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Reconstructing Architecture

Critical Discourses and Social Practices

1996

Thomas A. Dutton and Lian Hurst Mann, editors

Reconstructing Architecture

Questions the meaning and purpose of architecture in relation to democratic public life.

The contributors to this volume question architecture’s complicity with the status quo, moving beyond critique to outline the part architects are playing in building radical social movements and challenging dominant forms of power.

Contributors: Sherry Ahrentzen, U of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Bradford C. Grant, California Polytechnic State U, San Luis Obispo; Richard Ingersoll, Rice U; Margaret Soltan, George Washington U; Anthony Ward, U of Auckland, New Zealand.

“This exciting new book, which analyzes, criticizes, and strategizes contemporary cutting-edge design theories in the field of architecture, is probably the best book available on the complicated field of architectural history in the past 30 years. . . . [i]n an effort to make classroom teaching and learning worldwide an active rather than a passive process, this book is a gold mine of research and opinion. Feminism , ecology, deconstruction, critical theory (including cultural pedagogy), and social design are all weighed with intelligence by accomplished academics. Recommended for academic libraries.”

To create architecture is an inherently political act, yet its nature as a social practice is often obscured beneath layers of wealth and privilege. The contributors to this volume question architecture’s complicity with the status quo, moving beyond critique to outline the part architects are playing in building radical social movements and challenging dominant forms of power.

The making of architecture is instrumental in the construction of our identities, our differences, the world around us-much of what we know of institutions, the distribution of power, social relations, and cultural values is mediated by the built environment. Historically, architecture has constructed the environments that house the dominant culture. Yet, as the essays in Reconstructing Architecure demonstrate, there exists a strong tradition of critical practice in the field, one that attempts to alter existing social power relations. Engaging the gap between modernism and postmodernism, each chapter addresses an oppositional discourse that has developed within the field and then reconstructs it in terms of a new social project: feminism, social theory, environmentalism, cultural studies, race and ethnic studies, and critical theory.

The activists and scholars writing here provide a clarion call to architects and other producers of culture, challenging them to renegotiate their political allegiances and to help reconstruct a viable democratic life in the face of inexorable forces driving economic growth, destroying global ecology, homogenizing culture, and privatizing the public realm. Reconstructing Architecture reformulates the role of architecture in society as well as its capacity to further a progressive social transformation.

Contributors: Sherry Ahrentzen, U of Wisconsin, Milwaukee; Bradford C. Grant, California Polytechnic State U, San Luis Obispo; Richard Ingersoll, Rice U; Margaret Soltan, George Washington U; Anthony Ward, U of Auckland, New Zealand.

Thomas A. Dutton is an architect and professor of architecture at Miami University, Ohio. He is editor of Voices in Architectural Education (1991) and is associate editor of the Journal of Architectural Education.

Lian Hurst Mann is an architect and editor of Architecture California. A founding member of the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, she is editor of its bilingual quarterly Ahora Now and a coauthor of Reconstructing Los Angeles from the Bottom Up (1993).

Reconstructing Architecture

Thomas A. Dutton is an architect and professor of architecture at Miami University, Ohio. He is editor of Voices in Architectural Education (1991) and was associate editor of the Journal of Architectural Education from 1995-1999.

Lian Hurst Mann is an architect and former editor of Architecture California. A founding member of the Labor/Community Strategy Center in Los Angeles, she is editor of its bilingual quarterly Ahora Now and a coauthor of Reconstructing Los Angeles from the Bottom Up (1993).

Reconstructing Architecture

“This exciting new book, which analyzes, criticizes, and strategizes contemporary cutting-edge design theories in the field of architecture, is probably the best book available on the complicated field of architectural history in the past 30 years. . . . [i]n an effort to make classroom teaching and learning worldwide an active rather than a passive process, this book is a gold mine of research and opinion. Feminism , ecology, deconstruction, critical theory (including cultural pedagogy), and social design are all weighed with intelligence by accomplished academics. Recommended for academic libraries.”

Contemporary architectural criticism has been one long funeral oration at the graveside of utopian modernism. This book has a different agenda. Using brilliant case-studies, it reinstates the possibility-indeed, the urgenc

of radical architecture as a community resource in the struggle against predatory global capitalism.” Mike Davis, author of City of Quartz

“In this collection of essays, seven architects and architectural educators explore the social and political dimensions of contemporary architecture. . . . In general, these essays offer trenchant criticisms of contemporary design theory as either politically disengaged of ineffectual, and they argue for the reconfiguration of design theory and practice in light of present social and economic realities. . . . This stimulating collection will appeal to readers interested in architecture as a subject for cultural studies as well as those interested in socially concerned design.” Choice

“Reconstructing Architecture is a collection of prophetic criticisms; the great thrust of each essay in the book is to sponsor action, to offer ‘constructive strategies for the transformation of society,’ strategies that should replace all retreats from social engagement, no matter how critically conceived.” Harvard Design Magazine