1st Edition

Towards a Critique of Architecture’s Contemporaneity 4 Essays

By Gevork Hartoonian Copyright 2023
    150 Pages 23 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Pursuing historical analogies between nineteenth-century theories and the current practices captivated by digital reproducibility, this book offers a critical take on architecture’s contemporaneity through four essays: tectonics, materiality, cladding, and labor.

    Fundamental to this proposition is the historicity of Gottfried Semper’s theorization of architecture amidst the outpouring of new materials and construction techniques during the 1850s. Starting with Semper’s differentiation between theatricalization and the tectonic of theatricality, this book examines thematic essential to architecture’s self-representation. Even though the title of this book recalls the Semperian Four Elements of Architecture, its argument encapsulates a unique historico-theoretical project probing the tectonic of theatricality beyond Semper. The invisible tie between technique and labor is the cord running through the four subjects covered in this book. In exploring these subjects from the theoretical standpoint of Marxian dialectics, this book’s contribution is focused on, but not limited to, the topicality of labor today when its relationship with capital has been further obscured by the prevailing digitalization of commodity exchange value, starting roughly in the 1990s. Each essay examines Semper’s theorization of architecture in contradistinction to the ways in which technology’s mediation has dominated architecture’s representation.

    Burrowing through the invisible tie between technique and work, asymptomatic of architecture’s predicament in global capitalism, Towards a Critique of Architecture’s Contemporaneity advances the scope of architectural criticism beyond the exhausted formalism and architecture’s turn to philosophy circa the 1980s and the present tendencies for presentism. It will therefore be of interest to researchers and students of architectural history and theory.


    Chapter 1 On Tectonics

    Chapter 2 On Materiality

    Chapter 3 On Cladding

    Chapter 4 On Labour


    Gevork Hartoonian is a Professor Emeritus at the University of Canberra, Australia, and holds a Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania, USA. He has taught in American universities, including Pratt Institute and Columbia University, NYC. He has been a visiting professor of architectural history at Tongji University, Shanghai, in 2013 and 2016. During these visits, he also delivered lectures at the South East University, Nanjing, and the China Academy of Arts, Hangzhou. Hartoonian is most recently the author of Reading Kenneth Frampton: A Commentary on Modern Architecture 1980 (2022) and Time, History and Architecture: Essays on Critical Historiography (2018). His previous publications include, among others, Global Perspectives on Critical Architecture (2015), The Mental Life of the Architectural Historian (2013), and Architecture and Spectacle: A Critique (2012). The Korean and Thai editions of his Ontology of Construction (1994) were published in 2010 and 2017. Hartoonian is currently editing a book entitled The Visibility of Modernization in Architecture: A Debate (Routledge, forthcoming).