Socially devastating and visually gorgeous

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Socially devastating, visually gorgeous, is a neat encapsulation of the main dilemma for a twenty-first century architect. This architect is assailed by two contesting pressures. On one side, he is aware that the most prominent and fashionable style of contemporary architecture promotes glamorous and glitzy designs that bewilder the eye and imagination. On the other side, he observes that such architecture betrays a distressing lack of social and cultural consciousness, and indeed exalts style over substance. The British development industry favours such contemporary architecture and with its enormous power and influence it exerts much pressure upon architects to conform to this style no matter what the social implications. Successive governments too have been complicit in this shift away from socially-minded development towards that which is outwardly stunning but inwardly barren. This dissertation then is an examination of the various pressures and influences that circle about and press upon the modern architect. It observes and analyses too the changing role of architects from 'form-providers' to their present status as 'problem-solvers'.

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The causes of these influences and evolutions of the architect's role are to be found in the economic and cultural milieu of the second half of the twentieth century. Thus this essay, by an analysis of the available literature, makes an examination of the economic and social events that have led to our present world-view, and so to the particular influences upon the modern architect. These events and theories centre upon the changes to systems of capitalism and to the corresponding Marxist interpretations that have been given to them. For this, the work of scholars such as David Harvey, Manfredo Tafuri, Ira Katznelson, Frederic Jameson and others are discussed at length. The ideas of these authors lead to a discussion of postmodernism as the prevailing spirit of our age, and of the changes brought postmodernism upon our societies generally and upon the architect in particular. This dissertation briefly analyses the two chief architectural styles that have emerged in this century in the context of these cultural upheavals: Modernism (or Internationalism) and Postmodernism. Globalization too is examined as a powerful recent phenomenon that exerts new pressures upon the twenty-first century architect. In terms of architecture, the ramifications of capital movements and postmodernism have produced a style that is visually breath-taking but which results in social ossification. Societies are ignored in the considerations of modern developments and this has contributed to their collapse. Integral to this discussion is an examination of state and attitudes of the British development industry and its relationship with the government. Finally, the discussion turns to the visual biases in the training of contemporary architects and the need for a re-orientation and re-balance of this training towards one that stresses the social and economic consequences of an architect's work. Here, the need for sustainable development that is compliant with social sustainability is shown to be vital.

Contemporary or postmodern architecture is the phenomenon of a world that is dominated by the movements, evolutions and vicissitudes of capital and of capitalist economies. A global economy has meant that national governments have little resistance to the pressures of global markets and trends, and are usually obliged to reform their national economies to comply with the global economy if they are to remain competitive. In terms of architecture, capitalism and globalization mean that developments and building projects have also begun to conform to an almost universal design that appears the same in London, Mexico City, Dallas or Berlin. Contemporary architecture has acquiesced almost without protest to these movements towards homogeneity and accepted it as inevitable. It is at this point that a Marxist critique of postmodernity, capital and, specifically, contemporary architecture is useful. Marxist architectural historians and scholars such as Tafuri and Katznelson argue that whilst capitalism has had an enormous influence upon architecture, it is not the only viable influence upon architecture. They assert that by applying Marxist theories of the city and development to modern architecture it is possible to imbue it with a sense of social orientation and cultural consciousness that is absent in postmodernism. The work of postmodernist Marxist scholars such as David Harvey and Frederic Jameson is also discussed here to explain how the postmodern world was conceived and as to how it functions. Finally, this section discusses the two principal architectural styles that have emerged in the context of twentieth century capitalism:

Modernism and Postmodernism

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The work and ideas of Marxist architectural historian Manfredo Tafuri are particularly important for understanding how capitalism has affected the styles and transformations of architecture in the twentieth century. Tafuri's work is highly respected internationally, and he was perhaps the foremost Italian architectural historian and critic of the twentieth century. His better known books includeProgetto e Utopia (Architecture and Utopia) and Via Guila, both of 1973, and L'armonia e i Conflitti (Tafuri, 1983). Tafuri principal post was as director of the Institute of History at the Instituto Universatario di Architettura de Venezia. His first significant book, Teorie e Historia Dell'Architettura (Theories and History of Architecture) (Tafuri, 1980), was prominent for its prophetic anticipations of the weaknesses and breakdown of modernism and for making clear contemporary architecture's unhealthy dependence and intimacy with capitalism. These sentiments naturally betrayed Tafuri's open Marxist sympathies and their influence upon his thoughts about architectural history. Most of Tafuri's works made extensive references and analogies to the social and political elements that affected the designs and buildings featured in these books. Tafuri's two most important works on the subject of the influence of Marxism upon architecture are Theories and History of Architecture and Architecture and Utopia suggest that postmodern architecture is a beautiful corpse; a beautiful corpse that cannot be embalmed or sustained without profound consequences for our culture and society. Tafuri argued further that modern society is the thrall of capitalism and that the appetite and values of capitalism have corrupted traditional ways of life rather than promoting them. These erosions of principles and ways of life have meant that socially conscious and socially imaginative architecture no longer has popular support amongst Western populations. So too Tafuri vociferously scarified modern architects for their capitulation to the will of capitalism and their failure to resist its devastating social consequences. Tafuri suggested that the past two centuries of architecture have witnessed a tendency to ignore the massive social upheavals wrought by the industrial age, by revolutions and by wars and has instead produced a type of architecture that is essentially a stubborn denial of these changes and is unwilling to promote or represent their reality. Tafuri's acknowledged that his ideas were strongly influenced by Michel Foucault, Walter Benjamin, and Theodor Adorno.

'Defeated in the East and discredited in the West, and lacking in knowledgeable or popular support, Marxism has broken down as an ideology and as a guide to governance. (but for) all its profound and infirming flaws, Marxism remains a vital tool for understanding and raising questions about key aspects of modernity. Key weaknesses of Marxism as a social theory can only be remedied by forcing it to engage seriously with urban-spatial concerns, particularly the relationship between structure and agency which is at the heart of all useful theory.' (Ira Katznelson, 1992, p. vii)

This quotation from Katznelson's Marxism and the City is set down here at such length because it encapsulates so well the vital idea of his thought: Marxism as a political philosophy may be dead, but as a tool for social and city planning it may yet be invaluable. Marxism is then a great device to understand the way cities function, how their space is organized and how people use and respond to these arrangements of this space. For Katznelson, Marxism is an antidote to the social forgetfulness of postmodern architecture.

Marxism and the City is a masterly review of some of the many scholarly critiques that have been made in the past century of the place of Marxism in the organization and development of cities and their 'space'. Katznelson finds in the literature of Marxism hints and suggestions that the political and economic weaknesses of Marxism can be converted into a theory of city planning and development to replace or complement the social hiatuses of capitalism. Katznelson argues that Marxism is still vital for historians seeking to understand how society developed from a world of feudalism into a globalized system of capitalist Western economies and national-states where the majority of workers have weakly become enthralled by the allurements and pressures of capitalism. Katznelson perceives in the existing Marxist literature of the city an overemphasis upon the weaknesses of traditional Marxist theory and suggests instead that there should be a re-balance of opinion in favour of the advantages of 're-spatialized Marxism'.

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Marxism in the City starts with a chapter named 'Marxism and the City? where the question mark represents what Katznelson thinks is a fundamental error in the thinking and methodology of traditional Marxism. He argues that whereas Marx was acutely aware of the political and social situation of workers in Russian and European cities, he nonetheless gave little emphasis to the spatial realities and conditions of these cities. Marx ought to have urged, according to Katznelson, that revolutions within the structure of the proletariat should have been accompanied by corresponding changes in the organization of the spaces and developments within those cities. That is, redevelopment of the architecture and buildings of cities could transform the economic and social conditions of the workers who inhabited them. But instead, laments Katznelson, ' the city was virtually ignored in the development of Marxist theory for more than a century' (Katznelson, 1992). Accordingly, the application of Marxist principles to the development and architecture of cities might have had, and still might, a profound effect upon the spatial and societal make-ups of those cities even if Marxism's political ideas could not. This idea is captured in the title of Katznelson's third chapter titled 'Towards a Re-spatialization of Marxism'. Katznelson acknowledges here the gratitude he owes to Harvey, Castells and Lefebvre for 'showing Marxism the way back to the city' (Harvey, 2001). Nonetheless, he rejects most of the suggestions of these scholars as to how this re-spatialization of the city ought to be conducted. Katznelson suggests that Engels' original approach in Condition of the Working Classes in England in 1844 (Engels, 1892) espouses a more intelligent way to harmonize modern capitalism, working structures and spatiality. It is necessary and imperative to produce an 'urban geographical imagination into the analysis of working class formation' (Katznelson, 1992). Thus the fundamental task of the application of Marxist theory to the city is to promote a better understanding of space. Katznelson says on this that his aim is to 'reveal and expose the making, meaning and uses of urban space' (Katznelson, 1992). Katznelson's acknowledges in his critique the contributions of Mark Gottdiener and Hobsbawm and E.P. Thomson to this question of the re-spatialization of cities. In conclusion, Katznelson not only supplies an elegant review of the existing literature on the place of Marxism in modern development; he also suggests a solution to the problem of 'showing Marxism a way back into the city' where Harvey, Castells and others have, he alleges, failed.

Professor David Harvey is one of the world's pre-eminent scholars and authors on the subject of postmodernity. The above quotation succinctly sums up his description of the aetiology of postmodernity and it manifestations. Importantly, many of the references that Harvey makes generally of postmodernity can be applied to postmodern architecture specifically. Harvey sighs 'Aesthetics has triumphed over ethics' and 'ephemerality and fragmentation take precedence over eternal truths': so too in architecture now aesthetics and outward superficiality are exalted above practical and social necessities, whilst the 'fragmentation' of modern architecture is a cogent symbol of the mental fragmentation of the postmodern global citizen.

David Harvey has been Professor of Geography at John Hopkins University for over a decade now; between 1987 and 1993 he sat on the Halford Mackinder Chair of Geography at Oxford University. Harvey's work shows definite influence of Marxist theories of capitalism making him, in some eyes, a sympathiser of the Frankfurt School; whereas his ideas have also been compared with those of The Institute for Social Research. Perhaps Harvey's most famous book and the most relevant to our present discussion is his The Condition of Postmodernity: An Enquiry Into the Origins of Cultural Change (Harvey, 1989). In this seminal work of four parts (1) The Passage From Modernity to Postmodernity in Contemporary Culture, (2) The Political-Economic Transformation of Late Twentieth Century Capitalism, (3) The Experience of Space and Time, and (4) The Condition of Postmodernity Harvey seeks to trace and explain the causes and manifestations of the postmodern condition. Throughout the work Harvey argues that all of the various present shapes and forms of postmodernism arise from the activities and movements of capital and capital economies. According to Harvey, capital as been the predominant economic and cultural influence in the world since at least 1800; Harvey sympathises with the views of the 'regulation school' of economic theory in seeing ' recent events as a transition in the regime of accumulation and its associated mode of social and political regulation' (Harvey, 1989). In other words, postmodernism grows from the advent earlier in the century of an industrialized regime of factory production that depends upon a rigid and stringent method to accumulate capital and herein Harvey clearly shows his allegiance to a Marxist interpretation of economic history. Harvey also refers to the term 'Fordism' to explain the modernist tendencies towards harmonization, industrial scale production and working force stability. However, since the 1970's the world has witnessed a radical transformation in the way capital operates; it no longer adheres to the strict principles and moorings of 'Fordism' but becomes freer and more volatile. It is this evolution of capital towards free movement that eventually produces the phenomena of globalization and postmodernism.

Professor Harvey introduced several new terms into the scholarly discussion about the aetiology of postmodernity. For instance, he refers to 'space-time compression'. The outstanding feature of the postmodern world is the shift from 'Fordism' to flexible accumulation of wealth, and its corresponding speeding up of time and compression of space. 'Fordism' and old-style capitalism imposed certain restrictions upon the speed at which capital could move, and the pre-war world still had a sense of the massiveness of global space. However, as 'Fordism' has in the past fifty years been superseded by modern capitalism, the world has shrunk in terms of perception of space and man's movement within that space has accelerated dramatically. Professor Harvey relates how this space-time compression has caused the fragmentation of the modern world and produced an abundance of seemingly different realities and dimensions something represented dramatically in postmodern architecture. Modern life is incoherent because of these conflicting realities and modern man is the subject of this turmoil.

Turning specifically to architecture, Professor Harvey's makes several vital contributions to the analysis of postmodern architecture. His ideas represent a comprehensive attempt to encapsulate the entirety of cultural movements since the advent of modernism. Moreover, his theories about the global movements of capital seem prophetically accurate when compared to present observations of economic phenomenon. So too, Professor Harvey's analysis of the social and cultural ramifications of these changes are powerfully convincing; the theory of space-time compression fits neatly with the observations of others authors such as Baudrillard, McHale and Foucault.

If some criticisms are to be made of Professor Harvey's ideas then they perhaps centre on his rather formulaic structures of his thought. That is, he depends exclusively upon Marxist theories of capitalism to explain the phenomenon of the postmodern world, and so effectively refuses to consider alternative contributory factors. Ira Katznelson also suggests that although Professor Harvey's contribution to showing that Marxism can be useful in city development is unquestionable, his methods for doing this are inadequate. Nonetheless, weight in the wider balance of his contributions to postmodernity and understandings of present twenty-first century society, these criticisms weigh far lighter than the benefits of his work.

Another author who has contributed significantly to the Marxist and postmodernist debate is Frederic Jameson: Professor of Comparative Literature and Director of the Duke Centre for Critical Theory at Duke University. Professor Jameson's most celebrated works include The Prison House of Language (Jameson, 1972), Marxism and Form (Jameson, 1971), and Late Marxism (Jameson, 1990). Perhaps his most famous and influential work on this topic however is Postmodernism: the Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism (Jameson, 1991). This work is essentially an anatomy of the differences between the modern and postmodern sensibilities. This critique involves a thorough account of the changes wrought by postmodernism upon the individual global citizen. Jameson's basic argument, like Harvey's, is that postmodernism is a cultural phenomenon born out of the vicissitudes of a capitalist economy. The distinctive feature of this cultural phenomenon is and it is interesting that Jameson and Harvey use the same word 'fragmentation'. Individual lives become hopelessly fragmented under postmodernism and all emphasis is upon superficial glamour rather than substantial ideas. This postmodern age is essentially impersonal, cold and lifeless. Postmodernism has little momentum, inspiration or energy of its own, but instead, to use Jameson's expression, 'cannabalizes' different historical styles and seeks to make out of them something of its own. Jameson refers to this process as 'present-day multinational capitalism' (Jameson, 1991). In other words, the postmodern world has witnessed a profound shift in the nature of the material universe and its mechanisms of capitalism.

With reference to postmodern architecture Jameson argues that postmodern architectural forms are too advanced and incompatible with present society and cultural existence. This is the root of modern fragmentation: the individual member of society cannot keep pace with the forms that represent modern space and so he becomes fragmented. Designs are too futuristic and multi-dimensional; people cannot yet find correspondence with such an experience of advanced forms in their own lives. Jameson takes the Bonaventura Hotel in Los Angeles as a prime example and argues that space has mutated to such an extent that the hyperspace of the postmodern world has surpassed the ability of the single human to orientate itself in relation to its forms and buildings.

The movements of capital in the twentieth century be they interpreted from a Marxist or capitalist position produced two principal styles of architecture: Modernism and Postmodernism. The twenty-first century architect finds himself in a contest to choose between these two styles and 'philosophies' of architecture, but he is aided in that choice if he knows something of the historical emergence of these styles.

The movements of capital in the twentieth century be they interpreted from a Marxist or capitalist position produced two principal styles of architecture: Modernism and Postmodernism. The twenty-first century architect finds himself in a contest to choose between these two styles and 'philosophies' of architecture, but he is aided in that choice if he knows something of the historical emergence of these styles.

Modernism first emerged in the early twentieth century and was predominant between the 1930's and 1980's. The three leading exponents of this style were Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropier; today prominent British exponents of modernism include like Sir Norman Foster and Lord Rogers of Riverside. Examples of modernist architecture include the Seagram Building, the Bauhaus movement, Lever House and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Stylistically, simplicity and efficiency of lines, rectangular geometry and the absence of historical styles characterize modernism. Modernism stresses the absence of ornamentalism and decadence; modernist designs are functional, logical and use the most cost-efficient materials available. These style principles grow out of the central modernist conviction that buildings should be designed for a social purpose, they serve communities and society. Modernist buildings ought to be, to use Corbusier's famous phrase: 'machines for living'. They ought to consider in their design how their use of space, facilities, organization and so forth will harmonize and produce benefits for the communities who live in and use them. Nonetheless, modernist style has received a scathing rebuke from postmodern architects. They lament the dreary, miserable concrete monstrosities for instance the Hayward Centre — and 'windswept plazas' that arose everywhere in England in the 1960', and the ceaselessly monotonous style of modernism something Philip Johnson aptly put as 'being bored of the box'. The spirit of modernist architecture is caught in the mottos 'less is more' and 'form follows function'. Above all, modernism is dominated by the idea that social considerations ought always be considered first and aesthetic considerations second.

Put succinctly, postmodern architecture bears witness to a re-emergence of ornamentalism, flair and decoration in stark contrast to the restraint and simplicity of modernism. Modernism was characterised by buildings whose shapes and structures were determined by their social usefulness and so were correspondingly plain and bland; postmodern architecture sees an exuberance and explosion of flamboyant shapes, use of strange and exotic materials, and eclectic fusion of various historical styles. With postmodernism aesthetics are celebrated for their own sake, and not only for their functionality. Postmodernism finds expression in the works of architects like Phillip Johnson, Ricardo Boffil, James Stirling, John Burgee and Robert Venturi and in buildings like the State Gallery in Stuttgart and Charles Willard Moore's Piazza d'Italia. The architecture of postmodernism is thus described as 'neo-eclectic': it delights in glamorous and adventurous forms that are ornamental, extravagant and rich with historical associations; the style employs non-orthogonal shapes and rare surface materials to achieve. Such architecture is viewed by the modernist school as vulgar and decadent and socially irresponsible. Architects of postmodernism accuse modernism of being insipid, unhistorical and lifeless, zestless. There is as such a sharp and bitter demarcation between the approaches of postmodernism and modernism.

In conclusion to this section, it ought to be said that the Marxist critique of architecture and postmodernity has much to inform the architect of. Principally, it suggests to him, on the macro level, an alternative or complementary way to understand the role of architecture in relation to capitalism. Greater sympathy by architects to Marxist theories might instil in architects a greater social and cultural orientation in their work. However, at the macro level the Marxist critique is found to have certain deficiencies: perhaps most obviously, it lacks a practical orientation and teaching for the architect at the everyday level.

Modernism first emerged in the early twentieth century and was predominant between the 1930's and 1980's. The three leading exponents of this style were Le Corbusier, Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropier; today prominent British exponents of modernism include like Sir Norman Foster and Lord Rogers of Riverside. Examples of modernist architecture include the Seagram Building, the Bauhaus movement, Lever House and the architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Stylistically, simplicity and efficiency of lines, rectangular geometry and the absence of historical styles characterize modernism. Modernism stresses the absence of ornamentalism and decadence; modernist designs are functional, logical and use the most cost-efficient materials available. These style principles grow out of the central modernist conviction that buildings should be designed for a social purpose, they serve communities and society.

Modernist buildings ought to be, to use Corbusier's famous phrase: 'machines for living'. They ought to consider in their design how their use of space, facilities, organization and so forth will harmonize and produce benefits for the communities who live in and use them. Nonetheless, modernist style has received a scathing rebuke from postmodern architects. They lament the dreary, miserable concrete monstrosities for instance the Hayward Centre — and 'windswept plazas' that arose everywhere in England in the 1960', and the ceaselessly monotonous style of modernism something Philip Johnson aptly put as 'being bored of the box'. The spirit of modernist architecture is caught in the mottos 'less is more' and 'form follows function'. Above all, modernism is dominated by the idea that social considerations ought always be considered first and aesthetic considerations second.