The politics of architecture | Mouffe, Aureli, Whiting et al

Following up on the previous post, you can find below an interesting set of presentations about the politics of architecture by Chantal Mouffe, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Reinhold Martin, Ines Weizman and Sarah Whiting, and the ensuing discussion at the Architectural Association in an event organized by The Architecture Exchange. The roundtable is especially stimulating, with a debate about the figure of the commons in architecture (Aureli, by the way, has a short piece about this).

It is great to see how architects —at least at the academy— are again developing an interest in talking about the political dimension of design, although this is often done in a subtle way that postpones or obscures the most pressing everyday issues on the city streets. But this is undoubtedly a great step out of the comfort zone of aesthetic celebration of previous decades. Fifteen years ago, still an undergraduate student with Tafuri in tow, I was told that one could not go too far in architectural critique using political arguments…perhaps this professor —actually a very talented practitioner— was one of the reasons why I decided to turn to planning and urban studies afterwards. Indeed it is ironic that most architects writing about politics today are using the city as an unescapable counterpoint for their theorizations, even if they are focusing on design objects. Urbanism takes revenge, after all…

The Architecture Exchange organized a similar panel about the work of Graham Harman and the idea of an object-oriented architecture; more information and videos here.

Publicado en Architecture, Espacio y política, Manfredo Tafuri, Pier Vittorio Aureli, Political urbanism, Space and politics | Etiquetado , , , , , , , , , | Deja un comentario

CfP The Architecture of Capital

Call for papers for an interesting panel in the next AAG meeting in San Francisco. More info here.


The Architecture of Capital: Rethinking the Geographies of Design in a Planetary Moment

AAG Annual Meeting, San Francisco, March 29-April 2, 2016


Adam Kaasa, Royal College of Art

Pushpa Arabindoo, University College London


Following the emergence of a renewed debate about the relationship of architecture to processes of capitalist urbanization, a series of opposing conceptions of architectural or design methods have been espoused as either a tool of capital (Brenner 2015), or as a space of political imagination (Lefebvre 2014). Within architecture itself, the discourse similarly moves between the emancipatory politics of an architectural imagination (Lahiji 2014), and the persistence of early Marxist criticism established by Manfredo Tafuri (1979) and Frederic Jameson (1998) that architecture is an integral part of the capitalist project, entrenching existing power relations.

As a result, inter-disciplinary conversations between architecture and the social sciences resonate around what is essentially a “negative dialectic”. This is particularly seen in efforts by scholars to develop a language around the geographies of architecture. This ranges from, on the one hand, the works of King (1990, 2003) on the globalization of architecture, to a particular emphasis on non-representational theory in the relationship between design intention and use or appropriation (Lees 2001; Lees and Baxter 2011; Kraftl and Adey 2008); Kraftl 2010; Jacobs and Merriman 2011), as well as, on the other hand, the consideration of architecture as a “big thing”, an assemblage of materials and political and economic processes (Jacobs 2006; Jacobs and Cairns 2008; Jacobs, Cairns and Strebel 2012a, 2012b). And yet, the relationship between architecture and capitalism in relation to processes of urbanization remains not only dichotomized, but also under-theorised. This is not simply an analytic gap, but has profound consequences for architectural pedagogy, for the entrenchment of disciplinary assumptions, and for the ability to forge new and inclusive urban politics that foreground design.

In this panel, we seek to bring together scholars working on issues related to revisiting the relationship of architecture and capitalism. We seek papers that move beyond the totalizing narratives of architecture as a process and product of contemporary capitalism to theorizing the complexity of architectural method, rethinking the globalization of architectural production and design, and documenting the emergence of alternative models for architectural practice, and their relationships to structures of labour, class, race and gender, as well as material and political ecologies.

Building on calls to rethink the relationship of architecture and geography beyond convenient narratives that might flatten both (Cairns and Jacobs, forthcoming 2015), we invite papers that interrogate architecture from a variety of geographical sites and moments. Topics across the global North and global South could include:

  • historical relationships between architecture, urbanism, and capitalism (reconsidering them theoretically and empirically)
  • emerging forms of the architectural collective
  • changing or entrenched geographies of architectural pedagogy, design and production
  • alternative architectural methods and practice (reconsidering tactics and strategies)
  • non-architectural built environment, architecture without architects
  • design process as a political possibility
  • political possibilities of an architectural imaginary (revisiting the propositional method)
  • thinking architectural possibility through critical queer, feminist, post-colonial, decolonial, or other perspectives
  • provincialising architecture beyond the canon

If you are interested in joining the panel, please send abstracts of up to 250 words to Adam Kaasa and Pushpa Arabindoo by October 21.

We will let participants know if they have been accepted by October 23. Accepted participants will then need to register online for the AAG meeting by the deadline of October 29. We are aiming for this panel to lay a strong foundation for a possible special issue edited by the organizers.

References cited

Brenner, Neil. 2015. “Is ‘Tactical Urbanism’ an Alternative to Neoliberal Urbanism? | Post.” Post: Notes on Modern & Contemporary Art Around the Globe. March 24.

Cairns, S. and J. M. Jacobs, Eds. 2015. Architecture and Geography: Inter-Disciplining Space, Reimagining Territory. Abingdon and New York, Routledge.

Jacobs, Jane M. 2006. “A Geography of Big Things.” Cultural Geographies 13 (1): 1–27. doi:10.1191/1474474006eu354oa.

Jacobs, Jane M, and Stephen Cairns. 2008. “The Modern Touch: Interior Design and Modernisation in Post-Independence Singapore.” Environment and Planning A 40 (3): 572–95. doi:10.1068/a39123.

Jacobs, Jane M., Stephen Cairns, and Ignaz Strebel. 2012a. “Doing Building Work: Methods at the Interface of Geography and Architecture.” Geographical Research 50 (2): 126–40. doi:10.1111/j.1745-5871.2011.00737.x.

———. 2012b. “Materialising Vision: Performing a High-Rise View.” In Visuality/ Materiality: Images, Objects and Practices, edited by Gillian Rose and Divya Praful Tolia-Kelly, 133–52. London: Ashgate Publishing Company.

Jacobs, Jane M., and Peter Merriman. 2011. “Practising Architectures.” Social & Cultural Geography 12 (3): 211–22. doi:10.1080/14649365.2011.565884.

Jameson, Fredric. 1998. “The Brick and the Balloon: Architecture, Idealism and Land Speculation.” New Left Review, I, , no. 228 (April): 25–46.

King, Anthony. 1990. “Architecture, Capital and the Globalization of Culture.” Theory, Culture & Society 7 (2): 397–411. doi:10.1177/026327690007002023.

King, Anthony D. 2003. “Writing Transnational Planning Histories.” In Urbanism Imported or Exported: Native Aspirations and Foreign Plans, edited by Joe Nasr and Mercedes Volait. Chichester, Wast Sussex: Wiley-Academy.

Kraftl, Peter. 2010. “Geographies of Architecture: The Multiple Lives of Buildings.” Geography Compass 4 (5): 402–15. doi:10.1111/j.1749-8198.2010.00332.x.

Kraftl, Peter, and Peter Adey. 2008. “Architecture/Affect/Inhabitation: Geographies of Being-In Buildings.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 98 (1): 213–31. doi:10.1080/00045600701734687.

Lahiji, N., Ed. 2014. Architecture against the post-political: Essays in re-claiming the critical project. Abingdon and New York, Routledge.

Lees, Loretta. 2001. “Towards A Critical Geography of Architecture: The Case of an Ersatz Colosseum.” Cultural Geographies 8 (1): 51–86. doi:10.1177/096746080100800103.

Lees, Loretta, and Richard Baxter. 2011. “A ‘building Event’ of Fear: Thinking through the Geography of Architecture.” Social & Cultural Geography 12 (2): 107–22. doi:10.1080/14649365.2011.545138.

Lefebvre, Henri. 2014. Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment. Edited by Łukasz Stanek. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.

Tafuri, Manfredo. 1979. Architecture and Utopia: Design and Capitalist Development. The MIT Press.

Publicado en Arquitectura, Arquitectura y crítica | Etiquetado , , , , , | 1 Comentario

Recuperando la ciudad │ Encuentro sobre regeneración urbana integrada

El grupo de investigación Re-Hab organiza en Madrid, durante la semana próxima (5-7 octubre), el encuentro de conclusiones de su investigación de varios años sobre los procesos de regeneración urbana integrada. Además de sintetizar los resultados de su trabajo —que entre otros incluye una herramienta de evaluación de operaciones de RUI, presentada durante las jornadas— el evento reunirá en la discusión a un diverso abanico de agentes, de representantes políticos y vecinales a académicos de diversas disciplinas implicados en este tipo de procesos — urbanismo, arquitectura, antropología… El encuentro concluirá con una sesión de lanzamiento de la iniciativa Habitat III de la Oficina ONU-Habitat en España.

Pueden encontrar el programa completo aquí y más información sobre los proyectos desarrollados por el grupo aquí.


Publicado en DUyOT, Regeneración urbana | Etiquetado , , , | 1 Comentario

History of the Present – the Berkeley newsletter on Foucault’s work online


Stuart Elden provides the links to History of the Present, Paul Rabinow’s (ed.) newsletter on Foucault.

Originalmente publicado en Progressive Geographies:

History of the Present, the newsletter devoted to Foucault’s work published by Paul Rabinow and edited by him and other people at Berkeley is available online. I’d been looking for copies in libraries, and the online version took a little while to find, so I hope others will find it helpful.

History of the Present no 1– February 1985 Issue (pdf)

– Spring 1986 Issue (pdf)

– Fall 1987 Issue (pdf)

– Spring 1988 Issue (pdf)

They include translations of interviews with Foucault, at least one of which is not available elsewhere, an interview with Deleuze, reviews, pieces by researchers using Foucault’s ideas, and so on. I’m intrigued by the stage performance of History of Sexuality

These, and many other publications, are listed on the webpage of Paul Rabinow’s Anthropos Lab.

I’ve also added these to the list of uncollected notes, lectures and interviews on this site.

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Landscape, territory, photography

As I mentioned in a previous post, the semester ahead is full of dissertation committees, six in the next few months. One of the most impressive works I have reviewed so far is Carlos Santamarina’s Culture and representation of the man-made landscape: creating the image of American territory (Universidad de Valladolid). I was initially reluctant about my participation in this committee because the dissertation focuses only partially on topics I had previously dealt with, but of course the upside of this situation is that you get the chance to learn a lot if the investigation is good, which is the case.

Timothy O'Sullivan (1876) Cañón de Chelle

Timothy O’Sullivan (1876) Cañón de Chelle

Santamarina analyzes the history and connections between material practices, visual representations and the production of theory in the imagination of US landscape, in a period that expands from mid-nineteenth century up to the 1970s. More specifically, the author suggests that certain political-economic forces of spatial transformation produce territory in a way that generates and is at the same time reinforced by certain modes of visualization —in the dissertation, successive trends in the history of American photography— which in turn shape collective imaginaries and, particularly, the development of landscape theory. So all in all the research fuses a (material) history of spatial change, a (cultural) history of photographic representation and a(n) (intellectual) history of ideas and discourses about landscape, focusing on three stages: the frontier and the imagination of wilderness in the 19th century; state planning, territorial restructuring  and the re-figuration of rurality in the New Deal; and the generalization of suburbia and the discursive and visual production of a new vernacular in the postwar period.

W.H. Jackson (1871) Green River Canyon of Desolation

W.H. Jackson (1871) Green River Canyon of Desolation

The author develops this argument by examining the forces of spatial production in each context and then by confronting diverse strands of photographic representation and particular theories (or thinkers) of landscape. The experiment, it must be said, is not always successful. Some periods appear to adapt much better to this hypothesis and method than others. E.g. the second part, comparing New Deal back-to-the-land policies and the FSA’s Photographic Unit’s production with the work of Carl O. Sauer and the Berkeley school of cultural landscape, has in my opinion some major weaknesses in periodization and in terms of the very focus of each field — state intervention and social photography are inextricably linked in this period, but not landscape theory.

Ansel Adams (1943) Farm workers and Mt. Williamson

Ansel Adams (1943) Farm workers and Mt. Williamson

Dorothea Lange (1938) Highway to the West

Dorothea Lange (1938) Highway to the West

Walker Evans (1936) Downie Bros Circus comes to Lynchburg, South Carolina

Walker Evans (1936) Downie Bros Circus comes to Lynchburg, South Carolina

Edward Weston (1934) Lettuce Ranch, Salinas

Edward Weston (1934) Lettuce Ranch, Salinas

But the argument is powerful enough to sustain the whole narrative and it really works in the other two parts; the images, of course, are great, as you can see in the selection here. The first section connects the development of the frontier to the emergence of a preservationist ethic in the work fo George P. Marsh, Arnold H. Guyot or Nathaniel Shaler, and to the production of ‘topographic’ photographers such as Timothy O’ Sullivan and William Bell, or others such as William H. Jackson or John K. Hillers.

Timothy O'Sullivan (1867) Turfa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada

Timothy O’Sullivan (1867) Turfa Domes, Pyramid Lake, Nevada

W.H. Jackson (ca. 1880) Grand Canyon Colorado

W.H. Jackson (ca. 1880) Grand Canyon Colorado

The third part —which actually comprises half of the dissertation— focuses on the writings of Christopher Tunnard and Boris Pushkarev, Clarence Glacken, Peter Blake, Robert Venturi, and, especially, John Brinckerhoff Jackson, following the formation of a new sensibility and appreciation of the conventional everyday landscapes of the highway, advertisement and suburban/post-rural America as a new national vernacular, which is then illustrated through the visual work of Ed Ruscha, William Christenberry, David Plowden and the ‘New Topographics’ group —Stephen Shore, Robert Adams, Frank Gohlke…— amongst others.

David Plowden (1967) Statue of Liberty from Caven Point Road, NJ

David Plowden (1967) Statue of Liberty from Caven Point Road, NJ

Ed Ruscha (1962) Gas stations

Ed Ruscha (1962) Gas stations

For me, the celebration and aestheticization of back-door suburban and rural America implicit in Jackson’s and others’ approaches is extremely problematic, epitomizing the dark side of landscape studies and design, i.e. a form of knowledge that uncritically accepts the politics and planning behind extant forms of spatial configuration by elevating them to the condition of new cultural paradigm. But Santamarina’s parallel narrative with the micro-history of photography shows the visual context through which these discourses emerged, and the link between theory and representation is absolutely clear.

Stephen Shore (1975) Presidio, Texas

Stephen Shore (1975) Presidio, Texas

Stephen Shore (1973) Amarillo, Texas

Stephen Shore (1973) Amarillo, Texas

William Christenberry (1977) Uniontown, Alabama

William Christenberry (1977) Uniontown, Alabama

I enjoyed this dissertation a lot. It is ambitious, compelling and visually striking. Congratulations to the candidate and his advisor — I hope that, with the necessary revision and re-elaboration, we see this work published as a book in the future.

Publicado en Landscape theory, Paisaje urbano, Photography | Etiquetado , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Deja un comentario



A review of the Urban Theory Lab exhibition at Melbourne School of Design back in March, on the Society & Space blog.

Originalmente publicado en Society and space:


Figure 1: The main exhibition room of Operational Landscapes in the Melbourne School of Design (photograph by Louise Dorignon, 2015, work by UTL-GSD Harvard)

From the 17th to the 29th of March 2015, the Andrew Lee King Fun Gallery (ALKF Gallery), located within the Faculty of Architecture, Building and Planning at Melbourne University, hosted the exhibition Operational Landscapes: Towards an Alternative Cartography of World Urbanization, featuring a series of scientific activities directed by Neil Brenner from Harvard University (including a public lecture by Brenner fully available here).

In 2014, as the Head of the Urban Theory Lab (UTL) at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design (GSD), Brenner published an influential book entitled Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization. The 2015 exhibition brought some of the ideas of Implosions/Explosions to Melbourne. Given the book’s cover photograph, by Garth Lenz, of oil sands in Alberta, Canada (Figure 2)…

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After Neil Smith Tribute

The webpage of the Espais Crítics collective has now links to the set of presentations of the conference in tribute to the late Neil Smith. It was a remarkable and yet kind of sad occasion, given Neil’s absence in what would have otherwise been a festive celebration of his contribution to critical geography and urban studies — as I mentioned in a previous post the conference was organized to coincide with the publication of the book on Smith by Luz Marina García Herrera and Fernando Sabaté Bel, who were working on the manuscript before he passed away. In any case, the event was rich and deep enough to resuscitate his spirit in Barcelona and the final visits and activities with social movements in Raval (see some photographs here) were perfectly attuned to Neil’s wise balance between powerful theoretical production and the solidarity and engagement with concrete struggles on the street.


The papers generally focused on the application of Smith’s analysis of gentrification to a number of diverse contexts, but there were also contributions addressing his work on uneven development, the production of nature and imperialism. I missed materials using the notion of the politics of scale, though. The keynote interventions (videos below) by García Herrera and Sabaté, Eric Clark, Tom Slater and Don Mitchell were highly interesting, the latter two providing superb climaxes for the two days of the conference (Slater in the first video from 1:29:50 on and Mitchell in the second video from 1:03:30 on).

Publicado en Espacios Críticos, Neil Smith | Etiquetado , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comentario