Architecture of Preservation: On Neoliberal Time


Signing of an agreement with the China Jinmao Holdings Limited and Qingdao High-tech Industrial Development Zone to construct a franchise of Eden in Qingdao, 2015

Abstract for the ‘Architecture and the Neoliberal Turn’ panel, EAHN 2016 Dublin (Chaired by Kenny Cupers and Helena Mattsson)
Full Paper here

This paper contends that, if neoliberalism is to be understood as a meta-economic order, as living thought (Hayek), our analysis of its impact on the practice and conception of architecture must see it as more than simply a passive artifact bearing traces of neoliberal logics, policies and values, but one that actively participates in its unfolding. More specifically, this paper looks at how architecture has, since the recent past, assisted in the construction a new, non-modern temporality, whose corresponding proposals articulate a capacity for architecture and urbanism to preserve the present conditions of life in a world increasingly characterized by unstoppable change. If modernity invented ‘progress’ as the device to compress the present toward a teleological future, then this new temporality impoverishes both past and future in the fabrication of a blinding, unending present – a temporality that cuts across and synchronizes the social, political and spatial into a single economic rationality. By revisiting Grimshaw’s Eden Project in Cornwall, UK, this paper will speculate on how architecture has begun to participate directly in the production of this new temporal experience of the world. Projects like Eden reveal not only how architectural practice under neoliberalism has overcome the modern distinction between nature and culture by inverting it, but how the emerging architectural imaginary that accompanies such practices frame architecture as a problem restricted to the present. In this, architecture inscribes a temporality that seems to lack both past and future – history and possibility – in favor of presenting time as continuous, homogeneous and bound to the perpetual management of the present. I call this the architecture of preservation. The Eden Project, now a global franchise, paradigmatically reveals that, in the theater of neoliberal governmentality and its perpetual production of crisis, it is now the present that is the object of architectural design, and ‘design’ becomes indistinguishable from the technological management of the world.

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