Cedric Price’s Pop-Up Parliament
A Role Model for Media Architecture and Data Politics
The digital era has supposedly had a drastic impact on contemporary forms of political debate. Live-tweets, podcasts, and posts have become the main channels for politics, polemics, and populism alike. But these tendencies are not only an acceleration of the politics of media brought about by the logics behind television, cybernetics, and computation in the post-war era. They gained strength when populist politics appropriated information access via mass media, which once promised the emancipation of ordinary citizens by architectural means through pop-culture.
In this essay I seek to elaborate how Cedric Price’s 1965 design of the Pop-Up Parliament dealt with a media-technical condition of politics, while proposing that architecture was an integral part of the media network of governing. Price’s project is paradigmatic of the 1960s, a period when the media operations of information compression, prediction, and audience targeting became more decisive for politics than the content of debate. This analysis allows us, on the one hand, to problematise conventional definitions of populism towards a media-based concept, and on the other, to further our understanding of architecture as a political medium operating directly with media such as documents, television, and computers. This essay argues that the advent of digital media calls for a different architectural history of populism, one which engages with the operativity of media and cultural techniques, rather than relying upon the symbolic representation of ideology in architecture.
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