19: Architecture as Conceptual Art? Blurring Disciplinary Boundaries F/W 2003


This issue focuses on the most potent and consequential revolution in 20th-century art—conceptual art—and on the architecture that has attempted to replicate it. Advocates of conceptual art—including Nana Last and Sanford Kwinter here—maintain that modern self-consciousness (launched in art most notably by Marcel Duchamp) rules out any simplicity, any innocent suspension of disbelief required by art as it once was experienced in intuitively known and created “worlds.” Some, like critic Arthur Danto, go further, saying that when Andy Warhol reproduced a Brillo Box, art became whatever anyone called art, not something with a special essence.

The conceptualist position, while offering a convincing picture of a new cultural condition—we are doomed and blessed by heightened self-awareness—draws too heavy-handedly, I believe, a picture of intellectual and cultural progress. New brain science is revealing that even as our mental sophistication increases, we remain “hardwired” for primitive, bodily, tacit thoughts and feelings. And many fine architects and artists revel in that fact.

Not only do we remain capable of experiencing “traditional” works of art and architecture as opening up ways of knowing through feeling—Bach’s Cello Suites move us to grief; Durham Cathedral insinuates its sturdy grandeur into our bodily sensations; we share the torment of Michelangelo in his Bound Slave—it is also true that great nonconceptual art and architecture are still made: we experience as irreducibly fecund the creations of many contemporaries —Tadao Ando, Louise Bourgeois, Rafael Moneo, Richard Serra, Alvaro Siza …

The kind of response—aesthetic—we have to the 460 BCE bronze Zeus of Artemisium can (still) be elicited by new art and architecture.

—William S. Saunders (excerpted from the introduction)

Table of Contents


Conceptual Matter: On Thinking and Making Conceptual Architecture

Eric Lum

Conceptualism’s (Con)quests: On Reconceiving Art and Architecture

Nana Last

Iraq 1999

Mai Ghoussoub

Monumental/Conceptual Architecture: The Art of Being Too Clever by Half

Mark Kingwell

On Shells and Blobs

Martin Bechthold

Smart Growth in America

Ellen Dunham-Jones

The Costs—and Benefits?—of Sprawl

Alex Krieger

The Emergence of “Landscape Urbanism”

Grahame Shane

The Muses Are Not Amused: Pandemonium in the House of Architecture

Jorge Silvetti


After the World Trade Center: Rethinking New York City edited by Michael Sorkin and Sharon Zukin

Joseph Rykwert

Architecture of the Night edited by Dietrich Neumann

Sandy Isenstadt

Chandigarh’s Le Corbusier by Vikramaditya Prakash

Mardges Bacon

Cities by Nigel Thrift and Ash Amin

Joseph Rykwert

City Lights by John Jakle

Sandy Isenstadt

Downtown by Robert Fogelson

Joseph Rykwert

Italian Architecture of the 16th Century by Colin Rowe and Leon Satkowski

Daniel Naegele

Labour, Work, and Architecture by Kenneth Frampton

Tim Culvahouse

Le Corbusier Before Le Corbusier edited by Stanislaus von Moos and Alexander Rüegg

Mardges Bacon

Le Corbusier by Kenneth Frampton

Mardges Bacon

Le Corbusier: Architect of the Twentieth Century by Kenneth Frampton

Mardges Bacon

Origins, Imitation, Conventions by James Ackerman

Robert Harbison

Out of Ground Zero edited by Joan Ockman

Joseph Rykwert

The American City by Alexander Garvin

Joseph Rykwert

The Minimum Dwelling by Karel Teige

Hilde Heynen

The Unfinished City by Thomas Bender

Joseph Rykwert

Theories and History of Architecture by Manfredo Tafuri and Francesco Dal Co

Michelangelo Sabatino