The Glass State
The Technology of the Spectacle, Paris, 1981–1998
- Winner, Scholarly Illustrated Category, 2004 Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Book, Jacket, and Journal Show.
338 pp., 7 x 9 in, 125 b&w illus.
- Published: September 8, 2006
- Published: March 28, 2003
A study of the technological, theoretical, and cultural significance of the transparency of the glass structures of François Mitterand's Grands Projects in Paris.
From the Gothic to the contemporary, glass has transformed the structural, formal, and philosophical principles of architecture. In The Glass State, Annette Fierro views the many meanings of transparency in architecture. Specifically, she analyzes the transparent monumental buildings that were built in Paris between 1981 and 1998 as part of François Mitterrand's program of Grands Projets. The Grands Projets provide a rare opportunity to study a finite set of buildings constructed of similar materials, in the same time period, in a specific urban landscape, and with related ideological missions.
Fierro employs a "discourse of the detail," in which the smallest architectural detail manifests the political, theoretical, and urban contexts of the building's design and construction. She examines the paradox of the most pared down architectural configurations being used to support the most complex meanings. Intrinsic to Mitterrand's glass buildings in Paris, for example, is a political concept: the metaphor of accessibility as a means of breaking open cultural institutions previously closed to the public.
In addition to the structures of the Grands Projets—the Institut du Monde Arabe, the Grande and Petite Pyramides du Louvre, the glass greenhouses at utopian park projects at La Villette and Andre Citroën and the Bibliotheque nationale de France—Fierro discusses the Fondation Cartier and two precedent structures, the Centre Georges Pompidou and the Eiffel Tower.
Annette Fierro's The Glass State makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Mitterrand's Grands Projets, their place in a long history of monumental architecture in Paris, and their role in the cultural politics of that city, both enacted and implied. The book is distinguished from other treatments of these projects by its attention to construction and technics as sites where ideology operates and is resisted.
Detlef Mertins, Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, University of Toronto
... The Glass State is an important resource.
Journal of Architectural Education