Book chapter in: J. Carvalho, P. Bandeira & R. Carvalho (eds), Power / Architecture. Zurich: Lars Müller, 42-47. Alexandra Vougia.
“Technologically sophisticated, the curtain wall becomes the universal symbol of the corporate look: self-confident, professional and anonymous.” These words, by Charles Jenks early in the 1970s, emphatically asserted the new conservative psyche of the (postmodern) architectural discipline. They openly defended a new relationship between architecture and the representation of political power, one that transformed architecture from the practice of a largely critical project to one of an unconditional surrender to the dominant political and ideological forces of financial capitalism.
Along these lines, architecture’s ideological and material engagement was reduced to the symbolic value of a single architectural element – in this case the curtain wall – while the communication and proliferation of any dominant diagrams of power could be maintained through the element’s repetitive rhythm, constructing many of the urban landscapes we experience today on a global scale. This new relationship between architecture and political power initially pointed to a shift occurring in the institutions that used architecture to project such a power, from the wide predominance of state or other publicly funded production to the private sector and other institutions of corporate capital. More importantly, however, in my view, the words above confirm a transformation that occurred in architectural discourse during this time, a deviation from a certain critical awareness of the architect’s historical role to an unapologetic indifference that becomes the modus operandi within architectural discourse from the 1970s onward.
The piece also appeared in Spanish in the following:
“En Contra del Cinicismo.” PLOT 44 (August/September 2018), 180-182.