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Iconic architecture and the culture-ideology of consumerism

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This article explores the theoretical and substantive connections between iconicity and consumerism in the field of contemporary iconic architecture within the framework of a critical theory of globalization. Iconicity in architecture is defined in terms of fame and special symbolic/aesthetic significance as applied to buildings, spaces and in some cases architects themselves. Iconic architecture is conceptualized as a hegemonic project of the transnational capitalist class. In the global era, I argue, iconic architecture strives to turn more or less all public space into consumerist space, not only in the obvious case of shopping malls but more generally in all cultural spaces, notably museums and sports complexes. The inspiration that iconic architecture has provided historically generally coexisted with repressive political and economic systems, and for change to happen an alternative form of non-capitalist globalization is necessary. Under such conditions truly inspiring iconic architecture, including existing architectural icons, may create genuinely democratic public spaces in which the culture-ideology of consumerism fades away. In this way, a built environment in which the full array of human talents can flourish may begin to emerge.

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