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Utopias Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again

Reinhold Martin

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Architectural postmodernism had a significant impact on the broader development of postmodern thought: Utopia’s Ghost is a critical reconsideration of their relationship. Combining discourse analysis, historical reconstruction, and close readings of buildings, projects, and texts from the 1970s and 1980s, Reinhold Martin argues that retheorising postmodern architecture gives us new insights into cultural postmodernism and its aftermath.

Much of today’s discussion has turned to the recovery of modernity, but Martin writes in the Introduction, “Simply to historicize postmodernism seems inadequate and, in many ways, premature.” Utopia’s Ghost connects architecture to current debates on biopolitics, neoliberalism, and corporate globalisation as they are haunted by the problem of utopia. Exploring a series of concepts—territory, history, language, image, materiality, subjectivity, and architecture itself—Martin shows how they reorganise the cultural imaginary and shape a contemporary biopolitics that ultimately precludes utopian thought.

Written at the intersection of culture, politics, and the city, particularly in the context of corporate globalisation, Utopia’s Ghost challenges dominant theoretical paradigms and opens new avenues for architectural scholarship and cultural analysis. Architectural postmodernism had a significant impact on the broader development of postmodern thought: Utopia’s Ghost is a critical reconsideration of their relationship. Combining discourse analysis, historical reconstruction, and close readings of buildings, projects, and texts from the 1970s and 1980s, Reinhold Martin argues that retheorising postmodern architecture gives us new insights into cultural postmodernism and its aftermath.

Much of today’s discussion has turned to the recovery of modernity, but Martin writes in the Introduction, “Simply to historicise postmodernism seems inadequate and, in many ways, premature.” Utopia’s Ghost connects architecture to current debates on biopolitics, neoliberalism, and corporate globalisation as they are haunted by the problem of utopia. Exploring a series of concepts—territory, history, language, image, materiality, subjectivity, and architecture itself—Martin shows how they reorganise the cultural imaginary and shape a contemporary biopolitics that ultimately precludes utopian thought.

Written at the intersection of culture, politics, and the city, particularly in the context of corporate globalisation, Utopia’s Ghost challenges dominant theoretical paradigms and opens new avenues for architectural scholarship and cultural analysis.

About the Author

Reinhold Martin

Reinhold Martin is associate professor of architecture at Columbia University and the director of the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture. He is the author of The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space and a founding co-editor of the journal Grey Room.

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