Another essay to be published in a collection, also edited by Nadir Lahiji: Architecture Against the Post-Political: Essays in Re-Claiming the Critical Project (Routledge, May 2014).
Here’s a section from the abstract for ‘The Architecture of Managerialism’:
Architecture was in some sense possessed, from the 1970s through to the early 90s, by what Francois Cusset has described as the ‘demon’ of theory. Catalyzed by the events of May 68, theory’s presence was at once exhilarating and unsettling for the discipline; its sense of identity and purpose repeatedly questioned, remodeled and deconstructed through the various ‘isms’ and neo-avant garde positions it derived from Marxism, linguistics, semiotics, psychoanalysis and deconstruction.
Theory has come, in more recent years, to be repudiated as an impediment to the future development of architecture, a failed critical project whose negative influence must be exorcized in order that the discipline can become properly productive. This turn has been presented as a pragmatic return to the ‘real’ activity of architecture, that of working with clients and designing buildings for them: ‘Theory was interesting… but now we have work’, as Michael Speaks has put it.
More securely sutured to the productive apparatus of contemporary capital, architecture joins it in adopting a specifically managerial form. This generalized managerialism—a post-political mode of governmentality—is predicated on eliciting, mobilizing, and channeling the affective, linguistic and associative competences of its subjects.
This essay focuses its account of these developments through an analysis of the recent practice of OMA/Rem Koolhaas centred upon their CCTV (China Central Television) Headquarters building in Beijing. The role of the architecture of the CCTV headquarters in ‘re-engineering’ the relations and perceptions of both its public, as its audience, and its workers, as its instruments, will be addressed through an analysis of the building’s ‘visitor’s loop’ and the spatial articulation of its interdepartmental relations. The specific mode of managerial governmentality emerging within post-reform China’s turn to radical marketization, as well as the processes of social destabilization and restabilization implicated within this, will serve as the frame through which the rationale for the architecture of the headquarters can be grasped.
Additionally, the discourse, produced by OMA, of the building as a ‘living organism’ through which subjects figured as ‘granular particles’ are to be channeled, as well as that of its claims to support forms of ‘collective’ social existence, will be analysed in terms of the management of architectural discourse, especially given the controversy surrounding this project. Furthermore, the essay will explore the reverberations between this management of the image of architecture and the turn, in China, from the politics of the party to the post-political management of the image of the party.
And from the publisher:
Written by a team of renowned contributors and carefully edited to address the themes laid out by the editors in their introduction, the book includes theoretical issues concerning the questions of aesthetics and politics and addresses city and urban strategies within the general critique of the “post-political”. By focusing on specific case studies from Warsaw, Barcelona, Dubai, Tokyo and many more the book consolidates the contributions of a diverse group of academics, architects and critics from Europe, the Middle East and America.
This collection fills the gap in the existing literature on the relation between politics and aesthetics, and its implications for the theoretical discourse of architecture today. In summary, this book provides a response to the predominant de-politicization in academic discourse and is an attempt to re-claim the abandoned critical project in architecture.
Table of contents:
Introduction: The Critical Project and the Post-Political Suspension of Politics NADIR LAHIJI Part 1: Aesthetics, Politics, and Architecture 1. Metropolitics, or, Architecture and the Contemporary LeftDAVID CUNNINGHAM 2. Modern Democracy and Aesthetic Revolution in the Work of Rancière: Reflections on Historical Causality GABRIEL ROCKHILL 3. Unfaithful Reflections: Re-actualizing Benjamin’s Aestheticism Thesis LIBERO ANDREOTTI 4. Political Subjectification and the Architectural Dispositif NADIR LAHIJI Part 2: The Political and the Critique of Architecture 5. Capitalism and the Politics of Autonomy GEVORK HARTOONIAN 6. Architecture As Such: Notes on Generic(ness) and Labor Sans PhraseFRANCESCO MARULLO 7. Thoughts on Agency, Utopia and Property in Contemporary Architectural and Urban Theory GEORGE BAIRD 8. Metalepsis of the Site of ExceptionDONALD KUNZE Part 3: The Post-Political and Contemporary Urbanism 9. The Architecture of Managerialism: OMA, CCTV, and the Post-Political DOUGLAS SPENCER 10. Zero Points: Urban Space and the Political Subject UTA GELBKE 11. To Fill the Earth: Architecture in a Spaceless Universe ROSS EXO ADAMS 12. From Post-Political to Agonistic: Warsaw Urban Space Since 1989 LIDIA KLEIN