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On Discomfort : Moments in a Modern History of Architectural Culture (Hardcover) (Andrew Leach)

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While the significance of the interior has recently been explored from a range of disciplinary perspectives, there has been no extensive study of discomfort, or the role it plays in the cultural history of architecture. By examining discomfort’s physical, emotional, conceptual, psychological and aesthetic impact on the experience of architecture, the contributors to this volume offer an alternate, cultural approach to the study of architecture and the built environment. The focus on discomfort and its synonyms - unease, discomposure, embarrassment, worry, and irritation - challenges progressivist accounts of the rationally improved building as a self-evident subject of historical inquiry. It positions discomfort in its peculiarly modern forms as manifest since the eighteenth century. By attending to a series of disparate instances across this chronology in which architecture and discomfort intersect, it offers a fresh reading of architecture’s relationship with modernity and of the negotiations that define architecture’s position in modern culture. The essays do not chart comfort’s triumph so much as discomfort’s curious dispersal into practices that form ‘modern life’ - and what that dispersion reveals of both architecture and culture. In order to focus on the apprehension and identification of discomfort, the essays presented recover an extensive, diffuse and rich archive, including visual culture, architecture and design publications, popular entertainments, mass periodicals, parliamentary reports, literature, medical research, legal argument, letters and diaries. This archive illuminates the material culture of discomfort as it accrues to architecture. Its analysis extends our understanding of the domestication of interiors (and objects, and cities, and ideas) and the conditions under which they fail, programmatically or accidentally, to offer comfort. The breadth of this archive and the wealth of new detail it surrenders about the problems of modern life and its settings speak to the range of disciplinary fields - architectural history, cultural studies, gender studies, design, history, visual and material cultures, literary studies and sociologies of consumption, taste and leisure - this book both addresses and attracts.

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