Regulation, Architecture, Modernism

Michael Osman
Architecture and Urban Design
UC Los Angeles

This project examines the modernization of the United States through a group of regulatory techniques and institutions that emerged in the early twentieth century. In this period, conceptions of power based on laissez-faire capitalism were giving way to systems of governance that aimed to control the economies of the home, market, nature and labor. Environmental technologies for avoiding, delaying, and constraining the uncertainties resulting from the massive economic development of the United States established a new approach to securing its future through the regulation of risk. Representing the dynamics of environmental flux became essential for constructing architectural modernism’s relationship to the emergence of regulatory technologies. The research examines key instances of this engagement such as: the design of buildings that held cooling systems for regulating the supply of food to fluctuations in demand, laboratories and scientific displays that made nature’s economy visible to science and the broader public, as well as new representational systems that made the organization of the modern factory observable and alterable by methods of production control. In all these cases, I analyze the ways in which the conventions of architectural design and representation were used to translate the knowledge of environmental and economic flux into public images of control.