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Dissertation Medal Winner 2000

Architecture in a Global Economy

Part 1 Dissertation 2000
David Artis
University of Sheffield | UK
The study seeks to examine the evolving relationship between architecture and society in light of the various mechanisms of globalization that influence the contemporary urban condition. Where the global and local intersect to form the glocal‚ (after Robertson) can an authentic, culturally meaningful architecture be found by undertaking a reflective approach or one that articulates a degree of resistance? Does architecture, by its very physical and static nature, actually perform the role of helping to obstruct the rapidity of cultural change that global capital, consumption patterns, media, telecommunications and travel perhaps promote?

Considering the empowered individual rather than the nation state, the thesis posits that a global architecture should embody a tension‚ between building and user(s) that ultimately reflects the dynamism of the social condition – one of being in flux over time. Only by initially representing the conflicts inherent in post-modern, globalized society can the criticism and hence progression follow. In accepting the parameters imposed by the spatial fixity of architecture, one can focus upon the dialogue between building and user(s), and the positive opportunities that incongruity may bring.

David Artis

David Artis: Dissertation: Architecture Within a Global Economy

The effects of a global movement of capital (and to a certain extent people) on contemporary architecture provides the framework for this study. The author describes this as a new architecture, yet one which is alienating and threatening to traditional values, due to its market driven ethos. The thesis is explored and presented in considerable detail with a description of the relatively recent transformations in the World economy. Theorists such as Featherstone, Giddens and Foucalt are cited to support the general idea that regionalism, modernism and post modernism are largely irrelevant in the face of the new 'glocal' architecture. Cities are no longer about people, rather a representation of advanced capitalism at work.

By focussing mainly on London and Berlin, the symbolic meanings of the new commercial architecture are explained and subsequently intensified. Artis's view is that London always has been a focus for the money-makers and its present sad architectural condition is a reflection of this commercial expediency. Berlin was obliterated during the War and has been reconstructed on the basis of historical street patterns and nineteenth century building scales. Yet, at an urban level, it remains a largely soulless place. Cities such Paris and Rome have not been subject to such extreme economic pressures. As a consequence they have not threatened their traditional urban heart with wholesale redevelopments in the same drastic way.

The author tackles the 'big picture'. The demise of the nation state is, as they say, a little premature. The majority of the population does live in this global urban environment, although they are undoubtedly affected by globalisation in other ways. There are many arguments with which one can take issue, however this is the strength of the dissertation. It is extremely polemical, full of interesting observations regarding the contemporary urban condition. It is ambitious, opinionated and laden with jargon yet engaging from start to finish.

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