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Utopia’s Ghost

Utopia’s Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again

Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Utopia’s Ghost
    Book Description:

    Architectural postmodernism had a significant impact on the broader development of postmodern thought: Utopia’s Ghost is a critical reconsideration of their relationship. Combining discourse analysis, historical reconstruction, and close readings of buildings, projects, and texts from the 1970s and 1980s, Reinhold Martin argues that retheorizing postmodern architecture gives us new insights into cultural postmodernism and its aftermath.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-7369-8
    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)
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION Architecture and Postmodernism, Again
    (pp. xi-xxvi)

    WHY POSTMODERNISM, yet again? Is it not either too late or too early, too academic or too obvious, to return to that moment when architecture was taken up by so many thinkers for its evidentiary status, as marking a momentous interruption, or at least detour, in modernity’s path? Today, when the conversation has turned in so many ways toward the prolongation, recovery, or multiplication of modernity itself, what would be the point of reactivating a term as vague and as apparently exhausted aspostmodernityor its cultural accomplice,postmodernism

    To speak of postmodernism today as anything other than a lapsed...

  5. 1 TERRITORY From the Inside, Out
    (pp. 1-26)

    “THINK.” By 1911 this had already become a corporate command. By the 1930s, as the slogan of International Business Machines (IBM), it announced the formalization of what would come to be known by the early 1970s, as immaterial or post-Fordist production.¹ In 1997, in belated recognition of a countercultural, affective engine driving the neoliberal “global” economy this command was translated by IBM’s competitor, Apple Computer, into the slogan “Think different.” The state of affairs to which these events belong has over time acquired a variety of names. In 1973, Daniel Bell enthusiastically announced the “coming of post-industrial society.” In the...

  6. 2 HISTORY The Last War
    (pp. 27-48)

    REFERRING TO THE “CHECKMATE” performed by advanced capitalism on the Shklovskian “knight’s moves” attempted by the modernist avantgardes, the architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri announced, in 1976: “The war is over.”¹ Tafuri was evaluating attempts by the neo-avantgardes of the 1970s to replay such moves, mainly in the United States. And in a sense he was right. His text, titled “The Ashes of Jefferson,” charted the exhaustion of the avant-garde project by way of its built-in contradictions, as exemplified by the melancholic contest over the stylistic legacy of architectural modernism known as the Gray/White debate, which overtook the American academy in...

  7. 3 LANGUAGE Environment, c. 1973
    (pp. 49-68)

    ONE CONDITION FOR THE EMERGENCE of architectural postmodernism was the transformation of “environment” as an epistemological category during the late 1960s and 1970s. Architecture was thought during this period either to belong to “environment,” understood as a mixture of natural and cultural effects, or to be ontologically excluded from it, and therefore from the instrumentalities of environmentalist theory and practice. In and of itself, this was not new. But these two positions shared a largely implicit understanding that the scope and nature of “environment” had become so vast, so encompassing, and soabstract,and had gathered such independent momentum, as...

  8. 4 IMAGE Have We Ever Been Postmodern?
    (pp. 69-92)

    IN HIS FOREWORD to the 1984 English translation of Jean-François Lyotard’sThe Postmodern Condition,Fredric Jameson goes so far as to say, with respect to Jürgen Habermas’s denunciation of postmodernism’s “explicit repudiation of the [revolutionary or critical] modernist tradition” as expressing a “new cultural conservatism,” that “[Habermas’s] diagnosis is confirmed by that area in which the question of postmodernism has been most acutely posed, namely in architecture.”¹ However, while regretting postmodern architecture’s abandonment of both political and aesthetic utopias, Jameson defends its playfulness, its self-conscious superficiality, as well as its populist willingness to “learn from Las Vegas,” against Habermas’s recalcitrant...

  9. 5 MATERIALITY Mirrors
    (pp. 93-122)

    TWO DARK, CRYSTALLINE SOLIDS are poised corner to corner on a diagonal and separated by a tense, narrow gap. For twenty-eight stories, each of these consists of an extruded trapezoid, in the form of a rectangle with one of its corners cut off. From floors twenty-nine through thirty-six, each volume has another corner cut off in section at a forty-five-degree angle but in opposite directions. Seen frontally (and at some distance), the resulting figure resembles an elongated, archaic house form with a slit down the middle. Seen from other angles (and closer in), the figure breaks up and the two...

  10. 6 SUBJECTS Mass Customization
    (pp. 123-146)

    IF THE MIRROR IS ITS PARADIGMATIC OBJECT, who is the subject of postmodern architecture? Processes of subject formation at both the individual and the group level have been widely treated by theorists as central to comprehending postmodernity’s scope and effects. Still, as we have seen, architecture proper has been taken up in this context largely as a set of symptomatic objects to which only vaguely do specific subject formations attach. Among the latter would be the catch-all category of “consumer society,” to which postmodern architecture’s imagistic character is often assumed to correlate. But such correlations, while plausible enough, are insufficient...

  11. 7 ARCHITECTURE Utopia’s Ghost
    (pp. 147-180)

    WHAT IS TO BE DONE? Start from the beginning and reopen the “housing question.”¹ Recall the example of public housing as emblematic of the allegedly failed modernist utopia par excellence. Recall also that this corresponds with a boundary problem that summarizes the discursive economy of postmodernism—the ostensible problem of distinguishing what is real from what is not. Historical attempts to confront real irrationalities such as the failure of the state adequately to house its population are, time and again, converted discursively into phantasms, such as the straw figure called “Pruitt-Igoe.” These, in turn, are summoned as “realistic” cautions against...

  12. NOTES
    (pp. 181-210)
    (pp. 211-212)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 213-240)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 241-241)