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AR September 2019 on Money

1464 cover ar money

Yasmeen Lari | Heatherwick Studio | Lütjens Padmanabhan | Peter Zumthor | OFFICE | Pezo von Ellrichshausen | Studio Ko | Supertanker | Richard Seifert | Typology: Bank

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Today, as the climate emergency claxon sounds, exacerbated by our insatiable need for never-ending financial growth, the current framework of our economic system has no answers for a successful way forward. At this moment, the September issue of the AR looks at the topic of money in all its permutations, both glittering and dirty, and explores the idea of degrowth as it gains wider traction. 

In this month’s keynote, Phineas Harper and Maria Smith propose a ‘non-liquid architecture’, outside our traditional value structures – an idea unpicked further in an interview with Kate Raworth, who argues for a reassessment of endless growth, by Michael Chieffalo and Julia Smachylo in their appraisal of idleness, and put into practice by Pakistan’s first female architect, Yasmeen Lari, through her theory of a ‘barefoot economy’. The criticism and questioning of neoliberalism continue in Edwina Attlee’s revisit of Silvia Federici’s Wages for Housework campaign from the 1970s, which exposes unpaid domestic labour undertaken by women in the home, and in a double review of a pair of exhibitions at the Canadian Centre for Architecture, deconstructing emotional capitalism and the financialisation of happiness.

Everything can now be assigned an economic value, including emotions and ‘experiences’, as Manon Mollard finds out as she dissects architecture’s complicity in monetising the ‘value of experience’ in a collection of recent luxury holiday homes. Building is a crucial part of our economic machinery, and property markets and the regeneration of cities speaks of the connections between land value, investment, architecture and consumerism. Jack Self critiques the ‘authentic’ consumerist experience of Heatherwick Studios’ Coal Drops Yard in King’s Cross, London, now a luxury shopping precinct, while Stephen Zacks takes a look at the ongoing regeneration of Algiers’ Casbah. In this month’s Outrage, Oliver Wainwright decrys ‘the physical bar chart of inflated land values’ on New York’s skyline, and Owen Hatherley doubles down on the transformation of housing from social right to financial instrument in his double review of Raquel Rolnik’s Urban Warfare and Samuel Stein’s Capital City, although wealthy Switzerland seems to have an enviable alternative to the commodification of housing, as Lütjens Padmanabhan’s Waldmeisterweg housing in Zürich attests. 

Architects have always had a complicated relationship with money, as Claire Zimmerman investigates the deliberate denial of architecture as a product of capitalism, and Kathleen James-Charkraborty exposes the double-standards of the egalitarian Bauhaus and the luxury materials they favoured. Richard Seifert, featured in this month’s Reputations, lead one of the most profitable practices of the 1960s and ’70s and was a resounding commercial success – but was an abject critical failure. The luxurious interiors of Studio KO’s new Musée Saint Laurent in Marrakesh memorialises the ‘last living king’ of couture who lives on within its walls, ‘mummified through a hugely profitable afterlife of stuff’.

But perhaps architecture is at its most luxurious when made from the most precious of metals, as Tom Wilkinson discovers in his history of golden buildings. As Lenin wrote in 1921, ‘When we are victorious on a world scale, I think we shall use gold for the purpose of building public lavatories’.

The full table of contents is available here.

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