Drawing on both the work of modern theorists like Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Siegfried Kracauer, and more recent poststructuralist thought, K. Michael Hays creates an entirely new method of reading architectural production. Challenging much of the traditional wisdom about modernism and the avant-garde, Hays argues that a rigorously articulated "posthumanist" position was actually developed in the modernist architecture of Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Hilberseimer. He reinterprets their buildings, projects, and writings as constructions of this new category of subjectivity.
Posthumanism is an aesthetic and epistemological response to technological modernization. It embraces the anti-individualist consequences of technological progress and, in the case of Hannes Meyer, attempts to turn the perceptual effects of modernity to explicitly collectivist sociopolitical ends. But, as the case of Hilberseimer shows, posthumanism also harbors a contradiction - the ecstatic surrender of the subject to he very forces that assure its dissolution.
Situating his analysis within the wider domain of artistic practices and the history of the subject - as well as in relation to architects such as Adolf Loos, Mies van der Rohe, Walter Gropius, and Le Corbusier - Hays raises questions of considerable relevance to contemporary arguments about the ideological underpinnings of urban and architectural projects long rejected as antihumanist.
K. Michael Hays is Associate Professor of Architecture in the Graduate School of Design at Harvard University. He is the founder and editor of Assemblage: A Critical Journal of Architecture and Design Culture.
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