Architectural Agents: The Delusional, Abusive, Addictive Lives of Buildings

Annabel Jane Wharton


University of Minnesota Press

Buildings are not benign; rather, they commonly manipulate and abuse their human users. Art historian Annabel Wharton makes the case that buildings act in the world independently of their makers, patrons, owners, or occupants…and often they act badly.

Treating buildings as bodies, she writes biographies of symptomatic structures in order to diagnose their pathologies. The violence of some sites is rooted in historical trauma; the unhealthy spatial behaviors of other spaces stem from political and economic ruthlessness. The places examined range from the Cloisters Museum in New York City and the Palestine Archaeological Museum in Jerusalem to the Spanish grand Hostal de los Reyes Católicos in Santiago de Compostela and casino resorts in Las Vegas. Recognizing that a study of pathological spaces would not be complete without an investigation of digital structures, Wharton integrates into her argument an original consideration of the powerful architectures of video games and immersive worlds. Her work mounts a persuasive critique of popular phenomenological treatments of architecture.