Instrumentality, “habitability,” and the city

The Charnel-House

A critique of Pierre Bourdieu
and Michel de Certeau

Untitled.
Image: Detail from Seher Shah’s
Object Relic: Unité d’Habitation(2012)

untitled2.

Architecture is a tool for oppression and control.
Architecture is a tool for revolution and liberty.

— Nick Axel, “Manifesto for an architectural future”

Metaphors that liken architecture to a kind of “tool” for the transformation or perpetuation of society fall well short of their respective objects. The relationship is too crudely put. So when Axel instrumentalizes architecture by calling it a tool for “oppression and control” or “revolution and liberty,” he tacitly sets up a one-to-one correspondence (or some other ratio) between politics and the built world. Consciousness cannot be fabricated in such a ham-fisted manner, however. Though specific configurations of space may prove conducive to the development of definite patterns of behavior, sensibilities, and inclinations, prompting individuals to modify their practices to match a certain set of circumstances…

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