Focus Work
Hayek, architecture, and urbanism

Focus Work
Darius Tabatabay

Friedrich A. Hayek was a social theorist and economist famous for his defense of the free market and classical liberal principles. Yet Anthony Fontenot, in Non-Design: Architecture, Liberalism, and the Market, make the case that his work had a consequent influence on British critique Reyner Banham, as well as on the American theorist Jane Jacobs. This raises the question of Hayek’s positions on architecture and urbanism, and whether it is consistent with the influence Fontenot claimed he had outside his field.
An in-depth reading of The Constitution of Liberty, The Fatal Conceit, and Law, Legislation and Liberty indicate that Hayek was interested in the governance of architecture and urbanism, not their practice. Regarding architecture and governance, three subjects were discussed by Hayek: building code, externalities, and rent control. Each issue is given an example to illustrate Hayek’s ideas and test them. Hayek constantly argues in favor of market-based solutions over heavy government intervention, as he was wary of the unintended consequences that regulations often create. Furthermore, fundamental to his work is the idea of spontaneous order, which claims that complex orders, such as the market economy, do not emerge out of conscious design but through a decentralized evolutionary process of imitation. Hayek was consequently opposed to the idea of central planning in the economy, but also in urbanism. However, he recognized the essential role of the government in making the market more efficient by providing it with a legal and institutional framework. The state’s role is thus limited to assisting the market rather than replacing it.
This interest in governance rather than practice renders the first part of Fontenot somewhat fragile. However, the link with Jane Jacobs seems sturdier. Indeed, both were interested in governance; she recognized the importance of spontaneous order and the market in the life of a city and was vehemently opposed to central planners.


Dr. Andreas Kalpakci