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* Chris Abel *
"Abel writes in a brisk, no-nonsense manner and steers
clear of glib acceptance of received wisdom"
Andrew Ballantyne, Times Literary Supplement
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* PUBLICATIONS EXTRACTS
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On Self-Organizing Systems
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On Customized Automation
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On Critical Theory
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On Cultural Identity
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On Rational Design
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On Empathy
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On Innovation and Metaphor
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On Globalization
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On History
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On Henning Larsen
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On Norman Foster
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On Richard England
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On Postmodernism
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On Sustainability
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On Deconstructivism
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On Biotech Architecture
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On Vertical Architecture
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On Harry Seidler
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On Foster and Gehry
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On Cyberspace
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On Writing
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On Australian Architecture
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On Virtual Evolution
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On The Vertical Garden City
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On The Extended Self
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* ON GLOBALIZATION *
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Given the economic imperatives of neo-colonialism, which make necessary the continuation and expansion of Western cultural hegemony, it is inevitable that we should have, in addition to every other Western culture form, Western forms of architecture dominating local forms to the point of their virtual extinction. It is all a part of that cultural (and commercial) penetration of local cultures which the former colonial powers now require to extend as far as possible in order to maintain their own economic dominance and well-being.

Herein lies the present and future danger, not only to the Malaysian identity, but to the identity of most developing countries. It is that neo-colonial covert forms of cultural domination and exploitation present a far greater challenge to (militarily and economically) relatively weaker nations than the now outmoded and inefficient overt forms of historical colonialism. The neo-colonial architecture of the global consumer society therefore represents, to the extent by which modern culture is unified by the values of commerce, and by the manner in which all other values are made subordinate to these values, a homogenizing force on an international scale hitherto unprecedented.

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* From: 'Living in a hybrid world'. In R. Langdon and N. Cross (eds). Design and Society. Design Council, 1984, p. 19. *
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...other convincing arguments have arisen for not taking the pattern of increasing Western-oriented centralization and standardization for granted. Challenging the model of a homogenized world future, Stuart Hall argues that globalisation has its own unanticipated imperatives, and that the very processes which typify global economic and cultural activity carry within themselves their own contradictions. In order to extend their markets into new areas, multinational corporations are finding it increasingly necessary to adapt themselves to the particular demands of local consumers, which means bending their activities and production lines to suit local cultures as well as other regional factors. In meeting these new demands, the shape of the multinational corporation is rapidly changing from a centralized institution with corporate headquarters in the North, to a more flexible confederation of smaller and semi-autonomous units, better able to respond to local conditions. It may all be just another subterfuge designed to disguise the same old corporate ambitions, but, as Hall suggests, it just might lead to a more diverse and unpredictable global culture than that usually envisaged.

...Such arguments tie in with the more abstract but equally compelling theories of self-organizing systems which first emerged in the '60s and are now enjoying renewed attention under the general rubric of complexity theory. Viewed in these terms, which are rooted in biological and ecological models, the organic processes which are leading towards centralisation and integration on a global scale, are having equal and opposite decentralising effects on a sub-regional scale. The result may sometimes look like chaos and fragmentation at a local level, but is more accurately described as a spontaneous adjustment of human activity to cope with exposure to a larger and less predictable world environment. The whole reciprocating process is boosted by an environmental crisis which demands at one and the same time a global awareness of the interconnectedness of all things, and local actions to raise levels of self-sufficiency in such vital areas as food and energy consumption. If there is such a thing as an emergent global culture, it may well arise out of these complementary processes.

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* From: 'Localisation versus globalisation', The Architectural Review, September 1994, p. 6. *
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What these projects demonstrate is that students can be taught to handle the most complex cross-cultural problems of design, provided they have access to relevant exemplars and understand the nature of the basic issues involved. Contrary to what is often thought, there is no hard and fast choice between the local and the global. The real and more ambiguous creative challenge lies in the interaction between the two. What was most heartening for a teacher struggling to create bridges between different cultures has been the apparent readiness of students of diverse origins to make the empathetic leap involved, and to comprehend a non-threatening situation in which there is a place for both a familiar and an other world. That, in the present global environment, is something to be thankful for.

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* From: 'Globalism and the regional response: educational foundations'. In M. Pearce and M. Toy (eds). Educating Architects. Academy Editions, 1995,
p. 87.
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* Chris Abel *
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