Display Architecture: Department Stores and Modern Retail (July 2014)

Contacts: see below.
Deadline for submission of abstracts: 15 July 2014

The opening in the mid-nineteenth century of the first “cathedrals of consumption” that were the department stores gave birth to an array of strategies meant to enhance the presentation of merchandize. From new materials (glass and iron) and new lighting techniques (electricity) to new technologies of mobility (the elevator) and new spaces for socializing (art galleries, writing rooms, or dressing chambers), nothing was spared that could turn the heads of even the most adamant enemies of shopping. The store was for display and display made the store.

This volume seeks to explore the interior and exterior architecture of department stores in new ways. It departs from the premise that the presentation of merchandize cannot be separated from modern materials and building techniques that have been the preferred topics of art and architectural historians so far. Consequently, the volume proposes to challenge the traditional hierarchy of materials and to replace brick and mortar, paint and stone with artificial flowers, theatrical props, tantalizing fabrics and wax mannequins ­ which, together, form a real architecture of display. By asking scholars to engage with new materials and new media, the panel proposes to redefine commercial display design as an essential component of modern art and architecture.

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