Times Higher Ed reviews 'Architectural Agents'
Annabel Jane Wharton’s provocative and entertaining book shows how buildings may have “agency”, and how “agency” may be destructive as much as constructive. The “delusional, abusive, addictive” lives of the title are cases of agency gone wrong, from New York to Jerusalem to Las Vegas to Second Life. It has a moral programme that becomes clear as the book goes along: if buildings misuse their agency, we should be able to stop them.
Put like that, the concept of architectural agency may raise a few academic eyebrows. While we might invoke architectural agency in our everyday lives (who, at some level, doesn’t buy into the notion of “sick building syndrome”?), we steer students away from anything that smacks of anthropomorphism. After all, buildings are inanimate objects whose meanings are just arbitrary things we project on to them.
Or are they?