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The Art-Architecture Complex

A leading art theorist analyses the global style in art and architecture

Hal Foster, author of the acclaimed Design and Crime, argues that a fusion of architecture and art is a defining feature of contemporary culture. He identifies a “global style” of architecture—as practiced by Norman Foster, Richard Rogers and Renzo Piano—analogous to the international style of Le Corbusier, Gropius and Mies.

More than any art, today’s global style conveys both the dreams and delusions of modernity. Foster demonstrates that a study of the “art-architecture complex” provides invaluable insight into broader social and economic trajectories in urgent need of analysis.


  • “Hal Foster's newest contribution to the genre stands alone; Foster is terrific at unearthing the unintended consequences of our consumer-oriented culture, in particular on those architects who imagine their work as critiques of consumerism.”
  • “Brimming with ideas and analysis … forceful, informed opinions.”
  • “As an architecture writer reading Foster, who comes from the direction of art theory, I find it refreshing to encounter a degree of intellectual rigour you don’t find too often on my side of the fence.”
  • “A worldview expansive enough to see dominant tendencies in contemporary architecture and (fairly) recent arts as flipsides of the same coin, and both as reflective of the contemporary political order. This, then, is criticism with vaulting ambitions.”
  • “A timely tome with an urgent message for anyone on the art or architecture axis.”
  • “[L]ike the inimitable Jeeves, Hal Foster's newest contribution to the genre stands alone. It's refreshing to find writing on design that isn't attempting to force a straightjacket of idiosyncratic theory onto the world at large. Foster writes because, through the fog of our distraught culture, he perceives an outline, the shape of something important and useful to our collective evolution and well-being, drilling into the complexities of contemporary architecture and art with unmatched clarity and social concern. Foster is terrific at unearthing the unintended consequences of our consumer-oriented culture on architectural/artistic ideas, in particular on those architects who imagine their work as critiques of consumerism. This book sets a standard for bona fide research into contemporary architectural theory and lays the groundwork upon which architects, artists and cultural observers can further reflect.”
  • “Writing on Norman Foster, Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid, and Diller + Scofidio, among others, Foster parses such topics as function versus spectacle, the myth of transparency in glassy buildings, and the fetishism of materials, detailing and exposed infrastructure. He alludes to the symbolic, propagandistic service that giant, gleaming, futuristic buildings provide for their corporate clients...we need more of his probing analysis and polemical rage against the machine.”
  • “The Art-Architecture Complex is a persistently insightful, elliptical account of an ambiguous symbiosis.”
  • “Prepares the ground for a wide-ranging and nuanced discussion of the contemporary links between artistic and architectural practice.”


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    From Corbusier's Le Modulor 1.  

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