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Architectural Agents

The Delusional, Abusive, Addictive Lives of Buildings

2015
Author:

Annabel Jane Wharton

Architectural Agents

How buildings interact with—and manipulate—our world and ourselves

Architectural Agents makes the case that buildings act in the world independently of their makers, patrons, owners, or occupants. And often they act badly. Treating buildings as bodies, Annabel Jane Wharton writes biographies of symptomatic structures in order to diagnose their pathologies.

Provocative and entertaining . . . a tour de force, richly imaginative, and full of warmth and insight.

Times Higher Education

Buildings are not benign; rather, they commonly manipulate and abuse their human users. Architectural Agents makes the case that buildings act in the world independently of their makers, patrons, owners, or occupants. And often they act badly.

Treating buildings as bodies, Annabel Jane Wharton writes biographies of symptomatic structures in order to diagnose their pathologies. The violence of some sites is rooted in historical trauma; the unhealthy spatial behaviors of other spaces stem from political and economic ruthlessness. The places examined range from the Cloisters Museum in New York City and the Palestine Archaeological Museum (renamed the Rockefeller Museum) in Jerusalem to the grand Hostal de los Reyes Católicos in Santiago de Compostela, Spain, and Las Vegas casino resorts. Recognizing that a study of pathological spaces would not be complete without an investigation of digital structures, Wharton integrates into her argument an original consideration of the powerful architectures of video games and immersive worlds. Her work mounts a persuasive critique of popular phenomenological treatments of architecture.

Architectural Agents advances an alternative theorization of buildings’ agency—one rooted in buildings’ essential materiality and historical formation—as the basis for this significant intervention in current debates over the boundaries separating humans, animals, and machines.

Awards

Outstanding Academic Title—Choice

Architectural Agents

Annabel Jane Wharton is William B. Hamilton Professor of Art History at Duke University. Her most recent books include Building the Cold War: Hilton International Hotels and Modern Architecture, selected by Economist as one of the best books of 2001, and Selling Jerusalem: Relics, Replicas, Theme Parks.

Architectural Agents

Provocative and entertaining . . . a tour de force, richly imaginative, and full of warmth and insight.

Times Higher Education

Wharton upends new stones of inquiry and exploration.

Art Libraries Society of North America

This is an important book for architectural historians and Preservationists.

CHOICE

Architectural Agents

Contents

Acknowledgments
Introduction: Architectural Agency
Part I. Death
1. Murder
2. Spoils
Part II. Disease
3. Amnesia
4. Urban Toxicity
Part III. Addiction
5. Gambling
6. Digital Play
Conclusion: Buildings/Things, Bodies/Texts, History/Theory
Notes
Bibliography
Index