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Reconstructing Architecture for the Twenty-first Century

Reconstructing Architecture for the Twenty-first Century: An Inquiry into the Architect's World

Copyright Date: 1995
Pages: 224
  • Book Info
    Reconstructing Architecture for the Twenty-first Century
    Book Description:

    This volume is an eloquent and farsighted call for a new approach to thinking about, producing, and inhabiting architecture. Using a richly conceived architectural history as a means for analysing debates that reverberate throughout the arts and human sciences, Anthony Jackson demystifies the myths of the architectural profession and in so doing reveals the way it has arisen out of particular relations of power in a world shifting from autocracy to democracy.

    Jackson exposes the inadequacies of old conceptions of architecture as embodying metaphysical properties, and of architects as the sole keepers of this esoteric knowledge. He challenges architects to acknowledge and celebrate building as an expression of the ideals and values of the broader-based classless communities to which they now belong. The less people are excluded from the design process, the more likely it is to be effective in bringing about a human-made environment which enriches the lives of its inhabitants.

    In examining intersecting ideas about myth, culture, class, and design, the author draws examples from a wide array of architectural styles, ranging from Classical to Post Modern. The result is a work that is extraordinarily provocative and useful for architects, visual artists, cultural historians, and sociologists, as well as for supporters of all forms of participatory democracy.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-7906-1
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. 1 The Problem
    (pp. 3-18)

    There is something very wrong with architecture as it is practised today. Architecture is not something rare that only the initiated can understand. It is just another name for buildings. Like other artefacts, buildings may be considered merely utilitarian or they may be enhanced by various means, such as decorating them to make them more visually attractive, or using them as images to evoke other sensations. In either case, they embody the values of the people who produce them.

    Individuals generally accumulate possessions that suit their own temperaments. But most buildings (other than dwellings) are for communal activities. Collectively, they...

  5. 2 Myth and Architecture
    (pp. 19-56)

    The architects′ contention that their work possesses mystical qualities dates back to ancient times when buildings were steeped in folklore and religion. It was part of a process through which human beings tried to come to terms with the enigma of life by endowing what they thought or made with a transcendental reality of its own. How blocks of stone or pieces of wood were actually elevated into potent symbols is lost in obscurity. Perhaps a rock that served as an object of worship was shaped to represent a god.¹ Or a structure erected to shelter the cult statue assumed...

  6. 3 Architecture and Culture
    (pp. 57-98)

    The idea that buildings should be expressive of the character of the people who live in them is obviously negated by the profession′s presumption that architecture is formed by universal (that is, global) ideals or imperatives or interests. The seminal insight of the eighteenth century that a society and its art were (or, more accurately,oughtto be) related has had only a superficial impact on this situation.

    Instead, two different definitions of culture developed side by side to oppose each other. The traditional meaning of culture (akin to ′cultivated′) continued to stand for an international élite class of artists...

  7. 4 Culture and Class
    (pp. 99-146)

    Because they believe that their designs owe a higher allegiance to an abstract ideal, architects have been unable to respond to the needs of their own communities. The same assumption has also enabled them to dismiss out of hand the aesthetic values of the majority of their fellow citizens. When architects worked directly for the powerful and the rich, it was natural for them to assume that the tastes they shared were better than those of the common people they dominated. The widespread success of capitalism stripped architects of their influential support and left them to defend their superiority on...

  8. 5 Class and Architects
    (pp. 147-186)

    The division that exists between architects and the community at large is obviously not inevitable. This would only follow if art (or more properly, symbols) was something exceptional, that is beyond the grasp of ordinary people. Unfortunately, this is exactly what architects are taught to believe.

    The proposition that art represents rare intellectual or emotional or spiritual insights implies that the role of artist calls for very special human qualities. But this seems to be another case of the art world defining the larger world in terms of its own claims. Feminist writers have shown that articles such as quilts...

  9. 6 Architects and Design
    (pp. 187-200)

    Architects have long asserted that what they do has profound significance: that the buildings they design embody timeless laws, that they parallel nature and the work of God, give order and beauty to an otherwise chaotic and imperfect world, speak for society and mould its behaviour, reflect the human spirit, or give revelational insights into the meaning of life. Bolstering these claims is the overriding assumption that architecture is an autonomous art that deals with transcendental matters, which are outside and above ordinary human activities. In this metaphysical realm, a few geniuses are held to give architectural answers to the...

  10. Notes
    (pp. 201-218)
  11. Picture Credits
    (pp. 219-220)
  12. Index
    (pp. 221-224)