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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Essay on Architecture: Response to Boyer's Critique of Spectacular Urban Space

Respond to Boyer’s critique of spectacular urban space.
In what ways is history constructed as a spectacle in urban space? How should spaces be produced to achieve a deeper, more meaningful connection to the past? Respond with reference to Boyer’s arguments and detailed examples of 1 or 2 urban spaces (distillery district, neighborhoods, buildings, sites etc).

Essay on Architecture: Response to Boyer's Critique of Spectacular Urban Space 
            For many urban dwellers, the city is simply a place where they live and work. More often than not, the buildings and streets are ignored and are simply passed by. However, every space within the space offers a peek in history. This is primarily because the architectural and structural aspect of the city is a reflection of its rich history as well as the culture of its people. But over the course of time, these urban places have become saturated with images which drown the city’s historical aspect. As such, the city has been reduced and reconstructed to fit the modern aspirations of its new dwellers (Auge 24).

            Society as a concept was introduced during the early part of the nineteenth century. According to scholar, the architecture and the structures within the city were primarily constructed to strengthen the community. This means that the city itself links and unites the people while providing them with a sense of identity. Public places such as parks, public gardens, playgrounds, and promenades are not seen as mere public facilities. Rather, they function as a ceremonial structure that fosters unity and cultural oneness. Apart from relaxing and unwinding, people gather in these spaces to connect and communicate with other residents. These places then become an area where people meet and socialize with one another. In addition to this, such recreational spaces along with the buildings and monuments fulfil the community’s needs for beauty and aesthetics (Boyer 45). 

            The arrival of technology however, changed the urban spaces into a “computer-simulated” environment. What was once a panoramic space filled with areas that unite people now feature a different space in which no “distinction exists between the built and the natural environment” (Boyer 47). This is because new urbanism calls for a “paradoxical juxtapositions and mesmerizing allusions of cinemas and televisions” (Boyer 47). The contemporary  city is now dominated by a montage of effects through its blown-up billboards, electronic advertisements as well as blinding lights that criss-cross the highways. This has disrupted the unity that has pulled the society together for many years. And what we have now is but a city of spectacles (De Bord 25).

            According to Boyer, the City of Spectacle is a space in which the meaning of representational images within a city becomes eroded. For instance, a historical building in a city if often transformed in a modern bar. The author similarly asserts that twentieth century artists promote the concept and aesthetic of temporality. Boyer expresses this by writing that: “the City of Spectacle is a city reduced to the play of pure imagery, has developed intimate tie-ins with the logic of consumption and the selling of leisure time lifestyles. More than this, the author argued that the urbanism strips a city of its lyrical and poetic value. Boyer believes that the new setting has similarly resulted into the privatization of greenery as most of the spaces in the city are now covered in concrete and is surrounded by billboards. At the same time, the new environment has emptied the city of historical aspect as old and historical structures are now replaced with modern architectures (Boyer 55).

            The arrival of modernity has offered the society useful technologies and advancements. However, it has also taken over the city and has created a space in which unity and history is trumped with a spectacle of images. The once public space has been transformed into a private view of one’s room because of the montage of various billboards and technological advancements.

Works Cited
Auge, M. From places to non-places.
Boyer, C. City Images and Representational Forms.
De Bord, Guy. The Theory of Derive., 1956

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