Architectural Blatherations

Architectural Sociology Today

The Good Oil

Dr Garry gives himself a big pat on the back for creating a sociology of architecture worth studying, and for destroying the impoverished legacy of the Robert Gutman school of thought. This page is one big Dr Garry love-fest. Read at your own risk.

Architectural Sociology Yesterday: The Gutman Hegemony

Robert Gutman, academic con-man
Robert Gutman, academic con-man.

Before the publication of The Favored Circle, social studies into architecture were dominated by Robert Gutman and his acolytes. From his appointment at the school of architecture at Princeton in 1969 to his death in 2007, he and his followers built lucrative careers swindling architecture schools and the American architecture profession into thinking they were getting some decent scientific thought.

Robert Gutman spent his entire life serving the rich and powerful. He was educated at the most elite of schools: Columbia, London School of Economics, the Bartlett, Princeton. After graduation, he spent the rest of his life toadying to the elites who had educated and embraced him.

Gutman's writings were without theory, and without empirical evidence. He just blathered. He spent his entire career in mutual back-slapping: a gentle prod to the elites here, a minor rebuke there; but never going to so far as to endanger any of his many paycheques {paychecks}. The Deans congratulated themselves on having a real intellectual on their payroll, a man of science. The leaders of the American professional associations followed suit. There was nothing in Gutman to scare them, and much to comfort them.

The architecture professors were easy to fool. America's most prestigious architecture schools flatter themselves that their faculty are the best and brightest on earth, when the reality is that their teachers are more poseurs than intellectuals.

The architecture professors were not bright, not well-educated, and not well-read; and relied on their class position to overawe their students. They would underperform at any community college. Confessing their own intellectual inadequacies to themselves, the architecture professors were blinded by anyone who could claim a modicum of instruction in any discipline outside of architecture. In that environment, Gutman found rich pluckings. And pluck he did.

In a classic study of academic opportunism, Gutman finessed numerous appointments at prestigious American schools (Princeton, Rutgers, Stanford, Michigan, and others) to produce a very large income for himself, with very little output.

The Collapse of the Gutman School

At its publication in 2000, The Favored Circle completely redefined the landscape for social studies of architecture. It introduced a sophisticated theory of architecture and architectural education based on the theories of Pierre Bourdieu. Dr Garry claimed no credit for the theoretical apparatus: Bourdieu was way smarter than he could ever hope to be. The best Dr Garry could claim was acting as a conduit for Bourdieu's ideas into the architecture schools.

But that was not the importance of the book. If every single fact and theory in it had been wrong— and a lot of people think that to be the case—the book was critical in one key respect: it showed that there were other ways of thinking about architecture and society, ways never even dreamt of by Gutman and his followers in their cosy academic sinecures.

Gutman and his followers simply refused to acknowledge the poverty of their own work. Gutman repeatedly refused to attend seminars and lectures on Bourdieu's work. Not one of his followers ever cited the new theories. They had their tenured positions, built on a lazy conception of theory that was outdated by 1980. The closest analogy we can think of is the last Bourbon kings of France: dazed, confused, and confounded; but sure that once everyone else has come to their senses, they will be back on top.

Architectural Sociology Today: The New Rich Literature

After the publication of The Favored Circle, a rich body of literature evolved that embraced sophisticated sociological investigations into the profession of architecture, and simply bypassed the naive descriptions of Gutman and his school. This literature did not embrace Bourdieu: there were many other avenues to explore. But what it did do was reject the arid writings of Gutman and his followers.

Gutman's students are still in positions of power and influence in American architecture schools. But they near retirement; and are giving way to vibrant young professors who will provide much richer, more insightful, and more exciting ideas than they could ever dream of.

We have some suggestions for those of you wanting to pursue the many lines of research that opened up after The Favored Circle freed the social study of architecture from Gutman's domination.


You should read these:

  • Nikolaus Fogle (2011), The Spatial Logic of Social Struggle, Lexington Books, Lanham.
  • Paul Jenkins and Leslie Forsyth (2010), Architecture, Participation and Society, Routledge, Abingdon.
  • Paul Jones (2011), The Sociology of Architecture, Liverpool University Press, Liverpool.

Papers You Will Have To Pay For

We are not fans of the academic publishing companies, who make money for jam, making billions for themselves while refusing to pay for the academics for their labour. Here are some papers worth reading if you want to pay for them:

  • Paul Jones (2009) “Putting Architecture in its Social Place”, Urban Studies 46:12 2519-2536 doi: 10.1177/0042098009344230
  • Helena Webster (2007), “The Analytics of Power”, Journal of Architectural Education 60:3 21-27 doi: 10.1111/j.1531-314X.2007.00092.x
  • Paul Jones (2006) “The Sociology of Architecture and the Politics of Building”, Sociology 40:3 549-565 doi: 10.1177/003803850663674
  • I. Shadar et al (2011) “Contested Homes”, Space and Culture 14:3 269-290 doi: 10.1177/1206331211412239

Papers You Do Not Have To Pay For

We have scoured the web for free papers in the new architectural sociology that you do not have to pay a cent for.

We have put them into one neat package that you can download. We have included papers from Christina and Leonard Bachman, Jennifer Chamberlin, Phillip Crowther, Paul Jenkins, Kenton Card, Silke Capp, Beatrice Manzoni, Lindy Osbourne, Ombretta Romice, Elif Tural, Kathleen Watt, Helena Webster and others. Get them here.

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