The Globalisation of Modern Architecture: the Impact of Politics, Economics and Social Change on Architecture and Urban Design Since 1990

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Taking the break-up of the Soviet Union and the entry of Russia, China and India into the global market as the start of a new era of globalisation, Robert Adam compares new developments in architecture and urban design with major shifts in the balance of power since 1990. Based on the principle that design unavoidably follows social change, politics and economics, this analysis casts a new light on recent architecture. Starting with the lead up to events in the 1990s, links are established between the global dominance of the North Atlantic economies, architectural style and a dramatic increase in international architectural practice. The widely-observed homogeneity of the global consumer economy is examined in relation to branding, tourism and international competition between cities, and parallels are drawn with universal architectural and urban types, iconic architecture and the rise of the star architect. Contrasting pressures to maintain differences are identified in the break-up of nation states, identity politics, targeted marketing and environmentalism, and these are related to attempts to reinforce local identity through architecture and urban design. Using social, political and economic change as a guide to new directions in architecture and urban design, the book ends by tracing the changes in global power revealed by the 2008 Western financial crash and its immediate impact on the built environment. By comparing past patterns of cultural influence, the book speculates on how architecture and urban design may come to reflect wider global trends.

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About the Author:

Robert Adam was born in England in 1948 and received his architectural education at Westminster University. He was a Rome Scholar in 1972-3 and in 1977 became a Director of the architectural and urban design practice now known as Adam Architecture. Adam is a Visiting Professor in Urban Design at Strathclyde University. He has published numerous papers and articles on architecture, urban design, heritage policy, design philosophy and history; has appeared in television and radio broadcasts; and has conducted lecture tours in Europe, Asia and the Americas. He has sat on English government design review bodies, and was an elected councillor and honorary secretary of the Royal Institute of British Architects. As well as contributing to several books, Adam co-edited Tradition Today and was the author of Classical Architecture: A Complete Handbook, Buildings by Design and The Seven Sins of Architects.

Review:

In this stimulating book, Robert Adam demonstrates how a global economy has brought forth a global architecture, in the form of commercialised modernism and the demand for iconic new buildings. Professor Adam interweaves the demands of the global economy with the development of the global architectural language, while chronicling the continuing resistance to both. The book ends with a question: how far will either the globalisation that occurred before 2007 or the associated dominance of North Atlantic architectural styles survive the crisis? --Martin Wolf, Chief Economics Commentator, Financial Times

Robert Adam is that rarity, an architect who can think across the political and social landscape to find unexpected forces that shape the style and meaning of architecture. Taking us on a guided race through the isms and starchitects who have dominated the scene for ten years, he shows that globalisation is nothing new, but is still the strongest force that erodes cultural identity and results in the Janus-Façade of the iconic building. Adam s commentary is, as always, welcome, trenchant, wide-ranging and informed. --Charles Jencks, Author of Modern Movements in Architecture and Iconic Building: The Power of Enigma

Alongside its historical sweep and sociological understanding, this book offers a critique of the global cult of the star architect and identifies a reflexively modernist architecture. Adam discusses an architecture for the post-2008 economic condition that is no longer self-obsessed but creates space through an intensive communication with the on-the-ground social and natural world. --Dr Scott Lash, Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for Cultural Studies, Goldsmiths College, University of London

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