Iconic architecture
Seduction and subversion
in How the other half lives
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As symbols of immense private and corporate wealth, sites of public commemoration for national and sub-national communities, and flash-points of protest, architectural icons mark an important entry point for the analysis of urban politics. This chapter looks at the myriad of different mechanisms by which contemporary architecture operates to produce and fix symbolic meanings that promote the neoliberal project. These are related to the visual, the discursive and the performative characteristics of architecture and urban space. While the attribution of iconicity entails a judgement based on aesthetics and recognisability – hence the focus on monumentality, and eye-catching and sculptural design of volumes and surfaces – meanings attached to architecture and urban space are constructed through explanatory discourse and visual representation, marketing campaigns, symbolic ceremony and spatial regulation. The chapter also explores the ways in which the meanings attached to iconic architecture can be subverted in order to make inequalities visible and, ultimately, contest the neoliberal emphasis on growth-oriented competitive policies and governmentalities that are, ultimately, the cause of systemic inequality.

How the other half lives

Interconnecting socio-spatial inequalities

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