Aggregate is a collaborative of thirteen historians interpreting architecture from multidisciplinary perspectives. We work together to advance architectural research and education by generating scholarship, conducting public events, and publishing material on the history and theory of architecture. Since 2006 we have held a series a workshops and symposia, and produced the collected volume Governing by Design. We are currently developing new platforms to facilitate the open, collaborative character of our work, inviting participation across disciplines and beyond the Aggregate group.
Aggregate is Daniel M. Abramson, Zeynep Çelik Alexander, Lucia Allais, Arindam Dutta, Edward Eigen, John Harwood, Timothy Hyde, Pamela Karimi, Jonathan Massey, John J. May, M. Ijlal Muzaffar, Michael Osman, and Meredith TenHoor. We are scholars and teachers in the history and theory of architecture. Coming together in research symposia and workshops, we help one another to frame our subjects, present our findings, coordinate our questions, and rethink our results.
Some of the work Aggregate has produced is forthcoming in Governing by Design, a collection of essays addressing the relation among architecture, economy, and politics in modern architecture. Spanning from the late 19th through the late 20th century in Asia, Africa, Europe, and the Americas, the ten chapters provide an account of how architecture participated in the political, economic, and cultural management of change. We are now working on a new cycle of projects for publication online and in print.
“In the development of THE COLD STORAGE SYSTEM, an interior environment defined by temperature, humidity, and technical dependability produced spaces in which commodities could retain their identity through time. Limiting the risk of an object’s unanticipated decay was essential to constraining its effect on the unpredictability of market forces. This form of regulation depended on the new approach being formulated to make architecture public. As monuments to civic modernity proved to be ineffective tools for economic and environmental regulation, the profession responded with designs that embraced novel forms of service and expertise. This was not strictly a struggle within architecture; it was part of a gradual reconstitution of modern life through regulatory instruments that today are all too easily taken for granted.” Michael Osman
“Although it is often seen as a stable foundation for home life and household finance, the house is equally an unstable commodity affording its owners the opportunity for profit and the risk of loss. While many borrowers think of THE MORTGAGE LOAN as an instrument allowing them to buy the house they want, it is also a vehicle for speculating in the real estate market on credit. From the perspective of investors in the credit market, the house is merely an instrument through which to sell consumers debt. Financing a house purchase with a mortgage entails participation in global credit markets beyond the scope of everyday awareness and in disciplines that shape homeowner conduct.” Jonathan Massey
“The paradigm of URBAN OBSOLESCENCE was something new for the twentieth century. In contrast with the divisive, personalized politics of Paris’s Haussmannization, obsolescence’s technocratic framework represented an evolution in tactics to clear and revalue urban land, working through a consensus of capital and the state, civil and consumer societies, conjoining economistic values of quantifiable performance and impersonal competition with a social theory of progressive change based on the identification of modernist planning with healthful social, physical, and psychological development. In midcentury America obsolescence was the dominant paradigm for comprehending and managing urban change.” Daniel M. Abramson
“As the applied science of designing what is known as the ‘man-machine’ system, ERGONOMICS concerns itself with the hyphen between, the means by which ‘man’ and ‘machine’ may be brought into dynamic and productive harmony. Tracing its history yields a critical view of numerous and rapidly proliferating metanarratives: that machines are becoming increasingly important agents within modern or postmodern culture; that ‘humanism’ has been destroyed by the proliferation of mechanical and electronic systems; and that we reside in an age of perpetual crises, with the most important crisis being the constant, multivalent threat that our ‘environment’ poses to our bodies.” John Harwood
“Cuban architects, historians, even Cuban law affirmed the plazas of Habana Vieja as representatives of the civic lineage of the public square from the agora to the plazas of colonial Latin American cities. Different from the expressive emphasis of the City Beautiful, or the analytic scientism of the Athens Charter, or even the doctrinaire pragmatism of urban renewal, this CONSTITUTIONAL MODERNISM proposed a supple means for cultural and political engagement by which architecture would assist the formulation of the new civic sphere. The formula ‘better cities, better citizens’ did not merely claim the resonance of architectural form but asserted the disciplinary capacity of architecture to participate fully in the cultural mode of constitutionalism.” Timothy Hyde
“As Iranians struggled to come to terms with the country’s identity on the brink of widespread Westernization, THE HOUSE AND ITS CONTENTS became one focus in the clash of traditional ways with the pressure to modernize and achieve a better standard of living. Although Western ideas were certainly catalysts and influences in the movement to bring Iran into step with up-to-date and possibly beneficial technology in the home, Iranians themselves were actively engaged on a local level in figuring out which aspects of contemporary Western home life actually worked for them and which did not. The outcome depended on the question of adjusting a national and personal identity to rapidly changing times—something that only the people of Iran themselves would ultimately be able to do.” Pamela Karimi
“In postwar Pakistan, DEVELOPMENT is repeatedly advanced as a problem of coordination of different cultural forces by both national and international forces. Architecture is claimed as the behavioral turf on which this coordination takes place. Development is often simply seen as a form of neoimperialism imposed from the outside, through which an external power imposes its will on a subjugated society. But this model of oppressor-oppressed does not adequately explain the mutually legitimizing modes of power in the development arena, just as it does not explain the complexities of colonial governance. It is here that architectural and urban projects provide critical archives for understanding the new and emerging modes of intervention, revealing modern architecture’s intimate relationship with structures of power.” M. Ijlal Muzaffar
“To understand THE INTERNATIONAL CAMPAIGN FOR NUBIA as a massive design project requires an expansion of the traditional apparatus of architectural historiography. This kind of ‘event’ epitomizes the cultural value of architecture in the postwar international order: a practice that helped nation-states interrupt territorial contiguities and historical continuities, offering material, tectonic, and atmospheric integrities instead. Monument mobility transformed Nubia into a governable space by suspending in time and space the question of who exactly was being governed.” Lucia Allais
“The Les Halles–Rungis transfer was part of a nationwide attempt to generate new forms of post–World War II French consumerism. Its architects had to design not just a functional WHOLESALE MARKET, but a physical model for an economic and social system that did not yet exist. Together, architects and administrators planned a market that not only was highly efficient but one that also might compensate for the losses that accompanied modernization. And surprisingly, the forms and programs that they developed in the Parisian suburbs were then recycled and reinvented in Paris, when Les Halles became a shopping mall ten years after the markets’ transfer. The ‘postmodernization’ of Central Paris was a symptom of a larger ‘post-Fordization’ of the political economy of everyday life.” Meredith TenHoor
“Arup’s global presence on the building engineering front increasingly means that in the current spate of iconic architecture, it does not matter which so-called star or signature architect sketches out what scheme for where. What is reasonably probable is that Arup will design and build it and will be a key arbitrator in modifying design to impinging conditions, whether in terms of budgetary management or local bylaws, technological feasibility, or environmental parameters. Arup’s ‘METAENGINEERING’ consists in that its remit goes well beyond the mere manipulation of statistics and materials to that of accountancy, financial consultancy, and, most important, the drafting of legislation. What we have here is a technopolitics that operates in enclaves somewhat remote from the normal realm of politics but nonetheless will heavily determine the course of our future politics.” Arindam Dutta
How does change happen? This question underlies the chapters collected in Governing by Design. From this basic query arise new accounts of the twentieth-century built environment that pursue a set of corollary questions: Who authors design? How does architecture participate in modernization? How does architecture govern?
Governing by design, this book suggests, is not simply a matter of monumental symbolism and space, state power and authority, imposed control and surveillance. This book instead sets architecture in relation to mundane matters: food, bodies, housing, markets, cities, and culture. How do we regulate basic aspects of our lives through design, such as the consumption of food and shelter? How do we manage the risks of modernization to our bodies and environments? How is culture produced by politics, planning, and architecture? How are we fashioned as citizens by our homes, cities, and heritage? Examining how issues of risk, regulation, consumption, and citizenship have played themselves out in architectural practices and projects from the 1880s up to the present in the Americas, Africa, Europe, and Asia, these chapters may help change the way we look at architecture and its history globally.
What links this book’s contributions together is the idea of architecture governing conduct—mediating power—through networks and norms, frames of action and possibility that flow through all scales from the body to the home to the city to the globe, at the hands of not just the state but also individuals and institutions. The chapters are linked, in other words, by an engagement with “governmentality,” the concept that the philosopher Michel Foucault developed to describe the combination of protocols, rules, structures, and institutions through which our desire to be governed is cultivated and channeled. Rather than frame governance only through the activities of the state, these texts frame an array of mechanisms that mediate power to regulate our conduct, encompassing everyday practices and mind-sets along with administrative protocols and organizational procedures.
To reconstruct the ways architecture has participated in modern governmentality, the chapters in this book explore complex concepts of authorship and agency, focus on events and the contingency that characterizes them, and attend to the diverse projects and practices through which architecture has contributed to the formation of liberal power. Rather than affirming the continuity from architect’s intention to realization in the completed building, or confirming master narratives of progress or conflict, they emphasize the degree to which intention and outcome are separated by accidental confluences, redirected intentions, and unforeseen outcomes. By showing us the historical construction—the design—of such basic architectures as food, home, culture, and the body, not to mention the broader built environment, Governing by Design points to the fundamental contingency not only of history but also of the present and future.
Part I: Food, Shelter, and the Body
Part II: Global States and Citizens
Part III: Engineering and Culture