Privacy And Publicity
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.
Privacy and Publicity boldly questions certain ideological assumptions underlying the received view of modern architecture and reconsiders the methodology of architectural criticism itself. Where conventional criticism portrays modern architecture as a high artistic practice in opposition to mass culture, Colomina sees the emerging systems of communication that have come to define twentieth-century culture—the mass media—as the true site within which modern architecture was produced. She considers architectural discourse as the intersection of a number of systems of representation such as drawings, models, photographs, books, films, and advertisements. This does not mean abandoning the architectural object, the building, but rather looking at it in a different way. The building is understood here in the same way as all the media that frame it, as a mechanism of representation in its own right.
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. In a fascinating intellectual journey, 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.
About the Author
Beatriz Colomina is Professor of Architecture and Founding Director of the Program in Media and Modernity at Princeton University. She is the editor of Sexuality and Space, which was awarded the International Book Award by the American Institute of Architects. She is the coeditor of Cold War Hot Houses: Inventing Postwar Culture from Cockpit to Playboy. Her most recent book is Doble exposición: Arquitectura a través del arte.
"An absorbing and quiet book. Absorbing in that it does notfollow a single line of thought to its logical conclusion,but instead presents a series of meditations on diverse yetrichly interconnected materials. And quiet in that the positionof neither Le Corbusier nor Loos is ever actively argued against.They are, rather, studies in their respective habitats, andwhat we in turn observe is the construction of the look thatsees them."
—Michael Archer, Art Monthly
Winner of the 1995 International Architecture Book Award sponsored by the American Institute of Architects (AIA)