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K. Michael Hays

K. Michael Hays is Eliot Noyes Professor of Architectural Theory at Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. In 2000 he was appointed the first Adjunct Curator at the Whitney Museum for American Art. He is the author, among other books, of Modern Architecture and the Posthumanist Subject (1995) and the editor of Architecture Theory since 1968 (2000), both published by the MIT Press.

Titles by This Author

Reading the Late Avant-Garde

While it is widely recognized that the advanced architecture of the 1970s left a legacy of experimentation and theoretical speculation as intense as any in architecture’s history, there has been no general theory of that ethos. Now, in Architecture’s Desire, K. Michael Hays writes an account of the “late avant-garde” as an architecture systematically twisting back on itself, pondering its own historical status, and deliberately exploring architecture’s representational possibilities right up to their absolute limits. In close readings of the brooding, melancholy silence of Aldo Rossi, the radically reductive “decompositions” and archaeologies of Peter Eisenman, the carnivalesque excesses of John Hejduk, and the “cinegrammatic” delirium of Bernard Tschumi, Hays narrates the story of architecture confronting its own boundaries with objects of ever more reflexivity, difficulty, and intransigence.The late avant-garde is the last architecture with philosophical aspirations, an architecture that could think philosophical problems through architecture rather than merely illustrate them. It takes architecture as the object of its own reflection, which in turn produces an unrelenting desire. Using the tools of critical theory together with the structure of Lacan’s triad imaginary-symbolic-real, Hays constructs a theory of architectural desire that is historically specific and yet sets the terms and the challenges of all subsequent architectural practice, including today’s.

The Architecture of Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Hilberseimer

Drawing both on the work of modern theorists like Georg Lukács, Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, and Siegfried Kracauer and on more recent poststructuralist thought, K. Michael Hays creates an entirely new method of reading architectural production. Challenging much of the traditional wisdom about modernism and the avant-garde, Hays argues that a rigorously articulated "posthumanist" position was actually developed in the modernist architecture of Hannes Meyer and Ludwig Hilberseimer. He reinterprets their buildings, projects, and writings as constructions of this new category of subjectivity.

Titles by This Editor

Edited by K. Michael Hays


In the discussion of architecture, the prevailing sentiment of the past three decades has been that cultural production can no longer be understood to arise spontaneously, as a matter of social course, but is constructed through ever more self-conscious theoretical procedures. The development of interpretive modes of various stripes—poststructuralist, Marxian, phenomenological, psychoanalytic, as well as others dissenting or eccentric—has given scholars a range of tools for rethinking architecture in relation to other fields and for reasserting architecture's general importance in intellectual discourse.

This long-awaited anthology is in some sense a sequel to Joan Ockman's Architecture Culture 1943-1968, A Documentary Anthology (1993). It presents forty-seven of the primary texts of contemporary architecture theory, introducing each by detailing the concepts and categories necessary for its understanding and evaluation. It also presents twelve documents of projects or events that had major theoretical repercussions for the period. Several of the essays appear here in English for the first time.