• Precious Metal: German Steel, Modernity, and Ecology
    Peter H. Christensen
    Penn State University Press, 2022
    Peter H. Christensen

T. L. Dawes, "Mining on the Comstock," 1877. Courtesy Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division, Washington, DC

By following the life of steel from the collection of raw minerals and metals to the distribution of finished goods in the long nineteenth century instead of examining heroic architectural forms made from steel, this book will challenge the traditional narrative that architectural steel was the primary and heroic material that made architectural modernism. As the author is a specialist of modern Germany, the project’s documentary center of gravity will be the titans of the German, and global, steel industry at the time: Krupp and Thyssen. However, as a project with global ambitions, it also interweaves analysis with substantive, comparative material from France, Turkey, England, and the United States. The book explores the ways in which environmental and architectural history are lenses for understanding how steel, as an object, materialized a dynamism of meaning that economic and political power could not achieve.

Peter H. Christensen is associate professor of art history at the University of Rochester. His specialization is modern architectural and environmental history, particularly of Germany, Central Europe, and the Middle East. His theoretical interests center on issues of geopolitics and multiculturalism. He also maintains a strong interest in infrastructure, materiality, and architecture's interrelationship with ecology. He is the author of Germany and the Ottoman Railway Network: Art, Empire, and Infrastructure (Yale University Press, 2017), winner of the 2020 Alice Davis Hitchcock Award from the Society of Architectural Historians for the most distinguished work of scholarship in the history of the built environment by a North American Scholar. Christensen received his doctorate from Harvard University in architecture, landscape architecture, and urban planning. He is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Deutscher Akademischer Austausch Dienst (DAAD), and Fulbright Foundation, among others.