How the rise of the large-scale atrium space in the 1970s and ’80s changed the way buildings could be designed, constructed, regulated, and occupied.
In the 1970s, a void opened at the heart of architecture. In hotels, offices, public buildings, and commercial centers, the atrium emerged globally to challenge the modernist legacies of form and function, altering the pattern and experience of cities. While often appearing at vast scale and to striking effect, the atrium also became omnipresent and mundane. In this lively critique, Charles Rice charts the atrium’s appearance in the 1970s and its development through the 1980s, as it accompanied profound shifts in the discipline and practice of architecture.
During this period, architectural practice especially in the United States and United Kingdom was changing rapidly, due in part to the manifold effects of deregulation. All aspects of the way buildings were designed, developed, regulated, built, managed, and occupied were being reshaped. A practice guided by the progressive tenets of modernism was being turned into a professional service fully integrated within neoliberal social and economic imperatives. As Rice shows, the atrium gives this story a distinct spatial and material figure, one that offers an inside view of architecture in transformation.