Structural Instability

Architecture does not simply resolve the structural uncertainties of its own material construction. Its scope of design extends to the project itself, including questions of land, rights, representation, agency, audience, and access. Architecture thus inflects and registers the ways in which risk becomes mediated throughout the spatial realm and society at large. The infrastructural breakdown that flammable cladding, rusting steel, and deteriorating concrete all point to—collapsed bridges, charred towers, and crumbling roads—is not only evidence of material degradation, but systemic abandon whose effects ripple far beyond any one site. Structural instability is not just a determinant feature of the built environment, but of contemporary life at large.

With neoliberal politics resigned to upholding the appearance of a functional stability, power increasingly lies in systems of management, organization, and design, often under the apolitical auspices of global finance, corporations, or non-governmental organizations. As a result, we are faced with an intensification in structural conditions of economic precarity, racial segregation, and resource scarcity, alongside the systemic effects of climatic instability, ever-growing waves of refugees and their criminalization by nation states, and the militarization of everyday life. Colonial expansions, states of exception, emergency management, and corporate exceptionalism all inform our understanding of these instabilities and their relationship to historical change, and also our capacities for collective resistance.

Editors
Daniel A. Barber
Eduardo Rega
e-flux Architecture

Structural Instability is a collaboration between e-flux Architecture and PennDesign.

1–7
Mark Wasiuta and Farzin Lotfi-Jam
Unstable Control
Susanne Schindler
Model Conflicts
Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi
Writing With
Daniel A. Barber, Eduardo Rega, and e-flux Architecture
Editorial
Contributors
Farzin Lotfi-Jam

Farzin Lotfi-Jam is principal of the multidisciplinary studio farzinfarzin, and founding partner of Finishing, an agency for visualization and communication. He is an adjunct professor of architecture at Columbia University.

Whitney Moon

Whitney Moon is Assistant Professor of Architecture at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, where she teaches history, theory and design. Her research interests reside in 20th and 21st century art and architecture, with an emphasis on theatricality, performance and ephemeral works. 

Ginger Nolan

Ginger Nolan is an assistant professor of architectural theory at the University of Southern California. She holds a PhD in architectural history from Columbia University, in affiliation with the Institute of Comparative Literature and Society. Her work focuses on techno-aesthetics, media, and issues of race.

Peg Rawes

Peg Rawes is Professor of Architecture and Philosophy, and Director of the Masters in Architectural History at the Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, London. Her research focuses on social and architectural histories of wellbeing, especially in contemporary housing, ecologies and poetics.

Susanne Schindler

Susanne Schindler is an architect and historian focused on the intersection of policy and design in housing. She recently completed a PhD at ETH Zurich titled The Housing that Model Cities Built: Context, Community and Capital in New York City, 1966-76. Previously, she was lead researcher and co-curator of the Buell Center’s House Housing project.

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi

Anooradha Iyer Siddiqi is an architectural historian on the faculty of Barnard College, Columbia University, and works on nineteenth- and twentieth-century histories of East Africa and South Asia. She is interested in architecture’s historicity and narratives, claims on modernism and heritage, and entanglement with other forms of cultural production.

Mark Wasiuta

Mark Wasiuta is a curator, architect, and writer who co-directs Critical, Curatorial and Conceptual Practices in Architecture at Columbia University GSAPP.

Structural Instability 1–7 Contributors
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