The first history of twentieth-century America's architecture that puts architecture and its institutions into a dialogue with the "underground"-featuring the experiments, practices, and polemics of the 1960s and 1970s.
In Architecture or Techno-Utopia, Felicity Scott traces an alternative genealogy of the postmodern turn in American architecture, focusing on a set of experimental practices and polemics that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Scott examines projects, conceptual work, exhibitions, publications, pedagogical initiatives, and agitprop performances that had as their premise the belief that architecture could be ethically and politically relevant. Although most of these strategies were far from the mainstream of American architectural practice, Scott suggests that their ambition-the demonstration of architecture's ongoing potential for social and political engagement-was nonetheless remarkable.
Scott examines both the marginal and the prominent: the Marxist architectural criticism of Meyer Schapiro; the curatorial work of Arthur Drexler at New York's Museum of Modern Art; Emilio Ambasz's introduction of ideas from environmental design, European critical theory, and Italian radicalism at MoMA; the counterculture's embrace of Buckminster Fuller's domes; psychedelic and intermedia environments; the video and architectural collective Ant Farm and the politics of ecology; the early experimental practices of Rem Koolhaas; and, connecting these earlier practices to the present day, the missed opportunities for political engagement in the competition sponsored by the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation for the World Trade Center site. At a time of increasing receptiveness to thinking politically about architecture and design, Architecture or Techno-Utopia offers a detailed account of the ways in which the work of architects and designers can speak to the contemporary condition.