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The Suppression of the Social in Design

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  meyer  morris

Hannes Meyer                     William Morris

        philip-johnson  Hitchcock

      Philip Johnson                   Henry-Russel Hitchcock

    mies

Mies Van Der Rohe

These 3 PDFs illustrate a chapter, "The Suppression of the Social in Design: Architecture as War", in the 1996 book, Reconstructing Architecture: Critical Discourses and Social Practices, Edited by Tom Dutton and Lian Hurst Mann and published by the University of Minnesota Press. It describes the flight away from a social agenda towards a depoliticised aesthetic that was sweeping architecture from the 1980s onwards. It looks at the social, political and economic causes of this process and makes a case for a transformative architecture and a transformative architectural education.

Part 1 looks as the origins of the discipline. Beginning with the emergence of Architecture as an academic discipline, it charts its growth and implications in the development of Capitalism up to and including the beginning of the 20th Century - specifically in two parallel but separate forms associated with Modernism: Architecture as an Art, and Architecture as a Science. It suggests that the Art Paradigm of Architecture emerged as the dominant trend insofar as it served the interests of the ruling elite and of the Church. It posits the development of a depoliticised aesthetic, linked to theories of the sublime (Kant) as the mystification through which hegemony was constructed and maintained.

Part 2 continues the analytic, beginning with the 2nd World War, where Science emerged as the dominant paradigm - using theories and techniques derived from wartime production processes to address issues of mass housing and functionality. Key to this development were the fields of Operational Research, Design Methods and social and cultural analysis using models appropriated from Psychology, Semiotics and Structuralism. It charts the emergence of a participatory/democratic movement in design through the 1960s and 1970s. This period came to an end by the 1980s, where the Conservative retrenchment of the Reagan and Thatcher administrations actively suppressed social programmes and reinscribed the ethic of appearances and spin over functionality and accountability. This shift has not gone unchallenged, and Critical Theories of Postmodernism - a Postmodernism of Resistance emerged to contest the hegemonies of style and  privilege brought in by increasing disparities of wealth. 

Part 3 illustrates how this struggle manifests in the field of Architectural education - using examples from the Community Design Studio at the University of Auckland, New Zealand as an exemplar of a more general movement of radical design education in the service of the poor and oppressed. It argues for the development of what Giroux has called a "Radical Provisional Morality" in which utopian visions can be developed not as an end in themselves, but as a means of organising and coalescing a movement of resistance and empowerment against the hegemony of both academia and the miliary industrial complex which it increasingly serves.

 

To download Part 1 click here  

To download Part 2 click here

To download Part 3 click here  

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