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The SAGE handbook of architectural theory

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DOI: 10.4135/9781446201756

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Greig Crysler Stephen Cairns


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Introduction – 1: Architectural
Theory in an Expanded Field
C. Greig Crysler, Stephen Cairns
and Hilde Heynen

REVISITING PARC DE LA VILLETTE match thickens the atmosphere. It is an evi-


dently multicultural scene. Many women are
On a midsummer’s afternoon in Paris’ Parc dressed in strongly coloured and patterned
de la Villette locals and tourists mingle fabrics of distant places, others wear hijabs.
amongst the famous red follies that dot the Some men wear kaftans, while many teens
park. Children paddle in a shallow pool that and children wear football strips bearing the
surrounds one of the follies. Family groups names of global stars of the game such as
and friends gather at tented cafés and bars Zidane, Ronaldo and Drogba. Security men
that have sprouted up alongside one another.
Strolling couples take in the sun, cyclists Figure 0.1 (Below) Temporary café next
weave along the banks of the canal, while to a Folly at Parc de la Villette, Paris.
the distant din of an impromptu football (Stephen Cairns)

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2 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

nothing less than an urban park for the


twenty-first century. The seemingly open
brief was underpinned by ambitious cultural
and urban planning policy aspirations. To be
sited on 55 hectares of semi-derelict land in
the northeast corner of Paris, and framed by
a new Science Museum and Music Centre,
the Parc de la Villette was to reanimate what
had been a relatively marginalized area of
the city, open up the city to the suburbs
beyond, and sustain Paris’ place as a global
centre of cultural innovation.
Tschumi’s winning design proposal was
Figure 0.2 (Above) Security guards on significant not simply because of its intrinsic
elevated walkway at Parc de la Villette, architectural qualities. It gained notoriety
Paris. (Stephen Cairns) for the way it was self-consciously animated
by ‘theory’. Parc de la Villette was widely
walk their beats in pairs on the elevated regarded as a built manifestation of Tschumi’s
decks that cut across the park. They wear ongoing critique of the foundational princi-
black combat trousers and orange T-shirts ples of architectural modernism, specifically
branded with ‘Prevention Securité’ on the the assumptions about the determinate role
back. Walkie-talkies and bundles of keys of function, structure and economy-
hang from their belts. One of the routine of-means on built form. Parc de la Villette
jobs on their beat is to rattle the door handles was not simply theorized after the event of its
of each of the 35 follies. They are checking design and making, it was conceived in and
that the follies are locked. Most are empty. through a specific articulation of design
Some have begun to appear a little dilapi- thinking that linked architecture to debates in
dated and worn. Once solidly red, some literary theory and philosophy. This mobili-
follies are now a patchwork of stained and zation of theory in the design – enhanced by
faded panels and brighter replacements. At Tschumi’s invitation to Jacques Derrida and
some, one can even stare through rusted Peter Eisenman to collaborate on an aspect
panels to the structure within. But they are of it1 – triggered a scramble amongst critics,
now also ‘worn in’. Once stark markers set commentators and academics in the disci-
out on a grid across the park, the follies are pline to acquire the novel vocabularies
nowadays embedded, albeit ambiguously, in required to appropriately engage. Suddenly,
a mature landscape of trees, shrubs and it seemed, architecture was pursuing theory
human activity. in various postmodernist, post-structuralist
These follies began their lives as trade- and deconstructivist guises.
mark elements of the original Parc de la The Parc de la Villette project was by no
Villette landscape, as designed by architect means a unique nor even inaugural activation
Bernard Tschumi. Tschumi won the commis- of theory in architecture, as we will see. Nor
sion to design Parc de la Villette in an inter- should it be seen as some emblematic monu-
national competition launched in 1982 by the ment of architectural theory. But it did dem-
then French Minister of Culture, Jack Lang. onstrate a self-conscious engagement with
The forward-looking competition brief had a particular kind of theory that, as Jonathan
little in the way of functional requirements, Culler usefully notes, is essentially a ‘nick-
emphasizing instead the values of urbanism, name’ for eclectic styles of scholarship that
pleasure and experimentation, calling for challenge and reorient thinking across diverse

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 3

disciplinary lines. The coherence that is attrib- the locks of an empty pavilion, while an ani-
uted to writings in this mode resides, Culler mated crowd is served beer and wine from
suggests, in ‘their analyses of language, mind, a tent pitched in its shadow, is striking in
history, or culture [that] offer novel and its irony. Is it that the Parc, as critics at the
persuasive accounts of signification, make time chimed, replaced functionalism with an
strange the familiar and perhaps persuade intensified formalism? Is it that the Parc’s
readers to conceive of their own thinking design, informed as it was by theory, was
and the institutions to which it relates in too clever for its own good? Or is it that the
new ways’ (Culler 1994, 13). In the 1980s informal, performative and lived will always
this set of developments gave rise to new outflank a leaden-footed practice such as
textbooks and special issue journals, as architecture, however radically it might be
well as prestigious exhibitions. Titles such conceived?3 Despite this, the Parc has evi-
as What is Deconstruction? (Norris and dently been creatively and successfully pro-
Benjamin 1988), Deconstruction in Architec- grammed by the management teams of the
ture (Papadakis 1988) and Deconstructivist Parc and the adjacent Science Museum and
Architecture (Johnson and Wigley 1988), Music Centre. A myriad of local volunteer
mark architecture’s engagement with this organizations have acquired spaces for daily
extra- and interdisciplinary body of work. and weekly events such as exhibitions, dance
Theory was in the air and the Parc de la and theatrical performances, and gardening
Villette project seemed to encapsulate it. classes. These user groups have exploited the
This particular kind of theory mobilized indeterminacy of the design. They have
not only a critique of architectures already stitched themselves into the fabric of the
made, but also saw this critique as grounds Parc in multiple ways, sometimes as sus-
for an enrichment of the architectural design tained and sanctioned user groups, and other
process itself. This involved the (re)invention times through fleeting and unpredictable
of a host of metaphorical and literal design appropriations.
operations – montage, collage, automatic With its vibrant activity co-existing with
drawing, excavation, layering, fragmenting, often-fallow follies, Parc de la Villette
juxtaposing, tracing – that coalesced in an encapsulates the hope and ambiguity of
‘auto-generative’ design process in which the architecture’s earlier engagement with post-
conventional agencies of client, user and structuralist theory. For example, it still
architect came to be scrambled.2 captures something of the adventurous
Just as Parc de la Villette has found a place and open potential of critical attitudes to
in the fabric and everyday life of Paris, so too entrenched disciplinary truths such as func-
has it found a place in the discipline’s history tionalism, formulas of composition and
of itself. Parc de la Villette is today part of essentialisms of place. As a marker of a dis-
the architectural canon. With its architectural ciplinary turning point, Parc de la Villette
fabric now worn in, there is also an unavoid- also reminds us of the ways in which connec-
able sense that Parc de la Villette’s theory has tions with theoretical debates in other disci-
worn thin. Tschumi explicitly sought to plines enabled architecture to see itself anew
unhinge the conventional expectation that through emerging critiques of logocentrism,
form should, as Sullivan’s cliché has it, phallogocentrism and eurocentrism. The
‘follow’ function. He did so by activating debates that followed provided openings for
the ambiguities of chance and play, and the restructuring not only the Enlightenment
follies (which were loosely functional, sculp- intellectual legacy embedded in architecture,
tural, pavilion-like structures) played a key but also genuine practical alternatives for
part in articulating this commitment. As how architecture might comport itself in
such, the image of security guards rattling the world. These included new ways of

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4 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

conceptualizing and producing architecture, et al. 2004 [1977]). And finally, in the wake
new modes of pedagogy, new logics of office of post-structuralist theory, architecture’s
organization, new commitments to a more intermittent engagement with critical theo-
inclusive, universally accessible architectural retical traditions, such as Marxism (Tafuri
profession. 1980 [1968]; Tzonis 1972), was in some
For all these gains, architecture’s engage- quarters thought too cheerless and too
ment with post-structuralist theory also normative.
meant that more established conceptions of
architectural theory were increasingly seen
as unsatisfactory. The problematizing of such
more conventional approaches saw many of ENDS OF THEORY?
them marginalized or merely rendered
unfashionable. This certainly happened to Many of the tensions between scientific,
established traditions of theory building in phenomenological and post-structuralist
architecture that could be defined in terms definitions of theory have been rehearsed,
of a Popperian ‘scientific method’ (Popper elaborated and reconsidered in one way or
2002 [1963], 333). Within architecture, a another, within a wider debate on the ‘ends
wide range of architectural theory followed of theory’ (Callus and Herbrechter 2004;
this template, including building sciences, Rabate 2002; Cunningham 2002; Butler et al.
the ‘first generation’ of design methodolo- 2000; Payne and Schad 2004; Jameson 2004
gists (Alexander 1964; Broadbent and Ward in a special issue of Critical Inquiry on
1969), instrumentally inflected approaches to the theme). The seeds of this debate were,
design based on post-occupancy evaluation of course, already present in the unstable
(Proshansky et al. 1970), amongst others. constellation of approaches, tendencies and
Theoretical approaches defined in terms of tactics that were gathered under the heading
a Husserlian ‘phenomenological method’ of post-structuralism. In this respect, post-
(Husserl 1931) that garnered significant fol- structuralist ‘theory’ was itself a thorough-
lowings in architecture were suspiciously going attack on the idea of theory – a tension
cast as essentialist (Norberg-Schulz 1965; that is nicely captured in a pair of essays by
Perez-Gomez 1985; see also Chapter 7 in this American literary critics J. Hillis Miller on
volume). Studies of vernacular built forms ‘the triumph of theory’ (1987), and Paul de
and environments, supported by Levi- Man on the ‘resistance to theory’ (1982).
Straussian structuralism (van Eyck 1961 and Some strands of this debate might be charac-
1967; Bourdieu 1970; Blier 1995 ; Hertzberger terized as a blatant reassertion of the ‘grand
2005), were seen as tainted by their latent narratives’ of progress, universal justice or
humanism. The discipline’s ancient invest- equality, in the name of an effective politics
ment in theories of aesthetic formalism, of globalization (Eagleton 2003). Other
wherein various systems of proportion and strands have taken the form of discipline-
composition authorized the proper arrange- or medium-specific resistances (especially
ment of architectural forms and spaces in those fields that are focused on creative
(Boudon 1971; Ching 1979; Le Corbusier practice, such as film studies, fine art
2000 [1955]; Papadakis and Aslet 1988), and performance studies) subsumed within
were also questioned. As was the renewed the language of critique or the language
interest in European urban history, urban metaphor per se (Culler 2000). Often moti-
morphology and architectural type that had, vated by materialist or pragmatist attitudes,
since the 1960s, begun to coalesce under the still further strands in this debate sought to
heading of ‘neo-rationalism’ (Krier 1988; ‘reconstruct’ disciplinary paradigms that
Muratori 1967; Rossi 1982 [1966]; Panerai were regarded as suffering the destructive

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 5

effects of theory (see, for example, Bordwell under the name of the ‘post-critical’ (Baird
and Carroll 1996). 2004; Chapter 2 of this volume). Robert
Manfredo Tafuri’s neo-Marxist critique Somol and Sarah Whiting published in 2002
of architecture and capitalism was an an article on ‘Projective architecture’ that
important site for the development of a disci- came to be understood as an appeal for a
pline-specific ‘resistance to theory’. In his ‘post-critical’ architecture (although the
Architecture and Utopia (1976 [1973]), authors themselves were careful not to use
Tafuri characterized semiology and structur- that characterization). In the aftermath of this
alism as a ‘delicate ideological veil’ (Tafuri publication, many more voices were raised
1976, 150), and its application to architecture that pleaded for a more modest understand-
as disguising the deeper penetration of ing of architecture’s capacities to critically
capital and economic logics into the proc- reflect on the world, given that architecture
esses of architectural production. Tropes that is, out of necessity, mostly complicit with the
came to be so important in architectural flows of capital that increasingly structure
theory – such as indeterminacy, open-ended- that world.. This formulation was, in a way, a
ness and ambiguity – were diagnosed in foregrounding of the disciplinary medium –
nascent form in the semiological project and bricks, mortar, glass, concrete and capital –
critiqued by Tafuri as serving to dissolve the and practice at the expense of the
medium or materiality of architecture. While philosophical reflection that animated earlier
this served, in turn, to buttress architects’ theoretical paradigms. Other commentators
sense of their own agency and creative free- (Allen 2004; Speaks 2001, 2002 (a), (b), (c);
dom, it did so at the cost of disguising archi- Martin 2005) rhetorically elaborated this
tecture’s growing sense of impotence in the view, suggesting that (as it coincided with an
world. That is, while ‘architecture seeks its upturn in the economy and an increase in
own meaning’ through semiology, the disci- availability of work for architects) the prag-
pline is, argues Tafuri, ‘tormented by the matic embrace of the market economy served
sense of having lost its meaning altogther’ as motivation, intellectual licence and ethical
(Tafuri 1976, 161). This line of argument horizon for architectural practice.
was pointedly elaborated in his essay The displacements, deconstructions and
‘L’Architecture dans le Boudoir’ (1974) disruptions of long-held and relatively stable
where the theme of an illusory and destruc- disciplinary norms served to proliferate what
tive interiorization through theory was artic- Jean-François Lyotard famously called ‘little
ulated through analysis of the work of specific narratives’. Architectural theory, as we have
avant-garde architects (the New York Five, seen, inventively took up the possibilities
Aldo Rossi, James Stirling). Tafuri’s critique of this new, fragmented discursive terrain.
of the avant-garde’s subsequent embrace of But it also seemed, in retrospect, especially
post-structuralist theory is articulated more susceptible to the consumptive mode that it
fully in a set of essays and interviews in a inspired, in which novel theoretical vocabu-
special issue of Casabella (Gregotti 1995). laries were adopted, briefly entertained, or
Other authors have revisited this critical (worse) ‘applied’ to built form, then aban-
approach by attempting to reconcile its doned as outdated only to be replaced by new
emphasis on architectural history with some paradigms. We hope that this Handbook will
of the themes that theory has activated, such make a contribution to the longer, slower and
as the everyday, gender and postcolonialism oscillating history of architectural theory.
(see, for example, Borden and Rendell 2000; The Handbook does not propose a fresh
Heynen and Loeckx 1998). set of ‘posts-’, turns or paradigms that break
The more recent end-of-theory atmosphere with all that precedes it. Nor does it promote
has found concrete expression in architecture a return to the universalist aspirations of

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6 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

scientific theory in its various guises, or the INSTITUTIONAL CONTEXTS


essentialisms of experience. It builds upon
the irrefutable theoretical energy that the Worldly theory is bound up with modes of
Parc de la Villette embodied, but does so by production and dissemination. As with the
putting the critical sensitivities, the pluralist other humanities, the privileged medium for
sensibility, the self-reflexivity and specula- architectural theory has, until the very recent
tive ambition that post-structuralism incul- past, been printed text – monographs, edited
cated in the discipline into contact with a collections, anthologies, journal articles and
wider set of world conditions. conference proceedings (as can be gathered
Understanding the architectural afterlife from the bibliographies of each section in
of Parc de la Villette today is not well served this Handbook). A number of important jour-
by the theoretical vocabulary by which it was nals appeared in the 1980s and 1990s that
conceived. The eventual effectiveness of the came to be crucial vehicles for the develop-
Parc as built, inhabited and appropriated real- ment of architectural theory. Journals such as
ity was, in many respects, unforeseen. This Oppositions and Assemblage in the USA, AA
is, of course, an inevitable fact of all architec- Files in the UK, Archis in the Netherlands,
tures. The circumstantial eventfulness that Lotus International in Italy all supported, in
gathers to them, the life (and death) that varying ways, the rapid development and dis-
flows and ebbs through them, inevitably semination of interdisciplinary themes and
complicates and usually exceeds any inaugu- styles of debate. Unlike journals in the sciences,
rating motivations or principles (see Ockman these periodicals were very much identified
2000; Till 2009). A theoretical framework with their editors or with their editorial
that is sensitive to this play between the prin- boards, being known for taking up specific
ciple of a building (what it is as a design) and positions and critically aligning themselves
the circumstance of a building (what it comes with certain paradigms (Crysler 2003). In
to be) must be couched in more expansive the last decade or so, pressure has been rising
terms. This is not merely to claim that archi- to give more prominence to peer-reviewed
tectural theory can somehow incorporate journals, which are supposedly more open
circumstance in the name of ‘the political’, and neutral. Hence we have seen the emer-
‘the technical’ or ‘the social’. It is to suggest gence of journals like Architectural Theory
that architectural theory can sensitize the Review, which is entirely devoted to the
discipline to the myriad of relationships – exchange of information and ideas on areas
proximities, interconnections, entanglements, of architectural interest. Scholars in architec-
distances, contiguities, framings and short- tural theory have also experimented with
circuitings – that buildings establish between web-based publications. The best known is
themselves and the forms of life that pulse the Haecceity platform (www.haecceityinc.
through and within them. An architectural com), which aims at supporting critical archi-
theory conceived along these relational lines tectural theory by addressing the status of
draws us both outwards from the building to architecture ‘at the end of metaphysics’.
the wider network, ecology or milieu within Some would argue that web publications are
which it sits, and inwards to the material the future of our discipline, but thus far
fabric of the building itself. It also ensures printed materials still have greater reach and
that these outward and inward trajectories influence than those limited to cyberspace –
are not mutually exclusive, but have the as the bibliographical sections in this
capacity to be short-circuited, and related Handbook show.
intimately. This expanded field suggests that These references already indicate that
architectural theory is porous and open to the architectural theory’s dominant language is
circumstances of the world.4 currently English. Although its past and

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 7

present references are steeped in Italian, West. Most are based at academic institutions
French and German, architectural theorists in the West. Clearly, global cities such as
who solely use one of these languages are Singapore, Johannesburg and Shanghai, for
unlikely to gain international prominence example, host significant sites of scholar-
today. International exchange and communi- ship in the field, and their emergence
cation mainly happens in English, and the suggests that the academic world is expand-
best known academic centres of architectural ing geographically. But this begs the ques-
theory are located within the Anglo-Saxon tion: does an expansion of geographical
cultural sphere – London, the American East horizons imply an equivalent diversification
and West Coasts, one or two centres in of intellectual horizons? That is, does the
Australia. Paris, Venice and Berlin, like academy – in the name of academic freedom
Barcelona and Rotterdam, are on the map, and disinterested inquiry – recognize, sup-
but they do not have the same force of grav- port or even catalyse new forms of knowl-
ity. Other parts of the world – the whole edge and styles of thinking that might
of Asia, Africa and Latin America – do not emerge outside established centres? Or does
really play along. Some centers operate the academy today seek to expand and
within regional or national debates, while entrench a newly commodified global format
others lack the resources needed to produce for the production and consumption of
publications for an anglophonic debate that knowledge?
is increasingly dominated by large multi- In their book Academic Capitalism and the
national presses. This situation, of course, is New Economy, Sheila Slaughter and Gary
consistent with the overall cultural hegemony Rhoades (2004) outline a political economy
of Western-based institutions. It is a hegem- of knowledge production in the contempo-
ony that one can (and should) deplore and rary academy.5 They document the ways in
criticize, but at the same time one has to which the academy increasingly operates
recognize that this hegemony is structurally according to a set of global norms dictated by
part of the way our academic institutions neo-liberal ideologies. This process, which
function. they dub ‘academic capitalism’, normalizes
Confronting the ‘spaces of theory’ through the values of competition according to nar-
the production of this Handbook proved to rowing criteria, and entrenches market-like
be a sobering experience. Given our interdis- behaviours across the teaching/learning,
ciplinary and cross-cultural ambitions, we research and service functions of universities
were keen to offer the Handbook as a globally. Research and scholarship play an
platform for voices of intellectuals who were especially important part in this system, serv-
based outside established academic centres ing as markers of brand distinction for indi-
in Europe, North America or Australasia. vidual institutions, and driving knowledge
This aspiration proved more difficult to production for a commodified knowledge
fulfil than we had anticipated. This volume economy. The emerging global academic
does feature the work of authors who come market has seen a tightening of intellectual
from Latin America, South and East Asia, agendas as institutions ‘gatekeep’ legitimate
Southeast Asia and Africa, and they tackle forms of knowledge in the name of ‘quality’
a diverse range of issues that are as cosmo- and ‘academic standards’ (Slaughter and
politan and engaged with global debates Rhoades 2004, 120).6 While Slaughter and
in the discipline as any other contributor. But Rhoades document examples of resistance
is one’s place of origin especially significant to this development – citing cases in South
in the global academy today? Most contribu- Africa and Central America, for example
tors to this volume undertook doctoral stud- (2004, 124) – they also note the isolated
ies and developed academic careers in the and unsustained nature of these enterprises.

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8 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

It is easier, perhaps, for those whose work is theory; in the second it is the by-product of a
already framed cross-culturally, to contem- design-oriented course that is the responsibil-
plate effective forms of scholarship that ity of a practising architect, who might or
exploit the integrative aspects of globaliza- might not hold a PhD but has developed a
tion for positive academic effects. We might theoretical stance more informally.
think of the long-distance, dialogic and The two situations are common, not just
shuttling modes of scholarship that devel- in Europe but also in the USA (where the
oped in the 1980s and 1990s in critical first version tends to be more dominant in
anthropology and postcolonial studies. We research universities, whereas the second
might point to the increasing mobility that would predominate in more professionally
enables research across the academy to be oriented architectural schools) and elsewhere.7
structured in multi-sited ways (see Chan and Nevertheless, architectural theory as an aca-
Fisher 2008). Nonetheless, Slaughter and demic discipline is dominated by the first
Rhoades’ analysis will resonate with the type of scholar – art or architectural
daily working experiences of many scholars historians who do not practice as architects.8
in the West. And, more significantly, it offers It is not hard to conjecture the reason for
a plausible structural explanation for the this: these scholars are the ones whose
diminished resources – time, funding, infra- career paths depend upon their publication
structure – that scholars in many centres output, whereas the professors who teach
outside the West work with. For our pur- architectural theory as part of their involve-
poses, it also clearly sets out the parameters ment in their studio work receive promotions
and stakes for a project that seeks to make on the basis of their architectural projects.
alternate and novel scholarly voices heard in Hence, there is a clear difference in publica-
the global academy today. tion patterns, with the first type of scholars
Another institutional limitation concerns being much more prolific in writing books
the place of architectural theory within the and articles, and the second type being better
academic curriculum. When the EAAE known in terms of their built works.
(European Association of Architectural This situation makes up for a disjuncture
Education) organizes a workshop on archi- between, on the one hand, the academic iden-
tectural theory (which they have done tity of architectural theory in a book like this,
on a regular basis over the last five years), and, on the other, architectural theory as
participants tend to identify themselves in taught in many architectural schools.
rather different ways. Some see themselves Depending on the willingness of the respon-
as scholars, others as architects who teach. sible professor to address the very wide
This difference is consistent with the obser- range of issues that can possibly be covered
vation that architectural theory typically in architectural theory, students will or
occupies one of two positions in the educa- will not be offered the opportunity to
tional programme of future architects. It engage with them. Depending upon the open-
either aligns with architectural history in ness of the responsible professor to reflect
survey courses and specialist seminars upon design questions, students will or will
devoted to ‘history, theory and criticism’ or it not be challenged to bridge theory and
is closely linked with studio courses, provid- design. The resulting teaching practices thus
ing to studio teachers a space where they can make up a very wide variety of contents
discursively reflect upon the tacit knowledge and methods, making architectural theory,
that circulates in the studio learning environ- although often seen as essential, not very
ment. In the first case, it is often taught by stable nor anywhere near canonical.
professors holding a PhD in art history, archi- While a growing number of anthologies,
tectural history or (more rarely) architectural edited collections, authored books and

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 9

journals participate in defining and delimit- The Hays, Nesbitt and Leach volumes all
ing architectural theory, many teachers feel take the time period around 1968 as their
free to venture far away from these starting point. In Theorizing a New Agenda,
supposedly core narratives. Instead, they Nesbitt argues that the three decades since
follow specific trajectories that build upon 1965 were characterized by social upheaval,
older approaches (about scale, rhythm, pro- a loss of faith in the modernist project, and
portions; or about materials, crafts and joints; ‘a certain disillusionment with social reform’
or about space, tectonics and details), or within the profession (Nesbitt 1996, 22). The
that highlight an idiosyncratic theoretical global recession that followed the oil shocks
angle, engaging specific ‘masters’ and their of the mid-1970s helped to spur a period
ways of doing architecture (Le Corbusier, of critical reflection and writing by architects
Mies and Louis Kahn come to mind as very (in part through lack of building opportuni-
popular reference points for this kind of ties) in Europe and North America. This
teaching). was accompanied by the creation of new
institutions and publications, which in turn
advanced the prominence and influence of
architectural theory in education and profes-
POSITIONING THE HANDBOOK sional practice. Nesbitt notes the prolifera-
tion of competing positions that emerged in
Three influential anthologies of architectural this period – something that both her extended
theory, each building on the Parc de la introduction and the organization of the book
Villette ‘theory moment’, were published in reflect (1996, 28). She crossmatches five
close succession in the late 1990s. Kate paradigms (ranging from ‘the aesthetic of the
Nesbitt’s Theorizing a New Agenda for sublime’ to post-structuralism) with five
Architecture: An Anthology of Architectural major themes that the paradigms are employed
Theory 1965–1995 was published in 1996, to address (from place and history to the
and this was followed in 1997 by Rethinking body). The result is a complex, pluralist map
Architecture edited by Neil Leach. of the field, one that is primarily populated
Architecture Theory since 1968, edited by by the writings of architects and architectural
K. Michael Hays, appeared a year later, in academics based in the USA and, to a much
1998. At the time, the publication of these lesser degree, in Europe. Nesbitt locates the
collections was greeted with a sense of ‘institutions of theory’ in New York, Venice
excitement, but also, perhaps a sense of clo- and London (1996, 22). This institutional
sure, one that comes with the attempt to focus might be one of the reasons why, for all
place the unruly and often contentious her awareness of the social conditions of
debates of the prior three decades into some architecture, she did not register discourses
form of order (Lavin 1999). Since this that were important elsewhere in the world,
Handbook inevitably engages with the cul- such as those concerned with particpation
ture of ideas that these collections represent and populism (Tzonis and Lefaivre 1976) or
and have actively shaped, framing their on ‘human settlements’ (d’Auria et al. 2010).
endeavours is integral to explaining our K. Michael Hay’s volume, Architecture
own. In stating things in this way, we Theory since 1968 also argues that the time
want to underscore the fact that the orga- period (in this case ending with 1993) is
nization of this collection – and our defined by the emergence of new institutions
editorial relationship to prior approaches – of theory. But he goes a step further to argue
seeks to explore the reach, coherence and that since 1968 ‘architecture theory’ has all
porosity of architectural theory as a field of but subsumed ‘architectural culture’ (Hays
inquiry. 1998, x). In this formulation, the social

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10 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

upheavals and uncertainties of the 1960s led assumptions – as part of an effort to redefine
to the institutionalization of a permanent how the social and the architectural are
critique in architectural culture, one that is defined and related to each other.
achieved through theory as a system of The third major collection to emerge in the
mediation or ‘transcoding’ between social 1990s, Neil Leach’s Rethinking Architecture
changes in the world at large and their spe- (1997), shares with both Hays and Nesbitt an
cific articulation within architectural culture. emphasis on the capacity for architectural
As a result, architectural culture becomes theory to provoke critical reflection. He
less a stable foundation for theoretical dis- describes the end of the twentieth century as
course than its object of desire: it must a ‘moment of recuperation’, and (following
now be ‘constantly constructed, decon- Jameson) one of ‘inverted millenarianism’ in
structed and reconstructed through more which ‘premonitions of the future […] have
self-conscious theoretical procedures’ (Hays been replaced by analysis of the past, and by
1998, x). The choice of material in the Hays reflection, in particular, on the collapse of
collection, while overlapping at points with various concepts on which contemporary
Nesbitt’s, is more attuned to a specific criti- society had been grounded’ (Leach 1997, xiii).
cal strategy, one which grants architecture a However, the point of departure in Leach’s
sense of partial autonomy from the forces in book is not within architecture, but explicitly
which it is embedded: outside it: architectural discourse, he sug-
gests, has been ‘largely a discourse of form’
In its strongest form mediation is the production of relation-
organized around ‘questions of style’ (1997,
ships between formal analysis of a work of architecture
and its social ground or context […] but in such way as to xiv). He proposes rethinking architecture
show that architecture is having some autonomous force through ‘depth models’ from other disci-
with which it could also be seen as negating, repressing, plines that transcend the limitations of such
compensating for, and even producing as well as reproduc- an approach. His categories, though in some
ing, that context. (Hays 1998, x)
cases overlapping directly with Nesbitt’s
(such as phenomenology, postmodernism,
Hays thus gives prominence to the auton- post-structuralism), are examined from the
omy of architecture as the source of its criti- standpoint of critical theorists and philoso-
cal capacity. Both in the years leading up to phers who write about architecture but have
and following the publication of his volume, no training in it (1997, xvi). The critical
the approach summarized above by Hays step here, different from, but as powerful as,
(and also explored in the journal Assemblage) the space clearing potential of ‘posts-’ and
has been the subject of considerable discus- ‘turns’, involves creating a negative charac-
sion. Some have argued (including, at earlier terization of the discipline in order to
points, the editors of this Handbook) that the move outside it. For Leach, this exteriority
emphasis on the critical discourse of form creates the possibility of rethinking the disci-
displaced other considerations and practices; pline’s internal priorities. This approach
others have claimed that, regardless of the elaborates the rich potential of connections
success or failure of the approach, it redi- with other disciplines. The absence of an
rected attention to architecture as system of internal perspective also means that the
representation intertwined with the texts, specificities of architecture (such as its
institutions and agents that constitute it as engagement with form, construction or mate-
such.9 Though our volume clearly departs rial) are not considered central elements of
from the discourse of critical form, we discussion.
nevertheless are operating in the opening While this Handbook overlaps with
Hays’ volume helped to create for an archi- these three volumes in terms of its time
tectural theory that questions its historical frame and thematic content, from an editorial

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 11

standpoint it has been organized and of the global present: the fall of the Berlin
produced in a fundamentally different way. Wall in 1989, the collapse of the Soviet
The Handbook is not a collection of existing Union, and the realignments of alliances in
texts. Rather, it presents original texts on Europe and elsewhere; the revitalization of
topics that we, as editors, considered signifi- religious and nationalist movements, with
cant to the field of architectural theory today. sometimes fundamentalist and aggressive
The invited authors engage with a cross- overtones (including the events surrounding
section of existing literature, assessing sig- 9/11 and its aftermath); systemic changes in
nificant debates and posing challenging the global financial system (the ‘Big Bang’ in
questions that indicate future directions for 1987) followed by the rise or fall (and rise) of
study and investigation. various economic bubbles, each increasingly
In developing the framework for the more exaggerated and precarious than its
Handbook, we have built upon and reconsid- predecessor (culminating with the collapse
ered the assumptions that underpin the previ- of 2008); the related generalization of digital
ous anthologies. From a temporal standpoint, technology; the shift in economic growth
our initial intention was to pick up where patterns towards China and India; further
these collections left off, by dealing with rapid urbanization in the global South (with
the turbulent period from around 1989 to half of the world’s population now living in
the present. However, once the project was cities); increasingly polarized geopolitical
underway – a process that involved extensive conditions; growing popular consciousness
meetings amongst ourselves and the 16 of an environmental crisis that is planetary in
section and project editors – it became scale.
clear that the complicated intellectual and The complexity of the current moment
institutional histories of the participants requires an impure, inclusive approach enliv-
would make such neat divisions impossible. ened by the possibilities produced by the
A sense of (sometimes critical) dialogue critical intersection and juxtaposition of com-
with the past, rather than a periodizing peting positions. Some of the approaches and
break with it, is a consistent feature through- debates featured in the previous volumes
out. This is reflected in the temporality have also been brought to the fore in this
of the contributions, almost all of which Handbook, along with others that remained
reach into (and in some cases extend beyond) more or less in the background: the overlaps
the last three decades as the frame for their and tensions between memory, history and
discussions. As with the Nesbitt, Hays and tradition (Section 4); the role of the profes-
Leach volumes, the period from the mid- sion and the institutions of architecture
1960s to the present is regarded in this col- (Section 5); the discourses on sustainabil-
lection as one of intensifying change, with ity and how they relate to late-capitalism
profound transformations coming in the (Section 7); the important interaction between
decade immediately after those volumes were architecture and the transformation of the
published. urban field (Section 8). Finally, the Handbook
However, we do not regard 1968 as singu- is notable for the way it explores the inter-
lar moment of epochal change, but instead action between architectural theory and
see it, together with more recent changes architectural projects – not just by including
occurring around 2000, as a contradictory mostly ‘theoretical’ (paper) projects, but also
moment of intensification that opens onto by discussing how the Handbook’s themes
a much more divided and polarized world – are relevant to the professional production of
one in which the unanticipated consequences architecture, to how architects deal with
of prior waves of capitalist modernization commissions, and to how diverse groups
increasingly dominate the future imaginings interact with their built environments.

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12 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

WORLDING, PROVINCIALIZING, contingencies, and all that they stand for –


GATHERING materiality, tactility, contamination, circum-
stance. On the other hand, theory, as a
Our ambition is for the Handbook to act as a nickname for those eclectic (post-structural-
vehicle that broaches an expanded and more ist, postmodern) interdisciplinary styles of
porous definition of architectural theory. This scholarship, activates the mobile, estranging,
ambition, as we have also suggested, is nec- relative and contingent aspects of the archaic
essarily anticipatory and retroactive. That is, meaning.
it engages with the worldly possibilities of These two understandings of theory have,
theory as much as it values existing dis- in the recent past, been seen as incompatible
course. In this respect, an expansive and and mutually exclusive. On the one hand,
porous definition of theory is also a matter of theory aspires to be an authorizing practice
retrieving features that were already present, giving rise to a globally applicable system of
though dormant, within archaic definitions of concepts. On the other hand, ‘theory’ func-
the term. ‘Theory’ used to connote openness, tions as set of tactics and styles of reading
participation, generosity and mobility as well and thinking that work to disrupt that system.
as authority and clarity. The term is derived This tension and oscillation between the
from the Greek theoros and theoria, which authorizing and disruptive dimensions of
embody ideas of viewing and of sacred duty theory underpins what Miller (1987) and de
(Bill 1901, 197). The idea of ‘spectator’ Man (1982) called the ‘triumph’ of and
seems to have been the original meaning, ‘resistance’ to theory, and the wider ends-
later to be supplemented by that of a ‘state of-theory debate. It also resonates with
delegate to a foreign festival’ (Bill 1901, Tafuri’s resistance to avant-garde architec-
198). Religious and sacred duties were sub- tural theory as a kind of illusory rhetorical
sequently added to this delegate function, superstructure for the discipline, and with the
giving rise to a second meaning: ‘commis- subsequent post-critical debates in architec-
sioner sent on sacred service’. So the plural ture. This Handbook positions itself as part
theoroi came to designate delegates sent of this oscillation, rather than entrenching
to sacred foreign festivals to view, to partici- one stance or other. In this respect we are
pate and to represent their home state. motivated by the complex tensions between
Herodotus and Thucydides, amongst others, the general and the contingent, the global and
used the term in a simpler way to refer to the situated, that are precisely held within the
‘journeys of travel and sightseeing’ (Bill classical sense of theoria. The ancient Greek
1901, 199). The function of theoroi, as theoroi who traveled, saw and reported, were
Wlad Godzich puts it, was to ‘see-and-tell’ in under a duty to produce understandable
a way that offered an ‘official and more reports that could ‘enlarge the community’s
ascertainable form of knowledge’. As such view’ (Rausch 1982, cited in Rabate 2002,
theoria provided ‘a bedrock of certainty: 114). This theory-making was a cosmopoli-
what it certified as having seen could become tan project that established carefully cali-
the object of public discourse’ (Godzich brated relationships between the distant and
1986, xiv). the near, the foreign and the familiar.
This etymology gave rise to different Rodolphe Gasché’s (2007) recent meditation
understandings of theory. The conventional, on the ongoing relevance of theory cites
scientific use of the term tends to emphasize Hans-Georg Gadamer’s famous essay ‘In
the authorizing, ground-truthing and sys- Praise of Theory’ as a way of articulating
temic aspects of its archaic meaning. This is this. ‘Theoria’, Gadamer suggested, ‘is not
the kind of theory that travels, and is valid so much the individual, momentary act as it
because it travels, because it transcends is a comportment, a state and condition in

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 13

which one holds oneself’ (Gadamer 1990, Spivak (1990) adapts (‘vulgarizes’, as
96; cited in Gasché 2007, 200).10 she puts it) Heidegger’s term ‘worlding’ for
How, then, should we qualify our actions similar purposes. She uses the term to draw
in this expanded terrain of architectural attention to the epistemic violence implicated
theory? How do we summarize the motiva- in imperialism, in particular ‘the assumption
tions behind undertaking a new collection that when the colonizers come to a world,
of this kind? What kind of architectural they encounter it as uninscribed earth upon
theory could grasp the complexity of that which they write their inscriptions’ (1990,
midsummer’s afternoon in Park de la 129). The idea of the ‘Third World’ is, for
Villette? What does it mean to theorize archi- Spivak, a striking instance of this homoge-
tecture in an ends-of-theory or post-critical nizing process. Yet, this process also contains
moment? What might be the scope and within it possibilities for a ‘counter-worlding’
remit of this new era of architectural theory? or a new ‘worlding of the world’ in which
By way of concluding our first introduction alternate, situated possibilities for being in
to this Handbook, we want to invoke three the world are articulated. As in Chakrabarty’s
different, though related, concepts as a logic of provincialization, this is a self-con-
means of fleshing out the idea of an architec- tradictory process that involves ‘un-learning’
tural theory in an expanded field: provincial- the privileges of speaking from the centre as
izing (Chakrabarty), worlding (Spivak), much as it does learning and propagating
gathering (Latour). Each of these concepts new forms of knowledge.
usefully refers to conditions – such as Latour’s (2004) reappropriation of
building, making, inhabiting, mapping, Heidegger’s conception of ‘gathering’, brings
describing territories – that make them us to the most architectural framing of
amenable to architectural reflection. But these three related themes. Latour’s consid-
they each in different ways articulate a mode eration of contemporary technology, leads
of practice and style of thinking that is atten- him to consider the way certain things have
tive to the complexities and contradictions gathering or relational effects. The work of
around matters of difference in a globalizing theory, for Latour, is not merely a matter of
world. ‘debunking’, but one of assembly. The theo-
Chakrabarty’s (2000) term ‘provincializ- rist ‘is one who offers the participants arenas
ing Europe’ is not merely a matter of articu- in which to gather’. The critic is ‘the one for
lating histories from non-European points whom, if something is constructed, then it
of view (this is a long-standing project and means it is fragile and thus in great need of
many such histories have been written). care and caution’.
Rather, the term refers to a simultaneous We do not propose that ‘provincializing’,
acknowledgment of the indispensability and ‘worlding’ and ‘gathering’ is a recipe for
inadequacy of the European intellectual practising theory in contemporary times.
heritage for thinking through conditions that Rather, we aim to draw out the richness of
pertain in everyday life outside of Europe. each of these verbs and examine their conse-
This doubled stance that simultaneously quences for thinking about architecture today.
decentres and activates principles such as We propose that architecture always already
rationality, secularism or social justice, involves a form of provincializing, worlding
demands heightened attention to the situated and gathering. We propose that each of these
and practising nature of theory. It calls for concepts, as they have been respectively
being constantly attuned to the particularities adapted, vulgarized and wrenched from
of difference and the generalities of concepts their original (European) intellectual context,
and categories and how they might be mutu- will help to displace the narrowed framing
ally accommodated. of post-structuralist architectural theory, and

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14 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

help configure a newly sensitized framework social theory: no longer regarded as a con-
for thinking about architecture in contempo- tainer, frame or context for social processes,
rary times.This is, we think, what the con- but a social process in itself that is inter-
tributors to this volume have attempted to do: twined with the development of capitalism.
they have responded to and elaborated the In its diverse meanings and analytic poten-
editorial themes and issues in ways that tial, space is at once material and imaginary,
anchored them in worldly concerns that and spans scales from the body to the plane-
question the hegemony of what is often tary. As such, it offers a bridge between the
seen as the centre of the discipline. They realm of architectural scholarship and the
have considered architecture as a material theorization of space and social processes in
practice that gathers not only techniques and other fields.
materials, but also people and their social At the same time, the discourses on space
interactions. carry with them concerns about dissimula-
tion (architectural theorists operating as
social scientists) and displacement (where
the specificity of architectural practices dis-
FOUR GUIDING THEMES solves into a more generalized interest in
social processes) (Robbins 1994; West 1993).
In developing the content of this collection, Others have suggested that recent forms of
we have identified a sequence of interpretive interdisciplinarity in architectural research
and methodological strategies to translate the are in part a manifestation of the institutional
critical potential of these three verbs into a authority it now holds within the universities:
more tangible editorial framework: a set with the expansion of programmes in archi-
of orienting devices that also collectively tectural history and theory, particularly at the
represent, in the broadest sense, the goals of PhD level, architectural academics have
the collection. This framework can be defined come to view other disciplines as sources,
by a commitment to interdisciplinarity and competitors and intellectual contexts for their
cross-cultural analysis, rethinking architec- research, shifting the focus from buildings
ture’s characteristic divide between theory and practice in the world at large to debates
and practice, and the pursuit of open-ended between disciplines within the academy
and provisional investigations. We briefly (Jarzombek 1999, 197).
outline each of these below. As we have suggested in the first part
of this introduction, the turn towards the
so-called post-critical, and the parallel, but
quite different, revival of interest in pragma-
INTERDISCIPLINARITY tism (with its emphasis on theory as some-
thing that guides, but does not precede,
Our approach to interdisciplinarity in this practice) are in part a reaction to interdisci-
collection has been shaped by its compli- plinarity and its potential to dissolve the
cated institutional history and the challenges historical specificity of disciplinary knowl-
it poses for architectural scholarship. The edge and practice (Saunders 2007). We do
discourse on space, indebted to the pioneer- not advocate interdisciplinarity as a correc-
ing work of Henri Lefebvre, holds particular tive to what some have characterized as a
significance in relation to the interdiscipli- self-enclosed and self-referential discipline.
narity of architectural theory. Through the We argue instead that architecture has always
work of Lefebvre and others who followed borrowed from other disciplines to illuminate
him, space in the humanities and social sci- its central questions, to augment its legiti-
ences has assumed a new prominence in macy, to find a language to redefine its

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 15

agenda. A more fully historicized under- (Mallgrave 2005, Mallgrave and Contandrio-
standing of architecture’s ‘interdisciplinary poulos 2008). A subsection on the ‘End of
intellections’ (Jarzombek 1999, 197) would Theory’ creates a threshold to the future
enable us to better understand architecture’s grouping, entitled ‘Beyond the Millennium’.
intellectual positioning today. Until the If the implied break with the past underscores
middle of the twentieth century, the fields the persistence of architectural theory’s devel-
of reference tended to be well-established opmentalist tropes, the geography of knowl-
disciplines such as archaeology, philosophy edge mapped by the collection as a whole
or history. Since then, architectural theory underscores the resilience of architectural
has been influenced by more fluid theoretical theory’s universalizing space of Euro-
discourses such as structuralism, post- American origins and teleological develop-
structuralism, semiotics, cybernetics, (neo) ment.
Marxist political theory, cultural studies, This collection is indebted to three dec-
gender studies or postcolonial theory. This ades of postcolonial studies that have, in
situation, which is partially responsible for diverse ways, reimagined the bounded spaces
the archipelago-like character of architec- of Western knowledge as part of a world
tural theory, is nevertheless also a rich source space surcharged with historical forces of
of innovation and provocation. Emerging colonization, imperialism and their after-
voices in architectural theory present new math. We therefore do not propose cross-
and original perspectives that are often based cultural analysis based on a simple inside/
on intimate knowledge of neighbouring outside relation, whereby the traditional
fields. We therefore regard interdisciplinarity Western canon is supplemented with more
as a way of representing and questioning the and more ‘external’ sources: this approach,
multifold processes and practices intrinsic in our view, can only serve to reinforce
to architecture and its specific history as a (and re-legitimate) the operations of the
discipline and profession. original system. Instead, we argue the first
step is to uncover the cross-cultural within
objects and ideas previously understood
as (racially) pure exemplars of ‘Western
CROSS-CULTURAL FRAMEWORKS modernity’ or ‘colonial culture’.
Rethinking the space of European origins
This handbook has been shaped by the intel- and hegemony in this way also transforms
lectual legacy of postcolonial struggles, most the assumptions of diffusionist models of
directly in the way we have conceptualized modernity, in which ideas are presumed to
theory’s space of knowledge. It has been con- travel from core to periphery, and from purity
ventional for theory collections to reinstate to debased status as they move between con-
the grand evolutionary narrative of nineteenth texts. Following Edward Said, what emerges
century historicism as the unquestioned instead is a ‘contrapuntal’ narrative social
organizing framework for the sequential space in which the architectural and urban
presentation of master texts, a convention ‘cultures of imperialism’ are in movement
that continues up to the present with several between core and periphery, as they are re-
recent volumes on architectural theory. assembled, reworked and reinscribed in both
Perhaps the most notable example of the con- the colonial city and imperial metropole
tinuing tradition is the two-volume collection (Cairns 2007). More recently, scholars of
edited by Harry Francis Mallgrave and architectural and urban modernities have
Christina Contandriopoulos, which begins employed a cluster of terms (such as global,
with a chapter on Vitruvius and concludes alternative, multiple, indigenous, vernacular,
with a section entitled ‘Millennial Tensions’ domestic or ordinary, amongst others) to

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16 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

denote the conceptual and geographical and consumption practices that constitute the
decentring of monolithic conceptions of generic spaces of late-capitalism. Less essay
history. The terms signal a methodological than slab of stream-of-consciousness prose,
shift, in which modernity is defined as an ‘Junkspace’ is theory at the front lines of
encounter rather than a simple transmission globalization. It is informed by the prag-
across borders: a site of conflict, and of matic, craftless construction techniques
agency and appropriation. The resulting behind the airconditioned, escalator- and
transformation in the space of theory regis- travelator-fed, insulated spaces of the global
ters in the Handbook through multiple and city: ‘verbs unknown and unthinkable in
sometimes contradictory positions, which do architectural history – clamp, stick, fold,
not line up in a neat evolutionary flow, but dump, glue, shoot, double, fuse – have
rather express different responses to common become indispensable’ (Koolhaas 2003, 410).
issues (such as the technology, aesthetics or Frederic Jameson, in his review of the wider
sustainability) across cultures. Project on the City (Chuihua et al. 2003a,
2003b) to which ‘Junkspace’ formed a
centrepiece, suggests that Koolhaas’ writing,
and this piece in particular, represents
THE ECONOMY OF REFLECTION a ‘new symbolic form’ (Jameson 2003, 77).
AND ACTION The essay’s ‘repetitive insistence’ and sheer
energy speaks directly to ‘concrete’ – actu-
The Handbook also sets out to positively ally, plastic, aluminium, vinyl, glass, plaster-
engage with the widely acknowledged board – realities of a globalizing world.
theory–practice divide. As editors, we believe Koolhaas’ prose, Jameson argues, is one
this involves questioning the autonomy that means of ‘breaking out of the windless present
is sometimes asserted by those engaged, of the postmodern back into real historical
on the one hand, in critical, theoretical and time, and a history made by human beings’
interpretive work, and those, on the other- (Jameson 2003, 76). In a more instrumental
hand, involved in the creative and manual guise, yet working on a similar set of themes,
work of making a building. While acknowl- we might also consider the work of architec-
edging that a certain kind of relative and ture and planning firm, DEGW, and in par-
strategic autonomy is necessary for each ticular, co-founder Frank Duffy’s research on
realm, we have sought in both the organiza- office space, its history and future fortunes
tion and content of the collection to fore- (Duffy 1992, 2008; Duffy et al. 1998). The
ground the complex economy that the firm has built its professional reputation on
discipline of architecture has always sought the capacity to bring sophisticated research
to sustain between these realms. One of the techniques to bear both on the immediate –
underlying premises of the Handbook is that programmatic, urban, structural – demands
architectural theory can be characterized as a of a given brief, and on longer-term strategic
style of thinking that is constitutionally, if thinking on issues relevant to a particular
not always avowedly, open to the material sector, such as corporate work practices. The
and pragmatic dimensions of the built envi- complex commissions that DEGW undertake
ronment. And, because architectural modes form a rich and reciprocal terrain for Duffy’s
of building are self-conscious, considered theoretical writings.
and inherently theoretical, this can be said to Like all economies and systems of
be a reciprocal principle. exchange, transactions can be conducted
Here we might think of Rem Koolhaas’ illicitly as much as in the open, materials can
essay ‘Junkspace’ (2003). It is a meditation be as often smuggled as declared, and the
on the material conditions, design, construction process can be as often short-circuited as it

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INTRODUCTION – 1: ARCHITECTURAL THEORY IN AN EXPANDED FIELD 17

is smooth. In making a critical intervention We believe that theory must be open to


in the economy of reflection and action, continuous revision and change if it is to
we have therefore sought to foreground the represent and intervene in the relationship
theoretical assumptions that underpin areas between the built environment and the
that are typically regarded as non-theoretical; changing conditions of the world at large.
at the same time, through ideas associated This collection does not construct a singu-
with gathering, we have sought to examine lar, evolutionary model of the field that
theory as a social practice, thus expanding culminates in an idealized present. While
the architectural meaning of the term ‘prac- our contributors address the genealogy
tice’ beyond its typically professional con- of the positions they discuss, collective
notations, to one that refers to the routines, emphasis is on the immediate past as a
habits of thinking, social and intellectual space of competing and sometimes contra-
relationships that shape theory. dictory positions. We have tried to represent
the contingent and situated quality of theo-
retical discourse across multiple debates.
Contributions question the given definitions
PROVISIONAL AND OPEN-ENDED and typical modes of architectural theory
INVESTIGATIONS as a means of provoking open-ended investi-
gations into possible outlines of future
As noted above, many of the edited collec- directions.
tions published over the last two decades
that deal with architectural theory have
been concerned with mapping the forma-
tion and historical development of specific NOTES
strands of architectural thought through
1 See Brunette and Willis (1994, 27) for an
the published writings of architects, critics account of the failure of the collaboration, and
and practitioners. The Handbook differs from Derrida’s critique of Eisenman’s reading of post-
these efforts, because it is structured around structuralism and architecture.
a series of issues and debates. This collection 2 See Andrew Benjamin (2007) for further discus-
sion of architecture’s autonomy and the role of
is not focused on the influence of single
deconstruction and critical architecture.
texts or individual authors: in working within 3 See Casey (1998, 312–317) for detailed discus-
the genre of the literature review, we present sion of the philosophical issues. See also Rendell
the interpretive work of scholars who (2006, 117) for discussion of the ‘fit’ of new func-
construct cross sections through debates tions in the Parc de la Villette follies.
4 The idea of theory as an expanded field draws
that we believe are central to the current
from Rosalind Krauss’ (1979) famous esssay ‘Sculpture
intellectual landscape of architectural theory. in the expanded field’, and from Anthony Vidler’s
The chapters in this collection stretch (2004) subsequent revisiting of that essay in his
across a much larger set of positions, institu- discussion of architecture and landscape.
tional geographies, and built conditions 5 Academic Capitalism (Slaughter and Rhoades
2004) has a predominant US focus, and builds on an
than is possible to achieve in an anthology
earlier book (Slaughter and Leslie 1997) that was
of previously published material. While framed with material from higher education institu-
acknowledging the centrality of certain tions in Canada, Australia, the UK and the USA. See
conventions of architectural theory as part of also their contributions to the collection, Exchange
the core problematic of the collection, the University (Chan and Fisher, 2008).
contributions are concerned with mapping 6 Bill Readings’ (1996) book The University in
Ruins was a powerful early warning of the narrowing
new tendencies and operating in domains of intellectual agendas in the name of unaccountable
that border on parallel investigations in other principles such as ‘excellence’. It remains an important
disciplines. text in this debate.

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18 THE SAGE HANDBOOK OF ARCHITECTURAL THEORY

7 In the absence of substantive studies on this Borden, Iain and Jane Rendell (eds) (2000) InterSections.
topic of where and how architectural theory is Architectural Histories and Critical Theories. London:
taught, we base ourselves on our own observations Routledge.
and on our relative familiarity with a wide range of Bordwell, David and Noel Carroll (1996) Post-theory:
institutions, like, for example, those where the con-
Reconstructing Film Studies. Madison, WI: University
tributors to this Handbook are teaching. Hilde
of Wisconsin Press.
Heynen was involved in the coordination of the
architectural theory workshops of the EAAE (Hasselt Boudon, Philippe (1971) Sur l’Espace Architectural.
2006, Trondheim 2007, Lisbon 2008, Fribourg 2009, Essai d’épistémologie de l’Architecture. Paris:
Chania 2010). Dunod.
8 This dominance of non-practising scholars is a Bourdieu, Pierre (1970) ‘The Berber house or the
rather recent phenonenon. In Joan Ockman’s world reversed’. Social Science Information 9(2):
Architecture Culture 1943–1968 one can count 46 151–170.
authors who are mainly known as practising archi- Broadbent, Geoffrey and Anthony Ward (eds) (1969)
tects versus 27 others (art historians, philosophers or Design Methods in Architecture. London: Lund
critics). In K. Michael Hays’ (1998) Architecture
Humphries.
Theory since 1968 the ratio is reversed: 17 practising
Brunette, Peter and David Willis (1994) ‘The spatial
architects versus 36 non-practising scholars.
9 Hays’ collection contains a number of contribu- arts: an interview with Jacques Derrida’, in Peter
tions that are critical of the approach he outlines in Brunette and David Willis (eds), Deconstruction and
his introduction. Mary McLeod’s contribution to the the Visual Arts: Art, Media, Architecture. Cambridge:
volume, for example, connects the rise of deconstruc- Cambridge University Press.
tion to the politics of the Reagan era. Her argument Cairns, Stephen (2007) ‘The stone books of oriental-
was originally published in the journal Assemblage ism’, in Peter Scriver and Vikramaditya Prakash
(also edited by Hays), where it was part of a cluster (eds). Colonial Modernities: Building, Dwelling and
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architecture over that journal’s history (McLeod
Routledge, 51–66.
1989). The final issue of Assemblage in 2000 also
Callus, Ivan and Stefan Herbrechter (2004). Post-
reflected critical on arguments around the approach.
See for example, Robert Somol’s discussion, entitled theory, Culture and Criticism.
‘In the wake of Assemblage’ (Somol 2000). A range Casey, Edward (1998). The Fate of Place: A Philosophical
of other authors have focused on issues extending History. Berkeley: University of California Press.
from the role of journals in supporting debates around Chakrabarty, Dipesh (2000) Provincializing Europe:
critical architecture, to the translation of deconstruc- Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference.
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Heynen 2007; Kahn 1994; Schwarzer 1999). Chan, Adrienne S. and Donald Fisher (eds) (2008) The
10 See Rodolphe Gasché’s chapter ‘Under the Exchange University: Corporatization of Academic
Heading of Theory’ (2007) for an account of the
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