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As both an aesthetic and a fundamentally social space modern architecture foregrounds contemporary notions of building, dwelling, and thinking. Its social meaning, as Slavoj Žižek argued, is not merely to provide housing and infrastructure, but to offer stabilizing counter-spaces within an ever-changing and increasingly conflicted modern public space. Insofar as it lends material form to the promises but also the challenges of modernity, architecture frequently finds itself at the forefront of cultural and social debates. In my talk I discuss the importance of the built environment as an incubator of social criticism and, ultimately, notions of a non-capitalist, more ‘hospitable’ world. Among the writers and critics who have turned to architecture to forge alternative concepts of home and society the American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau and the German sociologist Theodor W. Adorno are two interesting cases in point. Both have pondered the social consequences of building and dwelling, and both have eventually come to favor a premodern, more humane and hospitable form of design. As I will argue Thoreau’s autobiographical blueprint for his unpretentious wooden cabin that withers away and eventually erases the traces of its own making and Adorno’s famous architectural metaphor of an intrinsically alienated modern life (“kein richtiges Leben im falschen”) , which he illustrated by way of the corrupted design of a modern American apartment building, attest to the crucial role of building and dwelling properly for both critical theory and modern cultural critique at large.