Promises / Debts
Keynote Address by Arindam Dutta, MIT HTC
Arindam Dutta is Associate Professor of Architectural History at MIT. He is the author of The Bureaucracy of Beauty: Design in the Age of its Global Reproducibility (Routledge, 2007). He has also edited A Second Modernism: MIT, Architecture and the ‘Techno-Social’ Moment (MIT Press, 2012). Dutta’s lab at MIT, MIT Infrastructure Architecture Lab is partnering with the international planning firm TDG Inc. to propose and realize large-scale infrastructural interventions that impact high-density, low-income populations in India and the Third World. His research and design work revolves around questions of complexity, of decisions that are taken keeping in view a plethora of unlinked, often contradictory inputs, which therefore in the end do not amount to decisions at all. Governments, institutions, architectural production, “design” in the general sense, are all decision of this type: non-decisions that in effect represent a map of interests. Dutta is currently at work on a three-volume study that explore such a history of decision-making and architecture, titled Ancestralities. This keynote presents a synthesis of the first volume in that series, entitled Nature, Architecture, and the Debt.
About the Conference
Organized by the Ph.D. in Architecture program at the GSAPP, the conference Assembling Values: Architecture and Political Economy seeks to measure the extent to which architecture has not only been formed by, but is also productive of political-economic formations throughout the world.
Since the global financial crisis of 2008, a landscape marked by foreclosed homes, empty luxury towers, divided cities, and occupied streets has fueled debates concerning architecture’s relation to political economy. Salient among such debates is the question of whether architecture is doomed to remain a testimonial backdrop, a mere reflection, of financial capitalism, or whether it may offer more nuanced, and more effective, histories and analytics for the study of political economy.
If so, then this global, increasingly uneven, landscape compels us to recognize the instrumentalities and values that sustain and augment economic power relations through architecture’s own workings and operations. The moment is ripe for the reevaluation of old frameworks in order to consider the role of architecture, planning, and development in assembling the political-economic nexus.