Friday, December 15, 2006

Constructing Identity: Consumption and Community in the Imagined Futures of Reyner Banham and Jane Jacobs

Reyner Banham and Jane Jacobs, both writing within roughly the same time frame, posit extraordinarily different conceptions for the future of the modern city and the direction in which a modern architecture should travel. Banham’s architecture is one which revels in the rootless-ness and freedom of modern technology and mass-consumption. His conception of architecture and design grows from the “Pop” art world of the mid 1960s where he came of age as part of the Independent Group (IG) in Britain. This world was one, “… celebrating the Brave New World of consumption – a world of abundance, expendability, irreverence for the past, and contempt for establishment values” (Naylor 246). Jacobs, by contrast, writes from within her close-knit community of Greenwich Village in Manhattan and looks to urban successes in the past and present as models for the future city. Jacobs’ city is one structured around the community as a fundamentally temporal and ‘placed’, as opposed to spatial, concept.

If we attempt to compare Banham and Jacobs based on a topical reading of their work, it is difficult to find a common thread upon which to compare their philosophies. If we look beneath the surface of the two theorist’s work, however, we can see that both writers begin from fundamental, often unstated, assumptions about the nature of individual identity. In addition, the repercussions of these assumptions read strongly in their divergent models of an architectural future. I argue that while both Banham and Jacobs posit different generative sources for individual identity, neither fully recognize the discursive power of architecture and the everyday environment as a potential creator of a multi-faceted subjective identity. However, there are vitally important concepts that we can learn from the work of both Banham and Jacobs, and by understanding the two in comparison to one another we can begin to see avenues for progress in our attempts at imagining an architecture of the future.

Banham’s promotion of a consumption-based architecture is firmly embedded in the neo-classical economic theory of consumption as an expression of authentic desires and individual identity. Banham, sometimes unintentionally, posits freedom in consumption, and choice as the most basic functioning of our liberty. Jacobs, however, posits an individual identity based in the ‘authentic’ community and the unified subject as a pre-existing condition for interaction within the field of architecture. For Jacobs, architecture does not create identity or community; architecture is rather a framework within which autonomous individuals play-out their everyday experiences. Banham, then, proposes architecture as a multiplication of objects and choices for consumption as a way of expressing identity, while Jacobs argues for the creation of a flexible framework which encourages the complex networking of community and everyday life.

Before assessing the theories of Banham and Jacobs in depth, it is important to have a grounded understanding of the ‘Pop’ philosophy of design of the mid 1960s. The theories which comprise ‘Pop’ can be seen as a rational extension of the logic of 19th century bourgeois psychology and economic thought in particular, as well as consumerist society in general. Banham’s idea of identity through consumption is certainly not his own, and this concept has a long and contested history. Jacobs, although in a more indirect fashion, is still bound up with the consequences of architecture within a consumerist society as well.

It is instructive then to look at this history in relation to both theorists and to begin with a view of how the 19th century bourgeois understood the domestic interior.

The Historian Charles Rice traces the idea of the architectural interior as a representation of identity back to 19th Century bourgeois theories of psychology and economics. As Rice says, “…the realization of a domesticity wherein images interact with a spatial context came about through the historical emergence of the bourgeois domestic interior…an interior that is consciously understood as both an image and a spatial condition” (Rice 275). This is a pre-discursive understanding of identity, however, and still consciously understands consumption as a representation of authentic desires, even while the products being consumed function more as symbols than objects. This consumption as authentic identity is linked to notions of the ‘home’ as a space for authentic experience, “For the bourgeois, the interior emerges as a space separated from sites of work and productive labor, and becomes a place of refuge from the city and its new, alienating forms of experience” (Rice 277). Unconsciously, however, the bourgeois seem to accept that consumption plays and ever greater role as a creator of identity, rather than merely a reflection, “[For the bourgeois] it was the choosing and arranging of objects more than the physical nature of space that marked off a private, individualized interior.” And further, “… these motivations to decorate stem from a desire to establish the interior as a stable, personalized space” (Rice 279).

In “The Modern Home and Evolution of the House” Tim Putnam elucidates how this concept of the ‘home’ has shifted in the modern world to become one where our experiences within the space of ‘home’ help to create our concept of the self. This change to a relational and symbolic understanding of home “may be summed up as a shift from a society and economy where family-households present themselves as opaque constituent units to one where social, economic and political processes predominantly take place between macro institutions on the one hand and individuals on the other. In this fundamental re-ordering of cultural, social and economic space, ‘home’ becomes a transparent domain” (Putnam 419). The transparency of the modern ‘home’ is required by the contemporary understanding of consumption as a discursive creator of identity. If we understand, primarily unconsciously, products not as being authentically useful but as symbols of our identity, our consumption of these products requires that we consume conspicuously since symbols only perform their meaning when they are communicating between subjects.

Putnam’s description of the shift from commodities as objects to commodities as signs presages Pop’s glorification of consumption as a mode of cultural discourse. As noted earlier, the ‘Pop’ movement was a set of theories advanced at a very specific moment in history and is related as much to the specificity of 1950s and 60s Britain as it is to the larger structure of capitalist relations. This era of growing affluence in Britain can be understood as the moment when Western society shifted from an industrial society into what is known as a consumerist society. As Nigel Whitely explains, “The term consumerist society is subtly but significantly different from consumer society… [c]onsumerist society signifies an advanced state of consumer society in which private affluence on a mass scale is the dominant force in the marketplace” (Whitely, “Throw-Away” 36). Whitely describes the effect of this shift on theories of design as moving from, “a concern with solutions to utilitarian needs, to an emphasis on an object’s emotional, psychological, and social role. Whereas modernist design had sought to unify people, consumerist design sought (and continues to seek) to differentiate individuals or groups.” (Whitely, “Throw-Away” 36).

From a design perspective, it is obvious what the material repercussions were from this shift to a consumerist approach. A focus on image and symbol, a conscious disregard for concrete-ness and place, indeed for the object at all. Visual ‘taste’ and modernism’s prescriptive formal guidelines were disregarded completely in favor of an immediacy of communication. “Anything was grist for the Pop mill, so long as it had, above all else, impact and, second, an association with vitality, excitement, movement, or fun” (Whitely, “Pop” 40). Seen from a critical, contemporary perspective, Jean Baudrillard would later succinctly characterize this shift: “A new morality of consumption, circumscribed by leisure, advertising, and fun, replaced the work ethic of a society geared around production, and a society of rapid and pointless change comes to dominate lived experience.” (Plant, 35)

In light of his situation within the ‘Pop’ milieu, Reyner Banham’s theory of architecture and design can be understood most clearly as an architecture of consumption. Thanks to Banham, the Modern House-as-machine makes a fundamentally important transition into the House-as-appliance. While the machine and the appliance may not seem all that different at first glance, there is a fundamental shift between the two which revolves around design’s position in the social relationship of consumption. Banham revels in an architecture based on assembly using mass-produced industrial elements, praising both the Eames and Bruce Goff who, “have a sort of hot-rodder attitude to the elements of building, ingeniously mating off-the-peg components, specials, and off-cuts from other technologies” (Whitely, Reyner Banham 153). The logic of consumption was applied to architecture because “it was both a physical fact of many products, and a symbol of belief in the modern age” (Whitely, “Throw-Away” 3). In addition, “change and expendability were seen by the Pop young not as means but as ends in themselves: as a ‘natural and desirable’ condition; as an affirmation of life” (Whitely, “Throw-Away 22) . This positive conception of the ‘Pop’ world relies heavily on a view of technology as a radically transformative, yet essentially beneficial force. Banham refers heavily to the Futurists and their theories of technology in articulating this view. As Naylor writes, “The manifestos and intentions of the Futurists confirmed his conviction that technology and technological invention, especially when interpreted by the avant-garde, held the key to the future” (245). As Banham himself wrote, he felt that architecture as it had been historically practiced must transform or give way in the face of possibilities presented by technological change. “It may well be that what we have hitherto understood as architecture, and what we are beginning to understand of technology are incompatible disciplines. The architect who proposes to run with technology knows now that he will be in fast company, and that, in order to keep up, he may have to emulate the Futurists and discard his whole cultural load … If on the other hand, he decides not to do this, he may find that a technological culture has decided to go on without him” (Whitley, Reyner Banham 147).

Banham, however, was more even-handed and self-reflexive than his Futurist forbearers. Banham recognized the odd unity of his critical “Left-Leaning” social theorizing and his positivist reading of popular culture. As he wrote about the IG, “It gives us a curious set of divided loyalties. We dig Pop, which is acceptance culture, capitalistic, and yet in our formal politics . . . most of us belong very firmly on the other side” (Naylor 246). He realizes, however, the communicative and symbolic potential of Pop and consumption and therefore embraces it as the fundamental language of modern culture (Naylor 246). He saw an architecture based on consumption as, although certainly capitalistic, still firmly an other to mainstream, authoritarian modernism and capable of resisting its overly prescriptive formalism (Whitely, “Otherness” 13).

In order to understand how and why Banham reconciles these ‘divided loyalties,’ as he calls them, we need to understand why it was that Banham found models of consumption so liberating as a foundation for architectural experience. It is important to see that underlying the entirety of Banham’s concept of consumption is the basic economic notion of “revealed preference”—which assumes that people’s consumption choices are logical representations of authentic needs and desires. This idea is being expressed when Banham writes of “the market as the crystallization of popular dreams and desire – the pattern as it is about to occur” (Banham, “Throw-Away” 93).

Banham begins, however, to point the way to a critique of this view of rational consumption as fulfilling needs. Banham points out that commodities not only fulfill needs and desires; but more importantly, they communicate and symbolize. Moreover, Banham even begins to realize that above and beyond any particular symbols a product might express (for cleanliness, for speed, for freedom) all products also symbolize certain core values due to their very nature as commodities within the system of capitalist relations. “The function of these symbol systems is always to link the product to something that is popularly recognized as good, desirable or exciting – they link the dreams that money can buy to the ultimate dreams of popular culture.” (Banham, “Throw-Away” 93) Banham realizes that these symbols, in addition to selling a particular product, are also always selling the entirety of the capitalist system and the very conceptual foundations of that system as well.

While hinting at certain ambiguities in his theory, Banham continues to hold up a consumption-based architecture as a model for future design. In “The Great Gizmo” Banham refers to the contemporary, place-bound city as nothing more than a collection of individuals “piled up in vast unhygienic heaps” (Banham, “Gizmo” 113). For Banham, our individual identity is not expressed through our community role or our location in a network of placed interaction, but through our collection of commodities. Following this conception, there is no reason for individuals to remain embedded in culture as a place and Banham holds up a mobile future as the American ideal. As Banham writes, “The future, at a modest guess, is going to require a much more flexible distribution of American citizens on the ground, and this is going to be much easier to effect if they can pick up their culture and ride than if they are pinned to the ground by vast masses of Lincoln Centre style masonry” (Banham, “Gizmo” 114). Only Banham’s subject, defined as he is by his collection of commodities, could possibly be this mobile. If we begin to compare Banham’s concepts of identity, community and culture to the ones suggested by Jacobs, we can begin to understand both of their theories a bit more fully.

Jane Jacobs was most well know for her journalism and activism in and around New York City, but we can also understand her work as putting forward a conception of architecture and city planning that relies very heavily on underlying assumptions of personal identity defined by a strong, unified subject which plays out authentic desires upon the framework of reality. This idea of architecture as a ‘framework’ is perhaps the most fundamental vein which runs through all of Jacobs’ work. For Jacobs, a framework was the most libratory form architecture could take because it allowed authentic subjects freedom of action within an organized whole. As Robert Campbell wrote of Jacobs, “Jane believed in a world not of grand plans, of interstate highways and urban renewal projects, but rather in a world created by many independent initiatives unfettered by government. Good cities were made by the neighbor, the entrepreneur, the corner grocer, multiplied by millions. Good planning should support the spontaneous, interactive life and growth of such initiatives” (Campbell 3). Michael Sorkin adds, “it was never her intention to fix the particulars for the design of new cities but to locate, in the fabric of the old, a more general set of values that were conductive to community and that might be extrapolated to many different urban situations” (Sorkin).

Jacobs, like Banham, saw herself as putting forth a conception of architecture that represented a fundamental other to Modernism. She had little respect for what she saw as the authoritarianism and ideological rigidity of Modernism, writing with disdain about the official city planners who, “have gone to great pains to learn what the saints and sages of modern orthodox planning have said about how cities ought to work and what ought to be good for people and businesses in them” (Jacobs, Life and Death 8).

In opposition to Banham, however, Jacobs’ city and community are thoroughly grounded in place and physical experience. Jacobs couldn’t be more explicit when she writes: “For communities to exist, people must encounter one another in person” (Jacobs, Dark Age 37). Again in opposition to Banham’s mobile culture, Jacobs sees culture as existing only in place and in the interaction between subjects. “Most of the million details of a complex, living culture are transmitted neither in writing nor pictorially. Instead, cultures live through word of mouth and example” (Jacobs, Dark Age 5). And further, “culture resides mainly in people’s heads and in the examples people set” (Jacobs, Dark Age 31). In addition to being grounded, Jacobs sees culture as being profoundly temporal, that is to say, it mustLife and Death 56). accumulate slowly over time and through a multitude of seemingly banal events. “The trust of a city street is formed over time from many, many little public sidewalk contacts. It grows out of people stopping by at the bar for a beer, getting advice from the grocer and giving advice to the newspaper man” (Jacobs,

If we now wish to understand the philosophies of Jacobs and Banham in relation to one another, in what way can we compare two such divergent world-views? While it seems that a world view that values speed, consumption, individuality and pop is fundamentally at odds with one which prizes place, a temporal culture and a community based on propinquity, there are certain underlying assumptions which carry through both conceptual systems and which we can use to evaluate the two theories on their shared terms. Specifically, both Banham and Jacobs rely heavily on the nature of identity in their philosophies and it is the differences in their ideas of identity generation which we can use to compare between the two. Banham explicitly argues for an architecture of consumption on the grounds that it authentically responds to subjective desires while Jacobs assumes a pre-existing unitary subject when suggesting the city as merely a framework upon which these subjects act out their roles and therefore create an authentic urban community. Let us first assess Banham’s suggestion that identity can be reflected through consumption before turning to Jacobs’ idea of the community-based identity.

Banham, while recognizing the power of commodities and consumption to act as powerful signs and symbols, consistently assumes an underlying authenticity to the act of consumption. Utilizing contemporary philosophies of identity, however, we can now understand consumption as being not about the representation or communication of our self, but rather primarily about the very creation of the self. This new understanding seems to open up important points for criticizing the very idea of consuming architecture as a commodity. In addition, we can question the basic assumptions of a consumerist culture and ask if it is true that consumption brings happiness or that consumption is an expression of any meaningful form of freedom.

It is important to first understand the basic economic theory which informs both Pop, Banham and, to large extent, contemporary architectural practice. Best summed up by Alexis de Tocqueville, the idea that, “everyone is the best and sole judge of his own private interests, and…society has no right to control a man’s actions unless they are prejudicial to the common weal” (de Tocqueville 64), is central to both the philosophy of democracy and neo-classical economics. In economic terms, this principal became the basis for the idea of revealed preference which is summed up by Rob Horning: “The sovereign consumer decides he wants something, and he seeks it out in the market…All the initiative lies with the all-powerful individual, who responds to authentic needs he spontaneously generates for himself” (Horning, “Consumer in the Kitchen”).

This conception raises several questions, however, not the least of which is: ‘do we really know what we want?’ and ‘can commodities provide what we want?’ In his study of the loss of happiness in market democracies, Robert Lane refers to the idea that we can accurately decipher our own desires as the ‘hedonic fallacy:’

The fallacy is this: The belief that people know precisely what they are feeling, can explain why they are feeling that way, and, on the basis of this knowledge, can, within their means, maximize their own utilities. Most people at one time or another are victims of these fallacious beliefs, fallacious because they require qualities people rarely have. These qualities are capacities for introspection revealing to people the working of their limbic systems; for authentic, ego-syntonic self perceptions; for achieving unity of thought and feeling; and for avoiding compensatory pursuits that do not fulfill their promise. Lacking these capacities, people cannot maximize their well being (Lane 284).

Further, it is important to understand that advertising functions within advanced consumerist cultures not as a connector between authentic desire and commodity, but as a manipulator of desire, placing a further layer between want and consumption. As Lane writes, “it is not true that the function of advertising is to maximize satisfaction; rather, its function is to increase people’s dissatisfaction with any current state of affairs, to create wants, and to exploit dissatisfactions of the present” (Lane 179). It could further be argued, and this seems especially true in more affluent cultures, that “the world of consumption is fueled by insatiable appetites for commodities. These desires arise less from the concrete uses to which commodities are put than from our desire to find and express our personal and group identities in a world of strangers” (Sack 148).

In addition, Horning comments on certain dynamics specific to consumerist societies with an over-abundance of commodities and the psychological confusion this generates. “The ‘choices’ are actually coercive in practice; they destabilize one’s sense of self and intensify feelings of insecurity, they intentionally create the impression of inadequacy. Decisions forced upon us by capricious changes in fashion don’t increase our sense of freedom; they instead force upon us opportunities to fail” (Horning, “Freedom”). All of these factors lead to the acknowledgement that people are not always the best judges of their ‘authentic’ desires. Even if we accept the existence of an ‘authentic’ desire (which pre-supposes an ‘authentic’ self) we can still have these wants manipulated by advertising and our own psychological and physiological nature.

It is also questionable whether commodities can ever provide what we really want beyond a certain threshold. Again, Lane’s study is helpful. He asks a simpler question to begin with: what makes us happy? “We get happiness primarily from people; it is their affection or dislike, their good or bad opinion of us, their acceptance or rejection that most influences our moods” (Lane 6). He continues, “of course, people need and want both material resources and companionship, but the needs vary with the relative supplies of these two goods. In rich societies, for people above the poverty line, more money, as compared with friendship and community esteem, a loving spouse and affectionate children, quickly loses its power to make people happy” (Lane 7). The evidence of confusion of desires is also readily apparent from any quick survey of contemporary advertising. Any advertisement sells not the product, but the lifestyle. Only in this way can we have ‘X-treme’ deodorant, potato chips which will make your husband love you, and wine which come pre-bottled with friends. Above a certain subsistence level, things simply seem to stop bringing happiness.

If we accept that consumption is neither an expression of an ‘authentic’ subject or an actual fulfillment of desire, authentic or otherwise, we need to ask why consumption is the central aspect of contemporary life and why so many people spend so much time consuming? The answer, I believe, is hinted at in Banham’s own writings. Banham realizes the symbolic and communicative potential of consumption early on, yet he still seems to understand this communication as one where a subject communicates a pre-existing identity through the consumption of certain commodities. Contemporary theories of identity posit instead that the self is actually created only during the act of consumption/communication and that there may be no meaningful pre-discursive identity at all. From this view, consumption in society functions, as Horning puts it, “ as a means of articulating an identity to ourselves: to express ourselves to ourselves, to speak ourselves into being” (Horning, “Mystery”). As Sack writes, if we increase our consumption, we are in reality increasing the power of our identity, “Commodities help us to express ourselves. The more commodities we consume, the more selves we express. The multiplication and fragmentation of self occurs not only through the proliferation of commodities but also through a proliferation of places of consumption” (Sack 153).

Viewed in this light, the concepts of Pop are understood more clearly as expressing the fundamental logic of capitalism: self is the products we own and the more products we own, the more we are ourself. Is not a dress made of paper and designed to be thrown out after one use the perfect symbol of a society where identity shifts with every purchase? The Pop theorists would, of course, say that this was ideal: that this system allows for individuals to create their identity according to their own logic and that it allows the freedom to shift identity at will. On the surface, there is something attractive about this notion. If we look a bit deeper, however, and begin to question what the repercussions of a consumption-based identity are, we might not be so enthusiastic.

In this regard, a particularly relevant critique of capitalist consumption comes from the ‘Situationists’ of the 1960s. A group of artists and activists whose ideas presaged the events of May 1968 in Paris, this group critiqued the logic of a life lived through consumption. Although the Situationists were writing before postmodern theorists fully assessed the concept of a discursive identity, leaving much of their thinking essentialist, their philosophical work is still valuable to this discussion. Central to their understanding of reality was the concept of the spectacle in capitalist society, that is, “a frozen moment of history in which it is impossible to experience real life or actively participate in the construction of the lived world” (Plant, 1). The Situationists suggested that consuming life within the alienated structure of capitalism, far from allowing the subject to experience multiple identities and experiences based on free-will, blocked the subject from experiencing any identity or experience ‘authentically’ since all of life was ‘experienced at one remove.’ Horning describes this dynamic effectively when he writes about consuming products, “We’re always already using them as signs and are thus set at one remove from the sensual experience of them. When I listen to a Clash record, I am always already consuming myself as a Clash fan and thinking how cool this makes me rather than hearing the music itself” (Horning, “Consumer Demand”).

This has meaningful repercussions for architecture and design. If we suggest, as did Banham, that place, space and artifact should be consumed as products, architecture as lived experience makes no sense. Architecture becomes a series of images and products, judged on their ability to convey meaning and provide identity (lifestyle) to their consumers. Gentrification and tourism are only two of the most conspicuous examples of place-consumption. More broadly, the alienation at the heart of consumed experience makes it impossible to experience even the most personal of spaces ‘authentically.’ This impossibility of sensual experience leads architecture to focus more and more on the ‘image’ and the package rather than the tectonic. Whether this is to the benefit or detriment of architecture is beyond the scope of this essay, but it should be realized that the logic of consumption is one of the leading factors in this process.

The question of an authenticity of place leads us nicely back to Jacobs and her eloquent defense of ‘community’ as the creator of this authenticity. At heart, Jacobs is trying to suggest a conception of architecture where we do not experience it as a commodity and where it is not responsible for the creation of the self. As explored earlier, Jacobs believed in the possibility of a fundamental authenticity of experience. This authentic experience was played out by subjects upon the field of architecture and the urban artifact within the boundaries placed by planners and politicians. Partly due to her role as a journalist, Jacobs seemed to conceive of architectural power as primarily repressive and most of her models of future development center around providing people with opportunity for free choice without unduly constraining them.

Jacobs’ city-as-framework model springs, not only from her view of repressive architectural power, but also from her lack of an explicit concept of a discursive subject. Jacobs’ subject isn’t produced by consumptive discourse but is instead posited as generated by the community and the family. The models she holds up as successes in the Death and Life of Great American Cities are chiefly communities left alone by official planner ideologues and political machinations. For Jacobs, the creation of an authentic place was judged on the ability of a place to facilitate the actions of an authentic community without negative interference from those outside the community.

Like the Situationists, Jacobs can apparently see an authentic desire and an inauthentic desire. But, as Plant writes about the Situationists and by extension, Jacobs, “The Situationist distinction between the real and the spectacle is rendered meaningless by the claim that there can be no real existence beyond that which appears in discourse, and the assertion that the desires and experiences of the subject are somehow more authentic than those presented in the spectacle collapses in the face of suggestions that subjectivity is itself produced by the networks of discourse in which we live” (Plant 111).

If we accept both that a consumption-based identity and an essentialist identity are problematic, this seems to leave us in a bit of a fog and at a loss for a positive conception of how architecture and design should be modeled for the future. We can still see, however, many positive avenues for exploration in the theories of Banham and Jacobs. If we can conceive of a model of experience and identity which allows for both the freedom of the discursive self and the moral and ethical grounded-ness of Jacobs’ community, we can see room for an evolutionary model of the modern city.

What is truly needed is a model of discursive identity which can exist outside of, or in opposition to, the commodity form and that is not subject to the logic of consumption. The germ of this notion of an identity which is performative and yet non-consumptive is present in the work of Jacobs but I would argue that it would require a much more vigorous and positive conception of architectural power to create such a model. Merely providing a framework and stepping back is not enough. Architecture must engage in and support the temporal and banal life of subjects as a way of actively promoting place and discourse rather than merely trying not to repress pre-existing subjects too badly. This is a conception which would see architecture as actively creating the ‘placed’ links between people which act as the generative force of culture and, potentially, identity. Jacobs’ suggestion that culture, community and therefore identity are essentially placed concepts suggest the particular power of architecture in the creation of such a positive discursive method as opposed to the place-less and timeless nature of consumption.

This conception of architecture would suggest that, as Claus Bech-Danielsen writes, “The reality we are now becoming aware of is not an originality created by God but rather a reality that is undergoing change at all times. And what is more, it is ourselves who are creating the change” (Bech-Danielsen 333). And further, such an architecture cannot be conceived of without seeing it as existing in opposition to the alienating nature of consumption. As Bech Danielsen adds, “Since we are creating reality through the sheer existence of our pictures, the design must be built upon considerations of an ethical character” ( Bech-Danielsen 334).

This architecture must focus on Jacobs’ realm of the banal and the everyday, not as fields upon which identities are played out, but as the generators of such identities. Rachel Kallus suggests that “the residential system not only provides shelter, a roof over one’s head, but is also a context in which a complete redefinition of the relationship between the individual and the state takes place. The unique appropriateness of housing is that it can design space and society simultaneously. It gives concrete form to national goals, and, at the same time, shapes the people’s image and identity” (Kallus 368). And further, echoing the necessity of the oppositional stance of such an architecture, she writes that “everyday life is seen as lived experience of a political struggle, against the forces of the capitalist economy and its complicity with governmental authority” (Kallus 369). Such a conception of a complex, experiential architecture based on temporal connections and sensual contact would allow for the freedom of the discursive identity while constructing a place within which we can experience reality in an ‘authentic’ way.

Both Reyner Banham and Jane Jacobs extrapolate a vision of a future architectural experience based on their divergent conceptions of subjective identity. Banham implicitly accepts the idea of a discursive identity while still taking at face value the neo-classical economic idea that the market is a reflection of authentic desires. In his conception, we freely create our identities for ourselves based on rational choices springing from these authentic desires. Banham does not yet understand the alienation at the heart of consumerist logic and holds up consumption as an effective expression of our fundamental freedom.

Jacobs sees unified subjects, based in authentic communities, as playing out their roles upon the framework of the urban infrastructure. For Jacobs, temporal and physical human interactions are the generators of community and culture. Architecture’s task, then, is to create spaces for such interactions without manipulating the environment or repressing such interaction through grand ideological schemes. Exploring the difference between Jacobs’ space, Banham’s everywhere/nowhere and a new architectural ‘place’ could, however, lead us to a conception of architecture that allows for the freedom of the discursive subject while still facilitating the creation of meaningful community and everyday life.

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Whitely, Nigel. “Toward a Throw-Away Culture. Consumerism, ‘Style Obsolescence’ and Cultural Theory in the 1950s and 1960s.” The Oxford Art Journal 10.2 (1987) : 3-27.orn

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