Koolhaas' Revision of Foucault's panopticon; or how architecture and philosophy just met

Architecture and philosophy have engaged with one other, directly, marginally, or just simply implicitly, in the works and discourse of academics, practitioners, and critics, most evidently in architectural modernism, postmodernism, and most intensively in the reactions to both. Philosophy has been avidly sought by architects to help question, reveal, systematize, express, and expand the understanding of architectural works, the world upon which they intervene, the discipline itself, and the role of its practitioners and theoreticians. Architecture, in turn, has grown within philosophy from a passing example or an illustrative metaphor of some other matter, or a generally misfit artform within an aesthetic theory, into a topic in its own right – as testified by the recent development of a ‘philosophy of architecture’. And yet, seldom does either discipline take a step back to reflect upon the motives and methods of this relation as a topic in itself. How does architecture make use of philosophy? How does philosophy speak of architecture? Why does either one turn towards the other? What comes about in their doing so? We shall engage these questions by analyzing one particular case-study of such interactions: the potential influence of philosopher Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish (1975) on architect Rem Koolhaas’ Koepel Panopticon Prison renovation project (1981). This connection is far less well-known than most as it is far more low-key. In fact, it is difficult to point out or even discern its existence. However, as shall be seen, this discreteness does not mean that there is no case-study, but rather that discreteness is one of its principal traits, and one which distinguishes it uniquely from the cannon of architecture and philosophy’s interactions.


Published in:
Architecture Philosophy, 5, 1, 59-76
Year:
Jun 10 2020
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 Record created 2020-06-10, last modified 2020-06-22


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