Housing Whiteness

By Lisa Uddin

Dianne Harris. Little White Houses: How the Postwar Home Constructed Race in America. University of Minnesota Press, 2013. 392 pp.

Last year marked a milestone in my life as a multiracial immigrant to the United States who has thus far warded off steep downward mobility. The purchase of a modest ranch-style house located on the corner lot of a quiet, leafy street was arguably the most explicit investment in whiteness our family had ever made.
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Architecture’s Struggle with Authorship

By Matthew Allen

Mario Carpo. The Alphabet and the Algorithm. MIT Press, 2011. 169pp.

Mario Carpo’s The Alphabet and the Algorithm presents a concise and compelling account of the rise and fall of what he calls the “modern paradigm” of architectural practice from its emergence in the authorial obsession of Alberti to its obsolescence following the “digital turn” of the 1990s.
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Architectural Positions

By Jeff Diamanti

Pier Vittorio Aureli. The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture. MIT Press, 2011. 251 pp.

At a certain point in Pier Vittorio Aureli’s The Possibility of an Absolute Architecture it becomes clear that the book’s promise (that an absolute architecture is possible) remains, as any skeptic might suspect, unrealizable.
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Urban Revolution and the ‘Chinese Century’

By Leslie Sklair

Thomas Campanella. The Concrete Dragon: China’s Urban Revolution and What it Means for the World. Princeton Architectural Press, 2008.

Xiangming Chen. Shanghai Rising: State Power and Local Transformations in a Global Megacity. University of Minnesota Press, 2009.

Since the 1980s, China has built more skyscrapers; more office buildings; more shopping malls and hotels; more housing estates and gated communities; more highways, bridges, subways, and tunnels; more public parks, playgrounds, squares, and plazas; more golf courses and resorts and theme parks than any other nation on earth—indeed, than probably all other nations combined (Campanella 14). 

These words, from the Introduction of Thomas Campanella’s brilliant book, decisively set the scene for what can truly be described as the world-historical phenomenon of how the Chinese authorities working closely with local and transnational entrepreneurs of various types have stormed into the twenty-first century.
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Smart Homes and Shrunken Visions

By Will Straw

Davin Heckman. A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day. Duke University Press, 2008.

More than anything else, Davin Heckman’s A Small World: Smart Houses and the Dream of the Perfect Day is about the slow disappearance of utopian scenarios concerning everyday life from American culture.
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The Depths of Design

By Melissa Aronczyk

Guy Julier and Liz Moor, eds. Design and Creativity: Policy, Management and Practice. Berg, 2009.

It must have been inconceivable to the audience at the 8th International Design Conference, held in 1958, why the sociologist C. Wright Mills was invited to give a lecture. Only a few sentences into his speech, Mills thrashed the design industry for pulling art and craftsmanship under the umbrella of the market, and for joining the ranks of ad men, PR flacks and market researchers to ally “the struggle of existence with the panic for status” (Mills, The Man in the Middle” 70):

The silly needs of salesmanship are thus met by the silly designing and redesigning of things.
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