Past Event

Collins/Kaufmann Forum: Łukasz Stanek, "The Gift: Stories of Generosity and Violence in Architecture”

March 25, 2024
11:30 AM - 1:30 PM
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934 Schermerhorn Hall

Architectural gifts are everywhere: libraries funded by wealthy philanthropists, shelters donated by humanitarian organizations, farms paid for with development grants, mosques financed by Islamic foundations, and stadiums handed over as part of diplomatic charm offensives. Embedded in religious and imperial traditions of gift-giving, architectural gifts shape the urbanization process across the world. This talk presents the research and exhibition project recently opened at the Architekturmuseum der TUM in Munich. Developed in collaboration with local scholars and communities, the exhibition presents four case studies, including humanitarian gifts to Skopje in North Macedonia; land donations in Kumasi, Ghana; diplomatic gifts to Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia; and philanthropic gifts in East Palo Alto in California. It shows how the unequal relationship between the giver and the receiver results in both generosity and violence exerted by and through architecture. It explores how the giving and receiving of architecture impacts the production of these buildings, including their program, design, and materiality, as well as labor relations on the construction site. It questions how architectural gifts produce social bonds, and whether the obligations of the receiver and the giver persist after a building’s completion. At a time when the capacity of both democracy and the market to achieve redistributive justice is widely called into question, the gift appears as both a promise and a threat.

Łukasz Stanek is Professor of Architectural History at A. Alfred Taubman College of Architecture and Urban Planning, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, USA. Stanek authored Henri Lefebvre on Space: Architecture, Urban Research, and the Production of Theory (Minnesota, 2011) and Architecture in Global Socialism: Eastern Europe, West Africa, and the Middle East in the Cold War (Princeton, 2020). Stanek taught at the ETH Zurich (Switzerland), the University of Manchester (UK), and held guest professorships at Harvard University (USA) and the University of Ghana (Ghana). He recently co-curated the exhibition The Gift: Stories of Generosity and Violence in Architecture at the Architekturmuseum der TUM (2024).