International Symposium: On Power in Architecture #3

Upcoming > International Symposium: On Power in Architecture #3

The third and last edition of the symposia series On Power in Architecture will bring together renowned philosophers and theoreticians, who will think about the specific intertwinement between power and architecture in contemporary neoliberalism from the psychoanalytical and poststructuralist perspective.

26 September 2019, MAO – Museum of Architecture and Design, Ljubljana
Speakers: Andrew Ballantyne, Elke Krasny, Nadir Lahiji, Robert Pfaller, Douglas Spencer

The speakers will talk about micropolitics and architecture, phantasmagoria and capitalist pleasure, iconic shifts in architecture in the 1980s and ’90s, the intertwinement of postmodernist aesthetics and neoliberalism, and the possibilities of an alternative view of power in architecture as the power of capital and the power for capital.

Symposium programme


    Andrew Ballantyne

    Politics is interpersonal relations; it originates as a word at the scale of the city – the polis – at a time when the city was the state. Governments take decisions about infrastructure and commission buildings that can represent or dissimulate the power of the state. At a smaller scale, we have the politics of the workplace or the family, which are worked out in tensions and alliances, rivalries and murders – the stuff of drama, comedy, and tragedy. The Royal Houses of Thebes and Atreus – Oedipus and Orestes – enact intensely things that go on more mildly in our own homes – the walls and rooms make meetings and separations at the domestic scale, which can be seen translated to the scale of the city, with its streets and markets. Within the individual’s unconscious there is micropolitics, which informs our moods and inclinations. In moving across the different scales, from molecular to molar, unconscious assemblages to the psychology of crowds, we cross thresholds of architectural awareness. We can think of some buildings as autonomous objects, but only by not noticing that they are always political through and through, linked into infrastructures and housing micropolitical organisms that are already crowds within themselves.


    Elke Krasny

    Urban change throughout the 1980s and 1990s was marked by processes of deindustrialization. Cities, and entire regions, suffered a decline in productive industrial activity. As factories or plants closed down, a new type of architecture moved in with style. Urban regeneration was premised on the promise of the icon or the landmark. Ranging from corporate headquarters to museums, universities to football stadiums, opera houses to convention centres, markets to airports, architecture served the global economy by promoting iconic experiences. How is such experience produced, and, most importantly, how is it reproduced on the daily level?
    This lecture examines such iconic moves in architecture as they complexly interconnect urban regeneration and daily reproduction. Looking at the effective and affective dimensions of such iconic moves of architecture under neoliberal capitalism, we raise the questions what urban regeneration means and how it is maintained through reproduction. Focusing on the material dimension of architecture, the economy of production and the economy of reproduction are considered as equally relevant.


    Nadir Lahiji

    Contemporary capitalism has opened a new world of Phantasmagoria in which the Subject is re-enchanted. Under this reactionary re-enchantment the human sensorium is anaestheticized and the Subject is depoliticized only to be subjected to a “surplus-jouissance” in the service of capitalist profit. Contemporary architecture has become an instrument in generating this surplus-jouissance. Taking the Marxist-Benjaminian-Psychoanalytical conceptual structure for my critique, this presentation will scrutinize this state of architecture by subjecting its “dreamworld” to a critical examination under the notion of Phantasmagoria – defined here, in psychoanalytical terms, as the ideological “structure of fantasy”. Under this notion, it will be argued that the subjectivization of architectural agency to the capitalist enjoyment is already an accomplished fact. The presentation will conclude by arguing that architecture must stand against the postmodern Re-Enchantment by returning, once again, to the Enlightenment Project of Disenchantment.


    Robert Pfaller

    In the light of the dramatically increased social inequality due to the neoliberal politics of austerity and privatization, postmodernity appears (as I have argued in my recent book Erwachsenensprache) as the ideological superstructure to this development. Its programmatic relativism, the constant “folklorisation” of the Other (that has been remarked, for instance, by Nicolas Bourriaud), and the reduction of the adult citizen to a notoriously sensitive complainer (that only has, as Slavoj Žižek pointed out, the right to complain, but no other civil right whatsoever) are the political and ethical counterparts to the economic privatization of public goods and spaces.
    This raises a number of questions about postmodernity as a style in architecture: is this nothing but the expression of this ideology, or does it have at least a kind of relative aesthetic autonomy? Is the return of the ornament promoted by architectural postmodernity an obvious political crime, or is there a kind of innocence to it? How strong are the ties that link architectural form to ideological imagination and political reality? In order to answer these questions, I want to closely examine the reasons that led one of the founding fathers of modernity, Adolf Loos, to the famous equation between “ornament and crime”.


    Douglas Spencer

    Conceptions of architecture as spectacle or symptom, respectively, the legacies of Guy Debord’s situationism and Fredric Jameson’s Marxian formalism, still serve as default modes for the operation of architectural critique. Under-theorized in terms of the relationship between the political and the economic, over-invested in moralizing denouncements of the iconic, and premised on stagist, technologically determinist, and financially fixated accounts of capitalist development, a critique of such models and methods themselves is overdue. This paper draws upon alternative and heterodox understandings of capital in order to rethink the part played by architecture in its contemporary operation. Drawing upon the work of Ellen Meiksins Wood, Moishe Postone, and Etienne Balibar, it explores the potential for an alternative optic on the power of architecture as a power of, and for, capital.

About the speakers


    is professor of architecture at Newcastle University, UK. He became an architect and then a writer. His books include Deleuze and Guattari for Architects; Architecture Theory: A Reader in Philosophy and Culture, Key Buildings from Prehistory to the Present, and Architecture: A Very Short Introduction, which has been translated into many languages, including Slovenian. He has chaired the Society of Architectural Historians GB and been on the board of the British Society of Aesthetics. He sees buildings as belonging to cultural history, for example, in Tudoresque: In Pursuit of the Ideal Home (with Andrew Law), or Rural and Urban: Architecture Between Two Cultures.


    is a cultural theorist and curator. She works as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. She holds a PhD from the University of Reading, UK. Her scholarship connects critical practices in architecture, urbanism, and contemporary art to questions of memory, ecology, economy, and labour.
    Exhibitions and edited volumes include Critical Care: Architecture and Urbanism for a Broken Planet (with Angelika Fitz, MIT Press), In Reserve! The Household (with Regina Bittner, Spector Books), and the exhibition Suzanne Lacy’s International Dinner Party in Feminist Curatorial Thought. Her exhibition Hands-on Urbanism: The Right to Green was shown at the 2012 Venice Biennale of Architecture.
    In 2012, she was a visiting scholar at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal to study the work of Shim-Sutcliffe Architects. In 2011, she was visiting curator at the Hong Kong Community Museum to study displacement through urban renewal.


    is an architect and critical theorist. He holds a PhD in architectural theory and history from the University of Pennsylvania. He is the author of the most recent An Architecture Manifesto: Critical Reason and Theories of a Failed Practice (Routledge, 2019), and Adventures with the Theory of the Baroque and French Philosophy (Bloomsbury, 2016, 2018). He is the co-author of The Architecture of Phantasmagoria: Specters of the City (Routledge 2016). His previously edited books include Can Architecture Be an Emancipatory Project: Dialogues on Architecture and the Left (Zero Books, 2016), The Missed Encounter of Radical Philosophy with Architecture (Bloomsbury, 2015), Architecture Against the Post-Political: Essays in Reclaiming the Critical Project (Routledge, 2014), The Political Unconscious of Architecture: Re-opening Jameson’s Narrative (Ashgate, 2012). He has taught in a number of institutions including University of Canberra, the University of Pennsylvania, Penn State University, Georgia Tech, Pratt Institute, and the Lebanese American University.


    is a philosopher and professor at the University of Art and Industrial Design in Linz, Austria. He is a founding member of the Viennese psychoanalytic research group “stuzzicadenti”. Pfaller received the award for the Best Book Published in 2014 from the American Board of Professional Psychology for On the Pleasure Principle in Culture: Illusions without Owners (Verso, 2014) and in 2007 the Missing Link Award by Psychoanalytisches Seminar Zurich, Switzerland. His publications include: Interpasivnost (Maska, 2019), Erwachsenensprache: Über ihr Verschwinden aus Politik und Kultur (Fischer, 2017), Interpassivity: The Aesthetics of Delegated Enjoyment (Edinburgh University Press, 2017), Wofuer es sich zu leben lohnt: Elemente materialistischer Philosophie (Fischer, 2011), Umazano Sveto in Čisti Um (Analecta, 2009).


    is associate professor and director of graduate education at Iowa State University’s Department of Architecture. The author of The Architecture of Neoliberalism (2016), his work critically theorizes the relationship between architecture, landscape, and the production of subjectivity. His writing has been published in Radical Philosophy, e-flux, New Geographies, Volume, and in collections such as This Thing Called Theory (2016), Architecture and Feminisms (2017), and Landscape and Agency (2017).

The symposium will be in English. Entry is free of charge.

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