Kaika M, 2011, "Autistic architecture: the fall of the icon and the rise of the serial object of architecture" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 29(6) 968 – 992
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Autistic architecture: the fall of the icon and the rise of the serial object of architecture
Received 7 September 2010; in revised form 28 January 2011
Abstract. In this contribution I sketch a framework for interpreting the parallel process of banalisation of old and proliferation of new ‘iconic’ corporate architecture as the Janus-faced manifestation of a qualitative shift in the relationship between capital and architecture. Highlighting the change from place-bound, place-loyal urban elites to footloose transnational elites, I argue that after the 1970s the need to develop a new set of building specifications and use values to accommodate the requirements of a new urban economy was matched by an equally pressing need to institute a new set of symbolic values for a new generation of elites. Drawing upon Castoriadis’s work, I conceptualise architecture as the narrativisation of the desires of elites during a given era, and as a key component in instituting a society’s radical imaginary during moments of change. Within this framework, I argue that despite their common commitment to spectacular design, there are a number of significant differences between contemporary and earlier corporate ‘icons’. Discerning the distinct symbolic, material, and social role of contemporary corporate buildings, I challenge their identification as ‘iconic’ architecture and place them instead under a new category, which I term ‘autistic architecture’.
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