The Synthesis of the Arts and MoMa





Modern Movement, Modern architecture, Modern housing


1948-49 were key years for the reaction of the Museum of Modern Art’s newly amalgamated Department of Architecture and Design to respond to the rising discourse on the “Synthesis of the Arts.” The response was indirect and took the form of MoMA assessing the progress of modern architecture that it had been describing and forecasting for fifteen years. The exhibition “From Le Corbusier to Niemeyer, 1929–1949” was part of a larger assessment of the fate of the international style and of the interaction between abstraction in painting and sculpture and in architectural design, a theme laid out by Alfred Barr and Hitchcock in the 1948 book Painting Toward Architecture. Niemeyer’s unbuilt Treamine House, designed with Roberto Burle Marx, was upheld as a synthesis not only of the arts but of the movements coalescing towards a postwar abstract consensus.

How to Cite

Bergdoll, B. (2010). The Synthesis of the Arts and MoMa. Docomomo Journal, (42), 110–113.




Author Biography

Barry Bergdoll, Columbia University

Is the Philip Johnson Chief Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art and professor of modern architectural history at Columbia University. He is author or editor of numerous publications including, Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity (winner of the 2010 Award for Outstanding Exhibition Catalogue, Association of Art Museum Curators); Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling (2008); Mies in Berlin (2001); Karl Friedrich Schinkel: An Architecture for Prussia (1994); Léon Vaudoyer: Historicism in the Age of Industry (1994); and European Architecture 1750–1890, in the Oxford History of Art series (2001). He served as President of the Society of Architectural Historians from 2006 to 2008. Among the recent exhibitions he has organized are “Rising Currents: Projects for New York’s Waterfront” at MoMA (through October 11, 2010); “Bauhaus 1919–1933: Workshops for Modernity” at MoMA (2009– 10); “Home Delivery: Fabricating the Modern Dwelling” at MoMA (2008); “Mies in Berlin” at MoMA (2001), with Terence Riley.