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Title: Transparency and obfuscation : politics and architecture in the work of Foster & Partners
Author: Wainwright, Edward
Awarding Body: Cardiff University
Current Institution: Cardiff University
Date of Award: 2010
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This dissertation examines the obfuscatory potential of transparency in the work of architectural practice Foster & Partners. Transparency, as a narrative of Western culture, has been used unthinkingly and uncritically by architects to equate clarity with rationality, accessibility and democracy. Through a close analytical reading of the practice's output, using a framework which draws from Henri Lefebvre's The Production of Space (1974), Jean Baudrillard's Simulacra and Simulation (1981), Marshall McLuhan's Understanding Media (1964), and Reinhold Martin's The Organisational Complex (2003), the political, cultural and social significance of Foster & Partners' transparent architecture is discussed. The dissertation works with two definitions of transparency: one drawn from Foster & Partners' use of transparent techniques and rhetoric as found in their built and published work; one based on a critical approach to materials which locate the place of transparency in architectural and spatial history and theory. Three case-studies from the practice are read for their transparent capacity and are placed in their respective historical-geographical contexts, following the methods of David Harvey. These projects, The Palace of Peace and Concord in Kazakhstan (2004-2006); HACTL Super Terminal in Hong Kong (1992-1998); and the Philological Library of the Free University Berlin (1997-2005), are analysed to examine the technological, material, aesthetic, formal and spatial qualities of their organisation. By placing these projects in their respective contexts, the position of transparency as an active architectural and cultural device is discussed, and its role in shaping the structure of social, political and institutional forms is explored. The thesis concludes by questioning widespread assumptions in architecture and culture that transparency acts to open-up and decrypt the hidden.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available