Complex Complex

September 28, 2011

The introduction to The Organisational Complex gives an overview of the emergence of contemporary post-war cultural theory and its application to the corporate American architecture of that era. An extension if not reaction to scientific/mathematical understandings of physiological and numerical (non-) patterns, the author proposes the Organisational Complex as a somewhat paralleled method of perceiving social structures.

Referring to theories of homeostasis and organic self-regulation, Martin draws a (admittedly long-winded) parallel between such biological concepts and the writings of Deleuze and Foucault. The philosophers, interested not so much in the abstract technoscientific as the behavioural, translate the analysis of multiplitious cellular interactivity and integration into a reading of societal power structures – as non-hierarchical systems of self-regulating interconnectivity.

Following the devastatingly climactic conclusion of World War Two, America (and the rest of the developed world) saw an accelerated commercialisation and decolonisation in which architecture was perceived as a “conduit” to organisational patterns. Architecture such as Mies van der Rohe’s Seagram Building in New York epitomised an ideological retreat from the seemingly chaotic urban growth, which Martin suggests was a move to neutralise capitalist architecture in order to reaffirm the dominance of the State and Church. Contrarily, the author notes, the ‘horizontal’ (international) spread of this supposedly neutral architectural model actually reinforced the dominance of capitalist culture as a global phenomena. They became “fragments of circuitry” within an increasingly globalised capitalist culture: tangible manifestations of the emergent Organisational Complex.

Finally, the introduction concludes with a succinct critique of late 1960/70s architects in the US. Martin comments on the retreat of avant gardes during this period, highly critical of the culturally-opposed theories of ‘formal autonomy’ and ‘populist historicism’ that replaced it. I am guessing here that he refers to largely to Eisenmann and Venturi (and perhaps even Rossi), who in several ways chose to reflect (albeit in highly different manners) on the consequences of modernism rather than the overwhelming culture of the present. This is interesting, as it possibly signals a point in time in which architects began (perhaps temporarily) to reject popular scientific debate in order to more closely examine the basis of their own discipline.

DB

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