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Mark Jarzombek, Professor of the History and Theory of Architecture
Diplom Architekt. ETH: 1980
Ph.D. MIT: 1986


Jarzombek works on a wide range of topics – both historical and theoretical. He is one of the country’s leading advocates for global history and has published several books and articles on that topic, including the ground-breaking textbook entitled A Global History of Architecture (Wiley Press, 2006) with co-author Vikramaditya Prakash and with the noted illustrator Francis D.K. Ching. He is the sole author of Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective  (Wiley Press, 2013), which is a sensitive synthesis of first society architecture through time and includes custom-made drawings, maps and photographs. The book builds on the latest research in archeological and anthropological knowledge while at the same time challenging some of their received perspectives.


Jarzombek is currently working on a book that interrogates the digital/global imaginaries that shape our lives. A chapter from that book has recently been published. Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age (University of Minnesota Press, 2016).


Jarzombek’s ground-breaking work on global architecture history was highlighted by a 2.5 million dollar grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation that Jarzombek received with co-PI, Vikramaditya Prakash (University of Washington, Seattle), to create a new scholarly entity called Global Architecture History Teaching Collaborative (GAHTC). Promoting the development and exchange of teaching materials for architectural history education across the globe, the collaborative provides awards to members and their teams to develop new lecture material from global perspectives.


Through EdX, Jarzombek taught the first ever MOOC (mass open online course) on the history of architecture with thousands of participants, world-wide. It is based on the undergraduate course that he teaches 4.605:  A Global History of Architecture.


Jarzombek's and Prakash's other joint venture is the Architecture (Un)certainty Lab [A(U)L], which is dedicated to challenging architecture's epistemological and design capacities and bring the conversation back into a world of immersive ambiguities. A(U)L is the pedagogical wing of O(U)R, [Office for (Un)certainty Research] the project-oriented studio that is also run by Jarzombek and Prakash.


Urban destruction in the modern era is another focus of Jarzombek's work. His Urban Heterology: Dresden and the Dialectics of Post-Traumatic History takes on the issue of how erasure and rebuilding in Dresden force us to rethink the conventions of urban history. The issue is also at the core of the book about Krzysztof Wodiczko, City of Refuge: A 9/11 Memorial, which Jarzombek edited with Mechtild Widrich. He is currently working on a book called Architecture Modernity Enlightenment that reassesses contemporary architecture from the perspective of Enlightenment philosophers. His most recent book is Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age .

He was a CASVA fellow (1985), Post-doctoral Resident Fellow at the J. Paul Getty Center for the History of Humanities and Art, Santa Monica, California (1986), a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton, NJ (1993), at the Canadian Center for Architecture (2001) and at the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute (2005). He serves on the board of several journals and academic institutions including the SSRC and the Buell Foundation, and was a member of the 2011 Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation) "Excellence Initiative." 

Jarzombek has organized several major international conferences on topics such as Holocaust Memorials, Architecture and Cultural Studies, and East European Architecture. He was the founding faculty editor of Thresholds, an annual peer-reviewed journal produced by the Department of Architecture. The content of which features leading scholars and practitioners from the fields of architecture, art, and cultural studies.


Latest publications:

Husserl and the Problem of Worldliness,” Log 42, 2018, pp.  67 -  79. In sentence two of Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology (1913), Edmund Husserl introduces the word World (Welt). What does Husserl mean with the word? I could have taken a broad view of his writings, but instead what I am doing here is reading Ideas sentence by sentence from the beginning, interpreting as I go as if Husserl were in a type of conversation with earlier philosophers. The sub-text of my discussion is a larger exploration of the status of that mysterious word - World - in colonial-era thinking. Needless to say, European 19th century philosophy never rose to the occasion of critique, so one has to chase after the repressed to make philosophy speak despite itself. I argue that Husserl delaminates Welt from Kant’s Weltbürger and Hegel’s Weltgeschichte to create a stand alone imaginary that is, ironically and tragically, opposed to the specter of worldliness. Ultimately the question for me is to understand the difference between World and Global.


"Borneo: The River Effect and the Spirit World Millionaires" in A History of Architecture and Trade, Edited by Patrick Haughey (London: Routledge, 2018) 80 – 114. This article looks at the upstream trade into Borneo, one of the main wealth-producing areas of SE Asia. My article challenges the more conventional privileging of ‘downstream’ trade in the narratives of SE Asian trade. The upstream trade was wealth-producing in its own right, though not technically ‘trade’ since commodity exchanges were oriented around the wealth of – and wealth-making capacity of – the long-house ancestors. Based on this argument we can better understand the processes by which the civilizations beginning in the 18th century slowly but inextricably altered and eventually completely decommissioned the exchange capacity of the local Borneo communities. My sources  are the numerous accounts of travelers, traders and explorers from the 19th- and 20th- centuries.


“Positioning the Global Imaginary: Arata Isozaki, 1970,” Critical Inquiry 44 (Spring 2018), 498 – 527. This article uses the early work of the Japanese architect Arata Isozaki as well as first publications of the Japanese journal Global Architecture as lenses by which to discuss the history of the word ‘global.’ In these contexts, the word meant something altogether different and more interesting than in the context of the U.S. I also argue that much of the theoretical flavor of that was implied by the term in the 1970s has long since been lost in the current trend of global-washing.


Digital Stockholm Syndrome in the Post-Ontological Age (University of Minnesota Press, 2016). Once, humans were what they believed. Now, the modern person is determined by data exhaust—an invisible anthropocentric ether of ones and zeros that is a product of our digitally monitored age. I argue that the world has become redesigned to fuse the algorithmic with the ontological, and the discussion of ontology must be updated to rethink the question of Being.


"Presence and the Architectural Imperative" in Presence: A conversation at Cabaret Voltaire, Zürich, Edited by Jürg Bertold, Philip Ursprung, Mechtild Widrich, pp. 89 – 99

In this article, as part of a conversation, I argue that even though we like to think that presence is above all an ontological question, it is something that can only be described through an architectural frame. Architecture is the arbiter of presence, just as presence is the arbiter of metaphysics.


"Architecture: The Global Imaginary in an Antiglobal World," Grey Room 61 (Fall 2015) 111-125. This article frames the problematic conflation by some scholars of global history with globalization and. I argue that just because the world global is in the world global history does not mean that it functions in a ‘global’ way or that it bland, uncritical , accommodation to infinite number of ‘locals.’ I argue that the reason global needs to be placed before ‘history of architecture’ is to challenge not only the disciplinary formations architectural history, but also the various false ‘globals’ that claim to speak for the global.


"Eco-Pop" in The Return of Nature: Sustaining Architecture in the Face of Sustainability Edited by Preston Scott Cohen and Erika Naginski (NY: Routledge, 2015), pp. 121-129. This article is a play on the false promises and indeed the faux science of ARUP. If they are in essence making stuff up in hope of making us believe that there is some ‘science’ of Sustainability, then let us go into the theoretical question of illusion. Maybe there is more truth to be told there about architecture’s future role as a modifier of our cultural imaginary.


The Rise of the So-called Premodern. GSAPP Transcripts: The Urgencies of Architectural Theory (Columbia University, 2015), 132-143. A silent revolution has taken place in architectural teaching in the last decade or so. Disciplines like Renaissance Architecture as well as elective courses in anthropology and sociology have slowly disappeared with an increased emphasis on ‘the modern.’ In the resultant backwash we see a new ‘discipline’ emerging, the Premodern, Why is there no criticism and what are the possible implications of this disaster.


"The Shanghai Expo and the Rise of Pop-Arch," Log 31 (Spring/Summer 2014), pp. 145-160. This paper challenges the hegemony of abstraction and points to architectural formations that have not been seen as valid from a theoretical formation. The paper coins the term Arch-Pop to try to focus our attention on a set of buildings that work with literalness as their design methodology.


Architecture of First Societies: A Global Perspective (Wiley Press, 2013). It is the first textbook in several decades to study the rich history of architectural production beginning from our first social formations some 200,000 years ago. The text moves from first societies to chiefdom cultures leading up to the fateful encounter with colonialism and other forms of modernity. The book is richly illustrated with photographs, custom-made drawings and maps.


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