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Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture

A Harvard Design Magazine Reader

2005

William S. Saunders, editor
Introduction by Kenneth Frampton

Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture

Diverse points of view on the relationship between design and capitalism

More than ever, architectural design is seen as a means to promote commercial goals. Bringing together an impressive and varied group of critics and practitioners, this collection will help to sharpen the discussion of how design can respond to our hypercommodified culture.

Contributors: Michael Benedikt, Luis Fernández-Galiano, Thomas Frank, Kevin Ervin Kelley, Daniel Naegele, Rick Poynor, Michael Sorkin, Wouter Vanstiphout.


More than ever, architectural design is seen as a means to promote commercial goals rather than as an end in itself. Frank Gehry’s Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, for example, simply cannot be considered apart from its intended role as a catalyst for the economic revitalization of Bilbao and its ability to attract tourist dollars, regardless of its architectural merits. A built environment intended to seduce consumers is more likely to offer instant gratification than to invite independent thought and reflection. But how harmful, if at all, is this unprecedented commercialization of architecture?

Framed with a provocative introduction by Kenneth Frampton, the contributions to Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture stake out a variety of positions in the debate over the extent to which it is possible—or desirable—to escape from, resist, or suggest plausible alternatives to the dominant culture of consumer capitalism. Rejecting any dreamy nostalgia for an idealized present or past in which design is completely divorced from commerce—and, in some cases, celebrating the pleasures of spectacle—the individual essays range from indictments of particular architects and critiques of the profession to broader concerns about what the phenomenon of commodification means for the practice of democracy and the health of society.

Bringing together an impressive and varied group of critics and practitioners, Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture will help to sharpen the discussion of how design can respond to our hypercommodified culture.

Contributors: Michael Benedikt, Luis Fernández-Galiano, Thomas Frank, Kevin Ervin Kelley, Daniel Naegele, Rick Poynor, Michael Sorkin, Wouter Vanstiphout.

Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture

William S. Saunders is editor of Harvard Design Magazine and assistant dean for external relations at the Harvard Design School. He is the author of Modern Architecture: Photographs by Ezra Stoller.

Kenneth Frampton is Ware Professor of Architecture at Columbia University Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation and author of many books, including Labour, Work, and Architecture.

Commodification and Spectacle in Architecture

Contents

Preface William S. Saunders

Introduction: The Work of Architecture in the Age of Commodifi cation Kenneth Frampton
1. Spectacle and Its Discontents; or, The Elusive Joys of Architainment Luis Fernández-Galiano
2. Less for Less Yet: On Architecture’s Value(s) in the Marketplace Michael Benedikt
3. Brand Aid; or, The Lexus and the Guggenheim (Further Tales of the Notorious B.I.G.ness) Michael Sorkin
4. Hyphenation Nation: Blurred Forms for a Blurred World Rick Poynor
5. Architecture for Sale(s): An Unabashed Apologia Kevin Ervin Kelley
6. Rocking for the Clampdown: Creativity, Corporations, and the Crazy Curvilinear Cacophony of the Experience Music Project Thomas Frank
7. Rockbottom: Villa by OMA Wouter Vanstiphout
8. Inside the Blue Whale: A Day at the Bluewater Mall Rick Poynor
9. We Dig Graves—All Sizes Daniel Naegele
10. The Second Greatest Generation Michael Sorkin

Contributors