Beatriz Colomina
The MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2006; originally published 1996, English
Nonfiction, Architecture
ISBN: 9780262531399

From the Publisher. Through a series of close readings of two major figures of the modern movement, Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier, Beatriz Colomina argues that architecture only becomes modern in its engagement with the mass media, and that in so doing it radically displaces the traditional sense of space and subjectivity. Colomina sees the emerging systems of communication that have come to define 20th-century culture—the mass media—as the true site within which modern architecture was produced.

With modernity, the site of architectural production literally moved from the street into photographs, films, publications, and exhibitions—a displacement that presupposes a new sense of space, one defined by images rather than walls. This age of publicity corresponds to a transformation in the status of the private, Colomina argues; modernity is actually the publicity of the private. Modern architecture renegotiates the traditional relationship between public and private in a way that profoundly alters the experience of space. Colomina tracks this shift through the modern incarnations of the archive, the city, fashion, war, sexuality, advertising, the window, and the museum, finally concentrating on the domestic interior that constructs the modern subject it appears merely to house.

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Jessica Helfand

Written at a time (1996, after a decade in the making) when “privacy” had nothing to do with Facebook. Colomina is one of those rare theorists who can actually write: she’s architecture’s answer to Isabel Allende—smart, lyrical, insightful.

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