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A geography of big things

[journal article]

Jacobs, Jane M.

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Abstract This paper sketches some conceptual tools by which cultural geographers might advance geographies of architecture. It does so by thinking specifically about one architectural form: the modernist residential highrise, which is the ‘big thing’ of this paper. The paper draws on recent developments in material semiotics in order to interrogate features often uniquely associated with the highrise, such as its global reach, uniformity, and scale. The paper first rethinks how cultural geography has traditionally explained the movement of built forms, explicitly turning from diffusionist accounts to the notion of translation. It then offers a reconsideration of the way geographers might think about scale in relation to a ‘big’ and ‘global’ thing like the modernist highrise, arguing that scale is produced relationally and in specific contexts. Finally, it offers a template for cultural geographical scholarship which takes seriously the technical work entailed in things, like a highrise, materialising or de-materializing. It does so by way of two illustrative stories: one about the productive social science of highrise suicides in Singapore; the other about the destructive role of the inquiry into collapse of Ronan point in the UK.
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 1-27
Journal Cultural Geographies, 13 (2006) 1
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)