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Paperback | $23.95 Trade | £16.95 | ISBN: 9780262562218 | 338 pp. | 7 x 9 in | 125 b&w illus.| September 2006

The Glass State

The Technology of the Spectacle, Paris, 1981–1998


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 Francois 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.

About the Author

Annette Fierro is Assistant Professor of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania.


"... The Glass State is an important resource." —John A. StuartJournal of Architectural Education


"The Glass State is a triumph of complex interpretation. Situating these buildings in multiple contexts, Annette Fierro not only illuminates the Grands Projets but provides a new model for architectural understanding."
Margaret Crawford, Professor of Urban Design and Planning Theory, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

"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

"No nation has constructed an identity out of glass with such monumental ambition or spectacular results as France. Yet paradoxically, as Annette Fierro points out in this provocative book, this production has rarely been theorized. Fierro offers an informed critical framework for interpreting the Grands Projets undertaken by Mitterrand as well as their antecedents and progeny."
Joan Ockman, Director, Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture, Columbia University


Winner, Scholarly Illustrated Category, 2004 Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Book, Jacket, and Journal Show.