This book investigates the global architecture of commodities. It does so by examining the spaces of production and transportation of seven specific items, chosen for their ubiquity within everyday life: Fyfe bananas, the iPhone, Levi’s jeans, the Míele washing machine, people, chicken, and the IKEA BILLY bookcase.
This involves using architectural tools and methods to engage with, measuring and mapping both the physical and intangible spaces and forms of large-scale networks: times, rhythms, and speeds; endings and edges; structures and organisations; atmospheres and scales; urbanity and modernity; cultures and technologies, and finally, buildings.
These investigations are applied at two scales: the domestic and the global. Domestic deals with the local storing and consumption of commodities in the home. The home, as noted by Reyner Banham, must be thought of as much as a node of services within a wider system as a physical structure. We extend this definition to all forms of architecture to resist the definition of buildings as ‘objects’. The global scale analyses the vast range of networks and systems used in the production and circulation of commodities. What we find are a series of consistencies and convergences – such as the predominance of the steel portal-framed shed which emerges as a universal form of architecture – within a global system that is simultaneously logical and chaotic, efficient and wasteful, but above all completely dependent on fossil fuel.
By hacking into this system and understanding its inherent interconnectedness, we not only realise how a washing machine can relate to a banana, or an iPhone to a pair of jeans, through their intermodal similarities – how they are made and transported – but also how, as architects, we might begin to conceive and design alternatives.
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