Architecture's Effects

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The built environment can shape political and social realities, as well as house memories, as the many artists who explore this theme attest. In the 1990s the British artist Rachel Whiteread began to cast the interiors of old houses earmarked for demolition, drawing attention to issues of urban demographics and city planning. Christo and Jeanne-Claude explored the intersection of architecture and politics in 1995 when they wrapped the entire German Reichstag, in Berlin, in a silvery fabric, at once obscuring and accentuating the political headquarters in a country that has shied away from overt national symbols since the Second World War. Michel Foucault, in his influential study of the Panopticon—a prison structure in which inmates existed under constant surveillance without knowing when they were being observed—proposed the idea that architecture can serve as a regulatory force, impacting human behavior the way law and social norms do.

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