Architectures of finance from the Great Depression to the Subprime Meltdown
An exhibition by Damon Rich
A project of the MIT Center For Advanced Visual Studies and the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP)
Commissioned by the Center for Advanced Visual Studies
Organized for the MIT Museum Compton Gallery by Laura Knott, Don Stidsen and Gary Van Zante
The American preference for traditional residential design masks a frightening reality: across the globe, individual buildings have been retrofitted to serve as interchangeable nodes in a vast abstract structure, held loosely together by legal and political restraints, made to allow the furious circulation of finance capital.
An installation of models, photographs, videos, and drawings by artist-designer Damon Rich,
immerses visitors in a landscape of pulsing capital and liquidated buildings, exploring the relation between finance and architecture.
During a year-long residence at MIT’s Center for Advanced Visual Studies, Rich, founder of the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), surveyed the darkening realm of real estate markets: foreclosures, pro-formas, chains of title, block busting, exploding ARMs, and the obscure history of the mortgage, Old French for death vow.
In the resulting installation, the head of Frederick Babcock, pioneer appraiser, gazes over a scattered field of diminished Detroit houses, still showing damage from 1960s real estate scandals. Looming behind Babcock, the flicker of a neon sign – BUY LOW SELL HIGH – reveals the spikes and troughs of a wall cut by the 20th century’s prime rate, the sharp line between lenders and borrowers. Projected videos haunt the gallery with the apparitions of financial engineers, federal regulators, and anti-foreclosure activists.
Today, what has become known as the Subprime Meltdown continues to spread, pushing people out of homes, wasting neighborhoods, bankrupting institutions, and threatening global economic crisis.
aims to broaden and enrich the urgent conversation about how our society finances its living environments.
Damon Rich is an artist and designer. His exhibitions use video, sculpture, graphics, and photography to investigate the political economy of the built environment. His work has been exhibited internationally at venues including the Storefront for Art and Architecture and SculptureCenter (New York City), the Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), Galerie für Zeitgenössische Kunst (Liepzig), the Venice Architecture Biennale, and Netherlands Architecture Institute (Rotterdam). In 1997, he founded the Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP), a nonprofit organization dedicated to helping people understand and change the places they live. In 2007, Rich was selected as a Loeb Fellow in Advanced Environmental Studies by the Harvard Graduate School of Design.
The Center for Urban Pedagogy (CUP) is a Brooklyn-based nonprofit organization that works to improve the quality of public participation in urban planning and community design. Visit
to learn more.
This exhibition is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, the Graham Foundation, the LEF Foundation, and the New York State Council for the Arts. Special thanks to the Loeb Fellowship of the Harvard Graduate School of Design.