Wilhelm Schütte, Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky, Shimomura Shōtarō, Erica Taut, and Bruno Taut (seated), Mr. Wilson (standing), at the house of Shimomura Shōtarō in Kyōto (Japan), 1934.
“Dear Comrade,” or Exile in a Communist World: Resistance, Feminism, and Urbanism in Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky’s Work in China, 1934/1956
In the 1930s and the 1950s China recruited thousands of foreign "experts” to consult on programs to modernize the country. Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky (1897–2000), an Austrian architect and postwar member of the Communist Party, was invited to participate in these programs in both periods. Today Schütte-Lihotzky has been canonized in this history of architecture for her interwar contributions to modern housing and educational institutions in Austria, Germany, the Soviet Union, and Turkey. Recent scholarship has shown, however, that both, her architectural and political efforts, spanned more than eight decades. Schütte-Lihotzky was actively involved in the Austrian Communist Resistance in the 1940s, as well as the Austrian women’s movement, the international peace movement, and transnational architectural organizations such as the International Congress of Modern Architecture (ciam), and the Union of International Architects (uia) in the postwar years. By focusing on two extended research trips Schütte-Lihotzky made to China in 1934 and 1956, this essay positions her work in a wider discourse about the agency of female architects as well as the networks of communist intellectuals during the Cold War. It presents Schütte-Lihotzky’s endeavors in China as a lens for examining the complex entanglements of gender, class, and ethnicity in international women’s organizations as well as instances of “othering” perpetuated by European architects who served as foreign “experts” abroad. Finally, the essay also argues that Schütte-Lihotzky’s travel coincided with moments of China’s effort to build relationships with countries abroad. While her book manuscript Millionenstädte Chinas, completed in 1958, thus serves as a document chronicling these exchanges in design culture, at the time Schütte-Lihotzky understood it as a preparatory text for devising a global architectural history written from a communist vantage point.
Hochhäusl, S. “’Dear Comrade,’ or Exile in a Communist World: Resistance, Feminism, and Urbanism in Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky’s Work in China, 1934/1956,” ABE Journal, No. 16 (2020): 1-45 DOI: https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.7169