We Blame the Building! The Architecture of Distributed Responsibility


This article makes use of actor-network theory to reflect on how responsibility is distributed when efforts are made to change the built environment. More specifically, it is concerned with the way in which humans delegate responsibility to non-human things and how these non-human things then function as actors within heterogeneous settings. The overall intent is to erase the divide between culture and nature, human subjectivity and vibrant matter, and thereby change our relationship to ‘the city’. The argument is embedded in and illustrated by an architectural controversy that unfolded in New York City in late 2013 and early 2014 around the demolition by the Museum of Modern Art of an award-winning and relatively new building––the American Folk Art Museum.