The Architecture of Neoliberalism

The Architecture of Neoliberalism: How Contemporary Architecture Became an Instrument of Control and Compliance

by Douglas Spencer

Douglas Spencer lectures in architecture, urbanism and landscape at the Architectural Association, London, UK. He is a PhD supervisor at the Royal College of Art, and also teaches at the University of East London. Spencer is co-editor of Critical Territories (2014) and of Urban Prototypes: Mentalities and Perspectives (2014). He is also a published essayist (The Journal of Architecture, AA Files, Domus, Topos, Radical Philosophy and Harvard GSD's New Geographies) and has contributed articles to many edited collections. Author affiliation details are correct at time of print publication.

Search for publications
Bloomsbury Academic, 2016
  • DOI:
  • ISBN:
    978-1-4725-8152-5 (hardback)

    978-1-4725-8151-8 (paperback)

    978-1-4725-8154-9 (epdf)

    978-1-4725-8153-2 (epub)

    978-1-4742-9982-4 (online)
  • Edition:
    First Edition
  • Place of Publication:
  • Published Online:
The Architecture of Neoliberalism
Collapse All Sections

With their elegant looped and landscaped structures, the buildings of contemporary architectural practices promote free circulation between private and the public, work and pleasure, education and business.

Conceived according to the same models of networking and fluid interaction which are found in management theory, this is an architecture announcing itself as highly progressive and attuned to the contemporary imperatives of connectivity, flexibility and mobility. However, the architecture of the ‘new spatiality’ has in fact alarmingly allied itself with a neoliberal agenda – with important implications for our understanding of architectural design and its relationship with politics and control.

The Architecture of Neoliberalism presents a critical intervention, exploring what this alliance means for architecture and the inhabitants and users of buildings. We see for instance, how ‘elegance’ serves to obscure conditions of labour, and ‘organic formations’ work to naturalise financial imperatives.

Evidence is drawn from detailed critiques of contemporary projects, including Zaha Hadid's BMW Central Building, OMA's CCTV headquarters in Beijing and SOM's Roosevelt Island Tech Campus.The use of key theories is also examined, from Foucault to autopoiesis. Certainly, the questions this book asks of the architectural discipline – of its relationships to power and control, and of the real significance of its aesthetic strategies – demand serious reflection.