Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools

Navigation

Utopia’s Ghost

Architecture and Postmodernism, Again

2010
Author:

Reinhold Martin

Utopia’s Ghost

Unpacking architecture’s important—and continuing—role in postmodern thought

Architectural postmodernism had a significant impact on the broader development of postmodern thought: Utopia’s Ghost is a critical reconsideration of their relationship. Combining discourse analysis, historical reconstruction, and close readings of buildings, projects, and texts from the 1970s and 1980s, Reinhold Martin argues that retheorizing postmodern architecture gives us new insights into cultural postmodernism and its aftermath.

Today, as the urgency of theorizing the postmodern fades, we nevertheless seem stuck with the characteristic postmodern inability to conjure a spirit of decisive historical change. Reinhold Martin courageously refuses that legacy. With close readings of objects and events, both architectural and social, he reterritorializes the architectural imaginary to accommodate entities that stalk futures as well as pasts, including most especially the specter called utopia.

K. Michael Hays, author of Architecture’s Desire: Reading the Late Avant-Garde

Architectural postmodernism had a significant impact on the broader development of postmodern thought: Utopia’s Ghost is a critical reconsideration of their relationship. Combining discourse analysis, historical reconstruction, and close readings of buildings, projects, and texts from the 1970s and 1980s, Reinhold Martin argues that retheorizing postmodern architecture gives us new insights into cultural postmodernism and its aftermath.

Much of today’s discussion has turned to the recovery of modernity, but Martin writes in the Introduction, “Simply to historicize postmodernism seems inadequate and, in many ways, premature.” Utopia’s Ghost connects architecture to current debates on biopolitics, neoliberalism, and corporate globalization as they are haunted by the problem of utopia. Exploring a series of concepts—territory, history, language, image, materiality, subjectivity, and architecture itself—Martin shows how they reorganize the cultural imaginary and shape a contemporary biopolitics that ultimately precludes utopian thought.

Written at the intersection of culture, politics, and the city, particularly in the context of corporate globalization, Utopia’s Ghost challenges dominant theoretical paradigms and opens new avenues for architectural scholarship and cultural analysis.

Utopia’s Ghost

Reinhold Martin is associate professor of architecture in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, where he directs the PhD program in architecture and the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture. He is a founding coeditor of the journal Grey Room, author of The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space, and coauthor of Multi-National City: Architectural Itineraries.

Utopia’s Ghost

Today, as the urgency of theorizing the postmodern fades, we nevertheless seem stuck with the characteristic postmodern inability to conjure a spirit of decisive historical change. Reinhold Martin courageously refuses that legacy. With close readings of objects and events, both architectural and social, he reterritorializes the architectural imaginary to accommodate entities that stalk futures as well as pasts, including most especially the specter called utopia.

K. Michael Hays, author of Architecture’s Desire: Reading the Late Avant-Garde

A rethinking of postmodernism demands a concomitant rethinking of architecture, as it was through the frame of architectural debates that postmodernism writ large was first theorized. Martin does so in subtle and complex ways, shedding new light on how the postmodern moment continues to haunt the present.

Aron Vinegar, author of I AM A MONUMENT: On Learning from Las Vegas

The true depth and importance of Martin’s project becomes evident in its already-proven power to haunt forward.

Harvard Design Magazine

Postmodernism obsolete? Not so, argues Reinhold Martin in a brilliant book that rewrites the classical narratives of postmodernism of the 1980s. Placing postmodern architecture into an expanded discursive field of bio-power and environmentalism, cybernetics and a global political economy, he dismantles the myth of autonomy and linguistic play celebrated by the early postmodernists. In a series of paradigmatic readings of works of architecture, he reveals the corporate unconscious of postmodern architecture which has come into its own since the 1990s. At the same time, the ghosts of modernism and utopia—the great un-thought of postmodernism—still haunt the present and challenge contemporary architecture which has installed itself in a global hall of mirrors that is the world of finance, business culture, and corporate control.

Andreas Huyssen, Columbia University

Martin elaborates a significant and largely overlooked dimension to the understanding of postmodernism.

Radical Philosophy