Robin Schuldenfrei

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Robin Schuldenfrei

Katja and Nicolai Tangen Lecturer in 20th-century Modernism
Robin Schuldenfrei

Robin Schuldenfrei’s research and teaching focuses on the history and theory of European and American modern architecture and design. She received her doctorate from Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and previously held positions at the Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin and the University of Illinois at Chicago.

Dr Schuldenfrei is interested in discursive questions—theoretical and practical—of how discourses and practices of design are shaped by a given period’s own cultural and theoretical critique of its media and objects. Her work asks broader questions about how architecture and its objects relate to other products of society’s design: to works of art, to the production of images, to media and technology. She focusses on objects’ subjectivity, materiality, political agency, and social impact and meaning, seeing them as deeply embedded in their period, culture, and intellectual/theoretical climate. To that end, she utilizes both objects and architecture as cultural indices of society at large in order to illustrate the conscious and unconscious perspectives and values of the society that generated them.

She has lectured widely, including: Columbia University, ETH Zürich, Harvard University, MIT, Royal College of Art, Universität für angewandte Kunst Wien, University of Edinburgh, University of Hong Kong, and Yale.


  • BA History of Art Year 1: 19th – and 20th-century Architecture and Design
  • BA History of Art Year 2: The Modern Interior
  • MA History of Art: Experiencing Modernism: Utopia, Functionalism, and Times of Turmoil

Research interests

  • European 20th-century Architecture
  • Interior Architecture and Design
  • German Modernism
  • Architectural Theory
  • History and Theory of the Object

Forthcoming publications

Books and edited books

  • Luxury and Modern Architecture in Germany, 1900-1933.
  • Objects in Exile: World War II and the Displacement of Design.


  • ‘Sober Ornament: Materiality and Luxury in German Modern Architecture and Design’ in Histories of Ornament: From Global to Local, edited by Alina Payne and Gülru Necipoğlu (Princeton: Princeton University Press, forthcoming, 2016).

Recent publications

Edited books


Essays, articles and reviews


  • ‘Der Luxus der Objektivität: Schaufenster um 1914’ (The Luxury of Objectivity: Display Windows around 1914) in 1914. Kunst und Architektur an der Schwelle der Jahrhunderte, edited by Martino Stierli (Basel: Schwabe Verlag, 2015).


  • ‘Existenzminimum as Gesamtkunstwerk’ in The death and life of the total work of art: Henry Van De Velde and the legacy of a modern concept, edited by Carsten Ruhl, Rixt Hoekstra and Chris Dähne (Berlin: Jovis Verlag, 2014).

  • ‘Contra the Großstadt: Mies van der Rohe’s Autonomy and Interiority’ in Interiors and Interiority, edited by Ewa Lajer-Burcharth and Beate Soentgen (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2014).

  • design-history-and-material-cultureIntroduction‘ to Lilly Reich, ‘Questions of Fashion’ (1922) in West 86th: A Journal of Decorative Arts, Design History and Material Culture, volume 21, no. 1 (Spring-Summer 2014): 102-120.


  • The Auratic Productive Object‘ in Alicja Kwade: Grad der Gewissheit (Degree of Certainty), ed. Sylvia Martin (Berlin: Distanz, 2014), 138-147; Deutsch: ‘Das Auratische Produktive Objekt‘, 126-137.


  • Capital Dwelling: Industrial Capitalism, Financial Crisis and the Bauhaus’s Haus am Horn‘ in Architecture and Capitalism: 1845 to the Present, edited by Peggy Deamer (London: Routledge, 2013), p. 71-95.


  • Images in Exile: Lucia Moholy’s Bauhaus Negatives and the Construction of the Bauhaus Legacy‘ in History of Photography, Volume 37, No. 2 (May 2013), pp. 182-203.


  • ‘Bilder im Exil: Lucia Moholys Bauhausfotografien und die Konstruktion des Bauhaus-Erbes’ (Images in Exile: Lucia Moholy’s Bauhaus Photographs and the Making of the Bauhaus Legacy) in Entfernt: Frauen des Bauhauses während der NS-Zeit – Verfolgung und Exil, edited by Inge Hansen-Schaberg, Wolfgang Thöner, and Adriane Feustel (München: Richard Boorberg Verlag, Edition Text + Kritik, 2012), p. 251-273.

  • 3_mythosLuxus, Produktion, Reproduktion‘ (Luxury, Production, Reproduction) in Mythos Bauhaus: Zwischen Selbsterfindung und Enthistorisierung. Edited by Anja Baumhoff and Magdalena Droste (Berlin: Reimer Verlag, 2009), p. 70-89.

  • 2_design&cultureReview of Jill Pearlman, American Modernism: Joseph Hudnut, Walter Gropius, and the Bauhaus Legacy at Harvard (Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2007) for Design & Culture, Volume 1, Issue 3 (November 2009), p. 387-389.

  • 1_design_reclineDesign~Recline: Modern Architecture and the Mid-Century Chaise Longue. Exhibition Catalogue, Harvard University Art Museums Gallery Series, Number 40, 2004.

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