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200 × 120 mm
208 pages
01 Sep 2010

Architecture's Evil Empire? The Triumph and Tragedy of Global Modernism Miles Glendinning

From Los Angeles to London to Bilbao, cities around the world nowadays boast iconic buildings by celebrity ‘starchitects’ that compete for attention on the skyline and in the media. But in recent years, criticism of these 'gestural' structures, famous for their exaggerated forms, has been growing. Miles Glendinning's impassioned polemic, Architecture's Evil Empire? looks at how such cult works have fatally subverted the built environment as a whole. How a world-wide ‘empire’ of contemporary modernism emerged within the context of global capitalism's excesses is explained in this book.

Arguing against the excesses of iconic design, Glendinning advocates a modern renewal that seeks to remedy the tragically alienated state of contemporary architecture, although his is a renewal that contrasts strongly with the traditionalist visions of America's New Urbanists or Britain's Prince Charles. Mingling scholarship with wry humour and a genuine concern for the present situation, Architecture's Evil Empire? will raise heated debates across the continents, for this book is essential reading for architects, planners and everyone else concerned about the built environment of now and tomorrow.

‘engrossing . . . Glendinning's polemic argues that the "spectacularisation" of architecture creates alienated places and people. Late 20th-century modernist architecture's failure to give form to a humane socio-industrial revolution collapsed in the 1980s and 1990s into a veneration of inherently capitalist design geniuses. Their arbitrarily flamboyant buildings have little social or historical integrity. Glendinning marshals his arguments deftly and his quoted material burns bright . . . admirable.’ – The Independent

‘Miles Glendinning's book hits the spot . . . like all effective polemics this one turns swift and stylish, and comes to a positive conclusion: rebuild your cities slowly and carefully; integrate into them what was good about what was there before; remember that buildings are supposed to dignify people; shut up and stop showing off.’ – Architecture Today

‘a racy polemic and structured indictment of an architectural world obsessed with vanity projects and 'starchitects' . . . Glendinning writes both passionately and with the perspective and insight of an architectural historian . . . Architecture's Evil Empire? offers informed articulation of what many have been thinking and saying for at least a decade.’ – Context

‘Anyone who knows the buildings of Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid will know that architecture has been getting more like the fashion industry in recent years. Where its stock in trade once resembled the M&S underwear department, there's now an army of John Gallianos designing building for the catwalk. In a fascinating study, Mile Glendinning explains the rise of this global phenomenon and documents its most rampant examples.’ – Jewish Chronicle

‘It's not architectural icons that Glendinning fears most, but the hidden iceberg of decadent causes and effects on which they perch.’ – Sunday Tribune, Ireland

‘an impressive undertaking which charts the political and economic climate, philanthropists and architectural visionaries, attitudes to urban planning and the effects of globalisation . . . a provocative read, sure to fuel debate on the future of architecture and the city.’ – The Architectural Heritage Society of Scotland

‘Glendinning should be commended for levelling many important charges at contemporary architecture and urban planning that are too often left unspoken. His text serves as a timely reminder that the complex history of modernity contains within itself a sometimes overlooked, yet still relevant, lineage of politically committed design. The book is actually at its most captivating when the author diverts his gaze from the perceived enemy at and and highlights what he views as more promising examples, both past and present.’ – Oxford Art Journal

‘One of the effects of our brand-led and time-starved world is that whatever cultural endeavour you choose to undertake: staging an art exhibition; hosting a club night; or commissioning a building of a new skyscraper, people only seem to notice if there is a big named involved. Consequently, architecture has seen a rise in celebrity “Starchitects”. This handful of names is often given carte blanche to dump masses of concrete and steel in conceptual yet dysfunctional heaps around the world with scant regard for the cultural mores of the folk who live there. The trend for such gestural constructs is finally and rightly challenged here in this wry and passionate polemic addressing the state of contemporary architecture. An unsettling book for some, but of interest to all.’ – The Bookseller

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Miles Glendinning is Reader in the School of Architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art and Director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies. He is the author and co-author of many books, including Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland (1994), Clone City: Crisis and Renewal in Contemporary Scottish Architecture (1999), The Last Icons (2004), and Modern Architect: The Life and Times of Robert Matthew (2008).