Maintenance Architecture

Maintenance Architecture

By Hilary Sample

An inventive examination of a crucial but neglected aspect of architecture, by an architect writing to architects.





An inventive examination of a crucial but neglected aspect of architecture, by an architect writing to architects.

Maintenance plays a crucial role in the production and endurance of architecture, yet architects for the most part treat maintenance with indifference. The discipline of architecture values the image of the new over the lived-in, the photogenic empty and stark building over a messy and labored one. But the fact is: homes need to be cleaned and buildings and cities need to be maintained, and architecture no matter its form cannot escape from such realities. In Maintenance Architecture, Hilary Sample offers an inventive examination of the architectural significance of maintenance through a series of short texts and images about specific buildings, materials, and projects. Although architects have seldom choose to represent maintenance—imagining their work only from conception to realization—artists have long explored subjects of endurance and permanence in iconic architecture. Sample explores a range of art projects—by artists including Gordon Matta-Clark, Jeff Wall, and Mierle Laderman Ukeles—to recast the problem of maintenance for architecture. How might architectural design and discourse change as a building cycle expands to include “post-occupancy”?

Sample looks particularly at the private home, exhibition pavilion, and high-rise urban building, giving special attention to buildings constructed with novel and developing materials, technologies, and precise detailing in relation to endurance. These include Buckminster Fuller's Dymaxion House (1929), the Lever House (1952), the U.S. Steel Building (1971), and the O-14 (2010). She considers the iconography of skyscrapers; maintenance workforces, both public and private; labor-saving technology and devices; and contemporary architectural projects and preservation techniques that encompass the afterlife of buildings. A selection of artworks make the usually invisible aspects of maintenance visible, from Martha Rosler's Cleaning the Drapes to Inigo Manglano-Ovalle's The Kiss.


$27.00 T ISBN: 9780262034975 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 50 color illus., 36 b&w illus.


$19.95 T ISBN: 9780262535267 208 pp. | 6 in x 9 in 50 color illus., 36 b&w illus.


  • The timing of this marvelous book couldn't be better. After decades of projects designed and discussed as the newest thing, we now have a study that faces the temporal reality of buildings without compromise: newness ends when inhabitation begins. Sample shows that the labor of construction is succeeded by the labor of remaking, of revitalization; indeed, of maintenance. Insofar as maintenance is a public concern—ranging from social justice to visible beauty—street cleaners and squeegees get their due, also works of art, and the topics that underpin current discussions of experimentation, performance, and sustainability.

    David Leatherbarrow

    Professor & Chair of the Graduate Group in Architecture, University of Pennsylvania; coauthor of On Weathering

  • To read Sample's Maintenance Architecture is to receive an artful set of intimate postcards from the edge of architecture's cone of vision. It is a correspondence from the architect's laboratory of reality that we ignore at our peril: maintenance will unravel our best intentions, thwart our worst, make a mockery of the sanctity of the image and its delivery of aura, and rewire the circuitry that distributes power between architect, client, and building. Poignant and thoughtful, this book argues that, in our (futile) negotiations with time and entropy, maintenance maintains the last word in architecture. Cleaning the windows will never be the same again.

    Francesca Hughes

    Architectural Association School of Architecture; author of The Architecture of Error

  • Drawing attention to the labor and devices dedicated to the entropic battle to maintain architecture's idealized image, Sample's short and personal ruminations unravel familiar and often canonical architectural objects, re-rendering them with squeegee marks, hoover caresses, layers of dust, and the mist that passed barriers intended to control it. This book opens up a world of maintenance-intimacy to contemporary critical scrutiny and design.

    Ana Miljački

    Associate Professor of Architecture, MIT

  • Architects are rarely trained to think about problems of maintenance, let alone care about its definition. Maintenance Architecture aims to quietly demolish this habit of mind. Sample's attention to the labor of cleaning, polishing, scraping, patching, and painting insists that these performances are not supplemental but essential to the preservation of architecture's image as much as its physical and social substance.

    Craig Buckley

    Assistant Professor of Modern and Contemporary Architecture, Department of the History of Art, Yale University

  • Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown said that orthodox modern buildings look like ducks. What the pair didn't say is that it is not easy being a duck; they work really hard to look calm and cool on the surface. Hilary Sample's stunning visual essay on the care and feeding of modern buildings makes a brilliantly compelling case for the importance of those undetected efforts. In so doing, she has also pointed the way toward an unorthodox reimagining of the history of modern architecture.

    Sylvia Lavin

    Professor, UCLA; author of Form Follows Libido