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Architecture Between Spectacle and Use

Friday, April 29, 2005 - April 30, 2005

This Clark Conference, convened by Anthony Vidler, asked: What is architecture today, where does it come from, and where is it going? In recent times, critics have accused architecture of entering too fully into the “society of the spectacle” and falling prey to corporate advertisement and consumerist display. Are such judgments justified, or are the new buildings, projects, and ideas that have generated such excitement and public interest in recent times a creative response to the fundamental social, cultural, and economic needs of a wider public? This conference examined the ways in which architecture found itself caught between the art of display and the accommodation of use—and asked whether the discipline has learned from the social idealism of earlier modern movements, from new technologies, and from environmental sensitivities, or whether it has abandoned its historical aims and ambitions in favor of celebrity and spectacularity.

With speakers from the professions of architecture, art history, and architectural criticism, the conference explored the problems and possibilities of contemporary architecture in the light of the global nature of practice, the history of architecture’s modern reception, and new approaches to the technologies of design, as well as philosophical issues about the “meaning” of architecture.

This conference was supported by a grant from the Graham Foundation for Advanced Studies in the Fine Arts.

Participants included:
Mario Carpo, Canadian Centre for Architecture, Canada; Beatriz Colomina, Princeton University; Mark Dorrian, University of Edinburgh, Scotland; Kurt W. Forster, Fakultät Architecktur  Balhaus-Universität Weimar, Germany; Hal Foster, Princeton University; Sarah Goldhagen, Harvard University; K. Michael Hays, Harvard Graduate School of Design; Mark M. Jarzombek, Massachusetts Institute of Technology; Reinhold I. Martin, Columbia University; Felicity Scott, University of California, Irvine; Terry Smith, University of Pittsburgh; Tony Vidler, The Cooper Union School of Architecture; Mark Wigley, Columbia University

In order of discussion

Questioning the Spectacle

Spectacle Architecture in the Aftermath
Terry Smith

Scharoun’s Philharmonie and Gehry’s Los Angeles Philharmonic Hall
Kurt Forster

Urban Spectacle and the Rotary Eye
Mark Dorrian

The Spectacle of the Future
Beatriz Colomina

Histories and Genealogies

The Trans(formations) of Fame
Mark Jarzombek

Snapshots: Monumentality in Postwar Architecture
Sarah Goldhagen

Acid Visions
Felicity Scott

Mass Customization: Corporate Architecture and the "End" of Politics
Reinhold Martin

Redefining Spectacle

Non-Standard Morality
Mario Carpo

Architecture: The Expanded Field
Tony Vidler

The Spectacle of Neutrality
Mark Wigley

Skin as Spectacle, Engineer as God
Hal Foster

Conference Discussion - Opening Response
Michael Hays