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Rute Figueiredo

CEAA/ESAP, Porto e CEACT/UAL, Lisboa, Portugal


To cite this article: FIGUEIREDO, Rute – ‘To Connect two Hemispheres’. The mechanisms of critical mediation in transatlantic culture. Estudo Prévio 23. Lisboa: CEACT/UAL – Centro de Estudos de Arquitetura, Cidade e Território da Universidade Autónoma de Lisboa, 2023, p. 58- 62. ISSN: 2182-4339 [Available at: www.estudoprevio.net]. DOI: https://doi.org/10.26619/2182- 4339/23.4

‘To Connect two Hemispheres’. The mechanisms of critical mediation in transatlantic culture.

Since the mid-19th century, criticism has been a fundamental practice for the construction and inquiry of ideas, models, and narratives in the field of architecture. It has also been a crucial instrument in shaping new networks of relationships, contact and exchange between critics and architects that went far beyond the physical and imaginary borders that different geopolitical tensions helped to erect and crystallize.

Even during complex periods such as the Cold War (1947-1991), for example, which introduced regional restrictions and intellectual ruptures; or in countries under authoritarian regimes such as Portugal – geographically and ideologically isolated from Western democracies until 1974 –, travel (both physical and imaginary, afforded by printed magazines, exhibitions, and books) became a regular practice among architects and critics. This is clearly suggested by the advertisement from which this dossier’s title has been taken (Figure 1). The fact of that advertisement having been published in an architectural journal in the 1960s is significant. Here, the two hemispheres that make up the globe are held together by a set of strings with the appearance of airline routes. They suggest a notional unity of the globe and the existence of a global citizenry of architects inhabiting an interconnected global space[1].

Figure 1 – Advertising for the airline VARIG published in the Portuguese magazine Arquitectura, 1960, n. 119.


The dossier To Connect two Hemispheres. The mechanisms of critical mediation in transatlantic culture [2]

here published aims to take that notion of citizenship as its object of empirical study. More specifically, it seeks to reconstitute the networks of relationships (social, intellectual, and epistemic) that architects, historians, and critics were weaving, inquiring the mechanisms of mediation that made them palpable/tangible in practice. By rethinking architectural criticism as a practice in transit and by taking the Atlantic space as a metaphorical and methodological perspective this dossier points to the wider the process of review to which the history of architectural criticism itself is being subjected now – including its scales of observation, analytical methods, and research strategies. It is, furthermore, a part of the laboratory work conducted by the Crítica|Memória network – another place for crossing ideas, cultures, and geographies, first discussed at the colloquium Criticism. Media. Memory (Rio de Janeiro, 2022).

More recently, some authors in the field of art history have highlighted that, “if we look at the journey from the viewpoint of a set of practices within a given social group,” we may notice that there is a clear relation between the fast-paced democratization of means of transportation in the 20th century and the professionalization of art criticism (Kramer- Mallordy, 2020: p. 2). In fact, the great technical innovations in the field of information and mass printing since the 19th century, together with the technological transformations in aerodynamics and communication systems at the beginning of the twentieth century, supported the establishment of intercontinental networks and the construction of a transatlantic culture – of encounter, circulation, and co-production of knowledge, capable of surpassing geographical and epistemic borders also in the field of criticism.

In the field of architectural studies, we have seen, on the one hand, the publication of important monographs on criticism as a historically shaped form, problematizing its definitions and evolution over time (Jannière, 2019). One also notes the mapping of critical production, most visibly in research projects and scientific networks such as Mapping Architectural Criticism, which made use of archival collections to map the work of critics[3]. On the other hand, however, this field of study has remained attached to regional delimitations. Even when crossing borders, it has often employed comparative methods, sometimes reinforcing conventional centre-periphery, north-south, and import- export binaries.

Both the perception of the impact of this culture of displacement (physical, disciplinary, or intellectual) in the construction of architectural culture, and the observation that critical studies must consider the networks of social and conceptual relationships in which their actors circulate, have inspired this dossier. The crossing of perspectives and the interconnecting of spaces are at the heart of our study that take on architectural criticism as transnational practice, often resulting from transculturation. More precisely, it aims to understand how “in different waves of globalization, critics seem to have been active agents in the construction of a global citizenship and shared vocabulary”.[4]

The articles that this dossier brings together represent, therefore, two attempts at rethinking criticism as transcultural action. They start with very different questions. On the one hand, Karolyna Koppke in the reflection entitled “Towards a historiography of displacements: thinking about the 19th century between Europe and America”, asks to what extent “biographies may be the sum of the crossings that [the authors] undertook”? How did a routine of meetings between European and South American critics and historians enable the creation of a culture of mutual influence and disciplinary dialogue in the 19th century? On the other hand, in “Reception and commentary of modern Brazilian architectural culture in Portugal. A brief analysis based on two architectural periodical publications”, Pedro Castelo examines the stories that architectural journals tell us about Brazilian architecture in the 1950s and 60s. The question becomes how, in the process of print circulation, hegemonic canons and perceptions were established, and whether the traces and complexities of each hemisphere’s modernity remain unresolved to this day.

Based on different mechanisms of critical mediation taken from different moments in time, this dossier seeks to test methods and ways of telling intersecting stories. Those mechanisms, whether physical, as in the case of intercontinental movements described by Koppke, or conceptual, such as the print network of architectural periodicals examined by Castelo, are here identified not just as mediums of communication, circulation of ideas, and dissemination of models. Instead, they are considered as relevant “contact zones” (Avermaete and Nuijsink, 2021; Pratt, 1991). In other words, they are “spaces of production, negotiation, and multidirectional knowledge, capable of giving tangibility to the exercise of criticism” (Figueiredo, 2024 [in press]), going through various changing constellation in space and time.

As Koppke rightly points out, studying the idea of connectivity requires an effort of methodological revisionism and displacement by the researcher himself. In fact, “bringing to the foreground the construction of knowledge activated by the crossing of the Atlantic means paying attention to a transatlantic culture that finds conditions for formulation precisely in the processes of encounter, negotiation and reconfiguration that characterize the interaction between cultures” [our translation]. This perception runs through both articles.

By contemplating the jeux d’échelle and spatial dynamics of historical narrative and critical discourse, this dossier builds on the thinking of authors such as Jacques Revel (1996; Struck, Ferris, Revel, 2011) and, more recently, Jürgen Osterhammel (2015), who propose a polycentric analysis articulating the global with the local. The connected and transnational approaches to history that these and other authors take involves the use of conceptual tools and methodological approaches capable of reading phenomena of transfer, circulation, exchange, and mutual influence, which are difficult to grasp within the framework of geographically delimited spaces or disciplinary classifications. For this reason, the transatlantic scope of this dossier functions as a methodological resource that allows us to add complexity to the historiography of architecture and the discourses that define it. It seeks, above all, to understand how phenomena circulate and are co- produced within social, intellectual, and printed “nebulas” (Pereira, 2020), as well as resulting from the ocean-crossing movements of its actors in the Atlantic sphere.



AVERMAETE, Tom; NUIJSINK, Cathelijne – Architectural Contact Zones: Another Way to Write Global Histories of the Post-War Period? Architectural Theory Review, 25: 3, 2021, p. 350-361.

ESTEBAN-MALUENDA, Ana; FIGUEIREDO, Rute – Learning from the Opposite? Iberian Journals Glance at Australia. Fabrications 31:1,  2021, p. 24-53. DOI: 10.1080/10331867.2021.1907028

FIGUEIREDO, Rute – Agir por Ensaio. In Peixoto, Priscilla et alCrítica. Mídias. Memória. Rio de Janeiro: Rio Books, 2024. [no prelo]

JANNIÈRE, Hélène – Critique et Architecture. Un état des lieux contemporains. Paris: Éditions de la Villette, 2019.

KRAMER-MALLORDY, Antje- New York, Rio, Moscow: on Travel as an Archival Object. Critique d’art 45. Rennes: Archives de la Critique d’Art. 2015. [Available at: http://journals.openedition.org/critiquedart/19188]. DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/critiquedart.76300

OSTERHAMMEL, Jürgen – The Transformation Of The World. A Global History Of The Nineteenth Century. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015.

PEREIRA, Margareth da Silva et al. Narrar por transversalidades III. In: PEREIRA, Margareth; CERASOLI, Josiane; JACQUES, Paola – Nebulosas do Pensamento Urbanístico: tomo III – Modos de Narrar. Salvador: EDUFBA, 2020.

PRATT, Mary Louise – Arts of the Contact Zone. Profession, 91, 1991, p. 33-40.

REVEL, Jacques – Jeux d’échelles. La micro-analyse à l’expérience. Paris: Gallimard, 1996.

STRUCK, Bernhard; FERRIS, Kate; REVEL, Jacques – Introduction: Space and Scale in Transnational History. The International History Review 33, no. 4, December 1, 2011, p. 573–584



  1. For more on this topic see Esteban-Maluenda, Figueiredo 2021.

  2. This dossier is an outcome of the symposium with the same title that took place at Escola Superior Artística do Porto (ESAP), in May 2023. This seminar is the result of a shared effort of the research projects ARCHMEDIUM (CEAA) and History of Architecture Criticism (PROARQ- UFRJ). It also came from the articulation between the Integrated Master’s Program in Architecture at ESAP and the Postgraduate Program in Architecture at the Federal University from Rio de Janeiro.

  3. Mapping Architectural Criticism is a scientific network that started as a research project funded by the Agence Nationale de la Recherche between 2017 and 2019. It involves the participation of several institutions such as: Université Rennes 2, Archives de la critique d’art, ETH Zurich, Oslo Center for Critical Architectural Studies, The Bartlett School of Architecture, Columbia University, Musée d’Orsay, Università di Bologna. See: https://mac.hypotheses.org

  4. Taken from the synopsis that accompanied the shared seminar “To Connect two Hemispheres” (ESAP, Porto; PROARQ, Rio de Janeiro, May 2023).


This work was funded by national funds through FCT – Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., within the projects UIDB/04041/2020 and UIDP/04041/2020 (Arnaldo Araújo Research Centre)