Buildings, Texts, and Contexts III? Fourth Factory: The Material Imagination and the Materialism of Architecture

Tatlin’s Tower “is made of iron, glass, and revolution,” wrote the Russian Formalist critic Viktor Shklovsky. At once a real and symbolic mode of production, a locus of bodies in space and a domain of aesthetic speculation, architecture has been variously imagined over the last century and a half within an increasingly technological and urban society. Sometimes affirmative and sometimes resistant, constantly updated and imbued with new justifications, its forms are not just projects or objects, but also historical, and inevitably ideological, products. To emphasize the continuing pertinence of production in relation to architectural form-making—notwithstanding the fall from grace of Marxist critique since the 1960s—means to think about architectural history in the context of changing structures of capitalist organization and both material and immaterial processes.

The chronological framework of the course is from the late nineteenth century to the present, but the overriding perspective is cross-disciplinary and cartographic, i.e., aimed at mapping architecture’s unsettled, frequently conflictual role and status within a nonsynchronously unfolding modernity. The ideas and work of an array of exemplary figures—among them Louis Sullivan, Thorstein Veblen, Adolf Loos, Viktor Shklovsky, Wyndham Lewis, Mies van der Rohe, Siegfried Kracauer, Georges Bataille, Asger Jorn, Arne Jacobsen, Jacques Tati, and Manfredo Tafuri—will be considered and related to more recent discourses and practices. The factory, in both a literal and a metaphorical sense, is a leitmotif.

This one-semester lecture course consists of three-hour lecture sessions and will incorporate a format for class discussion. A term paper is required.