Architecture's Evil Empire?: The Triumph and Tragedy of Global Modernism

From Los Angeles to London to Bilbao, cities around the world nowadays boast iconic buildings by celebrity ‘starchitects’ that compete for attention on the skyline and in the media. But in recent years, criticism of these ‘gestural’ structures, famous for their exaggerated forms, has been growing. Miles Glendinning’s impassioned polemic, Architecture’s Evil Empire? looks at how such cult works have fatally subverted the built environment as a whole. How a world-wide ‘empire’ of contemporary modernism emerged within the context of global capitalism’s excesses is explained in this book.

Arguing against the excesses of iconic design, Glendinning advocates a modern renewal that seeks to remedy the tragically alienated state of contemporary architecture, although his is a renewal that contrasts strongly with the traditionalist visions of America’s New Urbanists or Britain’s Prince Charles. Mingling scholarship with wry humour and a genuine concern for the present situation, Architecture’s Evil Empire? will raise heated debates across the continents, for this book is essential reading for architects, planners and everyone else concerned about the built environment of now and tomorrow.

About author
Miles Glendinning is Reader in the School of Architecture at the Edinburgh College of Art and Director of the Scottish Centre for Conservation Studies. He is the author and co-author of many books, including "Tower Block: Modern Public Housing in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland" (1994), "Clone City: Crisis and Renewal in Contemporary Scottish Architecture" (1999), "The Last Icons" (2004), and "Modern Architect: The Life and Times of Robert Matthew" (2008).

"engrossing... Glendinning's polemic argues that the 'spectacularisation' of architecture creates alienated places and people. Late 20th-century modernist architecture's failure to give form to a humane socio-industrial revolution collapsed in the 1980s and 1990s into a veneration of inherently capitalist design geniuses. Their arbitrarily flamboyant buildings have little social or historical integrity. Glendinning marshals his arguments deftly and his quoted material burns bright... admirable" – The Independent

"Miles Glendinning’s book hits the spot... like all effective polemics this one turns swift and stylish, and comes to a positive conclusion: rebuild your cities slowly and carefully; integrate into them what was good about what was there before; remember that buildings are supposed to dignify people; shut up and stop showing off" – Architecture Today

"One of the effects of our brand-led and time-starved world is that whatever cultural endeavour you choose to undertake: staging an art exhibition; hosting a club night; or commissioning a building of a new skyscraper, people only seem to notice if there is a big named involved. Consequently, architecture has seen a rise in celebrity 'Starchitects'. This handful of names is often given carte blanche to dump masses of concrete and steel in conceptual yet dysfunctional heaps around the world with scant regard for the cultural mores of the folk who live there. The trend for such gestural constructs is finally and rightly challenged here in this wry and passionate polemic addressing the state of contemporary architecture. An unsettling book for some, but of interest to all" – The Bookseller

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