Lootsma, Bart

(Institut für Architekturtheorie, Universität Innsbruck)

Architecture, Populism and Postmodernism

The rise of populism in Europe goes hand in hand with the crisis of the welfare state and representative democracy. Therefore it is no wonder that architecture, although maybe not in the sense of exceptional architectural masterpieces but as housing and urbanism, is one of the main issues for populist politicians. The issue is primarily about financing, ownership and shifting large flows of money from the government to the private sector. Populist arguments are largely about these issues too. They are about the possibility to own and invest in one’s own house and about the freedom the owner may have to shape it to fit his of her individual needs and desires. Therefore, this issue is not so much about architectural style, as it is about the freedom to live the way one wants and to design his or her own property. This is central to populist arguments. But the rhetoric of postmodernism may in some cases be helpful for populist politicians and in the end the results of populist politics may be largely postmodern or historicised in a confused way. Populists and postmodernists may not necessarily share the same enemy but they at least share a common symbol of an enemy: the large pre- and post-war modernist housing estates. For populists this symbol represents the state, for postmodernists it represents Modernism in its most alienated form.


Selected Publications: ArchiLab 2004: The Naked City (2004); SuperDutch: New Architecture in the Netherlands (2000); Media and Architecture (1998; with Dick Rijken)