Various Histories of Modernism

author Martino Stierli
interviewed by Ana Bedenko, Maroje Mrduljaš


The exhibition of the modern architecture of former Yugoslavia hosted in the New York MoMA in 2018 has marked the continuance of research of other modernisms and processes of critical revisions of the history of architecture done by this globally influential institution. This exhibition was the first large project organised by Martino Stierli, art historian with a doctorate from ETH, main curator of architecture and design, who has continued the work of his predecessors Barry Bergdoll, Terence Riley, all the way to the founder of the department Philip Johnson. We talked to Stierli immediately before the opening of the large extension of MoMA and in the midst of the new exhibition set-up, which will focus on architecture modernism of South Asia.
ORIS: I will start with your intellectual formation. You studied art history and then completed your Ph.D. at the ETH, at the Chair of the Theory of Architecture. How did you become interested in architecture?

MARTINO STIERLI: In Switzerland, modern architecture has a very strong tradition and it was very much part of the curriculum of Art History. Stanislaus von Moos, an eminent art and architectural historian, became my first teacher and through him, I became fascinated with modern architecture. I did my master’s thesis on Robert Venturi’s tenure at the American Academy in Rome, where I was interested in exploring the relationship of post-war Italian architecture and American postmodernism, and, more generally, the intellectual genesis of Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture, a book that he published 10 years after he returned from Rome.