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The Sociology of Architecture

The Sociology of Architecture: Constructing Identities

Copyright Date: 2011
Edition: 1
Pages: 195
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  • Book Info
    The Sociology of Architecture
    Book Description:

    States have long been active in commissioning architecture, which affords one way to embed political projects within socially meaningful cultural forms. Such state-led architecture is often designed not only to house the activities of government, but also to reflect political-economic shifts and to chime with a variety of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ publics as part of wider discourses of belonging. From the vantage point of sociology, this context necessitates critical engagement with the role of leading architects’ designs and discourses relative to politicized identity projects. Focusing on the mobilization of architecture in periods of social change, The Sociology of Architecture uses critical sociological frameworks to assess the distinctive force added to political projects by architects and their work. Through engagement with a range of illustrative examples from contested contemporary and historical architectural projects, Paul Jones analyses some of the ways in which architects have sought to position their architecture relative to state projects and wider publics. A central objective of the book is to situate major architectural projects as a research agenda for sociologists and others interested in the relationship between power, culture, and collective identities. Adopting a critical approach to such questions, The Sociology of Architecture frames architecture as a field of contestation over symbolic and material resources, which in turn provides an entry point for questioning the inextricably political ways in which collective identities are constructed, maintained and mobilized.

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-593-0
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The architect-sociologist Garry Stevens suggests it would take one day to read sociology’s contribution to our understanding of architecture (1998: 12), and while this is an exaggeration it is only a slight one. With the exception of some of the notable contributions assessed throughout this book, the relationship between architects, their work, and social order has not been subject to sustained scrutiny by academic sociologists. In the light of this book’s title it is perhaps unsurprising that I feel this represents something of a missed opportunity, and what follows here is my attempt to contribute to this underdeveloped field of...

  6. 1 Architecture, Power and Identities: Surveying the Field
    (pp. 11-26)

    In his discussion of military architecture, the British sociologist Paul Hirst (2005) positions those buildings emerging from the architectural profession as being both configured by social power relations and a resource for their consolidation and legitimation. Framing architecture in this way is a useful starting point, as it expresses a sense of, first, the durable, structural relationship between architects and the powerful actors and institutions that commission buildings, and, second, the ways in which this relationship is normalized through practices within the architectural field. Pierre Bourdieu’s work, broadly within the ‘sociology of culture’ research tradition, allows for development of this...

  7. 2 The Public Discourse of Architecture: Socializing Identities
    (pp. 27-48)

    As well as a material construction, architecture also represents a distinctly social production, whose cast of characters is far more extensive than those professionals who formally inhabit the architectural field. Works of architecture are used and conceptualized by a wide range of citizens, who not only organize their spatial practices in response to them (Hillier 1996) but who also come to understand buildings as symbols of wider social order (Scruton 1977). Accordingly, architects’ attempts to make their work resonate with publics outside of the architectural field go far beyond what is actually built, with the work of high-profile architects in...

  8. 3 Architecture and the Nation: Building an ‘Us’
    (pp. 49-66)

    The historian Bo Stråth has argued that a central concern of European nation states in the nineteenth century ‘was to mobilise and monumentalise national and universal pasts in order to give legitimacy and meaning to the present and to outline the future culturally, politically, socially’ (2008: 26). Certainly states in this period were incredibly active in commissioning culture so as to embed their political projects and values into socially meaningful forms designed to help create/mobilize national publics. Illustrating something of the general argument of this book, architecture was central to the cultural self-understanding of nation states in this period, as...

  9. 4 Modernity and Mega-Events: Architecturing a Future
    (pp. 67-91)

    States have long sought to embed their political-economic projects within socially meaningful forms, with the architectural field being mobilized to this end in a wide variety of socio-political contexts. As was discussed in the previous chapter, the desire to forge a sense of coherent national community with its roots in antiquity saw historical motifs and discourses as key frames for major British state-led architectural projects in the nineteenth century. But, quite aside from the mobilization of historicist architecture to stress lineage in this way, the latter half of the twentieth century saw nation states’ repertoires of architectural representation characterized by...

  10. 5 Architecture and Commemoration: The Construction of Memorialization
    (pp. 92-114)

    Landmark building projects have a complex relationship with broader social forces. This contention is clearly evidenced by the major architectural projects the world over that in addition to their primary function also serve a memorial purpose. In such cases architects seek to reconcile a range of competing contingent functions and meanings, with their work taking on characteristics akin to monuments in an early modern age, a period of time when the built environment was one of the few spaces in which socially significant memories could be communicated widely across society (see Heynen 1999b; Tonkiss 2005). The desire of states and...

  11. 6 Iconic Architecture and Regeneration: The Form is the Function
    (pp. 115-140)

    Political agencies’ recent embrace of what has come to be known as ‘iconic’ architecture can be understood as a continuation of longstanding attempts to mobilize major building projects, first, to materialize wider discourses of major social change, and second, to generate surplus value from urban space. The desire to commission sufficiently persuasive and socially resonant architectural forms with which to attract various forms of mobile capital – especially from the private sector and tourism – while at the same time symbolizing an upward trajectory for a place, has seen iconic architecture incorporated enthusiastically into UK cultural policy strategies. The ‘visually...

  12. 7 ‘European’ Architecture: Politics in Search of Form and Meaning
    (pp. 141-165)

    It has been argued in previous chapters that states’ strategies to foster belonging among their citizens have led to the built environment being mobilized in a variety of ways in differing political contexts. The focus of this chapter is on two distinct but related developments in contemporary Europe: first, the European Union’s attempts to embed their political project in cultural forms from architecture and the built environment (discussed with reference to the Brussels Capital of Europe project), and second, coexistent projects in member nation states to reposition and ‘Europeanize’ existing national architectural symbols (illustrated with reference to Norman Foster’s reconstruction...

  13. 8 Conclusion: Sociology, Architecture and the Politics of Building
    (pp. 166-170)

    A central claim of this book has been that architecture should not be considered a neutral or free-floating cultural form, but rather as an inherently social production that reflects one way in which those with political power attempt both to materialize this status and to make it socially meaningful. Revealing the coincidence of interest between the architectural field and the socially dominant, what Kim Dovey (2000) has referred to as a ‘silent complicity’, means retaining a sense that architectural production is always and everywhere a political practice that has deep-rooted connections with social order. Doing this makes necessary challenging those...

  14. Bibliography
    (pp. 171-191)
  15. Index
    (pp. 192-200)