Anthony Vidler

Anthony Vidler is Dean and Professor of the Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture at The Cooper Union, New York. He is the author of Warped Space: Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture (2000), and The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (1992), both published by The MIT Press, and other books.

  • Noah's Ark

    Noah's Ark

    Essays on Architecture

    Hubert Damisch and Anthony Vidler

    From Noah's Ark to Diller + Scofidio's “Blur” Building, a distinguished art historian maps new ways to think about architecture's origin and development.

    Trained as an art historian but viewing architecture from the perspective of a “displaced philosopher,” Hubert Damisch in these essays offers a meticulous parsing of language and structure to “think architecture in a different key,” as Anthony Vidler puts it in his introduction. Drawn to architecture because it provides “an open series of structural models,” Damisch examines the origin of architecture and then its structural development from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries. He leads the reader from Jean-François Blondel to Eugène Viollet-le-Duc to Mies van der Rohe to Diller + Scofidio, with stops along the way at the Temple of Jerusalem, Vitruvius's De Architectura, and the Louvre. In the title essay, Damisch moves easily from Diderot's Encylopédie to Noah's Ark (discussing the provisioning, access, floor plan) to the Pan American Building to Le Corbusier to Ground Zero. Noah's Ark marks the origin of construction, and thus of architecture itself. Diderot's Encylopédie entry on architecture followed his entry on Noah's Ark; architecture could only find its way after the Flood.

    In these thirteen essays, written over a span of forty years, Damisch takes on other histories and theories of architecture to trace a unique trajectory of architectural structure and thought. The essays are, as Vidler says, “a set of exercises” in thinking about architecture.

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  • Histories of the Immediate Present

    Histories of the Immediate Present

    Inventing Architectural Modernism

    Anthony Vidler

    How the different narratives of four historians of architectural modernism—Emil Kaufmann, Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham, and Manfredo Tafuri—advanced specific versions of modernism.

    Architecture, at least since the beginning of the twentieth century, has suspended historical references in favor of universalized abstraction. In the decades after the Second World War, when architectural historians began to assess the legacy of the avant-gardes in order to construct a coherent narrative of modernism's development, they were inevitably influenced by contemporary concerns. In Histories of the Immediate Present, Anthony Vidler examines the work of four historians of architectural modernism and the ways in which their histories were constructed as more or less overt programs for the theory and practice of design in a contemporary context. Vidler looks at the historical approaches of Emil Kaufmann, Colin Rowe, Reyner Banham, and Manfredo Tafuri, and the specific versions of modernism advanced by their historical narratives. Vidler shows that the modernism conceived by Kaufmann was, like the late Enlightenment projects he revered, one of pure, geometrical forms and elemental composition; that of Rowe saw mannerist ambiguity and complexity in contemporary design; Banham's modernism took its cue from the aspirations of the futurists; and the “Renaissance modernism” of Tafuri found its source in the division between the technical experimentation of Brunelleschi and the cultural nostalgia of Alberti. Vidler's investigation demonstrates the inevitable collusion between history and design that pervades all modern architectural discourse—and has given rise to some of the most interesting architectual experiments of the postwar period.

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  • Warped Space

    Warped Space

    Art, Architecture, and Anxiety in Modern Culture

    Anthony Vidler

    How psychological ideas of space have profoundly affected architectural and artistic expression in the twentieth century.

    Beginning with agoraphobia and claustrophobia in the late nineteenth century, followed by shell shock and panic fear after World War I, phobias and anxiety came to be seen as the mental condition of modern life. They became incorporated into the media and arts, in particular the spatial arts of architecture, urbanism, and film. This "spatial warping" is now being reshaped by digitalization and virtual reality. Anthony Vidler is concerned with two forms of warped space. The first, a psychological space, is the repository of neuroses and phobias. This space is not empty but full of disturbing forms, including those of architecture and the city. The second kind of warping is produced when artists break the boundaries of genre to depict space in new ways. Vidler traces the emergence of a psychological idea of space from Pascal and Freud to the identification of agoraphobia and claustrophobia in the nineteenth century to twentieth-century theories of spatial alienation and estrangement in the writings of Georg Simmel, Siegfried Kracauer, and Walter Benjamin. Focusing on current conditions of displacement and placelessness, he examines ways in which contemporary artists and architects have produced new forms of spatial warping. The discussion ranges from theorists such as Jacques Lacan and Gilles Deleuze to artists such as Vito Acconci, Mike Kelley, Martha Rosler, and Rachel Whiteread. Finally, Vidler looks at the architectural experiments of Frank Gehry, Coop Himmelblau, Daniel Libeskind, Greg Lynn, Morphosis, and Eric Owen Moss in the light of new digital techniques that, while relying on traditional perspective, have radically transformed the composition, production, and experience—perhaps even the subject itself—of architecture.

    • Hardcover $52.50 £39.95
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  • The Architectural Uncanny

    The Architectural Uncanny

    Essays in the Modern Unhomely

    Anthony Vidler

    Anthony Vidler interprets contemporary buildings and projects in light of the resurgent interest in the uncanny as a metaphor for a fundamentally "unhomely" modern condition.

    The Architectural Uncanny presents an engaging and original series of meditations on issues and figures that are at the heart of the most pressing debates surrounding architecture today. Anthony Vidler interprets contemporary buildings and projects in light of the resurgent interest in the uncanny as a metaphor for a fundamentally "unhomely" modern condition. The essays are at once historical—serving to situate contemporary discourse in its own intellectual tradition and theoretical—opening up the complex and difficult relationships between politics, social thought, and architectural design in an era when the reality of homelessness and the idealism of the neo-avant-garde have never seemed so far apart.

    Vidler, one of the deftest and surest critics of the contemporary scene, explores aspects of architecture through notions of the uncanny as they have been developed in literature, philosophy, and psychology from the beginning of the nineteenth century to the present. He interprets the unsettling qualities of today's architecture—its fragmented neo-constructivist forms reminiscent of dismembered bodies, its "seeing walls" replicating the passive gaze of domestic cyborgs, its historical monuments indistinguishable from glossy reproductions - in the light of modern reflection on questions of social and individual estrangement, alienation, exile, and homelessness.

    Focusing on the work of architects such as Bernard Tschumi, Rem Koolhaas, Peter Eisenman, Coop Himmelblau, John Hejduk, Elizabeth Diller, and Ricardo Scofidio, as well as theorists of the urban condition, Vidler delineates the problems and paradoxes associated with the subject of domesticity.

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  • Claude-Nicolas Ledoux

    Claude-Nicolas Ledoux

    Architecture and Social Reform at the End of the Ancien Régime

    Anthony Vidler

    A product of detailed research into late-eighteenth-century cultural and social history, this book examines the controversial architect's life and work in the context of the Revolutionary period.

    The work of the French architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux has fascinated art historians, social critics, and architects alike since the French Revolution. Criticized in his own time for extravagance and megalomania, Ledoux has since been hailed as a visionary and utopian, and as a radical neoclassicist. In the 1930s Ledoux's designs were seen as anticipating modernist abstraction in architecture, and more recently they have been mined as a source of postmodern imagery. A product of detailed research into late-eighteenth-century cultural and social history, this book examines the controversial architect's life and work in the context of the Revolutionary period. It discusses Ledoux's education, early career, and the development of his personal idiom as a domestic architect. Vidler analyzes what was, perhaps, the most significant of Ledoux's public works, the Saline de Chaux, one of the most celebrated factory towns of its time and the only work of Ledoux to survive at the scale of its conception. The building of this rural factory, in conjunction with its proposed social and technical program, serves as a case study of Ledoux's early speculations on the relationship of architecture to industrial management. Ledoux was deeply involved in urban projects as well, and Vidler studies a number of them - most notably, the Palace of Justice of Aix-en-Provence, the Theater of Besançon, and the tollgates around Paris - as examples of Ledoux's attempt to create a "modern classicism" that would reinvest ancient forms with contemporary meaning and ultimately fashion an aesthetic for the representation of the public realmIn the book's final section, Vidler turns to the more explicitly utopian designs that Ledoux proposed for the "Ideal City of Chaux," which he imagined growing up around the saltworks in France-Comté. It was an entire city of symbolic and functional institutions, and Ledoux invented an architectural language to express their social and moral significance.

    • Hardcover $80.00

Contributor

  • Public Intimacy

    Public Intimacy

    Architecture and the Visual Arts

    Giuliana Bruno

    An examination of architecture and art as a screen of vital cultural memory that considers museum culture, visual technology, and the border of public and private space.

    In this thoughtful collection of essays on the relationship of architecture and the arts, Giuliana Bruno addresses the crucial role that architecture plays in the production of art and the making of public intimacy. As art melts into spatial construction and architecture mobilizes artistic vision, Bruno argues, a new moving space—a screen of vital cultural memory—has come to shape our visual culture. Taking on the central topic of museum culture, Bruno leads the reader on a series of architectural promenades from modernity to our times. Through these "museum walks," she demonstrates how artistic collection has become a culture of recollection, and examines the public space of the pavilion as reinvented in the moving-image art installation of Turner Prize nominees Jane and Louise Wilson. Investigating the intersection of science and art, Bruno looks at our cultural obsession with techniques of imaging and its effect on the privacy of bodies and space. She finds in the work of artist Rebecca Horn a notable combination of the artistic and the scientific that creates an architecture of public intimacy. Considering the role of architecture in contemporary art that refashions our "lived space"—and the work of contemporary artists including Rachel Whiteread, Mona Hatoum, and Guillermo Kuitca—Bruno argues that architecture is used to define the frame of memory, the border of public and private space, and the permeability of exterior and interior space. Architecture, Bruno contends, is not merely a matter of space, but an art of time.

    • Paperback $28.95 £23.00
  • Scene of the Crime

    Scene of the Crime

    Ralph Rugoff

    The book is not about works of art that simply document criminal acts. Rather, it is about a strain of art that presents the art object as a clue to absent meanings or actions.

    With contributions by Anthony Vidler and Peter Wollen Due in large part to the bombing of the Oklahoma City Federal Building, the crash of TWA Flight 800, and the O. J. Simpson trial, the once-arcane field of forensics has taken hold of the popular imagination. Scene of the Crime, which accompanies an exhibition of the same name organized by UCLA at the Armand Hammer Museum and supported by the Fellows of Contemporary Art, considers the art object as a kind of forensic evidence. Like the chalk outline of a murdered body, certain works of art invoke off-screen drama, prior trauma, or a history redolent of criminality, violation, or mysterious turbulence. From the evidentiary traces presented in these exhibits, the viewer is prompted to reconstruct behavior, motivations, and events. This forensic approach emphasizes the viewer's role as investigator while underscoring the cluelike and contingent status of the art object. The book is not about works of art that simply document criminal acts. Rather, it is about a strain of art that presents the art object as a clue to absent meanings or actions. From seminal works by Ed Ruscha, Bruce Naumann, Barry Le Va, and David Hammons to recent works by Paul McCarthy, Sharon Lockhart, James Luna, and Anthony Hernandez, this art declares that it is about more than meets the eye, raising the suspicion that a significant segment of contemporary art is concerned with forensic strategies and demands an investigative approach.

    Artists Terry Allen, D-L Alvarez, John Baldessari, Lewis Baltz, Uta Barth, Nayland Blake, Chris Burden, Vija Celmins, Bruce Conner, Eileen Cowin, John Divola, Sam Durant, Vincent Fecteau, Bob Flanagan and Sheree Rose, Janet Fries, David Hammons, Richard Hawkins, Anthony Hernandez, Alexander Jason, Mike Kelley, Ed and Nancy Kienholz, Barry Le Va, Sharon Lockhart, James Luna, Monica Majoli, Mike Mandel and Larry Sultan, Paul McCarthy, Richard Misrach, Bruce Nauman, Robert Overby, Nancy Reese, Michelle Rollman, Ed Ruscha, Alexis Smith, George Stone, Jeffrey Vallance.

    • Paperback $26.00 £17.95