernard Rudofsky (1905-1988) was responsible for some of the most prominent exhibition installations in the American pavillion at Expo 58, viz. Islands of Living, Townscape, Cityscape, Shopping Street and The Face of America. He collaborated on these with Peter G. Harnden, the architect who supervised the interior of the pavillion. While Bernard Rudofsky’s installations fit within his contemporary exhibition work and theories about modern visual mass communication, they also illustrate his fascination with American pop culture in the late fifties. This resulted in an installation that, on the one hand, appears very lightfooted, non-committal and almost frivolous, and on the other hand surprises, shocks, and makes people wonder. This essay highlights especially the critical character of Rudofsky’s interiors as well as the extraordinary, politically charged and layered rhetoric with which these installations are presented to the crowds of Expo visitors.
The American pavillion at Expo 58 was centrally situated in the heart of the Foreign Sector, just alongside the pavillion of the Soviet Union. The organisers of Expo 58 had chosen to play off the cultural contrasts that were current in the Cold War era and to visualise these contrasts in an explicit juxtaposition. Architecture and technique were linked to political ideals in these representations. Both superpowers appointed teams experienced in such large-scale representation of their own nation. The American government selected as the designer of their pavillion Edward D. Stone (1902-1978), architect of the embassy in New Delhi (1954-1958).
The American pavillion at Expo 58 was centrally situated in the heart of the Foreign Sector, just alongside the pavillion of the Soviet Union. The organisers of Expo 58 had chosen to play off the cultural contrasts that were current in the Cold War era and to visualise these contrasts in an explicit juxtaposition. Architecture and technique were linked to political ideals in these representations. Both superpowers appointed teams experienced in such large-scale representation of their own nation. The American government selected as the designer of their pavillion Edward D. Stone (1902-1978), architect of the embassy in New Delhi (1954-1958). A committee with members from the MIT was appointed to design the contents and general concepts of the exhibition. This committee took on board Rudofsky’s and Harnden’s warning: ‘another repetition of production statistics could be counted on to arouse boredom, perhaps irritation, certainly envy.’
Notwithstanding the detailed and strict control from above on the approach, contents, and the ensuing political-public debate, Rudofsky succeeded in presenting an unusual and somewhat awkward view of popular America. Although the general public did not always perceive the various layers of meaning the pavillion demonstrated the many-sided representation of post-war America in Europe. Moreover, Rudofsky’s interventions and the response both from the general public and from the American authorities reveal an extraordinary model of communication and illustrate the success and failure of the use of interiors, environments and architecture as mass media in post-war political propaganda.

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