Remaking the Public: CCTV, the Hyperbuilding and the Image of Labour. A Seminar with Douglas Spencer

PhD seminars series 2011-2012
The Project: the Rise and Fall of a Political and Artistic Paradigm
Friday April 27th from 18.00 to 21.00 – J.J.P. Oud room
Fifth Seminar with Douglas Spencer

Remaking the Public: CCTV, the Hyperbuilding and the Image of Labour

OMA’s CCTV headquarters in Beijing is considered here as emblematic of a reversal of the tenets of Bigness towards a new (proto)typology of the ‘hyperbuilding’. In this reversal the objective of a ‘metropolitan architecture’ is replaced with that of an infrastructural urbanism. This turn, I argue, has significant implications in regard to the production of new urban subjectivities, whilst also bringing Koolhaas remarkably close to what I have termed, elsewhere, ‘architectural Deleuzism’ in both his architectural and his discursive strategies. In order to challenge Koolhaas’s claims to be revisiting in the CCTV project his early interests in communism and communist architecture, I turn to elucidate a number of accounts of the relationship between post-reform China, neoliberalism, and neoliberal governmentality. From this analysis emerges the significance of imperatives within the People’s Republic of China for social ‘stabilisation’, the ‘reengineering’ of the worker, and the ‘remaking’ of the public, as well as the place of the media, and CCTV specifically, within these processes. These imperatives are then used as the optics through which to understand the organisational and semantic operation of the CCTV headquarters, focusing particularly upon its zoned departmental organisation, its use of stacked ‘generic’ floor plates, and the function of the ‘Visitors Loop’ as an instrument of social induction.

Douglas Spencer has studied design and architectural history, and cultural studies, and currently teaches on the Historical and Critical Thinking, and Landscape Urbanism programmes of the Architectural Association’s Graduate School, as well co-directing the school’s research programme on Urban Prototypes. His research and writing on urbanism, architecture, film and critical theory has been published in journals including Radical Philosophy, The Journal of Architecture, and AA Files. He is a co-editor of the book Critical Territories: From Academia to Praxis (forthcoming), and is now completing his study of ‘Architectural Deleuzism’ for his Doctoral thesis at the University of Westminster.

Suggested reading

Lemke, Thomas, “Foucault, Governmentality, and Critique,” in Rethinking Marxism, Volume 14, Issue 3, September (2002)

Ong, Aihwa, Neoliberalism as Exception: Mutations in Citizenship and Sovereignty, (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2006): 219-239

Spencer, Douglas, “Architectural Deleuzism: Neoliberal Space, Control and the ‘Univer-City’,” Radical Philosophy 168, July/August (2011)

Virno, Paolo, A Grammar of the Multitude (Los Angeles and New York: Semiotext(e), 2004): 47-71