Assistant Professor Michael Osman
MIchael Osman is an author in Governing by Design: Architecture, Economy, and Politics in the Twentieth Century and a founding member of the collaborative Aggregate, a group of thirteen historians interpreting architecture from multidisciplinary perspectives.
This publication offers a unique perspective on twentieth-century architectural history. It disputes the primacy placed on individuals in the design and planning process and instead looks to the larger influences of politics, culture, economics, and globalization to uncover the roots of how our built environment evolves. In these chapters, historians offer their analysis on design as a vehicle for power and as a mediator of social currents. Power is defined through a variety of forms: modernization, obsolescence, technology, capital, ergonomics, biopolitics, and others. The chapters explore the diffusion of power through the establishment of norms and networks that frame human conduct, action, identity, and design. They follow design as it functions through the body, in the home, and at the state and international level. Overall, Aggregate views the intersection of architecture with the human need for what Foucault termed “governmentality”—societal rules, structures, repetition, and protocols—as a way to provide security and tame risk. Here, the conjunction of power and the power of design reinforces governmentality and infuses a sense of social permanence despite the exceedingly fluid nature of societies and the disintegration of cultural memory in the modern era.
“In a wide-ranging yet coherent exploration of the relationships between design production and political economy, this perpetually engaging edited volume provocatively expands the domains of architectural and urbanist discourse to consider new dimensions of power and contested identities. By elucidating the complex codevelopment of the built environment at all scales and across the globe, Governing by Design prompts us to consider the ways that all architecture is embedded in a managed urbanism of risk. Deploying a commendable form of theorized specificity, the chapters usefully coalesce into the aggregate their authors profess to be.”—Lawrence J. Vale, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
“At last the study of architecture and cities moves beyond the premise that they are merely ‘reflections’ of the broader culture. This edited volume explores architecture as the instrumental medium by which societies actively work to define and realize their expectations, desires, and needs. Just as important, it reveals how critical the role of designers and users is in establishing the means for communities to contest and negotiate their desired ends.”—John Archer, University of Minnesota
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