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Niklas Maak is the Arts Editor of Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, and an architecture theoretician working in Berlin. Since 2002, he has pursued parallel careers as a writer, educator, newspaper editor, architect, and visiting professor. Niklas studied Art History, Philosophy, and Architecture in Hamburg, Germany, and Paris, France. He completed a Maîtrise in 1996, studying with Jacques Derrida, on the question of the threshold, and his Ph.D. on the work of Le Corbusier and Paul Valery in 1998, with Martin Warnke at Hamburg University. Since then, he has undertaken continuous research on the history of mass housing, and models to re-engage with communal dwelling and collective housing. He was a visiting professor for the history and theory of architecture at Städel Schule, Frankfurt, and has taught and lectured at the Universities of Basel, Berlin, and Buenos Aires. He currently teaches at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. In 2013, he co-designed and programmed, together with A77 and Pedro Gadanho of New York’s MoMA, an experimental, temporary, minimal collective dwelling structure, the Colony at MoMA PS1, in Queens. In 2014, he worked with Rem Koolhaas’ Biennial team as a consultant and contributor. For his essays, Niklas has been awarded the George F. Kennan Prize (2009), the prestigious Henri Nannen Prize in Germany (2012), and the COR Prize for architectural critique (2014). His most recent publications include Le Corbusier: The Architect on the Beach, and Wohnkomplex, an investigation of the effects of fundamental techno-logical, demographic and societal changes on housing, and The Living Complex, which researches concepts for a post-familial collective architecture.

Phalansteries at Sea

Fourier, Le Corbusier, and the architecture of the cruiseship

Fourier, Le Corbusier, and the architecture of the cruiseship


Cruiseship architecture owes much to the French utopian thinker Charles Fourier (1772 - 1837). Fourier was a visionary in many respects: Credited with coining the word “feminism”, Fourier was among the first to insist on women’s right to work, wages for reproductive occupations, and demanded that all sexual preferences, including homosexuality, shall be lived out. Besides influencing Karl Marx‘ thinking, and a more than daring plan to spread a "boreal citric acid“ in the oceans to “give the sea the flavor of Lemonade”, Fourier is famous for inventing the phalanstery, a new typology of collective, autonomous mass housing complexes that were supposed to replace cities and villages, floating like archipelagoes in the landscape. In Fourier’s vision, the whole country would be reorganized by a network of interconnected Phalansteries, designed to accommodate thousands of people. With a central part and two lateral wings, the design of the phalanstery evokes a Versailles for the people where everyone would have access to the formerly exclusive joys of a privileged aristocratic elite: to education and healthcare, but also to collective dinners, feasts, and the “liberation of human passions”. The phalanstery was a fundamental source of inspiration for Le Corbusier’s and other modernist architect’s idea of social housing; while today, the inventors of dystopian mass housing design, like Santa Barbara’s Munger Hall, a dormitory for 4500 students with 94 percent of windowless rooms, refer to the efficiency of cruiseship indoor cabin architecture. This talk investigates the relation between Fourier’s idea of the festive architecture for the masses, the ship as a metaphor for heterotopias in modern architecture, and the paradoxical character of contemporary cruiseship design between a fullfillment of early socialist dreams, and a late capitalist wellness dystopias

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