The Art-Architecture Complex

Overview

Hal Foster, author of the acclaimed Design and Crime, argues that a fusion of architecture and art has become a defining feature of contemporary culture. While architects such as Zaha Hadid and Herzog and de Meuron draw on art to reanimate design, architecture has inspired fundamental transformations in painting, sculpture and film, which are also explored here. The book includes an extensive conversation with Richard Serra. At the same time Foster points to a “global style” of architecture, as practiced by ...

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The Art-Architecture Complex

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Overview

Hal Foster, author of the acclaimed Design and Crime, argues that a fusion of architecture and art has become a defining feature of contemporary culture. While architects such as Zaha Hadid and Herzog and de Meuron draw on art to reanimate design, architecture has inspired fundamental transformations in painting, sculpture and film, which are also explored here. The book includes an extensive conversation with Richard Serra. At the same time Foster points to a “global style” of architecture, as practiced by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano, that is analogous to the “international style” of Le Corbusier, Gropius and Mies—a global style that, more than any art, conveys the look of modernity today, both its dreams and its delusions. In these ways Foster demonstrates that “the art-architecture complex” is a key indicator of broader social and economic trajectories, and in urgent need of analysis and debate.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

"Ours is a time," as one British reviewer of this book wrote, "when art looks more and more like architecture, and architecture looks quite like art." In his slyly provocative tome The Art-Architecture Complex, Hal Foster doesn't simply walk us through the history of the merging of these two genres; he raises pertinent questions about whether this increasing trend is necessarily a good thing. With example after example of building-sized art and artistic building, he shows how we are remaking cityscapes, not always in beneficial ways. A thoughtful statement; worthy of a large crossover readership.

Rowan Moore - The Observer
“As an architecture writer reading Foster, who comes from the direction of art theory, I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don't find too often on my side of the fence.”
The Observer
As an architecture writer reading Foster, who comes from the direction of art theory, I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don't find too often on my side of the fence.— Rowan Moore
From the Publisher
 “A worldview expansive enough to see dominant tendencies in contemporary architecture and (fairly) recent art as flipsides of the same coin … criticism with vaulting ambitions.” Art Review
“I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don’t find too often on my side of the fence.” Rowan Moore, Observer

“Brimming with ideas and analysis.” Library Journal

“Prepares the ground for a wide-ranging and nuanced discussion of the contemporary links between artistic and architectural practice.” 
Stephen Walker, Times Higher Education

“A timely tome with an urgent message.” Time Out
“Foster is terrific at unearthing the unintended consequences of our consumer-oriented culture on architectural/artistic ideas, in particular on those architects who imagine their work as critiques of consumerism.”
JM Cava, Arcade

The Art-Architecture Complex is a persistently insightful, elliptical account of an ambiguous symbiosis.” Owen Hatherley, Building Design

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Library Journal
In this new collection of 11 essays, brimming with ideas and analysis, Foster (art history, Princeton) treats different guises of modernism and the often messy intersections of art and architecture apparent in the global styles of star architects such as Richard Rogers, Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, Diller Scofidio + Renfro, and Herzog & de Meuron. On the artistic side, the minimalism of sculptors Richard Serra, Dan Flavin, and Donald Judd receive prime attention. Foster focuses on high-profile building and art projects where art and architecture are juxtaposed or combined, both to dazzling results and dismissals as banal. He addresses questions about sculptural architecture, design integrity, mixed media and hybridity, collaboration and competition, aesthetics, "imageability," and technologies. The last piece is a fascinating conversation with Serra about influences, techniques, and spatial effects. Versions of about half of the essays appeared in Artforum and the London Review of Books. VERDICT Foster's forceful, informed opinions will appeal to readers interested in the fusion, complexities, and tensions of contemporary architecture and its convergence with modern art.—Russell T. Clement, Northwestern Univ. Lib., Evanston, IL
Time Out
“A timely tome with an urgent message for anyone on the art or architecture axis.”
Art Review
“A worldview expansive enough to see dominant tendencies in contemporary architecture and (fairly) recent arts as flipsides of the same coin, and both as reflective of the contemporary political order. This, then, is criticism with vaulting ambitions.”
Arcade
“Hal Foster’s newest contribution to the genre stands alone … Foster is terrific at unearthing the unintended consequences of our consumer-oriented culture, in particular on those architects who imagine their work as critiques of consumerism”
Observer
As an architecture writer reading Foster, who comes from the direction of art theory, I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don’t find too often on my side of the fence.— Rowan Moore
Rowan Moore - Observer
“As an architecture writer reading Foster, who comes from the direction of art theory, I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don’t find too often on my side of the fence.”
Observer - Rowan Moore
“As an architecture writer reading Foster, who comes from the direction of art theory, I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don’t find too often on my side of the fence.”
Times Higher Education - Stephen Walker
“Prepares the ground for a wide-ranging and nuanced discussion of the contemporary links between artistic and architectural practice.”
Arcade - JM Cava
“Hal Foster’s newest contribution to the genre stands alone … Foster is terrific at unearthing the unintended consequences of our consumer-oriented culture, in particular on those architects who imagine their work as critiques of consumerism”
Building Design - Owen Hatherley
“The Art-Architecture Complex is a persistently insightful, elliptical account of an ambiguous symbiosis.”
Stephen Walker - Times Higher Education
“Prepares the ground for a wide-ranging and nuanced discussion of the contemporary links between artistic and architectural practice.”
JM Cava - Arcade
“Hal Foster’s newest contribution to the genre stands alone … Foster is terrific at unearthing the unintended consequences of our consumer-oriented culture, in particular on those architects who imagine their work as critiques of consumerism”
Owen Hatherley - Building Design
“The Art-Architecture Complex is a persistently insightful, elliptical account of an ambiguous symbiosis.”
The Barnes & Noble Review

For a book about contemporary culture, The Art- Architecture Complex carries a rather menacing title, recalling Dwight Eisenhower's shady, all-pervasive "military- industrial complex." But in his first study of architecture, the prolific art historian and critic Hal Foster makes a compelling case that architecture seems more like art, and art like architecture, than ever before. "Image-making and shape- spacing" have become part of one continuous field, he argues, and that might not be such a good thing.

Foster charts a progression from the so-called International Style of the interwar period through a Pop-influenced sixties to the current "global style," which he identifies most closely with three "master designers": Richard Rogers, Renzo Piano, and Norman Foster. These contemporary architects, "in tune with the abstraction of cybernetic spaces and financial systems," have given us the look of the present, privileging lightness and transparency — think of Foster's glass dome for the Reichstag in Berlin, or his "Gherkin" skyscraper in London. But those seeming virtues can have a sinister flipside: the glass dome of the German parliament obscures how little impact citizens have on the debate below, while the sheer surfaces of the Gherkin belie "ever-greater financial, corporate, and governmental black boxes."

Something else has shifted in contemporary architecture. For most of the twentieth century, the architectural avant-garde drew on philosophy, science, and theory to inspire their designs. Now, increasingly, art has become a starting point for architectural practice. Zaha Hadid, whose Guangzhou Opera House has become an instant icon, cites the Russian painter Kazimir Malevich as an inspiration; the team Diller Scofidio + Renfro, architects of the elevated New York park known as the High Line, have made work directly quoting Marcel Duchamp. This "reciprocity" between art and architecture, Foster writes, has in turn transformed the practices of living artists, many of whom are now working at an architectural scale — though here, unfortunately, he glosses over younger practitioners such as Christoph Büchel or Olafur Eliasson and concentrates on stalwarts like Richard Serra (age seventy-two), James Turrell (sixty-eight), and Dan Flavin (dead).

Foster is at his best at the nexus of the art-architecture complex: the design of art museums, the churches or palaces of our time. He takes a withering look at repurposed industrial buildings, such as Tate Modern in London or Dia:Beacon outside New York, monuments to "a postindustrial economy of service and sport, culture and entertainment." But he is even harsher — and not undeservingly — about the Museum of Modern Art, New York's $858 million temple of "elegant austerity," where spare and minimal have never seemed so expensive. In this new age, Foster insists, architecture is all about display, and our buildings have become "both the setting for fine commodities and the fairest commodity of them all."

Jason Farago is a writer and critic whose work has appeared in the Guardian, the London Review of Books, n+1, Dissent, Frieze, and other publications. Trained as an art historian, he has contributed to several exhibition catalogs on art since 1960. He recently returned to his hometown of New York following a long sojourn in London.

Reviewer: Jason Farago

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781844676897
  • Publisher: Verso Books
  • Publication date: 10/24/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 316
  • Sales rank: 874,521
  • Product dimensions: 8.52 (w) x 5.96 (h) x 1.16 (d)

Meet the Author

Hal Foster is Townsend Martin Professor of Art and Archaeology at Princeton University. A co-editor of October magazine and books, he is the editor of The Anti-Aesthetic, and the author of Design and Crime, Recording, The Return of the Real, Compulsive Beauty and The Art-Architecture Complex.
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