Architecture as consumer space

27 May 2009

The thought of Merleau-Ponty, Silverman, Marx and Marcuse is a valuable repository of insights that may function as guidelines for ascertaining what would count as truly ‘human’ space – that is, a space that does not alienate one from being human. Close attention is given to certain aspects of the work of each of these thinkers with a view to delineating the structure of what is to count as such a human space in all its variegatedness. Such spatial alienation could occur in various ways, such as through the space of apartheid, of prisoner-of-war camps, of monodimensional functionalism, and so on. The argument of this paper is that consumer capitalist space, too, tends to impoverish multi-dimensional human space, even to reduce it to one of alienation. The film, Dawn of the Dead, is used to demonstrate how this kind of reductive space turns people into ‘consumers’ or zombies, with special attention to the ‘shopping mall’. A different, more ‘human’ kind of shopping space, interwoven with qualitatively different spatial possibilities, is conceivable, however, and in conclusion, this is explored by examining the architectural work of Erik Grobler, against the backdrop of the philosophers’ work that frames the discussion.