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The Underground Above Ground

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Going Underground: Travel Beneath the Metropolis 1863-2013
Lucy Maulsby
The Underground Above Ground
17 January 2013 
Air cooling on trial at Victoria station (Wikipedia)

Air cooling on trial at Victoria station (Wikipedia)

Abstract: Architectural historians interested in underground transportation systems have largely focused on the representational character of the passenger stations, such as those designed by Otto Wagner in Vienna and Hector Guimard in Paris, and positioned these works within standard are historical narratives, particularly the emergence of the avant-garde in the twentieth century. In contrast, my paper analyzes and discusses the ways in which architects, engineers, and others gave visual form to the more mundane but no less important functional elements of these transportation systems. Though the primary example of the Southwest Corridor Transit Project (Stull & Lee, 1987) in Boston – which made ventilation shafts a visible part of a new public park that laced through an established residential community – I trace changing attitudes toward subway infrastructure from the late eighteenth into the twentieth century. How and to what extent have architects participated in shaping the form and character of the mechanical equipment that is now an inevitable part of the urban landscape? To what extent have changing technologies (the switch from steam to electrically powered lines) changed the character of these projects? How do the different strategies employed by designers and engineers – from the masking of these systems behind false fronts as in Victorian London to their guarded acknowledgment in the Boston example – offer different models for understanding the extent to which infrastructure participates in the representation of civic life.

Biography: Lucy Maulsby received her M.Phil. in the History and Theory of Architecture from Cambridge University in England, before earning her PhD at Columbia University in New York in 2007. Her scholarship focuses on the relationships between architecture, urbanism, and politics, with a particular emphasis on architecture in modern Italy. Maulsby is currently completing her book manuscript Fascism, Architecture and the Claiming of Modern Milan to be published by Toronto University Press in 2013. She has presented her research in journal articles, book chapters and at numerous national and international conferences. She is currently an Assistant Professor at Northeastern University in Boston where she teaches courses in nineteenth and twentieth century architectural and urban history.

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