The Berlage

Session Berlage Room 1

The Culture of the Whole Earth Catalog

Caroline Maniaque-Benton

The Whole Earth Catalog was a cultural touchstone of the 1960s and 1970s. The iconic cover image of the earth viewed from space made it one of the most recognizable books on bookstore shelves. Between 1968 and 1971, almost two million copies of its various editions were sold, and not just to commune-dwellers and hippies. Millions of mainstream readers turned to the Whole Earth Catalog for practical advice and intellectual stimulation, finding everything from a review of Buckminster Fuller to recommendations for juicers.The lecture will analyze this publication, looking in particular at Stewart Brand’s strategies for investing the profits of the Whole Earth Catalog for environmental consciousness. The copies of the Whole Earth Catalog sold between 1968 and 1972 not only created an open-loop of information beyond alternative communities, but also the funds to develop countercultural projects, many of them ecological in nature. For example, the Portola Institute was established by Dick Raymond in 1966, followed by the Point Foundation in 1968 by Dick Raymond and Stewart Brand, to distribute the profits of the Whole Earth Catalog. The lecture will focus on the example of the Alloy Conference of March 1969 near Albuquerque, New Mexico, and other similar events related to group identity and publicity for open discourse.

Caroline Maniaque-Benton is Professor of the History of Architecture and Design at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d'Architecture Normandie/ Normandie Université. She is co-curator of the exhibition “May 68. Architecture as well!” at the Cité de l'architecture et du Patrimoine in Paris on display from May 14 to September 17, 2018. She is the author of French Encounters with the American Counterculture 1960–1980 and the editor of the book Les années 68 et la formation des architects.

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