Inhabiting the Atmosphere: The Queen Alexandra Sanatorium in Davos
Indexnummer: 9'11,, Staatsarchiv Thurgau
Technical University of Darmstadt | Department for Architecture | Seminar room 437

Lecture (members only)

Inhabiting the Atmosphere: The Queen Alexandra Sanatorium in Davos

Tim Altenhof

The Queen Alexandra Sanatorium in Davos makes regular appearances in the historiography of modern architecture and yet it has never been addressed in depth. A pioneering structure toward an alpine modernity, it was designed by the Swiss architects Otto Wilhelm Pfleghard and Max Haefeli Sr., and opened its doors in 1909 for British TB patients of little means. While previous scholarship on sanatoriums traced their impact on modern architecture, or stressed their potential as medical technologies, this talk examines through a combination of archival research, historic climate studies, and recent scholarship, how medical thinking and scientific conceptions of the atmosphere inflected the design and location of this structure. Ultimately, this sanatorium was a building to expose its patients to the atmosphere rather than to protect them against the weather and it could only do so because the surrounding air was considered pure and perfectly still. And could it be, that the atmosphere itself served as a proxy-envelope for this structure?

Tim Altenhof is an architect and a university assistant in architectural theory at the University of Innsbruck. He holds a PhD from Yale University, where his dissertation, entitled Breathing Space: The Architecture of Pneumatic Beings, was awarded the Theron Rockwell Field Prize in 2018. An excerpt of this work, which was published in English and Italian under the title “The House-As-Chimney: Erich Mendelsohn’s Breathing Space at Luckenwalde”, won the Bruno Zevi Prize 2018. During the fall semester 2022, Tim was an International Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Study in the Humanities (KWI) Essen.

Tim Altenhof is a guest at the AO-Jour Fixe and will present his current research.