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Architecture, Liberalism, and the Market

Publication supported by the Neil Harris Endowment Fund

Anthony Fontenot’s staggeringly ambitious book uncovers the surprisingly libertarian heart  of the most influential British and American architectural and urbanist discourses of the postwar period, expressed as a critique of central design and a support of spontaneous order. Non-Design illuminates the unexpected philosophical common ground between enemies of state support, most prominently the economist Friedrich Hayek, and numerous notable postwar architects and urbanists like Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, Reyner Banham, and Jane Jacobs. These thinkers espoused a distinctive concept of "non-design,"characterized by a rejection of conscious design and an embrace of various phenomenon that emerge without intention or deliberate human guidance. This diffuse and complex body of theories discarded many of the cultural presuppositions of the time, shunning the traditions of modern design in favor of the wisdom, freedom, and self-organizing capacity of the market. Fontenot reveals the little-known commonalities between the aesthetic deregulation sought by ostensibly liberal thinkers and Hayek’s more controversial conception of state power, detailing what this unexplored affinity means for our conceptions of political liberalism. Non-Design thoroughly recasts conventional views of postwar architecture and urbanism, as well as liberal and libertarian philosophies.

376 pages | 65 halftones | 7 x 10 | © 2021

Architecture: History of Architecture

History: History of Ideas, Urban History

Political Science: Political and Social Theory


"Detailed and fascinating . . . An excellent book. The writing is scholarly, yet readable and engaging, and Fontenot’s skillful use of quotations from contemporary periodicals, such as Architectural Review, Architectural Design, and New Society, brings the critique of modernism to life."

Journal of Urban Affairs

"Fontenot, who teaches architecture at Woodbury University, wrote a fascinating book arguing that economic thinking can influence architecture and design, and it did. . . . Even the reader who disagrees the most vehemently with Fontenot could learn a lot from a book which provides the reader with such an impressive amount of information."

History of Economic Ideas

“Fontenot’s stunningly erudite and deeply researched book is a landmark contribution to the study of the built environment and establishes him as one of the field's most perspicacious intellectual historians. Its explication of myriad connections among economic thinkers and the disciplines of architecture and urbanism transforms previous understandings and will doubtless foster renewed and refined discussions of monopolies in the twenty-first century. Non-Design is an uncommonly bracing, audacious, and provocative work of historical scholarship.”

Edward Dimendberg, University of California, Irvine

“In his thoroughly researched tome, Fontenot shapes an innovative vision of postwar architecture. Considering the critical discourse and the practical responses that have challenged the dominion of central planning and functional design, he weaves together well-chosen British and North American episodes marking the emergence of a deliberate denigration of modern design.”

Jean-Louis Cohen, New York University Institute of Fine Arts

“Rich in ideas, edifying in its connecting lines, Fontenot’s survey of mid-twentieth-century (non)planning theory is a masterful compendium of urban discussions holding significant relevance today.”

Harry Francis Mallgrave, Illinois Institute of Technology

"Recommended. Urban design and city planning receive limited attention in discussions of modern architecture despite their undeniable importance to architectural design in the urban environment. Fontenot aims to elevate these topics within the larger discussion by examining the important social theories and trends that have influenced urban design and planning since WW II. Fontenot explores the critical reactions in mid-twentieth century urban design discourse to earlier Utopian, socialist-inspired urban planning and design theories familiar to students of twentieth-century architecture. But he broadens the topic by proposing intellectual connections between the proponents of what was known as “non-design” in urban architecture and the theories of market-driven decisions in organized human activities described by Friedrich Hayek. . . These and other comparisons between market-driven and urban design theories should generate considerable discussion."


Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Planned Order versus Spontaneous Order

Chapter 2. New Brutalism and the Critique of Socialism: Non-Design and the New Visual Order

Chapter 3. The Borax Debates: From Modern Design to Non-Design

Chapter 4. Spontaneous City: Jane Jacobs and the Critique of Planned Order

Chapter 5. Chaos or Control: Non-Design and the American City

Chapter 6. The Indeterminate City


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