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Foolish Utopianism in Today's Top Architecture

Reviewing Douglas Murphy's book "Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture," Jonathan Meades lays into the new utopianism of contemporary architecture. Silicon Valley gets portrayed as both foolish and hypocritical.
September 27, 2016, 8am PDT | Philip Rojc | @PhilipRojc
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Flowery language abounds in Jonathan Meades' review of Douglas Murphy's book Last Futures: Nature, Technology and the End of Architecture. We get a take-down of today's trend toward tech-savvy, Silicon Valley-assisted architecture. 

Meades' ideological target is utopianism, specifically the utopian minds that "undertake constant tourism of the unprovable, to enjoy the unsupported conviction that there are big solutions rather than billions of unanswerable questions." In architecture, Meades writes, "it is hardly surprising that the smartest of smart buildings are already being programmed to exercise control over us – caring control, softly spoken – and with a degree of subtlety that quite evaded B.F. Skinner and still evades the uniformed gorillas who patrol gated 'communities' and apartment complexes." 

In a critique that could extend to the Silicon Valley ethos as a whole, Meades takes issue with ideologies of liberation via technology—i.e., Buckminster Fuller—that get co-opted by the Googles, Apples, and Amazons, "the most ruthless of modern employers."

Some of architecture's biggest names don't get off lightly. From the review: "Among the other architects on this West Coast gravy train are, predictably, those consummate exterior decorators Frank Gehry and Thomas Heatherwick." Neither does the field of contemporary architecture emerge unscathed: "Gehry and Heatherwick will, as ever, be strenuously plagiarised by their flocks of unimaginative disciples who will, then, be making copies of copies." 

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Published on Thursday, September 8, 2016 in London Review of Books
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