The Organizational Complex
The Organizational Complex is a historical and theoretical analysis of corporate architecture in the United States after the Second World War. Its title refers to the aesthetic and technological extension of the military-industrial complex, in which architecture, computers, and corporations formed a network of objects, images, and discourses that realigned social relations and transformed the postwar landscape.
In-depth case studies of architect Eero Saarinen's work for General Motors, IBM, and Bell Laboratories and analyses of office buildings designed by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill trace the emergence of a systems-based model of organization in architecture, in which the modular curtain wall acts as both an organizational device and a carrier of the corporate image. Such an image—of the corporation as a flexible, integrated system—is seen to correspond with a "humanization" of corporate life, as corporations decentralize both spatially and administratively.
Parallel analyses follow the assimilation of cybernetics into aesthetics in the writings of artist and visual theorist Gyorgy Kepes, as art merges with techno-science in the service of a dynamic new "pattern-seeing." Image and system thus converge in the organizational complex, while top-down power dissolves into networked, pattern-based control. Architecture, as one among many media technologies, supplies the patterns—images of organic integration designed to regulate new and unstable human-machine assemblages.
About the Author
Reinhold Martin is an Associate Professor at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation, Columbia University, and a partner in the firm of Martin/Baxi Architects.
"The breadth of Martin's research...offers a contemporary rereading of mid-century corporate office building architecture...", Ashley Schafer, Harvard Design Magazine
"This is an excellent contribution to the field.", Edward Robbins, The Architectural Review
"By rereading with a critical eye the fifty-year-old techno-aesthetic discourse of the military-industrial complex as found in the thought and architecture of Gyorgy Kepes, Eliot Noyes, and above all Eero Saarinen, Martin compels us to reassess the curtain-wall corporate architecture of the fifties as if its modular laconic character was in and of itself an analog for telematic organization and control. This scholarly analysis of hitherto unexamined material draws special attention to the significance of this period for the future of architecture."
—Kenneth Frampton, Ware Professor of Architecture, Columbia University
"This book perceptively and eloquently uncovers some of the hidden logic of postwar American culture. The seemingly cool, blank facades of generic office buildings turn out to have been driven by a hot mix of cybernetic, military, economic, artistic, and even philosophical thinking. Who would have thought that corporate architecture could be so interesting?"
—Beatriz Colomina, Professor of Architecture, Princeton University
"With brilliant insight and exciting new research based on important primary sources, Martin develops a fascinating narrative of the interlocking development of organizational and architectural thought and practice during the 'boom period' of office building between 1945 and 1960. Profiting from a new approach to architectural historical studies that understands the importance of apparently 'extra-architectural' information for the interpretation and explanation of architecture proper, Martin uncovers the interface between the organization of knowledge and business and the organization of the architectural firm and design practice."
—Anthony Vidler, Dean, School of Architecture, The Cooper Union