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Governing by Design

Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century

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  • Book Info
    Governing by Design
    Book Description:

    Governing by Designoffers a unique perspective on twentieth-century architectural history. It disputes the primacy placed on individuals in the design and planning process and instead looks to the larger influences of politics, culture, economics, and globalization to uncover the roots of how our built environment evolves.

    In these chapters, historians offer their analysis on design as a vehicle for power and as a mediator of social currents. Power is defined through a variety of forms: modernization, obsolescence, technology, capital, ergonomics, biopolitics, and others. The chapters explore the diffusion of power through the establishment of norms and networks that frame human conduct, action, identity, and design. They follow design as it functions through the body, in the home, and at the state and international level.

    Overall, Aggregate views the intersection of architecture with the human need for what Foucault termed "governmentality"-societal rules, structures, repetition, and protocols-as a way to provide security and tame risk. Here, the conjunction of power and the power of design reinforces governmentality and infuses a sense of social permanence despite the exceedingly fluid nature of societies and the disintegration of cultural memory in the modern era.

    eISBN: 978-0-8229-7789-6
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
    (pp. vii-xvi)

    HOW does change happen? This question underlies the chapters collected inGoverning by Design. From this basic query arise new accounts of the twentieth-century built environment that pursue a set of corollary questions: Who authors design? How does architecture participate in modernization? How does architecture govern?

    Governing by design, this book suggests, is not simply a matter of monumental symbolism and space, state power and authority, imposed control and surveillance. This book instead sets architecture in relation to mundane matters: food, bodies, housing, markets, cities, and culture. How do we regulate basic aspects of our lives through design, such as...

  2. PART I Food, Shelter, and the Body

    • 1 Preserved Assets
      (pp. 1-20)

      EDWARD BELLAMY’s novelLooking Backward, written in 1887, begins with a description of the main character, Julian West, refurbishing the basement of his Boston home. Regulating the environment in this underground space, he believed, would make it possible to maintain the vitality of his body through an extended period of uninterrupted sleep. After inviting a professor of animal magnetism to entrance him into a deep slumber, West awoke more than a century later in the year 2000, perfectly preserved. This death-defying feat was apparently made possible by the combination of a unique hypnotic method and a well-crafted piece of architecture....

    • 2 Risk and Regulation in the Financial Architecture of American Houses
      (pp. 21-46)

      WHAT is a house? Among other things, it is an instrument for distributing economic risk and opportunity among individuals and institutions. In the United States, two of three owner-occupied houses serve as collateral for the mortgage loan that made the house purchase possible. Through the financial structures that organize homeownership, American houses mediate our relation to state and market—they are instruments of governmentality.

      Although it is often seen as a stable foundation for home life and household finance, the house is equally an unstable commodity affording its owners the opportunity for profit and the risk of loss. While many...

    • 3 Boston’s West End: Urban Obsolescence in Mid-Twentieth-Century America
      (pp. 47-69)

      IN 1951, Boston’s City Planning Board produced a comprehensive urban renewal scheme detailing the city’s woes and imagining a better future. Amid much dry data, one page spread stands out (figure 3.1).¹ On the left, a blackinked map of Boston’s West End depicts a crooked maze of dense-packed blocks, back alleys, courtyards, and vacant lots. Atop reads the title “An Obsolete Neighborhood” while across lies the pendant image titled “And a New Plan.” Here is an imagined future cleared of congestion, modernist slab blocks arrayed in a park setting. A decade passed before the West End was infamously obliterated and...

    • 4 The Interface: Ergonomics and the Aesthetics of Survival
      (pp. 70-92)

      THE term “ergonomics” and its adjectival derivative “ergonomic” have become household words. Whether we have come to know them through advertisements for office furniture, from pamphlets circulated by OSHA or corporate HR departments, or from periodic trips to the physical therapist, “ergonomic” has come to connote a putatively correct quotidian relationship between our bodies and our equipment. It is intuitive—rather, it has become intuitive—that, say, the contours of a car steering wheel should not be sharp enough to cut one’s hands, that one’s computer keyboard should not engender carpal tunnel syndrome, and that the seat of a chair...

  3. PART II. Global States and Citizens

    • 5 “Mejores Ciudades, Ciudadanos Mejores”: Law and Architecture in the Cuban Republic
      (pp. 95-118)

      THE Patronato Pro-Urbanismo (Pro-Urbanism Association), a civic group organized in Cuba in 1942 to advocate for national planning legislation, adopted a succinct slogan: “Mejores Ciudades, Ciudadanos Mejores”—better cities, better citizens (figure 5.1). The phrase bound together formal order and social order, cleverly employing grammatical symmetry to construe a reciprocal relationship between cities and citizens in which the latter are both the consequence and the prerequisite of the former. After winning independence from Spanish colonial rule, Cuba had struggled to establish a stable political environment; corruption, partisan factionalism and violence, economic volatility, and the hegemonic pressure of the United States...

    • 6 Dwelling, Dispute, and the Space of Modern Iran
      (pp. 119-146)

      AT the end of the nineteenth century, a group of Iranian reformist intellectuals began to criticize the effectiveness of the rule of the Qajar dynasty (1794–1925).¹ After Nasir al-Din Shah’s assassination in 1896, Iran saw a vital new period due to the expansion of modern schools and the growth of publications with themes ranging from geographical discoveries and political conflicts to scientific developments and adventure novels. These educational venues afforded the Iranian public insights into the world beyond their own country.² The 1906 constitutional revolution led the parliament to draft laws enacting more centralized state control, but the political...

    • 7 Boundary Games: Ecochard, Doxiadis, and the Refugee Housing Projects under Military Rule in Pakistan, 1953–1959
      (pp. 147-176)

      ON May 20, 1963, some 150,000 residents of the newly built Korangi housing colony in Karachi sat outside their houses with their belongings, hoisting black flags to protest the eviction of one “Yusuf Bhutock” from his house by the Karachi Development Authority (KDA).¹ At any other location the protestors would have been dispersed with the baton if not the bulldozer. Korangi, however, had special status. It was built by the military government of Ayub Khan, the self-appointed field marshal and president of Pakistan from 1958 to 1969, as a model housing project for refugees from India who had crowded the...

  4. PART III Engineering and Culture

    • 8 The Design of the Nubian Desert: Monuments, Mobility, and the Space of Global Culture
      (pp. 179-215)

      CONSIDER the following architectural event: between 1960 and 1980 twenty-four Egyptian temples were surveyed, dismantled, and relocated from their original sites on the banks of the Nile to make way for an enormous reservoir lake created by the building of the Aswan High Dam. Designed to render fertile entire stretches of desert and bring electricity downstream to Cairo, the dam was also scheduled to flood the entire region of Nubia, a long and narrow strip that crosses the border between Egypt and the Sudan, sparsely dotted with mud-brick villages, archaeological sites, and Pharaonic temples. Two groups of temples (the island...

    • 9 Decree, Design, Exhibit, Consume: Making Modern Markets in France, 1953–1979
      (pp. 216-236)

      PARIS, 1969: A battle raged in neighborhoods, newspapers, and government offices about the future of Parisian urbanism. The wholesale food markets at Les Halles, located in the geographic and symbolic heart of the city since the eleventh century, were about to move to the southern suburb of Rungis, and nothing had been chosen to fill the void they would leave behind. Liberating Paris from the spatially demanding food trade would not just unclog traffic in the city’s formerly paralyzed central district; it would also create an important opportunity to modernize Paris. But not everyone desired modernization. Small-scale food vendors worried...

    • 10 Marginality and Metaengineering: Keynes and Arup
      (pp. 237-268)

      IT may be hard to determine the exact lag in time when hindsight acquires the gray weight of circumspection. Nonetheless, it may not be entirely inopportune to claim that one of the facets of the commercial extravagance of the recently deceased Gilded Age—the burst of financial speculation from the mid-1990s onward to the implosive doldrums of 2008—was the string of commissions meted out to a roster of “signature” architects with more or less one distinct mandate: to churn out iconic, formally arresting, often sinuous objects whose atypicality would create new points of visual focus for the urban environment....