(Cultural) Sociologies of Architecture?

Jones, P ORCID: 0000-0002-2158-1938
(2016) (Cultural) Sociologies of Architecture? In: The Sage Handbook of Cultural Sociology. Sage,London, 465 - 480.

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In 2011 I published The Sociology of Architecture, since which time have come to regret somewhat the book’s title. In place of the definitive article – the The - I increasingly feel that an indefinite ‘A’ would have been more appropriate, or perhaps that the plural Sociologies should have featured somewhere, in place of the singular Sociology. Although this issue does not exactly keep me awake at night, it is fair to say that should I be writing this book again, the title would be different, and quite possibly less assuredly disciplinary. This rather self-indulgent opening is intended to hint at the relatively wide scope of what can meaningfully be considered cultural sociological analyses of architecture, which by now is a growing, and intellectually-vibrant, field of inquiry. Throughout this chapter I hope to communicate the fascinating insights that have emerged as a result of what broadly could be understood as sociological engagements with architecture.2 Thanks to the socially-meaningful nature of architecture's material form - not to mention the production and reception of such - and its associated entanglements with both ‘everyday’ and out-of-the-ordinary practices alike, architecture presents a beguiling area of study for those interested in social order and sense-making social action. Additionally it would seem that sociologists are well-equipped to research the specific ways in which buildings and the spaces between them are, to coin a phrase, socially produced. However, this is a deceptively challenging terrain of study, replete with a number of pratfalls, some of which are also considered here. So, there is polemic intent in this chapter, which is written on the one hand in the hope of encouraging sociologists to contribute more research insights about architecture, and on the other keen to share the recently widened scope of resources available to sharpen such inquiry. In general I make a case for the necessity of theoretically-sophisticated and empirically grounded studies, attentive to the specificity of architecture as a form of cultural production, and the social contexts in which it is embedded/from which it emerges. Against this backdrop, the chapter is organised in such a way so as to provide those who may be interested in pursuing this research agenda with the major reference points (at least as I see them). By surveying 100 or so of the key academic contributions to the debate, the chapter aims to allow for the emergence of some generalities of sociological approaches to the study of architecture and the built environment. Following this Introduction, the first section of the chapter briefly unpacks the assumptions that underpin the subsequent organisation of the research literature. Highlighting some of the perils associated with such exercises in ‘canon-formation’, sociology – and, to a lesser extent, cultural sociology, and architecture – are discussed as frames that inform the rest of the chapter. The remaining sections are concerned with what I hope is an analytical review of the rapidly-expanding sociological research literature addressing architecture. This amounts to a necessarily fleeting overview of some of the key academic research contributions – primarily published books, articles, and chapters – that constitute landmarks in a (cultural) sociology of architecture. Three subsections act as something of a rough-and-ready typology that divide these circa 100 pieces into: i) those sociological contributions that have positioned architecture as reflective of major political, economic, and cultural shifts; ii) ethnographic studies of architecture as a profession/practice; iii) analysis of human-built environment interactions (inspired, to a greater or lesser extent, by Science and Technology Studies). This division of the research literature is proposed for present purposes only, and to organise the wide and varied existing research on architecture that is sociological in character.

Item Type: Book Section
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 19 May 2016 10:20
Last Modified: 23 Aug 2021 12:15
DOI: 10.4135/9781473957886.n34
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URI: https://livrepository.liverpool.ac.uk/id/eprint/3000498