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Paperwork, Games, Language: A Counterhistory of the Institute for Architecture and Urban Studies, 1967-85


This dissertation examines the institutional history of the Institute of Architecture and Urban Studies (IAUS), an architectural nonprofit and alternative educational space, in the context of the American postwar research economy and urban crisis of New York City. The dissertation constructs a counterhistory of IAUS as a para-institute, in contrast to the dominant hagiographic narratives, which rely primarily on oral histories and focus on the political economy of media and publications. The three chapters examine this institutional history through the lens of paperwork and bureaucratic documents, urbanplanning and urban design projects, and entanglements with semiotics, mental health, and public housing policy. A focus on archival documents from research projects, institutional management, and institutional self-preservation attest to the ways in which the continual process of defining and re-defining the institutional scope of work, methods, protocols, personnel, roles, and the management of the institute as such, reflected manifold extra-disciplinary forces such as changes in non-profit funding streams, shifts in federal housing policies, vagaries of architectural culture, and exigencies of social science research. At a moment when schools of architecture frantically searched for new ways to define and live up to their social responsibility and architecture’s political agency and urban focus was rapidly shifting toward what is commonly identified as architectural autonomy, IAUS triangulated between multiple modes of knowledge production and dissemination, educational programs for students and practicing architects alike, and wide-ranging and ambitious research efforts. I examine how IAUS’ methods and modes of knowledge production existed without any clear disciplinary boundaries, and operated in a nomadic terrain besieged by forces of neoliberal capital, which affected the very utility and orientation of knowledge as such and challenged the efficacy of research.

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