Blog post

The Art-Architecture Complex— Reviews, videos and talks

Kishani Widyaratna26 September 2011

Acclaimed art theorist Hal Foster's new book, The Art-Architecture Complex, tackles the fusion of architecture and art that has increasingly come to dominate both fields as the new 'global style'.

Foster's work has inspired fresh interest in these issues in the media. Reviewing for the Observer, architecture writer Rowan Moore, felt it "refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don't find too often" in writing on architecture.

Moore was initially moved to question whether Foster neglects the basic function of buildings in analysing them primarily as artworks, but ultimately found his critique persuasive:

"His basic premise is compelling - and he uses it to powerful effect - to reveal the gap between the reported effects of buildings and art pieces, and their actual ones,"

In an extended review for Building Design, Verso author Owen Hatherley engaged with Foster's "fair-minded but never merely flattering" critique and "anti-capitalist politics". Hatherley particularly commended Foster's fascinating analysis of the work of Norman Foster, remarking that "it is rare to see anyone taking Norman Foster this seriously today, and rather refreshing". Hatherley also found that "the best material here is often in the charting of theory as longe durée". Differing on a point of style, Hatherley voiced reservations about Foster's "cool, lapidary prose", stating that while "the measured, unruffled style is a means to make precise judgements and insights" there were points at which he wished Foster would have gone further in his criticisms. He concludes that:

"The Art-Architecture Complex is a persistently insightful, elliptical account of an ambiguous symbiosis. The more merciless treatment the subject deserves remains unwritten."

In contrast, Ossian Ward, reviewing for Time Out, was impressed by both the theoretical and critical vigour of Foster's "diatribe", describing it as a "timely tome with an urgent message for anyone on the art or architecture axis". Consequently, The Art-Architecture Complex was chosen as 'Book of the Week'.

Foster spoke to the Guardian about the politics of the Shard, soon to be Europe's tallest building, and proposed that "if the Shard is a symbol of anything it's a symbol of finance capitalism".

Visit the Observer to read the review in full and the Guardian to watch the video in situ. The Time Out review can be read in full in the issue from 22nd September. Owen Hatherley's review for Building Design can be read by subscribers only but can be read online here

Foster has also been taking part in a series of events recently. He participated in a Culture Now talk at the ICA to discuss the leading architects of our time and the conflict between the 'imagistic' and the 'embodied' in their work.

At the Bristol Festival of Ideas he spoke on the new 'global style' and it's conflation of art and architecture. You can listen to the full talk here.

Filed under: broadcast, interviews, reviews