Architecture, neoliberalism and after
Half a century ago, it was still possible to believe that architecture was made for the greater good of all. This conviction became eroded by the awareness arising in the 1960s that architecture, like other industrial objects, is a consumer product: architecture must sell. From the late 1970s onwards, the conviction became further eroded by the realisation that architecture may be ultimately driven by the market, by developers and speculation in real estate, more than by consumer satisfaction.
Rem Koolhaas’s text, Junkspace, describes architecture as a by-product of modernity, as its waste. Junkspace seems to demontrate that the core value upon which architecture had been founded, that of a professional design service, is no longer relevant. Beyond Junkspace, there is arguably nothing except economic activity. The financial crisis of 2008 changed all this. The faith in the rationality of markets collapsed and austerity now prevails. In turn a period of soul-searching has begun. 8 years after the crisis, no clear answers have been found to justify the existence of the profession and explain its vocation to the public. Several possibilities will be explored under broad thematic headings including experience, ornament, craft, nature and the social. In some respects, architects made significant contributions in these areas. In other respects, shortcomings will be exposed and alternatives will be suggested.
The course will be structured around two sets of lectures running in parallel. The first will take a polemical stance on the themes listed above and set the terms for a discussion. The second will deepen the discussion with a detailed presentation of a building and show how responses to these themes influence the design of buildings. Most examples will be from the recent past.
Student assessmment will take into account attendence to the course, participation in the discussion and a written assignment. The assignment will consist in an essay offering a personal response to a problem outlined in the course and it will further developed in a public powerpoint presentation. It will be evaluated on the basis of the quality of the research, the clarity and imaginativeness of the interpretation, and the effectiveness of the presentation.
Bibliography (for reference)
Rem Koolhaas, “Junkspace”, Content, 2004
Charles Jencks, The Language of Postmodern Architecture, 1977
Eric Mumford, The CIAM discourse on Urbanism: 1928-1960, 2002
William Morris, News from Nowhere, 1881
Jean-Louis Cohen, The Future of Architecture since 1889, 2012
An extensive thematic bibliography will be provided at the beginning of the course.
Lessons will take place in the following dates: 11/12 - 25/26 October, 8/9 - 22/23 November, 6/7 - 20/21 December.