c h o r a: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture

Managing Editor: Alberto Pérez-Gómez
Volume 1 (1994)
Edited by Alberto
Volume 2 (1996)
Edited by Alberto
Volume 3 (1999)
Edited by Alberto
Volume 4 (2004)
Edited by Alberto

Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell
Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell
Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell
Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell

Chora 4: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture

Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture

v o l u m e

f o u r

Edited by Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell

McGill-Queen’s University Press
Montreal & Kingston • London • Ithaca

ch o r a is a publication of the History and Theory of Architecture
graduate program at McGill University, Montreal, Canada.
manag i n g e d i to r
Alberto Pérez-Gómez
e d i tors
Alberto Pérez-Gómez, McGill University
Stephen Parcell, Dalhousie University
advi s o ry b oa r d
Ricardo L. Castro, McGill University
Jose dos Santos Cabral Filho, Universidade Federal De Minas Gerais
Dirk de Meyer, Ghent University
Marco Frascari, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
Donald Kunze, Pennsylvania State University
Phyllis Lambert, Canadian Centre for Architecture
David Michael Levin, Northwestern University
Katsuhiko Muramoto, Pennsylvania State University
Juhani Pallasmaa, University of Helsinki
Stephen Parcell, Dalhousie University
Louise Pelletier, McGill University
s e creta r i a l as s i s ta n t
Kathleen Innes-Prévost
Susie Spurdens
For author information and submission of articles please contact
© McGill-Queen’s University Press 2004

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Preface ix
1 Lewis Carroll, A Man out of Joint: The Anonymous
Architect Of Euclid’s Retreat
Caroline Dionne 1
2 The Breath on the Mirror: Notes on Ruskin’s Theory
of the Grotesque
Mark Dorrian 25
3 Alberti at Sea
Michael Emerson 49
4 The Rediscovery of the Hinterland
Marc Glaudemans 83
5 The Colosseum: The Cosmic Geometry
of a Spectaculum
George L. Hersey 103
6 On the Renaissance Studioli of Federico da Montefeltro
and the Architecture of Memory
Robert Kirkbride 127
7 Architecture, Mysticism and Myth: Modern Symbolism
in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby
Joanna Merwood 177
8 Gordon Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle of the
Caribbean Orange
Michel Moussette 197

Contents 9 Geometry of Terror: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window Juhani Pallasmaa 211 10 The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Alberto Pérez-Gómez 245 11 Simplex Sigillum Veri: The Exemplary Life of an Architect David Theodore 287 12 Ranelagh Gardens and the Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade Dorian Yurchuk 313 About the Authors 339 viii .

this historical gnosticism has become almost fanatic. ethical imperatives. and that only rational models or an introspective pseudonaturalism could be a legitimate (instrumental) methodology for design. The chora series has sought to articulate alternatives to a facile formalism in contemporary architecture. within the larger context of our inherited spiritual and philosophical tradition – can help us distinguish between significant innovation and fashionable novelty. While the basic editorial interests and questions remain unchanged. one senses a disturbing myopia that disregards the historical origin of issues that supposedly have surfaced only recently. intended programs. The question of how to act responsibly in architecture remains paramount. historical roots. Even in arguments put forward under the guise of critical theory. This can lead to projects and buildings of complex and novel shape that may be oblivious to their cultural context. particularly if it is older than the Second World War. Their refreshing readings of our tradition acknowledge both the continuity of our philosophical and cultural landscape and the differences encountered in diverse spaces and times. In the first years of the new millennium. In the ix . technology. however. or sociology.Preface this fourth volume of chora continues a tradition of excellence in open. The essays in this volume are driven by a genuine desire to seek architectural alternatives to simplistic models based on concepts of aesthetics. interdisciplinary research into architecture. In recent years we have witnessed an accentuation of gnostic tendencies with respect to history. a shifting emphasis reflects the concerns of a new generation of architects and scholars. while rejecting nostalgic or reactionary solutions. Computers are now able to generate new forms that are totally “other” from our traditional orthogonal building practices. and the experiencing body. Yet only history in its broad sense – as the “shifting essence” of architecture. This suggests that what we have made has nothing to teach us. this question must take account of our increasingly more powerful electronic tools for formal innovation. Perhaps arising from desperation due to difficulties encountered in practice.

x . Light. The growing impact of the internet and other light-based media continues to create problems for architecture. beyond a dualistic concept of nature versus culture or bounded versus unbounded. Society remains suspicious of the importance of lived space. The architect’s work issues from the personal imagination. these “stories for the future” reveal possibilities in places that are often ignored by conventional historiography and science. In a topic related to the crucial theatrical dimension of chora (prominent in the first volume of this series). like space and time before it. chora continues to pursue a reconciliatory architecture that respects cultural differences. with its uncanny weaving of spatiality. transparent truth represented by a single master narrative. Glaudemans’s conclusions are provocative in our age of megalopolis. of communion. chora. This selection includes Marc Glaudemans’s original speculation on the nature of urban space. of Eros and dreams: the space of architecture. Architecture affects us deeply. This detailed case study demonstrates the cultural relevance of spaces for play-acting. George Hersey also addresses the origins of our tradition. Echoing Hersey’s concerns in the eighteenth century. as a crossing of the human and the morethan-human worlds. and light. even its absolute speed has now been successfully modified.Preface absence of a living architectural tradition. As in previous volumes. may soon become a commodity. acknowledges the globalization of technological culture. mental pathologies are on the increase. While avoiding the dangerous delusions of absolute. Dorian Yurchuk’s analysis of Ranelagh Gardens examines the theatricality associated with architectural meaning during the early modern period. Exploring the relationship between the Greek chora and the hinterland of modern (seventeenth-century) Amsterdam. In his interesting study of the Roman Colosseum he articulates the importance of a cosmic geometry in the place for spectaculum in Rome. remains the space of human communication. which are often disregarded in our quest for the “tectonic” aspects of architectural precedents. and an appropriate mode of discourse is needed to prevent this work from becoming a simplistic formal play or an irresponsible will to power. these eleven essays explore concrete historical topics within a critical framework that suggests possibilities for action. and not surprisingly. despite our predilection for the screen of our PowerBook. Nevertheless. they recognize the need for histories to guide ethical action in architecture. temporality. and points to a referent other than itself.

Joanna Merwood and Caroline Dionne both articulate possibilities for architecture emerging in the wake of the final disintegration of a Western cosmological picture. for the engagement of new forms of representation in architectural endeavours. whose architectural interventions and literal deconstructions have defied categorization. medieval. often misleading in his self-expressed purpose. attempts to redefine Renaissance architectural space with respect to cosmography and geography. was nevertheless fascinated by mirrors and by the capacity of the daguerreotype to reveal monstrosity – the “other side” of reality – through its “index.” This awareness opened up strategies. without resorting to concepts of ancient. Michel Moussette eloquently describes the accomplishments of Gordon MattaClark. Three essays in this volume discuss the work of nineteenth-century British figures. Emerson admirably accomplishes the difficult task of describing its otherness. later developed by Walter Benjamin. akin to alchemy. Michael Emerson. Mark Dorrian’s perceptive essay on Ruskin’s theory of the grotesque raises the issue of mimesis in relation to the “new subject” which emerges in Europe after the demise of the ancien regime. Ruskin. in his study of Alberti. with particular reference to Cusano. Alberto PérezGómez’s exhaustive reading of the treatises of Luca on architecture demonstrates the nature of the craft as the epiphany of theological wisdom. who questioned the power of the reductive camera lucida to reveal anything of substance about reality. Luca Pacioli’s architectural writings demonstrate how this capacity of architecture is concentrated in the hands of the craftsman. xi . Dionne discusses architectural lessons to be found in the works of the poet and mathematician Lewis Carroll. The writer of Alice never accepted (like Edmund Husserl) the final demise of Euclidean geometry and its substitution by non-Euclidean geometries.Preface Three essays in this volume examine early Renaissance subjects. Robert Kirkbride offers a reading of the Umbrian studioli as a crossing of medieval memory practices and the new emerging philosophical interests of the Renaissance. Merwood examines the true possibilities of modern symbolic intentionality in the writings of William Lethaby. Continuing the series of reflections on dramatic. Two of the three essays devoted to twentieth-century topics pursue spatial poetics in architecture by invoking other artistic disciplines. or modern. While the Urbino and Gubbio studioli embody knowledge.

Preface cinematic. a film that has now attained cult status in some architectural circles. the philosopher of language whose concerns have often been regarded as naturally kindred to those of architects. xii . and architectural spaces that have appeared in previous volumes of chora. Closing this trilogy on twentieth-century “architects. Theodore pays careful attention to Wittgenstein’s involvement in actual architectural tasks and draws some unexpected and fascinating conclusions. Juhani Pallasmaa offers a reading of Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. including his own work on Tarkovsky’s Nostalgia in volume 1.” David Theodore explores ethical/formal questions in the work of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Lewis Carroll. A Man out of Joint: The Anonymous Architect of Euclid’s Retreat Caroline Dionne Chora .

The rest is left outside. always circumscribes a certain field or realm – a world. “it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less. I can manage the whole of them! Impenetrability! That’s what I say!”1 Humpty Dumpty is sitting on a very high. The paradox (para-doxai) is an image of “reality.”2 It is an ambivalent and somehow disturbing expression of the real. no matter how complex it may appear. narrow wall. “which is to be master – that’s all … They’ve a temper. The union of those two systems then constitutes another system. work within its limits (precisely at the limit) and create a new component (a critique) that induces a slight movement. 2 . Language and geometry may be more than systems. all antagonistic systems can coexist. but not verbs – however. In our “modern” attitude there is a tendency to step outside a system in order to build. just beside it. and it is the attribute of poetry to reveal such paradoxes. space and time are paradoxical notions. we shall never completely restrain the words’ plurality of meanings. A Man out of Joint a V E RY narrow wall “When I use a word. their geometrical behaviour is perplexing. A language is a system. the words will always evoke much more than what we want them to say – or much less. however oblique and tenuous. Unlike Humpty Dumpty. we shall investigate the “making” of space. In the mind. “whether you can make words mean so many different things.” said Humpty Dumpty. It is the beauty of systems to be self-sufficient. there is an ambiguity that cannot be resolved. Any system. they’re the proudest – adjectives you can do anything with. In our world.” “The question is. Because language is polysemic.” “The question is. It is indeed a precarious situation that nonetheless allows him to claim a kind of mastery over words. By looking at the transformations of Euclidean geometry in the work of Lewis Carroll and focusing on the border as a place to dwell. there may be a way to avoid delusion.” Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone. It is possible to enter a system. between art and science that coincides with the land of geometry. and there may be a link.Lewis Carroll. rejected or not addressed. some of them – particularly verbs. in the imagination.” said Alice. However. another one that is antagonistic to the former.

would be the linguistic expression of our paradoxical encounter with the world. whenever she looked hard at any shelf. a certain Humpty Dumpty sitting on a very narrow wall – that separates both. it is the site of events. a plane. it moves. this is Humpty Dumpty’s tragic end. In a sense.5 Nonsense expresses this coexistence of opposites but also reveals the opposition. presents the dichotomy. Nonsense should not be understood as an absence of meaning but rather as a surplus of sens. The limit is always becoming. or else it appears to be fixed. a body. and therefore. It is in between and therefore cannot be fixed.Caroline Dionne a nonsense in movement The shop seemed to be full of all manner of curious things – but the oddest part of it was that.” Oeuvres (Paris: Robert Laffont 1989) 3 . From “Lewis Carroll logicien. because it would then be. Between these opposites there is necessarily a limit – a point. because the mind always oscillates between the two sides. A pure becoming can never be achieved.4 His work reveals the paradoxical nature of meaning. approached in such terms. Paul Valéry Geometric behaviour:The dancing ostrich. but only for a certain time. “Logique sans peine.” a postface by Ernest Coumet to Lewis Carroll. it transforms itself. the actual coexistence of unrelated or antagonistic notions. to make out exactly what it had on it. though the others round it were crowded as full as they could hold.3 In the realm of nonsense and absurdity. Lewis Carroll was a pioneer. Nonsense. a combination of opposite directions (sens) and meanings (sens) that coexist. that particular shelf was always quite empty.

This space does not exist. Through language – through speech – this entre-deux is uttered at a certain moment and becomes real. in geometrical (or mathemat4 . marked in inches. and began measuring the ground. putting in a peg to mark the distance. and form makes the instant visible. a land. somehow.”7 Geometry occupies a central position in the development of Western philosophy. “At the end of two yards.” she said. The beautiful dancer represents both form and idea and can be perceived only in movement. yet it is what constitutes both. yet a wonderful proximity. it allows for things to happen.6 There is an immense distance.Lewis Carroll. Socrates: We never see her but about to fall. to order. It is between the words and the things. even under the very eye of Time! … And Time lets himself be fooled … She passes through the absurd with impunity … She is divine in the unstable. both in the way it tends to be related to the expression of ideas – its inextricability from language – and in the way we construct meaning and understand these ideas. In essence? In fact? It is hidden inside the things and at the surface of things. It evinces a common desire to describe. it becomes – or else. The space of the limit has no magnitude.” And she took a ribbon out of her pocket.” The limit is a space – an interstitial space. Phaedrus: She flees her shadow up into the air. Phaedrus: She is dancing yonder and gives to the eyes what you are trying to tell us … She makes the instant to be seen … She filches from nature impossible attitudes. The soul of man follows the movement of an irreal dance. A Man out of Joint evoked this encounter in similar terms. offers it as a gift to our regard! … Eryximachus: Instant engenders form. “I shall give you your directions.” said the Queen. and sticking little pegs in here and there. yet it is a space. between the realm of Ideas and our perception of the world. “I’ll just take the measurements. Geometry participates in that utterance. to reveal. the land of geometry “While you’re refreshing yourself. There is a land in between that Plato would call “space. the land of geometry.

In the realm of our contemporary architectural practice. In the mind of the engineer/architects who followed Durand’s précis. and mans Industry.10 From a conception that posits geometry as an art – something that mediates between the human and the divine – we then come to an understanding of geometry as a tool for the use of the architect. In this process the participation of the geometrical and mathematical realms is implicit. to give a shape to an idea or to “build” a structure around it. From Vitruvius until the end of the eighteenth century. Numbers and geometric figures were understood from the time of the early Greek philosophers until the nineteenth century as mediators between the world of man and higher instances: they constituted a way to access knowledge. “Till. uncritically. We make our point. the rules of systematic geometrical descriptions as part of the design discipline. as it appears in the work of Durand.Caroline Dionne ical) terms. published in 1570.” In his Mathematical Praeface to the Books of Euclid. creating frontiers and naming pieces of land that became his property or the property of a nation. we tend to organize fragments of thoughts. “Geometry is the Science of Measuring the Land.8 Virtually. exactly. Its status gradually changes until it becomes. does geometry measure? Dee refers to remote times and places and to the wars and injustices that took place when man started to measure and divide the earthly ground.”11 5 . and eventually we get caught in a circular argument. in the late eighteenth century.9 Geometry has a privileged status in the history of architectural theory and practice. The architectural “grid” continues to be used as a tool for design in most architecture schools. and elevations could be drawn with efficiency. an extremely simplified geometrical object: a grid on which plans. This strange interference of both the geometrical and the mathematical realms in human thinking led the most ancient philosophers to believe that man’s soul could be a number moving itself. they use geometry as a tool regardless of its relation to philosophy and language. Plaines. But what land. we follow a line (of thought). by Gods mercy. and Solides (like a divine Justicer) gave unto every man. The perfect Science of Lines. his owne [land]. sections. a mere instrument of applied technology. geometry became a design mechanism. geometry is discussed prominently in all architectural treatises. ambiguity of language – in drawings and in written forms – is generally avoided and architects tend to accept. John Dee gives us a definition of this Arte Mathematical.

mortall. untrãsformable and incorruptible. It is precisely in this “in between” constituted by geometry that man can reach the idea of infinity. immortall. be perceived or judged. is either a Line. by visible formes. first conceived … A merveylous newtralitie have these thinges Mathematicall and also a strãge participatiõ betwene thinges supernaturall. we can have Smaller. any weight: be they never so large of dimensiõ. Nor yet. in the royall mynde of man. So precise. All Magnitude. by Art. what our Line Mathematical. Once infinity became part of the world. as (by degrees) Number did come to our perceiverance: So. we are holpen [helped] to imagine.Lewis Carroll. sensible. simple. than either Arte or Nature can produce any: and Greater also.12 The three realms of “things” are different and remain distant. are our Magnitudes. betwene thinges supernaturall and naturall: are not so absolute and excellent. Which Line. Plaine or Solid. that one Line is no broader than an other: for they have no bredth: Nor our Plaines have any thicknes. A Man out of Joint Dee defines both the mathematical and the geometric entities. a Plaine or a Solid. are aggregable and divisible: yet the generall Formes. even though they constantly interact. Neither of the sense. is. the world of man was also extended to infinity. intellectual. What our point. Nor yet our Bodies.13 In the modern era. these beyng (in a maner) middle. of no Sense.14 The notion of geometric infinity was gradually appropriated by modern man. the geometrician sought to describe not only the simple ideal figures of Euclidean geometry but all possible figures in the conic sections between 6 . by materiall things able somewhat to be signified. geometry was gradually transformed by the development of infinitesimal calculus in the seventeenth and eighteenth century and ultimately by the new geometries that developed in the nineteenth century and began to be “applied” in Dodgson’s time. And though their particular Images. His definitions reveal the paradoxical interval occupied by Euclidean geometry. unchangeable. Our Bodyes. For. than all the world can comprehend. as thinges supernatural: nor yet so base and grosse as things natural: But are thinges immateriall: and neverthelesse. can they. is. and indivisible: and thynges naturall. are constant. notwithstandyng. nor exactly by hãd (any way) represented: nor of Nature produced: But. for all that. compounded and divisible. As the possibilities of knowledge became infinite. at any tyme. can be perceived.

geometry undergoes instrumentalization. The episode of the “Map of the Ocean” in Lewis Carroll’s famous poem The Hunting of the Snark is quite telling in this regard: He had bought a large map representing the sea. The language of science attempts to resolve the distance between the words and what they describe. “What’s the good of Mercator’s North Poles and Equators. instrumental. In the mind of the scientist the mathematical formulas became accurate “models” of reality: the whole of creation could be described in algebraic terms. Tropics. is there to be deciphered and understood through mathematics and scientific experiments. while nonEuclidean geometries are seen as new formal realms that describe reality and the universe more accurately. and Meridian Lines?” So the Bellman would cry: and the crew would reply. within a broader and more generalized geometry that claimed to explain every phenomenon. it became a particular instrument. In the scientific milieu of the nineteenth century. Today they are understood as stiff. Scientists in specialized and autonomous disciplines participated with great enthusiasm in the scientific endeavour. and systematized explanations of reality.Caroline Dionne these ideals. for them it was the only way to find the true nature of the world. Zones. Euclidean geometry was not rejected outright. ventured into unknown territory. this man of science. Without the least vestige of land: And the crew were much pleased when they found it to be A map they could all understand. In the nineteenth century the scientific utopia became reality. Rather. Euclidean principles have also tended to be misconceived. “They are merely conventional signs!” “Other maps are such shapes. with their islands and capes! But we’ve got our brave Captain to thank” (So the crew would protest) “that he bought us the best – A perfect and absolute blank!”16 The man of the industrial revolution.15 The universe. one of many. according to this concept. leaving behind all points of reference from the 7 .

would cast a shadow over the farmers’ crops. The map measured one mile on each side. The Hunting of the Snark: An Agony in Eight Fits (London: Macmillan 1876) past. because the map. In Sylvie and Bruno. The scientific endeavour became frightening once its abstract concepts were equated to or supplanted lived experience. 8 . but it claims to be more real than experience itself.” From Lewis Carroll. The “image” thus acquires a value equivalent to the reality it was intended to evoke. Carroll’s intricate novel. when totally open. The industrial revolution was a theatre of technological innovation in which machines were developed at a disorienting pace: utensils that would simplify the lives of men. It was then decided that the land itself would serve as a map: indeed an ingenious idea. a certain German professor entertains the children with a map of his town on which everything was marked down.“Ocean Chart. The real that we know through mathematical models is an approximation of reality. and reading it was quite problematic.

From a chosen angle. to be sincere. “But who would need parallel lines to meet. when a geometrician asserts that the moon is a quantity that develops in three dimensions. they are continuously shaken by the new problems that appear to the scientist. either they meet or they don’t. Some Euclidean principles. the language of poetry loses its value of truth. willing to create an image that would convey a sense of the real. from a certain point of view. The definitions of the point and the line. had not needed to be proven. buildings also became utensils. in this entre-deux occupied by geometry. and because infinity has become part of the world. as Borges explains. the imagination. even though this may be irrelevant to a deep comprehension of things. in which hands follow the edges of a table. for example.” wrote Dodgson in Euclid and His Modern Rivals. Observed effects must have corresponding causes. they meet somewhere at infinity. They both constitute a link established between distinct things … Hence. who prefers to define the same moon as a cat walking on top of the roofs. There is no basic [essentielle] dissimilarity between the metaphor and what scientists call the explanation of a phenomenon. 9 . like myths and poetry. they do meet on the canvas.18 But the modern scientific mind is concerned more with whether a statement is true or false. For the eyes. But. is able to travel very fast. As a result of this direct link between words and things. For the painter.17 If we follow Borges’s argument. parallel lines do not meet. his means of expression is no less metaphorical than that of Nietzsche. they meet somewhere in the thickness of the trace left by the pen – or at the South Pole. or utterance. parallel lines are parallel. and therefore they do not meet. For some nineteenth-century geometricians. All of this could have started when geometricians decided to prove Euclid’s axiom about parallel lines.” In our tactile experience. The archaic meaning of the word “truth” indicates an ethical dimension: to be true in one’s action. regardless of how paradoxical they may appear to the modern reader. For Euclid.Caroline Dionne As this new status of technology reached architecture. were “given. they do meet. the scientific truths are equally deceptive and. character. but the mind. looking toward the horizon. remain temporary and fragile. Myths and poetry – story-telling through works of art – are no longer understood as means of rendering the world habitable. Hypotheses must find proofs.

” said the Hatter.Lewis Carroll.” “If you knew Time as well as I do. Alice then ventures to ask. “But [what happens] when you come to the 10 . It participates simultaneously in the modern scientific debate and the realm of fiction and poetic imagination. Since then.21 Created through nonsense and humour. For poetic language to escape from methodological application. “I think you might do something better with the time. Valéry wrote. “you wouldn’t talk about wasting it. Might it be the task of the artist to reveal such paradoxes. A Man out of Joint encompassing all imaginable points of view. his work is resistant to a complete analysis or demystification and cannot be exhausted by any literary movement. rather than being strictly a burden. it has always been six o’clock – tea-time – and the trio is constantly moving around the table. It oscillates within the thin line that connects Romanticism and Surrealism and separates art from science. Poetry does not follow a linear path but one that is discontinuous and fragmented. “And is not the true the natural frontier of the intelligence?”19 In the work of the poet the two opposite situations can coexist at this frontier and “touch” each other. allowing us to seize their evocative beauty? The word “task” suggests an ethical dimension that remains outside the “good or bad” dichotomy. he won’t do a thing they ask (with the clock). it must speak about something common.22 His work unhinges a concept of time that reduces it to quantity (associated with money) and a concept of space as a homogeneous set of coordinates.”23 Since the Hatter and the March Hare quarreled with Time.” she said. It’s him.20 Carroll’s work expresses the scientific dependence on this mode of thought. Even modern technology has this potential for poetic expression. Poetry is not limited to literature and art. Lewis Carroll’s work demonstrates the tight link between these two modes of thought – the “art-science” interdependence – and this is also a key to understanding the transformations of architectural thinking since the beginning of modernity. “than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers. a big revolving door Alice sighed wearily. Both sides of his work come together in the way he criticizes the pragmatism of Victorian society with its scientific mind-set and fallacies.

27 A tower is the same as a tunnel. the materiality of the building is irrelevant. In some ancient mythologies. The hinges are the axis on which the door turns. infinite set of combinations of coordinates. time is unhinged. removed from time and without gravity. In the story an architect arrives at a construction site dressed in an outfit that he claims is atemporal. completely outside the transience of fashion. He can find inspiration in a piece of stilton. it is a homogeneous. with ribbons that defy gravity. the wall becomes a denuded limit that subdivides space. In order to express this transformation of the concept of time. Cardo. Cartesian time is a quantitative and autonomous notion that is no longer dependent on – or predicated on – space. through which the periodic movements it measures pass. something entirely other. In The Vision of the Three T’s. Gilles Deleuze writes. as if it were created by something overwhelming and horrifying. It is a quantity that can be measured and reduced to horizontal and vertical planes and intersections. Cheese or stone. Changing interpretations of the Euclidean principles may have something to do with these transformations. When time is removed from space – as in basement spaces lit by artificial light (the first space into which Alice advances after falling down slowly in the tunnel) – space becomes frightening. only form matters. Notions of temporality and the evanescence of things are eclipsed.29 The cyclic nature of archaic times cannot be retrieved. horizontality. Dodgson criticizes the modern concept of space as homogeneous. yawning. verticality. but mostly it had to be kept alive and recreated now and then. The hinge. space and time were gods that could not be separated: they were two expressions of the same order. Time is out of joint. with no particular qualitative aspect. In homogenized space.26 Space and time were works of art. indicates the subordination of time to precise cardinal points. So-called Cartesian space has lost this qualitative aspect. space was not a preexisting and autonomous entity.24 Space and time are intricate notions. using a verse from Shakespeare’s Hamlet. As 11 . Our concept of such notions has undergone successive transformations within the tradition of Western philosophy. It had to be ordered and created.” the March Hare interrupts.Caroline Dionne beginning again?” “Suppose we change the subject.28 In a concept of space as something that preexists.25 In their concept of the world. and depth are equivalent. it is all the same.

On the one hand. A Man out of Joint long as time remains on its hinges. there is nothing but the past.Lewis Carroll. but a thread. no longer in the sense that it would measure a derived movement. incessant.”32 Today. Meaning consists precisely in this event. the labyrinth is inexorable because it is “the labyrinth made of a single straight line which is indivisible. This characteristic of ancient philosophy has often been emphasized: the subordination of time to the circular movement of the world as the turning door. The spaces that Alice experiences are always different expressions of the same space. Time can be conceived as both linear and cyclical. dislocated. no longer following a circular path in space. These spaces oscillate between worlds that are 12 . the order of an empty time … The labyrinth takes on a new look – neither a circle nor a spiral. reconquers space and time. it is subordinated to extensive movement. The time line extends infinitely in both directions. This site of action may be the logos of the encounter of space and time. it is the measure of movement. and the future. It ceases to be cardinal and becomes ordinal. and creates spaces that allow for things to happen: in-between spaces. all the more mysterious in that it is simple. a pure straight line. insofar as it imposes the succession of its determination on every possible movement. off its hinges.30 In the modern era. On the other hand. the big revolving door of time is out of its joints. it is always becoming: always so close and yet so remote. or else it is observed from a different point of view. the geometric space of the event. but in and through itself. fragmented. a revolving door. terrible. Time as we now tend to conceive it is the linear time of modern history. its interval or number. a labyrinth opening onto its eternal origin. The time is out of humour – out of himself. the geometric figure of the concept of time changes. But there can be a double reading of time. inexorable. but the roles are inverted. Time and movement remain in a close relationship. In between is the same limit. It is now movement which is subordinated to time … Time thus becomes unilinear and rectilinear. Alice falls into the depths of the earth but progressively returns to the world of the surface. time is a constant repetition of the same present. Both the linear and the cyclical dimensions are expressed in the timespace fragments in the Alices.31 Deleuze makes a reference to Borges. always insisting. always subsisting.

like Alice. it implicates one’s surroundings and one’s state of distraction or concentration. successively becoming other. Things come together in a kind of nonfixity. Alice’s Adventures under Ground (London: Macmillan 1886) If time is conceived through movement and rhythm and is rendered visible by light and shadows.Caroline Dionne different but equally real. The rhythmic matter is continuously transforming itself. The perceiver is not in space. it expands into a zone. This limit is actually where things happen. where the passage of time is traced. The perceiver. the materiality of the building does not disappear: it is what one perceives. and humour. is actually creating spaces: a succession of time-space fragments that cannot be isolated but constitute a continuous becoming. Lewis Carroll’s prose becomes poetry through its rhythmic 13 . As Octavio Paz notes in The Bow and the Lyre. Even though space is bound to time and human perception. a tide. From Lewis Carroll. then light is not simply another material for instrumental use by the architect. mood. But mostly it involves the postures that the body adopts in movement. The limit. contains – or becomes. The limit cannot be reduced to a plane. The perception of space is not impassive. The rhythm is created by a succession of material aggregates and silences. The same phenomenon happens to the reader. Light is the life of objects. itself – another world. the borderline between these worlds. a flow. Alice is caught in space. bodily humours. Space does not preexist. In Lewis Carroll’s work the characters of the books are continuously transforming themselves.

Illustrations by Max Ernst for the French translation by Henri Parisot of The Hunting of the Snark show the frequent transformations of the characters in Lewis Carroll’s work: the hyperbolic Bellman appears differently in each of these illustrations. La chasse au Snark (Paris: L’age d’or aux Éditions premières 1950) 14 . From Lewis Carroll.

15 .

a meaning.The Mock Turtle and the Griffin reenact the “Lobster Quadrille.” Drawing by Lewis Carroll for the manuscript of Alice’s Adventures under Ground (London: Macmillan 1886) sequences of images. in the successive depths of this rhythm-space. it calls for a real participation of the reader-speaker who builds.33 If the construction of the story is good. following the rhythm of the poem that not only invokes his imagination but puts his whole body into a different posture. the spatial-rhythmic quality of his writing conveys a deeper meaning. According to Paz.34 Our perception of built space has to do with the common activities that it shelters. we are comprehended by it. We comprehend it. in a rhythmic and corporeal manner. this enables the space of the book to emerge into the world. This can be called a ritournelle. who belong to it. with that ritournelle whistled by our body. every day. The reader is continuously recreating these images. Even though Lewis Carroll’s work expresses almost everything through nonsense. We inhabit and tame architecture in order to make it belong to us. 16 . We render it familiar and eventually construct a meaning dancing a ronde within the walls.

drawing by Franklin Hughes. although repetition is also rhythmic.37 The difference is again this “inbetween. It is the alternation of “known” territories and “less-known” spaces that creates a rhythm. while others remain obscure. It is again the land of geometry. to organise a limited space … Sonorous and vocal components are very important: a wall of sound.35 Space is not perceived in a homogeneous way. Dum and Dee. but not in a rational way. This is the concern of very ancient cosmogonies … Every milieu is vibratory. or at least a wall with some sonic bricks in it … From chaos.” this limit. as in the oneiric creation of a story. From Lewis Carroll.36 It is this difference that possesses the primary rhythm. Instead we follow a logic of nonsense. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There (New York: Cheshire House 1931). Some stanzas of a poem become more familiar. milieus and rhythms are born. But home does not preexist: it was necessary to draw a circle around that uncertain and fragile centre. a block of space-time constituted by the periodic repetition of the component. 17 . We bring together these perceived spatial fragments. in other words.Caroline Dionne Now we are at home.

they appear completely new. the border. in this space of ambiguity. new-born. inhabiting the limit Working within the limits of language. They sound. Lewis Carroll’s Wunderhorn (Stuttgart: Manus Press 1970). Language ceases to be a fixed system but is conceived as growing continuously into something else: a language that is alive. and sometimes they eat each other: Snark! Lewis Carroll wrote for children. on behalf of children. on his behalf. putting into words their fascinating vision of the world. or to be more precise. The limit. we could say that Lewis Carroll wrote for Euclid. 18 .38 In the same way. geometric figures become characters. revealing to the reader their paradoxical nature. a retreat where he can escape from his modern rivals and possibly enter into a dialogue with the new geometries. Words enter into a dance. Between fiction and the real. they speak to us. in Wonderland. trying to express the essence of geometry. Lewis Carroll creates a new language in order to express lingering questions of humanity. is a world of possibles.Max Ernst. In the Alices. Euclid finds. Space and time also become characters. between day and night. they play. its unquestionable truths. opposites come together and our perception becomes what it always was: a hallucinatory experience.

” which is “flimsy” and “miserable”). Cornforth. in Plato: The Collected Dialogues. in April 1998. or at least as questioning the common sense. with introduction and notes by Martin Gardner (London: Penguin Books 1960). trans. E. at the University of Wales. 211. “the younger becoming older than the older. Lewis Carroll. Michel Serres. but would be so. The Latin doxai can be translated into English as “opinion. 58. It can also be a portmanteau (a word created from the meanings of different words. 253. According to Serres. Paul Valéry. 269. The work of Lewis Carroll follows a logic of nonsense that is expressed through different means.” In that sense a paradox can be understood as being contrary to common sense or commonly accepted opinions. On these literary processes. trans. ed. The nonsensical particle can be a word that circulates and connects odd notions. “Dance and the Soul. F. In some texts. Hamilton and H. in The Annotated Alice. 4 (New York: Pantheon Books 1956). such as “mimsy. Carroll. Mark Lester and Charles Stivale (New York: Columbia University Press 1990).“ Collected Works. The Logic of Sense. The text suffered substantial modifications due to the distance – both spatial and temporal – that separates me from this event. the older becoming younger than the younger – but they can never finally become so. Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. see Gilles Deleuze. and in the same way. Les origines de la géométrie (Paris: Flammarion 1993). Cardiff. geometry remains outside cultural differences and dogmas. Plato emphasizes this dualism between being and becoming when he writes in the Parmenides. if they did they would no longer be becoming. Through the Looking Glass.Caroline Dionne notes 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 This essay is based on a speech I gave at The Lewis Carroll Phenomenon – An Interdisciplinary and International Centenary Conference for the Centenary of the Death of Charles Lutwidge Dodgson. 946. Cairns (New York: Bollingen Foundation 1961). vol. In this 19 . the whole structure of the tale follows a logic of nonsense: two stories move in different rhythms on each side of an odd limit. Parmenides 154–5. Carroll. Through the Looking Glass.M. outside singular scientific moments.” See Plato.

and trans. if the architectural problem was efficiently solved. As Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Louise Pelletier explain. A Man out of Joint 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 20 sense. 298–9. and London: mit Press 1997). meaning would follow … The aim was to represent the project objectively. 2.W. the changes remained at the level of ideas until the end of the eighteenth century. ed. free from metaphysical speculations … In his précis. or to be more precise. The Hunting of the Snark. Ibid. Lewis Carroll. and its signs no longer refer to reality.” in Autour de l’ultraïsme: Articles non . “Durand’s mécanisme de la composition supported his new rational and specialized theory. The Mathematical Praeface to the Elements of Euclid (of Megara) (London: John Day 1570).Lewis Carroll. geometry is common to humanity. “La métaphore. the subjective observer we associate with perspective’s point of view was consistently ignored. Monadology. Dee. Jorge Luis Borges. 213–15. Even though infinitesimal calculus was important for the development of non-Euclidean geometries. ma. Leibniz: Philosophical Essays. Ibid. Hertfordshire: Wordsworth 1996). of our perception of space. See Leibniz. 4. 683.. in G. But the logos it measures remains mysterious and somehow original to all origins. The Mathematical Praeface. 14. We perceive a kind of transposition in his work of the paradoxical notion of time (both linear and cyclical) to a more general notion of space. 13. he refers to the most ancient philosophers but unfortunately does not give more precision to the identity of these thinkers. Algebra is an absolute language.. His work also evinces how ideas create images in the mind: it illustrates how geometry participates in our understanding of complex notions. The link between infinitesimal calculus and metaphysical notions is explicit in the work of Leibniz. Durand expressed the notion that architects should be unconcerned with meaning. Even infinity (∞) becomes a number for the mere end of solving mathematical problems. It is an abstract language in which numbers do not have symbolic values. in The Complete Illustrated Lewis Carroll (Ware. John Dee. Roger Ariew and Daniel Garber (Indianapolis and Cambridge: Hackett Publishing 1989).” Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge (Cambridge. In this passage Dee expresses the primordial status of mathematics and geometry in human affairs.

S. Bibliothèque de la Pléiade. Physicists are now acknowledging the inevitable temporality of phenomena.S. s. Lewis Carroll’s contemporary. their appearance and tangibility are unavoidable. 4. it lies in the acknowledgment of the difference. The eventual analysis of these concepts (intellectualized consequences of action) can be confronted with reality through experience (intellectual and practical experimentation). “Dialogue of the Tree. and therefore. vol. Carroll tries to show the inherent circularity of such logic. Gallimard 1993).Caroline Dionne 18 19 20 21 recueillis (Paris: Oeuvres complètes. In this sentence. 5 (Cambridge: Harvard University Press 1934). Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (1993). intelligence should be understood not strictly as the intellectual capacity but rather as the possibility to distinguish.v. is needed to describe the qualitative aspects of the successive transformations of matter. My translation. their temporality becomes part of the equation. These phenomena cannot be idealized. These physicists are trying to describe phenomena that are not very large or infinitesimally small but phenomena that occur in between. 90–3. formulated the first principle of pragmatism: “One’s concept of the effects of a thing are equivalent to one’s concept of the thing itself.” Paul Valéry. See C. “true. 843–4. in the world of everyday life. this reasoning is called abduction.” This maxim is the methodological basis of conceptual analysis. Peirce. In that sense what is true is always what separates opposites and cannot be found on either of the sides.) Throughout his work. 1. In the end. 168. The notion of time becomes essential once their aim is not only to describe an instant (a picture or a model of reality) but to comprehend a phenomenon (which cannot be described with the same equation in two temporal directions). 21 . Poetic language. truth is what is accepted by a community of scientists after careful experiments and abductions. the language of metaphors. Peirce formulated the triadic relation of the sign to its object. even the formula or algorithm is time-bound and always in transformation. to understand. (What I tell you three times is true. C. vol. Peirce (1839–1914).” in Collected Works. to perceive. 186. Collected Papers. where every concept of being is mediated through the intellectualization of the interpreting consciousness. It is not surprising that scientists currently interested in quantum physics might see Lewis Carroll as a precursor.

through history. as the place for movement which implies a possibility for transition and passage. but space presents itself. and for that reason are tightly linked to “earth. because their actions are applicable at the level of the real. and reappear when they are least expected. see chapter 8 and especially 154–5. “a problematic couple. 99–101. “If they make a couple … it is because the two divinities are situated on the same plane. the one.Lewis Carroll.” Rather. unlike the other gods who have their own realm in Olympus. are gods that dwell on earth amongst men. Hermes and Hestia are gods that form a strange couple. from any point to any other point … Hestia is able to ‘cen22 . with all the spaces and actions that exist outside the stability of the house.. or as Jean-Pierre Vernant says. tx: University of Texas Press 1973). Hermes is the god that symbolizes movement. in its polarity. at the same time. associated with doors and roads. ubiquitous and ungraspable. of immutability. 24 Ibid. Such movements as Romanticism and Surrealism are visions of the world that can travel underground.” They are often depicted together. On the other hand. A Man out of Joint 22 Paz expresses this idea of a romanticism that is not merely nostalgic for the past or a reactionary attitude against the industrial revolution and the scientific mind-set but a romanticism that is trying to reconcile the mythos and the logos. Hermes does so in the fashion of a messenger. in The Annotated Alice. She is the symbol of stability. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. because the functions that they fulfill are connected … It can be said that the couple Hermes-Hestia expresses. dwells in the houses of mortals. the tension that can be read in the archaic representation of space: space necessitates a centre.” Hestia is associated with the centre of spaces. all qualitatively different. Octavio Paz. The Bow and the Lyre (Austin. 25 In Greek mythology. they seem bound together through their common friendship (philia) with mortal human beings. 23 “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” The famous riddle was never answered in the story itself or by its author. from which all points of the sphere of the celestial bodies – the cosmos – are equidistant. a fixed point that possesses a specific value and from which directions can be oriented and defined. tightly associated with each other. with the circular fireplace (hestia) at the centre of the house. but unlike the other divine couples. Lewis Carroll. “If he manifests himself at the surface of the earth and. “they are not husband and wife … or brother and sister … or mother and son … or protector and protected. of unity: the central point.” He is everywhere and nowhere. with Hestia. Hermes and Hestia. 97.

Maurice Merleau-Ponty.” in Labyrinths (New York: New Directions Books 1962). The Stones of Venice (London: Collins 1960). Ruskin was defending such an attitude against pragmatism. The link between perception and reason (body and mind) and between man and the world involves our temporal existence.” The French meaning of the word is double: 23 . Phenomenology of Perception. ed. The earthly ground remained somehow chaotic and unpredictable compared to the visible order of the celestial bodies.” See Jean-Pierre Vernant. Merleau-Ponty uses this sentence from Pascal’s Pensées: “Je comprend le monde et le monde me comprend. For him the materiality of architecture was primordial: one should ask the stone what it has to say. The ancient labyrinth is a vivid demonstration of this union of time and space. mn: University of Minnesota Press 1997).Caroline Dionne 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 tralize’ space … Hermes is able to ‘set space in movement’ [‘mobiliser’ l’espace]. 97–101. Daniel W. It is interesting to read here the influence of John Ruskin. Mythe et pensée chez les grecs (Paris: François Maspero 1969). A stone could tell the story of how it was crafted and could reveal the passage of time upon its face. il: Northwestern University Press 1974). and taste. 87. Smith and Michael A. It is circular and is bound to the space created by the dance and its rhythm. Gilles Deleuze.” In the English version to which I am referring. The modern labyrinth can be imagined as an infinite line. trans. a beginning and an end. as is admirably described in Borges’s Fictions. On this notion of “same. smell. different and other. trans. There is an entry and an exit. 255. the translator uses the word understanding: “I understand the world … it understands me. 27. 28. But what we make of this story is itself another story. our experience of height is very different from that of horizontal distances. hearing. My translation.. See John Ruskin. Greco (Minneapolis. for whom the encounter of the human sensibility and the work of art was of great importance. As Maurice Merleau-Ponty explains in Phenomenology of Perception. Ibid. The Conflict of Interpretation: Essays in Hermeneutics. “Death and the Compass. Don Ihde (Evanston. and depth is perceived (in movement) not just through vision but also through touch. See Borges. Essays Critical and Clinical. but it expresses the constant “being lost” of life itself.” see Paul Ricoeur. Colin Smith (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1962).

4.Lewis Carroll. 314. that is. Phenomenology of Perception. a rhythm that affects our bodily postures and generates the “space” of the book. but it can also mean “to comprehend” in a physical way. 311–13.” See Deleuze. a possibility of life. The ritournelle is a round or a nursery rhyme.” The rhythmic aspect of our perception of spatio-temporal fragments is similar to the rhythm involved while reading a story. See Merleau-Ponty. that is.. It is in such space that we happen to know every detail of a wall. To write for this people who are missing. As Gilles Deleuze remarks. chapter 11. See Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. the very disposition of each object. one’s loves and griefs. “To write is not to recount one’s memories and travels. 408. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis. A Thousand Plateaus. trans. It is in such territories that we can walk at night and find our way without seeing anything. Mille plateaux: Capitalisme et schizophrénie 2 (Paris: Minuit 1980). in the translation of Mille plateaux the word “refrain” is used. in French. Essays Critical and Clinical. On this notion of rhythm in the ritournelle. “to circumscribe” or “to encompass. in the delirium. mn: University of Minnesota Press 1987). A Man out of Joint 34 35 36 37 38 24 it can mean “understanding” in an intellectualized way. A Thousand Plateaus. . one’s dreams and fantasies … The ultimate aim of literature is to set free. Ibid. see Deleuze and Guattari. this creation of a health or this invention of a people.

The Breath on the Mirror: Notes on Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque Mark Dorrian Chora .

wayward. described it as falling “dead-born from the press”. when death and grief were but words. as expounded in volume 3 of The Stones of Venice. when Byron challenged the four of them (Mary Godwin.3 and the anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss. in an interview with Paul Ricoeur. in the days leading up to the nightmare that prompted the writing of the book. David Hume. I bid my hideous progeny go forth and prosper. for example. She describes how. more generally. I have an affection for it. which found no true echo in my heart. and how does the “monstrous” operate within the system of categories that structures Ruskin’s text? It concludes by sketching a connection between Ruskin’s metaphorics and his early enthusiasm for the daguerreotype photographic process. and Byron himself) to write a ghost story. confessed. A peculiar trait that writers often display is a tendency to describe their books as children.”1 Its focus is on certain metaphors (it is concerned specifically with references to the breath. “It seems to me that a book is always something of a prematurely born child and mine strike me as quite repugnant creatures compared with what I would have liked to have brought into the world. once again.”5 This introduction was produced by Shelley in answer to a request from her publisher for an account of how her book came to be written. is in Mary Shelley’s 1831 introduction to Frankenstein. to the mirror.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque this paper has its origins in an extended footnote to an essay that attempted to theorize the historical relationship between the terms “monstrous” and “grotesque. An interesting and not uncommon variant occurs when they consider these children to be in some way bad-born: perhaps defectively conceived. In it she recalled the events of that wet summer spent by Lake Geneva. So.2 The paper emerges from two basic questions: what is the relationship between monstrosity (and. and to the Fall) that Ruskin deploys in his theory of the grotesque. “form”) and the breath as it appears in Ruskin’s account of the grotesque. One of these in particular had gripped her: the tale of a ghostly 26 . for it was the offspring of happy days. Percy Shelley. reflecting upon the commercial failure of his Treatise of Human Nature. and of which I do not feel too proud when they are exposed to the sight of others. John Polidori.”4 Probably the best-known statement of this kind. or even monstrous. she had read from a collection of German ghost stories. however. ill-starred. written for a reprinting of the novel: “And now.

The imperative is not to kill it (which is impossible as it is not alive) but to resolve it. and “from that hour [they] withered like flowers snapped upon the stalk. whose breath. were. Twitchell stresses the extent to which narratives of the female vampire (or “lamia”) turn on seduction: usually a young man encounters “an older supernatural temptress who somehow drains his energy. he had earlier argued. “stone by stone – to eat it all up into my mind – touch by touch”) had seduced and distracted him. the first British vampire novel was to be John Polidori’s The Vampyre (1819). but of the eyes) whose song. the life-force.7 In fact. We should note at this stage the character of the vampire as a liminal figure who has a special relationship with the mirror (which tells the “truth” of the creature): it is both alive and dead and neither alive nor dead.”6 In this story there is something of the vampire. that is to say. who. that he had never seen Venice. “seen her. as he wrote of St Mark’s. the creature who. bending over.10 With the kiss we are within a thematics of the “breath. In his study of the vampire myth in Romantic literature. His closing words on the sea-city recall his reflections on the sirens.Mark Dorrian patriarch who was fated to destroy the younger sons of his descendants.”8 Certainly to Ruskin writing in his later years.9 He wished. It is a creature that both collapses and lives between categories. published three years after that summer in Switzerland. poisons and withers (17:212–14). he said in the autobiographical Praeterita. “more and more as a vain temptation” (35:296). in the Homeric conception. not of the ears. the blood. “phantoms of vain desire. sucks away the sap. the word “vampire” is not evident in English writing until the early 1700s. leaving him weak and desperate.” demons of the imagination (and hence of the desire. with man’s eyes” (4:352). kissed them. He came to them as they slept in their cots and.” a pneumatology (where pneuma is “breath” or “spirit”). James Twitchell has noted that while tales of the blood-sucking monster may have appeared in England by the eighth century. he wrote in his 1883 epilogue to Modern Painters III. through the kiss. If the breath is the medium by which something “foreign” passes into the body (whether 27 . Venice has a similar liminal status (between death and life) and a similar vampiric character. I regard it. it seemed that this city (to which he had devoted so much of his life and energy and which he had once wanted to draw.

Nicholas Perella stresses its relationship to the idea of the unification or fusion of two within one: this hinges. I also send you. then. sometimes.”13 This insufflation of the Spirit could be thought of as an insemination (which. In his historical study of the kiss. ‘Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me. Breath is not just a point of connection between one human being and another. and that appears.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque inspiration or contagion). and said to them. described in Genesis (2:7). on the set of concepts and values associated with breath. When the breath is withdrawn. the body falls to putrefaction. with saliva. “Paul taught that a 28 .”11 As Perella puts it. that consigns to death. in its alternate guise. is of the vivifying of man by God’s breath (which. Commenting on this passage. In the Christian tradition. known to the Romans. The first. according to St Augustine. In the Symposium Plato mentions “that courage which. as St Augustine described it. The second is Christ’s bestowing of the Holy Spirit upon the apostles when he appeared to them for the first time after the resurrection: “He therefore said to them. it is also the point of communion between mankind and the divine. that the soul of someone at the point of death could be drawn back by a kiss. he breathed upon them. and. hyperbolizes the character of the breath.” the breathing-into that animates base material (“clay” or. St Augustine writes. “slime”) and that reappears as motivated and intentional speech. as a “species of monstrosity” in its perversion of the divine kiss.”12 Thus the belief. “For he in some way placed his mouth to their mouth when he gave them the Spirit by breathing upon them. there are two great kisses bestowed by God upon man. ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:21–2). to associate it in advance with an aesthetic category. In some ways. as we shall see.14 Perella writes. as a possible contaminant). “we are led to consider with sympathy that theory which holds that the kiss has its origins in the magical idea of the infusion of a power or the exchange or union of ‘spirits’ or ‘souls’ carried by or even identified with breath and. The phantom that Shelley described acts out a demonic inversion of divine “inspiration. he argues.’ When he had said this. in turn. decadence. the god breathes into the souls of some heroes. this seems aligned with the Judas-kiss that betrays. Love of his own nature infuses into the lover. decay. instilled within man his rational soul). as Homer says. it is also the means by which something might be drawn out or confiscated.

”17 Perhaps the clearest counterpart to Shelley’s hoary German knight. The breath. As Ruskin put it.”15 The gnostic Gospel of Philip (second or third century ad ) explicitly links the kiss. Derrida writes of the privilege accorded to the voice in Western thought: “[It] is heard (understood) … closest to the self as the absolute effacement of the signifier … [it does] not borrow from outside of itself. We receive conception from the grace which is Among us. but only insofar as a man has been pneumatized.’ any accessory signifier. the prolonging and sustaining power of it” (19:342).Mark Dorrian union between the soul and God could take place on the level of transcendent Spirit. two souls develop: the vegetative (that lives) and the sensitive (that feels). For the perfect Conceive through a kiss and give birth. and impregnation: … out of the mouth … the logos came forth thence He would nourish … from the mouth And become perfect. God bends over the infant and breathes into it the intellective. any substance of expression foreign to its own spontaneity. of course. is thus associated with the ontotheological notion of what Derrida has called the “transcendental signified” – the ultimate and final source of meaning. The unworldly character of this subject of expression is constitutive of this ideality. clad in armour. stooping over the infant’s cot. the Spirit as logos. Statius is describing the development of the human embryo. a constant reference throughout Ruskin’s writings. contemplative soul that fuses with the others: 29 . impregnated by the divine Spirit. When this occurs. the breath as Spirit unites with the Word. the Voice of Being. Through the natural. Indeed the breath is the very substance of the spoken word and the voice. Because of this We also kiss one another.16 Thus. comes from Dante’s Purgatory. in the element of ideality or universality. and nevertheless. It is the unique experience of the signified producing itself spontaneously. physical process. as signified concept. in the world or in ‘reality. through the voice.)18 Here. (The Divine Comedy is. from within the self. “The air [is] the actual element and substance of the voice.

or Renaissance Period. or even inversion of. His account is highly nuanced and thematically rich and is structured by a proliferating series of categories organized by a primary. with joy over such art in Nature. He tells us at the start that he had not intended to consider this most painful period. severely labelled “The Fall. the “natural” and sacred teleology of the kiss. and with power to assimilate what it finds active there. It is as if the 30 . In his Hexaemeron. new. that lives and feels and contemplates itself. so that one single soul is formed complete. “vertical” opposition between what he calls the noble grotesque and the base grotesque. (And if you find what I have said is strange. condemning His betrayer as a species of monstrosity.19 The kiss that destroys or dissolves life is then to be understood as a monstrous act insofar as it is a deviation from. consider the sun’s heat that turns to wine when it joins forces with the juice that flows).” we have to get there by way of the ominous title page. St Ambrose said of the kiss of Judas: “Hence the Lord.” Ruskin’s elaboration of a theory of the grotesque comes in the third section of this volume (entitled “Grotesque Renaissance”).Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque Open your heart to what I now reveal: when the articulation of the brain has been perfected in the embryo then the First Mover turns to it. changing the emblem of love into a sign of betrayal and a revelation of unfaithfulness.”20 Although the contents page of the third volume of The Stones of Venice gives the mild appellation “Third. but (and here he opens the theme of the mouth) “I found that the entire spirit of the Renaissance could not be comprehended unless it was followed to its consummation” (11:135–6). are you employing this pledge of peace for the purpose of cruelty? And thus by the oracular voice of God reproof is given to him who by a bestial conjunction of lips bestows a sentence of death rather than a covenant of love. dost thou betray the Son of Man with a kiss?’ That is to say. says: ‘Judas. and He breathes a spirit into it.

or even inaugurates. in fact. swallowed what has gone before. Here the Fall becomes the gulp. base grotesque of Renaissance Venice has. is at the beginning of. 31 . Starting at the church of Santa Maria Formosa. Santa Maria Zobenigo (whose rebuilding in 1678 was financed by the Barbaro family). and finally the Bridge of Sighs. the heads on the bases of the Palazzo Corner della Regina and the Palazzo Pesaro (Ca’Pésaro). an act that speaks of both protection and fascination. Ruskin introduces his discussion of the Grotesque Renaissance through a complex rhetorical gesture that is analogous to covering one’s eyes and then opening the fingers to see through: that is to say.Sculpted heads. he says.” to which the story gave birth through the “womb” of the nightmare. Although he is unwilling. San Moisè. to be about two children: the horrific image of the withered child and Mary Shelley’s own “hideous progeny. to pollute the book by illustrating any of its worst forms. Longhena’s church of the Ospadaletto. The kiss in the ghost story comes. from the sublime to the disgusting. Palazzo Corner della Regina late. monstrosity. the slide from head to belly. in some sense. in turn.21 San Eustachio (known as San Stae). Let us now recall the ghost story that Mary Shelley read and surmise that in some sense the bad kiss (or “bad breath”) of which the story speaks. we visit. he at the same time advises visiting them and even provides the reader with an itinerary and commentary for a walking tour.

as we approach the tower of the church built upon the site. or to be beheld for more than an instant. in which the Doge. until it melted away like the white cloud 32 . He recounts at length the story of the festival commemorating the rescue of the brides of Venice. annually visited the old church. and it is well that we should see and feel the full horror of it on this spot. Into this scene erupts the mask carved on the base of the tower: “A head – huge. and monstrous – leering in bestial degradation. and he devotes special attention to it.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque Church of the Ospadeletto (Santa Maria dei Derelitti) Ruskin starts his walking tour of grotesque Venice at Santa Maria Formosa. and know what pestilence it was that came and breathed upon her beauty. accompanied by twelve maidens. We are to picture this. for in that head is embodied the type of evil spirit to which Venice was abandoned in the fourth period of her decline. too foul to be either pictured or described. inhuman. Ruskin says.

in an aside. Later.Mark Dorrian Sculpted head. It is a polluting. as Raymond Fitch puts it. whose issue is monstrous and which inverts the morphological powers that Ruskin later ascribed to Athenian insufflation.’”22 The 33 . almost absolute instance of the base grotesque. emitted in Venice. contaminating breath before which form itself withers. This deforming miasma. my italics). the symbol. he notes that even the teeth on the sculpted head are represented as decayed (11:162). perhaps to reappear as the ominous “plague-wind of the eighth decade of the nineteenth century” of his later writings. “of a power opposed to the cohesive and vital energy he invoked in his uses of the term ‘purity. the breath enters. Here at the (mythic) beginning – both of Ruskin’s account (start here! he says) and of the grotesque phenomenon – in this paradigmatic. Santa Maria Formosa from the ancient field of Santa Maria Formosa” (11:145. seems to drift through his subsequent thinking.

cryptically. Acknowledging the dependence of life on the chemical action of air. while stressing that the “spirit of man” in all “articulate” languages means his “passion or virtue” (19:352). such as in his frequent insistence on and defence of inspiration. spiritually “she is the queen of the breath of man. full breath of right heaven. As queen of the air. yet concerned to defend against any thoroughgoing scientific materialism. upon whose kiss (we might say. conceptually located and expounded and which seems retrospectively to govern. at least in outline. and the wind itself was linked by Ruskin. first of the bodily breathing which is life to his blood … and then of the mental breathing. looking back toward Dante) the formative process is initiated: hence. long.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque plague-wind’s hiss suggested its serpentine character. a pneumatology is evident. His approach is circumspect. His most elaborate treatment of the topic is contained in his eulogy to the myth of Athena. you take Athena into your heart. he attempts to construct a distinction between the mere “chemical affinities” of matter (which can produce only “indefinite masses”)24 and the transcendent presences of air and sunlight. the metaphorics of the breath in his writing on the grotesque contained in The Stones of Venice sixteen years before. Athena extends her sovereignty over physical and spiritual realms: physically she has power over the atmosphere. This text allows us to delineate a series of related ideas within which the theme of the breath is. Seen in this way. The Queen of the Air (1869). for “whenever you draw a pure. into the thoughts of your brain” (19:328–9).23 At many points in Ruskin’s writing. to “an evil spirit. insufflation is first and foremost a matter of morphology: spirit (which 34 . as a Formative … power” (19:354). which is his moral health and habitual wisdom” (19:305). over calm and storm. and with the blood. the “Myth of Athena. for Ruskin. he observed the translation of the Greek pneuma (wind or breath. as Ruskin puts it. Ruskin’s ostensible focus in the second section of The Queen of the Air. he tells us) into spirit or ghost. but in a passage that he later claimed defined the use of “spirit” in all his writings. The placing of this bodily breathing and mental breathing together under the spiritual might make us suspect that the distinction between them is less clear than it may seem at first: this is later confirmed. or inspiration. the absolute opponent of the Queen of the Air” (34:68).” is on Athena as a life-giving power. through your blood. entitled “Athena Keramitis.

the flower. we are told. to have had an essential relationship with the grotesque. treachery” (7:399). but the power that catches out of chaos. 363). water.27 the serpentine kiss was a Judas-kiss. This kiss was more than venomous. or what not. “became a fat thing. it was leech-like. and nothing would pull it off. “It scarcely breathes with its one lung (the other shrivelled and abortive)” (19:363). an unlikely element of a pneumatology.25 In the final volume of The Stones of Venice. to take a central place within it. like a leech. and adhered to my hand. with a strange obsessive beauty that slides easily into obscenity. from what is simply force: “For the mere force of junction is not spirit. he had dreamt of a beautiful snake that.26 In The Queen of the Air. a strangely vampiric kiss – one that sucked. he extended his discussion of this “Word of God. of all natural forms. Here the characteristics and meaning of the serpent. “the breath or spirit is less than in any other creature” (19:360). charcoal. in its opposition to that of the bird. “or.”28 During the previous year. he told a young companion. in one word. Ruskin had referred his work on Venice to a theological language of Types in which the world was written.30 It is no surprise to find the character of bird and serpent myths acting for him as a point of discrimination regarding 35 . that emptied out. Shortly after the publication of The Queen of the Air. via the moment of air and light. that withdrew. are placed under the sign of its breathlessness: in it.” this “divine hieroglyph of the demoniac power of the earth” (19:359. presenting an image both terrifying and sensual. Our delight in form and colour in nature bears witness to the presence of the same spirit as our own in nonhuman life and thus allows Ruskin’s exemplar of formal beauty. As “the symbol of the grasp and sting of death” it is also the earthly creature whose deathly and withering kiss presents the most persuasive and biblically resonant inversion of divine insufflation (19:363). when he had been assailed frequently by serpentnightmares. lime. and fastens them down into a given form.Mark Dorrian Ruskin equates with “life” or “breathing”) leads to form and is thereby to be distinguished. was an innocent one but that when he touched it.”29 For Ruskin the snake. is properly called ‘spirit’” (19:357). seems. that possessed. and in the chapter “Grotesque Renaissance” he had commented on the snake in such terms. Ruskin recorded a dream in which he battled with a woman-snake only to have “another small one [fasten] on my neck like a leech. so that I could hardly pull it off. Often conflated in Ruskin’s iconography with the woman as seductress.

but before an inconstant and ill-educated mind. which “links dissoluteness with naval. and hence economic and political impotence. it was also a fall in the vigour. in the last instance. “The vision. Now Ruskin seems to suggest that a clear and calm mind can recapture “as in a perfect mirror” what is presented to it. This association between. Ruskin. power. and the pursuit of pleasure and. The decline in question was not just in the moral character and pursuits of Venice’s inhabitants. when Foscari became Doge. The date of the fall of Venice is put at 1423.”31 While the base grotesque emerges and flourishes cancerously within the city during its Fall. comes uncalled. and will not submit itself to the seer.” This truth is not something that can be sought out by a human being but is presented or given. apprehend “ultimate truth. the grotesque is. having no power over his words or thoughts” (11:178). through it (11:179). licentiousness. The vision presented by the imagination is figured as in a mirror that is (as a plane of symbolization) interposed between the human viewer and the divine. but conquers him. In Ruskin’s schema it is the main purpose of the faculty of imagination to. thus defends the Platonic opposition between inspiration and art as set out in the Phaedrus. this insufflation. on the other. no fertility in this sexuality. This breathing-in. as he puts it. and forces him to speak as a prophet. the image fragments 36 . only languor and abandon. 11:187). There is no energy. drawing an explicit connection with Pauline pneumatology. even manifests itself as a madness (the famous “madness of God” of the Phaedrus) that properly marks the irreducible division between the higher and lower worlds. of whatever kind. and the privilege accorded to the former. the atrophy of the nation was by no means new. the compost in which the base grotesque roots and blossoms as a kind of fleur du mal. identified with it. embedded by Ruskin in a broader argument in which it becomes figured as the key characteristic of all lapsarian art. and consequence of the Republic. It comes of its own accord and is not mastered but masters. on one hand. at the same time. For Ruskin the grotesque is closely related to the concept of the Fall and is even.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque “the moral state and fineness of intelligence of different races” in a way almost identical to the presence or absence of the “noble grotesque” as he had described it in The Stones of Venice (19:366. Jeanne Clegg suggests that in the case of Venice this linkage begins with Gilbert Burnet’s report on the city after his visit in 1685 and continues in Pope’s Dunciad. luxury.

and morcellates what is presented to it. As he elaborates this trope. Indeed. he tells us. and the vaster the truths into which it obtains an insight. of which we all must be in some sort the subjects until mortality shall be swallowed up of life … and neither death stand between us and our brethren. through identification with the image in the mirror. as the winds and vapours trouble the field of the telescope most when it reaches farthest” (11:181). For Baudelaire the “monstrous phenomenon of laughter” was the index of man’s fallen condition. Thus.” It would be the effacement of the plane of symbolization taking place on the plane of symbolization. the more fantastic their distortion is likely to be. in short. the “vertical” opposition already mentioned.”32 The “mirror-stage” of the Ruskinian grotesque is the opposite: here the mirror fragments. would be the magical union of the specular image with its referent: in Platonic terms. obscuring. The first. and the wider the scope of its glance. however. given the human condition: “the fallen human soul. the possibility of the perfect mirror seems to recede. at its best. nor symbols between us and our God” (11:186). warps. the faithful apprehension of the image. that is to say. Ruskin speaks a little later of the time when “that great kingdom of dark and distorted power. We must “sweep the image laboriously away. The “mirror stage” described by the psychoanalyst Jacques Lacan is a point in the development of the child when it constructs. Ruskin calls the sublime rare. at its most elevated the grotesque merges into the sublime. Onto the mirror of the fallen soul.Mark Dorrian and warps under the passions.33 for Ruskin it is the enduring presence of the grotesque. The sublime. the phantasm of a coherent self in what Lacan calls the “jubilant assumption of his specular image. the truth that flickers upon it. The account of the grotesque that Ruskin sets out is coordinated by two asymmetrically positioned dualities. It is precisely this play of the sublime image of divine truth upon the agitated surface of the fallen soul that gives rise to the grotesque. to the mighty truths of the universe round it. and in fact we are led to suspect that it is more a regulatory ideal than an actual possibility. The nature of the distinction between these two categories 37 . must be as a diminishing glass. and that a broken one. distinguishes the noble and ignoble grotesque. misting and polluting it. a union of the “copy-child” with its “Father.” but still we arrive at an image that is necessarily distorted. in a kind of pneumatological play between divine inspiration and its other. the Devil breathes.

Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque (which carry a clear metaphysical charge. Again. “may make his creatures disgusting. the degraded architecture erected during the final period of the Fall of Venice is characterized by “deformed and monstrous sculpture” (11:135). its fearful aspect tending to disqualify its appearance within the ignoble. among them or in them. nations. The second duality is introduced through Ruskin’s claim that in almost all cases the grotesque is composed of two elements: the fearful and the ludicrous. terrible/sportive). If we look now at where Ruskin’s text touches on the question of monstrosity.” writes Ruskin. and the expression of a low sarcasm. with the noble grotesque being described as “true” and the ignoble “false”) is the main subject of Ruskin’s investigation. There is no straightforward correspondence between the categories that constitute each duality (noble/ignoble. while the sportive grotesque traverses the noble/ignoble distinction and lodges in both locations. Whereas the former is the product of a healthy and well-proportioned mind (“I believe. they seem to have devolved into something that evokes only “disgust. rather Ruskin’s text suggests that the terrible and the sportive terms operate across the noble/ignoble distinction. “that there is no test of greatness in periods. But while this is asserted. Depending on the relative dominance of these elements. Its most base forms are “evidences of a delight in the contemplation of bestial vice. In the realm of the noble grotesque. of a noble grotesque” [11:187]). and no hatred of it: and however it may strive to make its work terrible. the latter is the poisonous flowering of a degraded and abject humanity.” Consequently. there will be no genuineness in the fear. the utmost it can do will be to make its work disgusting” (11:176). the specific character of the grotesque phenomenon becomes defined as either terrible or sportive (11:151). the ignoble grotesque has “no Horror. fearful elements receive adequate expression. the most hopeless state into which the human mind can fall” (11:145). more sure than the development. the terrible grotesque seems primarily to find purchase in the noble. For the base soul has no fear of sin. I believe. or men. but never fearful” (11:170). the ignoble workman. we are told. it is at the same time problematized by changes that occur in the character of the terrible grotesque as it shifts across the divide from noble to ignoble. which is. but insofar as they appear in the domain of the ignoble. For example. as in 38 . Thus. we will find that it is a characteristic associated primarily with the ignoble grotesque and therefore also with the ludic.

incapable of drawing upon models that nature presents. Ruskin substituted another image. is satisfied when seeking to express vice “with vulgar exaggeration.Mark Dorrian Ruskin’s illustration of the ignoble grotesque (from Ca’Rezzonico?) the carved head at the base of the tower of the church of Santa Maria Formosa: “huge. made merely monstrous. and monstrous – leering in bestial degradation.” we are told. the ludicrous. to publish such an abomination. and not the fearful. In Ruskin’s account. Unwilling. and monstrous without being terrible” (11:161). Finally. too foul to be either pictured or described. will be forms “which will be absurd without being fantastic. then. grotesque phenomena are to be understood as arranged in a hierarchy at whose upper limit the grotesque is surpassed and the absolutes of divine beauty and terrible sublimity are revealed 39 . In Ruskin’s view. or to be beheld for more than an instant” (11:145). On one occasion only is monstrosity admitted to the noble grotesque. described as “utterly devoid of intention. is the primary locus of monstrosity: to understand this we must pursue the implications of his system of categories.” to illustrate the ignoble late Renaissance grotesque of Venice (11:190). and here it is ultimately grounded in fearful phenomena presented by nature (11:169). and leaves his work as false as it is monstrous” (11:177). even for didactic purposes. the ignoble workman. Raphael’s grottesche in the Vatican are precisely the result of such play: “an unnatural and monstrous abortion” (11:171). inhuman.34 The ignoble grotesques produced by “Inordinate Play.

discerned. The terror in man that is provoked by nature springs from his interlinked fears of death and sin. Faced with the terrifying convulsions of nature that announce the strike of the thunderbolt. the fundamental conditions of man’s existence gain expression: their presence in nature sets a constant demonstration before man of the existential choice with which he is confronted. from its sensitivity to the truth of man’s existential condition. This is because the ludic. much more notably. involves a curious inversion whereby the ludicrous. From this. the bloated monstrosity within the ignoble grotesque is both the symptom and the actualization of sin. this movement producing. and so it falls short of the sublime. the apprehension that conjures the terrible grotesque is defective: it fails (or refuses) to plumb the full horror and truth of what it contemplates. Through this coupling. We can now see that the double movement of the “monstrous” in Ruskin’s text. downward to the most abject ignoble grotesque. and mocks at all things with the laughter of the idiot and the cretin” (11:167). an object of fear: where the trace of the monstrous within the noble grotesque comes as an expression of the presence of sin in the world. of what is withheld from him. as manifested in the ignoble grotesque.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque (11:165–6). ultimately grounded in the truth presented through nature. The master of the noble grotesque feels the resonance. even in our times of quietness and peace” (11:164). emerges with the apprehension and expression of the awful imminence of death and sin. In Ruskin. With the monstrous ignoble grotesque we are no longer witnesses to representations of representations: instead. the connection between the monstrous and the disgusting in Ruskin’s dis40 . the human soul is appalled. senses the depths. The grotesque is produced through this lack. Now the terrible grotesque. but what is absent is. nature’s destructive phenomena gain a moral effect. However. calculated often to fill us with serious thought. Through the beautiful and the terrible. becomes terrible. by its very nature. in the last instance. upward to the heights of the noble grotesque and. out of its ludicrousness. Thus. too. This present absence is not evident to the workman of the ignoble grotesque: he “can feel and understand nothing. this effect is produced by the supposedly indelible link between the deed and the moral condition of the doer. its fearful character. at the same time. must become. the object has advanced into actuality. even beyond this “there is an occult and subtle horror belonging to many aspects of the creation around us. and. it gains Ruskin’s commendation.

sarcasm. a biblical fate hung over the Venice of the ignoble grotesque. as fatal as the fiery rain of 41 . bestiality. upon our enjoying it. for the theistic imagination does not merely record but calls down an imminent retribution. The base grotesque. Indeed. and mockery.”35 Indeed the open mouths. as it were. Ospadeletto course. closes: “That ancient curse was upon her. insofar as we take disgust in its Kantian sense as what cannot be held back by representation and advances upon the viewer. echoing the dying speech of the Doge in Byron’s play Marino Faliero. lolling tongues. the curse of the Cities of the Plain … By the inner burning of her own passions.Mark Dorrian Pilaster. while we still set our face against it. and slavering chops of the sculpted heads to which Ruskin points suggest this advance in another way: the polluting breath’s overcoming of the prophylactic distance associated with the purely optical. as the result of a disregard for what is propitious. luxuriousness. “insisting. linked to hubris. and Ruskin.

the “cam42 . in a very conjectural way. the image shifting between these poles as the plate was tilted with respect to the viewer’s eye. and magic. In the period of its popularization. technique.36 In his brilliant essay “Likeness as Identity: Reflections on the Daguerrean Mystique. in the rigours of craft. a mixed discourse of science. The image upon the copper plate was polished to a high shine and was usually set below a gold-plated mat. so each plate was unique and irreplaceable. the daguerreotype seemed to capture something beyond the mere “image” of the referent. The daguerreotypes conjured animistic notions of “life” in the image. What I want to focus on in the context of Ruskin’s metaphysics of the grotesque is the contemporary popular rhetoric on the daguerreotype as a mirror with a memory.” Alan Trachtenberg has analyzed the singular power of these strange images and the complex discourse that grew up around them and within which they were embedded. as Trachtenberg puts it. fastened down and suspended within the tain of the mirror. about Ruskin’s enthusiasm for the photographic process known as the daguerreotype during the period when he began to work on The Stones of Venice. she was consumed from her place among the nations. I would like to speculate.”37 The discourse on the daguerreotype that flourished in the 1840s and 1850s was. the positive /negative nexus was embodied on the face of the plate. it seemed “too real to be understood as just another copy of the world. some of the popular fiction of the 1840s and 1850s imagined that one might fall in love with a daguerreotype or that daguerretypes might fall in love with one another. art. the very essence or identity of a person. Yet. The daguerreotype process produced no negative. and her ashes are choking the channels of the dead. mingles with sheer pleasure in undisguised technique. the prelapsarian mirror of the soul that unites with the divine truth (to which might we say. “Daguerrean portraits lend themselves to a discourse in which atavistic fascination with images as magical replicas. According to Trachtenberg. In short. the process seemed to capture something essential about the sitter. salt sea” (11:195). albeit in the “fallen” world. The daguerreotype reproduced most closely. as implied negatively in his metaphysics of the grotesque.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque Gomorrah. the optical and cognitive event upon whose terms Ruskin figured his regulatory ideal. the daguerreotype seemed to realize the uncanny union or fusion of the image with the referent in a way suggestively in accord with Ruskin’s clear seeing.”38 Instead. as Trachtenberg puts it. as fetishes and effigies. In conclusion.

“I have been lucky enough to get from a poor Frenchm[an] here. always contained an aspect that was somewhat monstrous. It is the force with which the photograph returns us to. published in 1851. some most beautiful. said to be in distress. through its very fidelity.Mark Dorrian era” of the imagination is witness?). At one point he confesses a sin of the same order as Shelley’s Victor Frankenstein: “I misuse Heaven’s blessed sunshine by tracing out human features. through its apparent transparency before the referent. walking around Venice. or better.”42 This is an impeccably monstrous moment: the trapping. here the daguerreotype. It is usually framed in terms of the ontology of the photograph: its status as the record of an emanation from an object (whose real existence is therefore presupposed). effects something like a prosaic version of the ecstatic effacement of self that Ruskin had experienced in 1842 before the mountains at Chamonix (4:364). stumbling around St Mark’s. we are introduced to a daguerreotypist. His art is a modern technico-magical variant of the black arts practised by his forerunners. is more than interpretative. (We should note here that the daguerreotype.) The curious closeness of the photograph and its referent is a recurring theme in histories and theories of photography. or turning of Nature’s power against itself through art. certain moments in his writing suggest more: in a letter written to his father from Venice in 1845. and found a lot of things in the Daguerreotype that I never had noticed in the place itself. through my agency. though small Daguerreotypes of the palaces I have been trying to draw … It is very nearly the same thing as carrying off the palace itself – every chip of stone & stain is there. whose ancestors practised witchcraft. Holgrave. dated 7 October. as described in another letter to his father eight days later.”41 The only way one might make sense of the great prosyletizer of the visual. Thus we have the image of Ruskin. his eyes fixed on a daguerreotype: “I have been walking all over St Mark’s Place today. on an interpretative document.”40 In some senses the daguerreotype was more than “carrying off the palace”: it seemed to disclose the real to perception with a finer grain than did the reality it recorded. In Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel The House of the Seven Gables. The mechanical apparatus. We are almost invited to see his peculiarly animated daguerreotype portraits as little monsters.39 Although Ruskin’s comments on the daguerreotype are resolutely down to earth. is if that document. as was the first volume of The Stones of Venice. or deviating. he says. like a modern tourist. 43 . eyes fixed.

and to Zoe Quick for conversations. no. Versions of the current paper were presented at the annual conference of the Association of Art Historians held in Edinburgh on 7–9 April 2000 and at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal on 7 July 2000. 1 “On the Monstrous and the Grotesque. the one separating the initial pose from the final print. and which the Shadow” (9:17). “The versus of the conceptual opposition is as substantial as a camera’s click. For some comments on the “formless” in Ruskin’s Lamp of Beauty see Mark Dorrian. ed. notes I am grateful to the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal for the award of a visiting scholarship from May to August 2000. a dream. See also Mark Dorrian. which was the City.” written in 1996 but published in Word & Image 16. as we watched her reflection in the mirage of the lagoon. that city between life and death that travellers in the early nineteenth century described as a phantasm.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque instantiates the referent that underpins Roland Barthes’s comment that it produces that “rather terrible thing … the return of the dead. The photograph operates both between and on the outside of the conceptual opposition.”44 Thus.” in Architecture: The Subject Is Matter. The concept of the photograph photographs all conceptual oppositions. it is more a condition of both life and death. and Stealth. Scrolls. or a city of sleepwalkers and that Ruskin called “a ghost upon the sands of the sea. that we might well doubt. “Surplus Matter: Of Scars. “Monstrosity Today. see George P. The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin (Princeton: Princeton Univer- 44 .’ Ghosts: the concept of the other in the same … the dead other alive in me. As Derrida wrote on the occasion of the death of Roland Barthes. so weak – so quiet – so bereft of all but her loveliness. Landow. ‘Life/Death: the paradigm is reduced to a simple click.”43 However. like the liminal creatures of which we spoke at the beginning. J. Skulls. neither life nor death. 193–206. one feels that the photograph has always had a strange affinity with Venice. Hill (London: Routledge 2001). during which this essay was completed. 2 For interpretations of Ruskin’s grotesque. this “return of the dead” is not a straightforward return to life. 3 (2000): 310–17.” Artifice 5 (1996): 48–59. it traces a relationship of haunting which perhaps is constitutive of all logics.

Ibid. Macdonald and Kathleen Scherf (Broadview Literary Texts 1999).. Ruskin and Venice (London: Junction Books 1981).. and London: Ohio University Press 1982).. Bracketed references in the text refer to The Works of John Ruskin (Library Edition). Lindsay Smith. without reaching such distinction. and London: Harvard University Press 1982). Paul Barlow. It fell dead-born from the press. “Reponses à quelques questions. Twitchell. ma. 355. Victorian Photography. Hants. The Darkening Glass: A Portrait of Ruskin’s Genius (New York: Columbia University Press 1961). D. vt: Ashgate 1999). 7–8. Grace and All: The Riddle of the Grotesque in John Ruskin’s Modern Painters.” Assemblage 32 (1997): 108–25. E.” Esprit (November 1963): 629. On the sirens see also 19:177–9 and 29:262–72. Colin Trodd. as even to excite a murmur among the zealots. “Griffinism. ed. 358. James B. Helsinger. Cadell. ed. and Brookfield. Ibid. 79–80. Morris and the Pre-Raphaelites (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1995). Lucy Hartley. 370–99. “Never literary attempt was more unfortunate than my Treatise of Human Nature. Raymond Fitch. “Devouring Architecture: Ruskin’s Insatiable Grotesque.” Claude Lévi-Strauss. 1777). Cook and Alexander Wedderburn (London: George Allen. et que je ne me sens pas trop fier de présenter aux regards d’autrui. oh. Green 1903–7). 111–39. qui me fait l’effet d’une créature assez répugnante en comparaison de celle que j’aurais souhaité mettre au monde. The Living Dead: A Study of the Vampire in Romantic Literature (Durham. Mary Shelley. Elizabeth K. 3–4.L. 197–202. Ruskin and the Art of the Beholder (Cambridge.Mark Dorrian 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 sity Press 1971). David Hume. 45 . 7. or the Modern Prometheus: The 1818 Version. 39.” in Victorian Culture and the Idea of the Grotesque. Strahan and T.” “Il me semble qu’un livre. Painting and Poetry: The Enigma of Visibility in Ruskin. 81–94.T. Paulette Singley. n c: Duke University Press 1981). The Poison Sky: Myth and Apocalypse in Ruskin (Athens. ed. Jeanne Clegg. introduction (1831) to Frankenstein. on Venice as seductress/bride see John Rosenberg. c’est toujours un enfant né avant terme. and New York: Longmans. Esq: Written by Himself (London: W. The Life of David Hume. and David Amigoni (Aldershot.

19. this church was the epitome of the hubris and impiety characteristic of the period when the Venetian base grotesque flourished. Wilson (London 1962). The Anatomy of Disgust (Cambridge. 20. The Poison Sky. he said.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque 11 Cited in Nicholas J. two on each side of it.M. see William Ian Miller. The Kiss Sacred and Profane. trans. 5. strutting statues. It was. trans. 34–5. trans. 278.. 19 Dante’s Purgatory. The Kiss Sacred and Profane. with a fantastic head-dress. 6 13 Ibid. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak (Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press 1998). Perella. shapeless substances” of which Shelley spoke in her introduction (Shelley. the case of Frankenstein and his creation. R. 45. 29. in the common stage postures of the period” (11:149–50). ma. and four Barbaros in niches. The Kiss Sacred and Profane. in Hexaemeron. John J. 16 The Gospel of Philip. 14 On semen as a pollutant. and London: Harvard University Press 1997). 20 Hexaemeron. over the central door. its power of gathering dead matter out of the wreck round it. and Cain and Abel. 25. 23 Ibid.. as such its condition failed to escape that of the “dark. 12 Ibid. Mark Musa (Bloomington. 25 “The Spirit in the plant – that is to say. Savage (New York 1961). 356). cited in Perella. 271. 21 As far as Ruskin was concerned. Perella. 22 Fitch. The Kiss Sacred and Profane: An Interpretive History of Kiss Symbolism and Related Religio-Erotic Themes (Berkeley: University of California Press 1969). which was vivified not through “inspiration” but through “chemical” processes.67–78. 103–5.9. 18 In their General Index Cook and Wedderburn give almost four doublecolumned and minutely printed pages of references to The Divine Comedy alone (39:150–4). the only religious symbols with which it is invested being statues of angels blowing brazen trumpets. and shaping it into its own chosen shape – 46 . Paradise. 18. The Kiss Sacred and Profane. 17 Jacques Derrida. introduction (1831). 6. 2.68. 20. 15 Perella. “entirely dedicated to the Barbaro family. 6. 24 Cf. in: Indiana University Press 1981). 573–4. intended to express the spreading of the fame of the Barbaro family in heaven … A huge statue of a Barbaro in armour. trans.. Of Grammatology. cited in Perella.

21–43.W.. Joan Evans and John Howard Whitehouse (Oxford: Clarendon 1956). 1835–1898. for an interpretation of these dreams as phallic-autoerotic see Rosenberg. 685.” Baudelaire: Selected Writings on Art and Artists. trans. Louis itself. it is more likely to be from the base of Longhena’s Ca’Rezzonico. ed. Clegg. trans. 169.Mark Dorrian 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 is of course strongest at the moment of its flowering. The Darkening Glass. Norton 1977). Holland (Manchester: Manchester University Press 1982). but forms. 644. see Landow. for it then not only gathers. Immanuel Kant. from the evil angels themselves down to the serpent which is their type. The Diaries of John Ruskin. with the greatest energy” (19:357). 17–19.E. 145. Jacques Lacan. and those which have the nature of Sin. Charles Baudelaire. and ghastliness of symbolic conception. though of a low and contemptible class. appears to unite deathful and sinful natures in the most clearly visible and intelligible form” (11:166). “The Dream of the Dragon: Ruskin’s Serpent Imagery. “Of the Essence of Laughter and Generally of the Comic in the Plastic Arts. half of its letters are twisted snakes. ed. there is scarcely a wreathed ornament. 329–56. On typology and allegory in Ruskin. and infecting Christianity. Ruskin and Venice. For example. 2. with a fatal terror of doctrine. The Critique of Judgement. even at its strongest periods. Of which there are many ranks. all having a strange and dreadful consistency with each other. Ibid. Simpson. P. which cannot be traced back to the serpent’s coil” (19:365). 47 . James Creed Meredith (Oxford: Clarendon 1961). Charvet (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1981). or architecture. and which. 174. trans. “The Mirror Stage as Formative of the Function of the I as Revealed in Psychoanalytic Experience.” in The Ruskin Polygon. Although Ruskin states this sculpted head is from the Palazzo Corner della Regina. and thence into sensuality. “in the religions of lower races.” Écrits. In the Psalter of S. passing through fear into frenzied grotesque. greater or less in power and vice. employed in Christian dress. John Dixon Hunt and Faith M. little else than these corrupted forms of devotion can be found. Alan Sheridan (New York: W. In The Stones of Venice Ruskin writes: “Now the things which are the proper subjects of human fear are twofold: those which have the power of Death. See Marc A. The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin.

“Likeness as Identity. The Clothing of Clio: a Study of the Representation of History in Nineteenth-Century Britain and France (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1984). Camera Lucida: Reflections on Photography. 43 Roland Barthes. “The Deaths of Roland Barthes. Smith. ed.. trans. Silverman (New York and London: Routledge 1988). 42 Trachtenberg.” Assemblage 32 (1997): 22–44. “Topographies of Tourism: ‘Documentary’ Photography and The Stones of Venice. Karen Burns. 132–4. Victorian Photography. 9. Michael Harvey. 267. 37 Alan Trachtenberg. ed. 38 Ibid.J. 41 Ibid. G. 220.” in The Portrait in Photography. Painting and Poetry.” in Philosophy and Non-Philosophy since Merleau-Ponty. H. “Likeness as Identity: Reflections on the Daguerrean Mystique. 173. 40 Ruskin in Italy: Letters to His Parents. see Stephen Bann.” Oxford Art Journal 7. Richard Howard (London: Vintage 1993). “Ruskin and Photography. 225.. Ruskin and the Art of the Beholder. no. 2 (1985): 25–33. 44 Jacques Derrida. 48 . Clarke (London: Reaktion Books 1992). All photographs © the author.” 181. ed.Ruskin’s Theory of the Grotesque 36 On Ruskin and the daguerreotype. Harold I. 1845. 175. 117–19. Shapiro (Oxford: Clarendon 1972). 39 See the description in Helsinger.

Alberti at Sea Michael Emerson Chora .

Have you seen what happens to houses on the shore when the water reclaims a few feet? The shoreline does not limit the sea. theoretical. All that water is coming on. ship – are the shifting objects of this essay’s investigation of spatial practice and fluidity in the early Renaissance works of Leon Battista Alberti (1404–72). This investigation poses the following questions: what sort of place was Alberti’s sea? what traditions informed his aquatic investigations? and what were the difficulties of constructive. including an early design for the Trevi fountain and a reconstruction project for the Bridge of Hadrian. like the sea itself. navigation. and ethical investigations concerning motion and constructive spatial practices. Finally. It does not have to stop.Alberti at Sea I live on a sea.2 the material issue of water Leon Battista Alberti had a fondness for maritime imagery and a lively interest in the practical arts of navigation and naval and aquatic construction. At my window the street ends in the blue infinity. Responses are explored in three parts. 1430–40) suggests architecture’s role in navigating the contingencies of the early Renaissance world. 1450) and Ludi Rerum Matematicarum (c. a reading of the shipbuilding scenario in Alberti’s allegory Fatum et Fortuna (c. Nicholas of Cusa (1401–64). “Nonlogical Moves and Nature Metaphors”1 the sea is traditionally the site for a wide range of practical. Three nautical terms – water. Eugene Gendlin.3 In the “anonymous” autobiographical sketch Vita Anonima (1437) he notes that he often questioned shipbuilders and other craftsman “to learn what rare and hidden special knowledge they might hold. The manner of their collation. 1450–1). spatial engagement that water posed to the possibility of rational order. Descriptio Urbis Romae (c. is not fixed and responds to time and place. The sea makes the shoreline by stopping. The second part discusses the navigational influences in Alberti’s works of cartography and surveying. Several of his early architectural and engineering projects were associated with water. and I wonder that it graces to stop. just there. within the context of the speculative cartography of his contemporary. you know. both in Rome.”4 Traces of 50 .

5 However. philosophers.”7 This ontological argument for the primacy of watery substances Vitruvius borrowed from early Greek thought. traditions. the acknowledged guide and foil for De Re Aedificatoria. grows. but only water is singled out for a discrete investigation. a short work on shipbuilding and navigation. and indeed much of Alberti’s tenth book follows closely Vitruvius’s book 8.6 However. whose arguments concerning a watery first principle were physiological rather than meteorological in nature. albeit with a distinctly aquatic bent – among other feats. Over the course of his Ten Books. and sustains all creatures is again traceable to Thales. The length and quality of this discussion has led to speculation that his professional career included time spent with the Roman cura aquarum.Michael Emerson these activities can be discerned in De Re Aedificatoria’s scheme for righting the walls of St Peter’s using nautical rigging and the inclusion of sailor’s lore on the properties of certain winds (10.9 Vitruvius’s observation that water nourishes. with book 8 devoted solely to descriptions of different waters and the methods for their detection and control. 4. a claim further supported by a passage from Frontinus’s De aquis urbis romae (100 ad). Vitruvius looked beyond the profession itself. which was to have been appended to the treatise.2. This interest is foreshadowed in Vitruvius’s first-century bc treatise De architectura. often cited as a paradigmatic sage. differences that define the possibilities of Alberti’s aquatic interventions.362.”8 Thales himself was something of a “universal man” to the Greeks. where Vitruvius is credited with standardizing plumbing pipe sizes. and priests alike judge that all things consist of the power of water. to justify his watery interests. the respective authors’ approaches to this material were conditioned by very different concerns. he is credited with diverting a river. noting that “naturalists. devising a method for measuring distance from land to ships at sea.99).10 In book 9 this focus on water’s 51 . and worldviews.17. Vitruvius gives considerable attention to each natural element. the public works office responsible for the construction and maintenance of the city’s aqueducts and sewer systems. Such nautical issues would have been treated more extensively in De Navis (On Ships). now lost. and authoring a work on celestial navigation. who is mentioned at the beginning of book 8 as having “declared that water was the first principle of all things. Water itself was a recurring concern. with the most lengthy consideration occurring in book 10. especially that of the Presocratic philosopher Thales of Miletus (active sixth century bc).

throughout books 9 and 10. which would be obscured if the material confusion of the sublunar realm were not organized into discrete. However. Conjectures concerning divine omnipotence and the 52 . then.Alberti at Sea animating qualities underscores Vitruvius’s delight in the machines of Ctesibius. this act is accomplished by moving the centre of the watery sphere. Despite his fascination with the early Greeks’ fluid ontology.”12 For Aristotle. an order that in the fifteenth century was increasingly problematized. water’s difficulty is determinacy (horismos). when God gathered the waters and the dry land was made to appear (Gen. but either water or air or that which is in between them. Vitruvius’s many designs for machines that use water as a power source or regulator evidence his notion of water as not only a generative principle but a benevolent prima materia that lends itself generously to the architect’s skillful manipulations. who remained the primary source of Western cosmology well into the Renaissance: “None of the natural philosophers made fire or earth the one infinite body. which was coincident with the terrestrial sphere’s centre. The attention Vitruvius gave to water. could “produce effects borrowed from nature. but one accomplished at the expense of the cosmos’s concentric symmetry. in which architecture is implicated both as a discrete discipline and as one performed for and informed by the others. 1:9). For Burgos. Particularly apt is the example of the Spaniard Paul de Burgos who in 1429 offered an Aristotelian exegesis of the biblical account of the third day of creation.11 Indeed. The risks that water posed to the cosmos’s rational armature were well known to Aristotle. some of which. but these others are ambiguous between up and down.13 And yet Burgos’s formulation is quite restrained compared to some of the speculations being offered at this time. leaving the terrestrial sphere partially revealed – a neat feat. to an eccentric position. or animated statues.” such as birdsongs. the late medieval attacks on these aspects of his world machine would come not from material speculation but from the theological need to reconcile pagan learning and Christian truth. Vitruvius’s confidence in the architect’s ability to manipulate water was predicated on his faith in the closed cosmology that defined the classical Greek order of the world and the elements that constituted it. because each of fire and earth has clearly a determinate place. is explained as the result of a generative ontological condition that is revealed across a wide range of endeavours. concentric regions. when driven by water.

Michael Emerson way God’s infinity could be manifested in the cosmos had become common. In this context. as “physicians maintain that once a disease has been diagnosed it is largely cured”.1. “the body has no defense” (10. it is evident that Alberti was less given to explicit theological speculation than he was to its appropriation and transformation within the forms of the classical humanist tradition. description.15 Nevertheless. Alberti too mentions Thales (10. Recent scholarship has done much to dismiss the previous image of Alberti as theologically indifferent. Alberti. insect infestation. Similarly.14 Such theological difficulties were exacerbated by increasing participation in the observation and recording of nature. if not refute. Alberti recognizes no relationship between humanity and the sea based on physiological or ontological presumptions: “Others claim that the sea breathes in and out naturally.” is dedicated to the identification. Book 10 of De Re Aedificatoria. notions of centrality and finitude. against the faults wrought by Nature. and so remark that no man ever breathes his last except when the tide is going out.320). and regulation of various waters as they bear upon architecture. As with Burgos. and wall maintenance. Alberti introduces his discussion of water in book 10 by noting that he is not interested in “philosophical questions” of whether or not the sea is water’s place of rest or the moon the source of tides and instead 53 . if not quite orthodox. as though this were proof of some affinity and sympathy between our human life and the movement and spirit of the sea” (9. with its astronomically determined cycle of feast days. recognized water’s many useful and delightful qualities and went to great lengths to define those that were especially propitious for the health and good order of human settlements. both are framed by this medical concern: human failings are remediable by human means. however. “in which the restoration of buildings is described. like Vitruvius. this resulted in difficulties not remediable within the conventions of late medieval thought. during the late middle ages and had led a small but vocal minority to question.1. with brief digressions on the problems of fire. which was the cause of an increasing frustration with the earth-centred world system’s inability to account for celestial phenomena and with the difficulties this posed to the accuracy of the church calendar.12. which in book 10 are primarily aquatic.320).349). but Alberti’s physiological interest in water presents a metaphorics of disease rather than generation. Of two types of building faults described in book 10. temperature control. Indeed.

Aristotle notes that rainfall alone cannot possibly account for all standing water and believes that mountains may act as sponges. who is responsible for imparting material order to the world. as though contained in some vessel.16 Citing the lack of rivers in arid climates. which hardened first into mud and then into stone.327). from a seed that Nature had implanted in the earth. a creative entity. by the heat and by the rays of the sun. However.Alberti at Sea urges that we “not neglect what we see with our own eyes“ (10. as he ponders “whether it was derived from a viscous mixture of water and earth. Alberti debates elemental generation as the result of either condensation from a material matrix or a more basic material accumulation. For Vitruvius water’s formlessness made it a suitable image of primordial substance. but that wherever they appear. In book 10 he weighs evidence as to whether bodies of water are the result of continuous accumulation of rainfall or atmospheric condensation: “Some maintain that perpetual springs are not poured out. For Alberti water is not only genetically illusive but also presents an adversary to the architect. In Alberti’s treatise the experience 54 . A similar prevarication occurs in his treatment of stone. This Nature is. Such advocacy for the direct observation of nature is a touchstone for much of Alberti’s work and constitutes a clear break with the more speculative naturalist traditions of both Vitruvius and the Middle Ages. of course.8. but he notes condensation of dew and a sponge’s ability to absorb humidity as evidence to the contrary (2.327).3. Vitruvius’s watery first principle comes to be understood as Nature. absorbing moisture from the air and thereby making up the difference. they are continually generated by air” (10.” As with water.3. Significantly. or whether in fact stone is formed like everything else.325). his having decided only that “Nature is not at all easy to understand and very perplexing” (10. they occurred as an entirely descriptive exercise of received knowledge and gave rise to no questioning or doubt.3. For Alberti. the debate ends without resolution. Alberti is at first sympathetic to the rain hypothesis. as is said of gems. Alberti is here rehearsing a debate found in Aristotle’s Meteorology concerning the origin of rivers. where Vitruvius too raised these issues.17 For Alberti. but its principles of generation consistently elude Alberti.47). however. this empirical turn does little to ameliorate water’s difficulties and in fact reinstates watery problematics passed over or easily resolved by Vitruvius. or whether it is composed of matter condensed by the cold or.

Such violent imagery is common in Alberti’s discussions of water. This martial analogy was already explicit in book 1. which was not itself the direct result of God’s anger but rather of His utilizing 55 .11.18 For Alberti. has a claim to precosmogenetic existence. and thus was not created ex nihilo but “separated. for here one must “Conquer or be conquered / Such is the wheel of love” (10.1.26). as it is not the result of the sort of divine will that brought forth light or the dome of the heavens but rather “appears” from where the seas had been gathered (Gen.350). Alberti’s problematics of generation and security suggest a recovery of Old Testament notions of the sea as an ambiguously generated and perilous semidivine force. too.e. nor will it be conquered easily by human effort” (10. it retained its chaotic power. 1:9). though quite apart from Vitruvius’s classical calm. were spared (6.” The earth.12..154). For the ancient Hebrews. as he recasts architecture from victim of the sea’s aggression to weapon and instrument of restraint. buildings. the book of Genesis (1 and 2:4–25) indicates that the watery Deep coexisted with God in a primordial state. Although the watery Deep eventually submitted to divine control. and bulwarks not just erected on or for the sea but directed at it as if they were weapons: “The greatest diligence and utmost care is demanded to restrain the fury and power of the sea. as for Alberti. as when he uses Propertius’s verse to make a point concerning the care that must be given to harbour construction.12. material order is secured by force of arms. roofs] are the weapon with which they defend themselves against the harmful onslaught of weather” (1. as aquatic place-making activities in De Re Aedificatoria become agents of order within an antagonistic relationship with a malevolent prima materia. forces that are themselves described as participating in the “vast shipwreck” of ancient culture from which few buildings or architectural writings. This formulation. whose restraint requires architectural intervention. with bridges. Neither theory nor judicious use of material nor sheer labour is itself sufficient in this conflict.351).Michael Emerson of aggressive waters is subject to the same rage he feels toward the dissolution and decay wrought by time and human ignorance. where he noted that “in buildings the covers [i. then. water’s difficulty can be traced back to its obscure origin. except those of Vitruvius. was certainly not unprecedented. Architecture and the waters become adversaries in this scenario. For the sea will often defeat all art and workmanship. This rage for disorder figured in the deluge.

Bodleian Library. Ms. then. for when “the fountains of the great deep burst forth.Alberti at Sea Noah building the ark. Barlow. then I was beside him. as God secured places for both the terrestrial and the aquatic in the material order of the world. so that the waters might not transgress his command. that you set a guard over me?” (Job 7:12). As such. when he marked out the foundations of the earth. “When he assigned the sea to its limit. was enacted through a divine generative power that both constructed and restrained. it necessarily relied on the clearing of a foundational ground that the limiting process enacted. or the Dragon. 53 the waters’ inherent destructive power for His own ends. a situation that Job. the two were habitually cast together. phrased in martial terms: “Am I the Sea. like Alberti. f. 8:29–30). as when the writer of Proverbs states. like a master worker” (Prov. And while the constructive process was typically identified as an architectural mode of production. The waters’ jealousy of their ontological primacy and their desire to return to this condition required divine vigilance. 7:11) the waters relentlessly moved to erase creation from above and below. 56 . and the windows of the heavens were opened” (Gen.19 Creation.

and navigators. the sky clock subordinated such concerns to the moving body’s relationship with celestial time. a difference between the architects’ and the navigators’ geometries can be determined from their “celestial” figures. But while the Vitruvian illustration chiefly represents a formal celestial harmony. refuted Alberti’s attempts at rational deliberation of the processes of material generation and architectural production. deliberation.23 Around him spins the dome of the heavens. such geometries occurred in the instruments and cartography of navigation. “to aim at. these were the stochastic arts. Early Renaissance humanists and ancient Greeks.” Like the Vitruvian figure. This was a world of opinion. However. In Pierre Garcie’s book of sailing instructions. as he acknowledged. Mariners 57 . judges. rather than demonstration and truth. nor was it comprehensible to the mind. However. a world known intimately but never predictably by physicians. whose stars are depicted between windpoints in the figure’s outer ring.Michael Emerson Water’s difficulties.”21 While both architecture and navigation were categorized as arts. farmers.22 the figure’s centre remains the navel. and so on).20 For the Greeks. In the early Renaissance. from stokhos. charting motion Aristotle recognized a world of experience quite apart from the logical stability and regularity of geometricians’ and philosophers’ deductive truths. architects and sailors alike. alleviated the contingent expectations of these ends by relating their disciplines to the demonstrable truths of geometry. the mariner’s celestial guide since antiquity. then. and variable degrees of probability. whereas navigation and its related arts had their end in the completion of the act itself (the ship brought safely to port. the sea’s formlessness and irregularity offered no tangible link to the human body or its architectural correlate. but here is placed the pole star. they were distinguished according to their ends: architecture had as its end material production. the Vitruvian man and the mariner’s “sky clock. if the material forms of architecture were destined to succumb to the waters and their ambiguous motions. a more cooperative spatial order could be realized through the experiential geometries of a body at sea. the sky clock used the image of the human body to bring regularity to an unstable sublunar world. Le grant routier (1520). the verdict justly handed down. precisely because.

2 ed. (1521) committed to memory the midnight position of the pole’s “guard” stars in Ursa Minor relative to the human figure for various times of the year.m.. The guards then became the “hour hand” for a twenty-four hour celestial clockface.Alberti at Sea Illustration from Le grant routier.m. At midnight in mid-July. 6 p. 58 . for example. if at the feet. if during that time the sailor spied the guards at the head. the pilot could not adequately determine the speed and distance on which the possibility of his knowing his position relied. or above the pole. the guards were found at the figure’s right arm. due west of the pole. he knew it to be 6 a. Without such knowledge of time.

The image hinges on Bonaventure’s medieval body metaphor: the city walls are the extent of a human body. suggest nautical and cartographic processes in which the interests of mathematical accuracy. the cosmographer compiles their information and from it produces a “well-ordered and proportionally measured map.” He then “turns toward the map. this interpretation has been virtually unchallenged. and punch-type lettering. in addition.26 Among these innovations. who is none of those things about which the cosmographer has learned. Descriptio Urbis Romae (Description of the City of Rome) and Ludi Rerum Matematicarum (Mathematical Games). so that it was at once more immediate. and delayed.25 The geometrical speculations of Alberti’s contemporary. too. and turns his inner sight toward the Creator-of-the world. the five gates the five senses. Cusanus ascribed these motions to homo cosmographus (man the cosmographer). Nicholas of Cusa (1401–64).Michael Emerson During the period he was preparing his architectural treatise. In Joan Gadol’s influential interpretation. as that experience was then channelled inward and upward. In his Compendium (1463). as it originated in an active sensual engagement with the world. the cosmographer dispatches messengers through five gates to gather information of the world beyond. following a Pythagorean notion of divine proportion. and spiritual activity coincide.27 Upon the messengers’ return. scales. he dismisses the messengers. having directed the construction of a map of central Europe exhibiting such novel features as Ptolemaic projections. formal elements such as cities and topographical features received value through their symbolic relations to otherwise invisible spiritual realities. copper plate engraving. What the activities of homo cosmographus suggest is less an eschewal of traditional value than a reconfiguration of the valuation process. instrumental utility.24 Despite much recent interest in medieval and Renaissance cartography. was one of the period’s cartographic innovators. In Cusanus’ use of Ptolemaic projection. Alberti took up the related issues of surveying and cartography in two short works. Cusanus.”28 In medieval maps. From the centre of a city. these works are seen to have drawn upon the cartography of medieval navigation to align themselves with a new perspectival visuality and its geometrized modes of representation. it was the map’s proportional precision that occasioned both physical and spiritual motions. closes the gateways. it was the actively perceived mathematical relations among 59 . and.

that one is. Such thinking bears the marks of the aquatic displacements that occasioned it. Proportion could then be manipulated to weave together a world of difference and disjunction into looser configurations. Cusanus understood the significance of the principle of learned ignorance to be a function of its openness to proportional scaling procedures: “This learned ignorance I have.29 For Cusanus the value of proportion and metaphor lie in their holding fundamentally distinct and irreconcilable phenomena in relation to one another. now set loose in these books. which on the basis of this same principle can be compressed or expanded. I was led to embrace incomprehensibles incomprehensibly in learned ignorance. received the illumination on a return trip from Constantinople. then we must transfer these relations to corresponding infinite figures. 205–6).. Cartography.”30 In book 1.102). For example. 1440). proportional term was conditioned but never entirely determined by the objects it held together. in De Docta Ignorantia (On Learned Ignorance. was impetus and an aid to both physical and spiritual motions. from whom comes every perfect gift. the sun. at a still higher level. then. in the one who is the truth. the divine]. by transcending those incorruptible truths that can be humanly known” (Dedicatory Epistle. at an immov60 . decades earlier. The most evident textual trace of that experience occurs during a discussion of the relativity of place: How would a passenger know that one’s ship was being moved. apply the relations of the infinite figures to the infinite simple” (1. where he was among a group of Papal emissaries sent to bring the Eastern patriarchs to the Council of Farrera. as if. the son of a boatman on Germany’s Moselle River.12. if one did not know that the water was flowing past and if the shores were not visible from the ship in the middle of the water? Since it always appears to every observer. whether on the earth.e. we must first consider finite mathematical figures along with their attributes and relations.Alberti at Sea the various terrestrial cartographic features that both determined their position and occasioned the ascent to the divine. or another star. these procedures were.31 Cusanus. attempts that were unproductive “until returning by sea from Greece when by what I believe was a celestial gift from the Father of Lights. This third. and finally we must. Cusanus had grown weary of his attempts to come to terms with the “ways” (via) of medieval thought. relational and geometrized: “If we want to use finite things as a method of ascending to the simply maximum [i. like the map.

not rectilinear. the second is specific to individual bodies. the world machine will have. Cusanus stated that to locate oneself among such variability. In a later work. but it moves in a circle. For considered as a whole it does not alter its place altogether. In his Physics. So. who is everywhere and nowhere. taking measure of where one was at sea reversed terrestrial means of finding place. the navigator abstracted elements of the horizon through measures. one will always select different poles in relation to oneself … Therefore. since they are surrounded by one another. its parts will be moved. for its circumference and center is God.Michael Emerson able center of things and that all else is being moved. its center everywhere and its circumference nowhere. In this way. Because of this literal self-centredness and the continual displacements that produced it. there is a body outside it which surrounds it.”33 Cosmic motion is rotational. logs. The navigator. and charts to create a textual or figural memory of a moment that briefly defined his place. as the latter would 61 . even if such a thing [a body with no surrounding body outside] were to come to be water. however. Aristotle identifies two places: the first is the cosmos itself. The relational epistemology of Cusanus’s cartography in fact refigures a long line of nautical speculation concerning the nature of place. assumed the stability of a series of distant positions in order to determine his own. 1450). the mind (mens) operated as a “living” compass (circinus) whose expansions and contractions determined the measure (mensura) through which the proportions between one thing and another were known. To establish that the cosmos can be both finite and perpetually moved. he imagines a cosmic body composed entirely of water: “Hence. one might say. The former is a general and shared place that can accommodate the movements of both itself and the bodies contained within. Terrestrial surveying began with the assumption that the surveyor occupied a primary position from and by which he would determine other positions. whereas De Re Aedificatoria‘s homo faber (man the maker) did not. but the whole will in a sense move and in a sense not.32 For Cusanus. a body is in place if. a body at sea is a perceptual centre within a horizon that is revealed again moment by moment. To fix his position within it. the proportioning activities of homo cosmographus allowed a mediation of the aquatic and terrestrial worlds. Idiota de sapientia et de mente (The Layman on Wisdom and the Mind. and only if.

He also states that place remains when a body moves on. to define place as “the first unchangeable limit of that which surrounds. First. and this it must do either above or below. water’s ability to move into a vessel and displace completely the air previously there is an important illustration of place’s ability to tightly adhere to and define even ambiguous bodies. the reciprocities that obtain in his placeful situations occur between a body and its immaterial container. although all these things seem to contribute to it.” he presents the image of a river-borne ship: “Just as the vessel is a place that can be carried around. so that it is the whole river. and that each body should naturally move to and remain in its proper places. the surrounding thing functions for it as a vessel rather than as a place. rather. not locatory.”34 Second. or form. it does so as natural place. the qualitatively distinct location where a body finds stability and regularity. it is this placeas-vessel that orients such beings within the vertical structure of Aristotle’s cosmology: “Every place should have ‘above’ and ‘below’.g. because as a whole it is unchangeable. This point is important. so place is a vessel which cannot be moved around. and he worries himself about defining how a body can be in place. Removed from such material associations. place in Aristotle’s understanding cannot be a metrically determined phenomenon. he is very clear that place.Alberti at Sea necessitate a further level of containment within a super-cosmological place.”35 The example reveals the limits of Aristotle’s inquiry: the problem he sees is ontological. How place carries this orientation is puzzling: while Aristotle acknowledges that place occurs only where a body is present. and not in the measurable relations among bodies themselves. but how it might endure or prefigure another body’s emplacement is not explained. a boat in a river). that is the place. has no matter. unlike body. place is meant to be unchangeable. If the hierarchical distinctions linking the earth to the heavens are to be maintained. To the extent that place can locate a body. which would then logically fall within another. beyond which is no-place. extension. for if the placeful cosmos provides room for and embodies being in a general sense. 62 .. not about how to discern where that body and its place may be. So when something moves inside something which is moving and the thing inside moves about (e. the ultimate containment must occur at the final celestial sphere. and so on. Water functions to define a particular body’s immediate place in two ways. as well. The bodies within this singular cosmological place occupy their own places.

Nevertheless. It was neither necessary nor intended that the lines refer to actual courses between specific ports of call. the best-known and most widely discussed. followed by several tables of coordinates for his sightings of the various buildings and landmarks of Rome. at last.36 Of the exceptions to this situation. prior to the reintroduction of Ptolemaic mapping in the early fifteenth century. place in the example of the ship nevertheless relies on the material stability of the riverbank for its definition.37 63 . if not impossible. No map has ever been traced to it. Surveying itself remained a textual rather than a cartographic art.Michael Emerson The indeterminate place of water. the river’s parts would rotate around themselves and establish the finality of place. but there is no doubt that their primary purpose was to serve ships at sea. One could argue that the river responds in a similar way to the example of the cosmos composed entirely of water. Most of the extant portolanos have survived because they were safe from the deterioration of the sea within the libraries of shore-bound scholars who were covetous of the cartographic accuracy navigators imparted to their charts. disturbs this immaterial notion of place. For the ship the indeterminate nature of water place seems to require a more material. a series of straight lines radiating from sixteen points in circular distribution around the map. as the task of defining and describing property was most often carried out in written reports. mode of relation. a nautical chart and typically the most geographically precise representations of land mass and shore detail available. However. and therefore potentially metrical. the watery cosmos is a unique situation. And this. was the medieval portolano. primarily because such rigorous measurement was not a commonplace occurrence in late medieval Europe. for the exigencies of actual navigation made sailing along a single course rare. however. and after Aristotle has taken great care to separate place from body. as its final containment is the result of there being nowhere else for it to go. The Descriptio itself is a short work and includes a scant several hundred words of explanation. navigators were continually updating their course against their heading. it looms large in accounts of the development of Renaissance spatiality. brings us to Alberti. and therefore by Aristotle’s definition it cannot be a boat’s place. due to a sort of “uncertainty principle”: no flowing river can confidently be said to be unchangeable. tacking into the wind or adrift in currents. The portolano’s most evident formal characteristic is its network of windlines.

Bibliothèque Nationale 64 .Alberti at Sea Pisan chart. showing the coast of Italy (late thirteenth century).

the ruler and pair of dividers or compasses. using scaled rulers printed along the chart’s edges. from landform or sea to map. The earliest extant portolano. The navigator then transferred the distance he had made on that wind to the chart. Taylor notes. established an affinity between the new geometrical instruments of navigation and those of terrestrial place-making: “The pilot was now required to furnish himself with the two instruments that always lay to the hand of the practical geometer – hitherto only the architect or master-mason and the surveyor – namely. did not themselves determine course but. then. shows a grid at the periphery of the radiating windlines.R. it is usually assumed that the portolanos were initially produced with information provided by ship’s captains and their logs and then expanded and revised over time.”39 The compass in both cases allowed scaled translations between actual material conditions and their representations: from stone to template. 1290). and quarter winds in red. However. A description of the geometrical process for constructing the network of windlines survives.Michael Emerson The windlines. although what role it may have played in locating topographical features is unclear. the carte pisane (c. advanced by minute steps” (6.38 Alberti himself may have hinted at such a process in his architectural treatise when he notes that “sailing too. maps of various times and places show much standardization of information and gradual increase in both breadth and precision. Having determined distance and direction from the point of his last calculation. due to the same lack of alignment with major ports and headlands mentioned above. The mapping in Descriptio 65 . from which he could then determine what changes were necessary to achieve his desired course. The techniques used to construct portolanos are less clear. rather. Intriguingly.G. To ameliorate the process. windlines were color-coded: the main winds in black. the navigator could then prick his new location on the chart. allowed headings and courses to be figured. but it is doubtful that such lines were active determinants of coastal form. This has led some to speculate about the existence of a “master” map. the navigator found among the dense distribution of preprinted lines the one parallel to his heading. as almost every other art. Using his dividers and ruler. The development of map-based medieval navigation.40 However.2. Alberti did not simply copy the techniques used to create portolan charts but appropriated the way they were used. nautical historian E.157). half winds in green.

in fact. a navigational aid developed by sixteenth-century English pilots. and architectural elements such as churches and civic buildings. Alberti directly sighted his peripheral places from atop the Capitoline hill. Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Early Renaissance (1969) Urbis Romae was performed using a “horizon. After noting the position of each object relative to the horizon. Drawing on compass and chart techniques learned from the Italians.Alberti at Sea Alberti’s horizon and radius. although certainly not on the order of a mappa 66 . there are substantial differences. It is. with a similarly marked rotating radial arm on top that also served as sight guide. whereas the portolan existed precisely because points of departure and arrival were not mutually observable. their distances were most likely walked off and scaled to the radial arm. with the temporal regularity performing the standardizing function of Alberti’s minutes. and sighted the city walls. From Joan Gadol. Thus. Alberti’s great advantage over the navigator was the benefit of a stable. oriented it north. the scope of the portolanos. Similar though the two techniques appear. the English sailors would peg the wind-rose board with the wind followed over the previous half-hour. Furthermore. which allowed him to confidently establish many peripheral positions/courses from a single spot. the river’s course. central position to perform his sightings.” an instrument of Alberti’s design consisting of a flat. a process similar to that of the mariner’s traverse board. circular disk marked along its edge with forty-eight primary degrees (gradus) and three more marks (minuta) between each degree. He set the horizon atop the Capitoline hill.

So then why did Alberti insist on such strict mathematization? He was fascinated by the aesthetic qualities of highly geometrized cartography. I have stepped repeatedly upon each isle. Liber Insularum Archipelagi. While there is some evidence that such books were in fact taken to sea. with even the smaller maps operating on a regional level.”42 To give the reader a better sense of the possibilities of Alberti’s cartographic procedures.” True to his stated method. referring to such maps. the isolario’s origins lie as much in quattrocento humanism’s renewed fascination with Greek culture as in the functions of late-medieval navigation. which combined geographical and historical descriptions of Aegean islands in Latin prose with maps of each island. claiming that he will “demonstrate with true effect how I have searched the Aegean sea. the mapping exercises he put forth in his Ludi Rerum Mathematicarum offer related interests within a different mathematical and authorial context. along with a woodcut chart for each island. with intersecting parallels drawn perpendicular to one another. and how with compass to the wind. Bartolomeo dalli Sonnetti produced the first printed isolario. and with a stylus marked their true position on the chart. its rocks both bare and filled with growth. as “beautifully depicted in triangles. or island atlas. with its strict coordinate system. was a nautically derived map form whose scope and surveying process closely matched Alberti’s. One may instead want to consider the Descriptio’s relation to the portolan to be a second-order relation. Like the portolan. In the 1480s. rectangles. In 1420 Cristoforo Buondelmonti finished the manuscript and maps for the first of such works. and indeed they exhibit the sort of conventionalized outlinework that Alberti’s Descriptio. Sonnetti reveals his mapping procedure in the preface to his work.Michael Emerson mundi.41 However such maps could easily have been taken from high ground without instrumentation. he noted the positions of various objects in the landscape. As in the Descriptio’s exercise. was broad. the sightings described in the Ludi are performed with a plumb line rather than a radius and sightings were taken 67 . this allowed one line of position to be drawn from the initial observation point to the points observed. in a passage later excised from Musca. rendering Buondelmonti’s prose descriptions in his own Italian verse. compass roses are inscribed under and around each island’s coastal outline. its ports and bays. The isolario. However. consciously seems to avoid. hexagons.43 Sighting again through the horizon. it was an Italian innovation.

That is. place it so that a ship which had to navigate from the first to the second place could go along the same wind-line. the surveyor is now instructed to “go to a place which has been seen from the first one and place your instrument flat and in such a position that it lies on the line of that same number through which you first saw it on your instrument. Alberti urged the young cleric to both “contemplate and put into practice” the principles contained therein. and this is perhaps the reason he titled these exercises ludi (games). although not given over to Cusanus’s intensive manner of geometrical conjecture. Triangulation’s “promise of perfection” is predicated on the fact that each position is mathematically dependent on other geographical phenomena for its positioning. the medieval navigators’ familiarity with coastal elevations would have rendered such techniques superfluous. The mathematics of proportional triangles was neither new nor terribly complicated. was addressing prospective applications as well as practical realities. and thus. was not trivial. were nothing of the sort.Alberti at Sea through the plumb line. The book’s purpose. however. Alberti establishes a baseline by taking careful measurement of the distance between the first two points. Ludi Rerum Mathematicarum can be seen to open onto a similarly expanded field of meaning. then on monastic retreat for training in the administration of abbeys. but through to one of the other peripheral points.”44 Alberti then sights back not only to the first point. thus effecting for that point two lines of position. it seems. for rather than simply walking off the distances to fix final positions. these methods of triangulation. Cusanus. Alberti. In a second exercise.48 Such instructions are consonant with Renaissance neoplatonism’s interest in serio ludere. brother of his late friend Leonello. even by fifteenth-century standards.47 Within the circumscribed world of Mediterranean navigation. for whom games were primarily an ethical 68 . or serious games. as Alberti originally sent the work to Meliaduso d’Este. Triangulation of a ship’s position against a coastline was not possible until the development of mathematically precise coastal maps. he could determine their distances by simple trigonometry. which Gadol describes as principles “long familiar to navigation and nautical surveying”46 and which Alberti himself appears to acknowledge. which did not occur with any regularity or success until well into the eighteenth century. the very title of the work evidences this notion.45 However. Following the angular determinations from each of these two points to the third. Indeed.

Distance measurement. From Abel Foullon. Descrittione et uso dell’Holometro (1564) .

place. but he playfully disrupts such distinctions by hinting at another. contemplative dimension. each potential centre and the person occupying it were relationally determined. as it became only one of many points that might prove useful in determining further positions. “In fact some branches of knowledge have their instruments and games. the starting position was no longer of primary concern. such as taking measurements across rivers or of tower heights. beyond pragmatic chartings. if the material problematics of water frustrate his attempts at constructing place. what is it that allowed him to think so? What were the conditions within which the relational space of ethics was achieved? And what role did architecture play in establishing this place? 70 . Nevertheless. music its monochord – nor is the game of chess or checkers lacking in the mystery of moral things.Alberti at Sea endeavour. Alberti acknowledged that navigational practices and instruments presented. as in the navigational geometry that defined such experience. in proceeding from point to point. Indeed I do think that no honest game is entirely lacking in the capacity to instruct. Thus. the geometries of the sea offer better opportunities. be anywhere – a notion that itself arose from at-sea experience. an opportunity to contemplate a different sense of place. indeed. by setting out his cartographic method within the contemplatively charged rhetoric of games. rather than a static. speculative. That Alberti intended his geometry to be the subject of contemplation in the rigorous manner of Cusanus is doubtful. Alberti’s mapping technique made operational Cusanus’s maxim – the centre could.”49 Hugh of St Victor’s twelfth-century treatise Practica Geometriae posited two realms of geometrical operation: “The entire discipline of geometry is either theoretical. raising ships Aquatic situations have so far been seen to offer both destabilizing and stabilizing possibilities for Alberti’s understanding of architectural bodies. It is widely known that Alberti considered architecture an ethical project. arithmetic has its number games. And. or practical. that is. that is active. one informed by the relations between bodies occupying a mobile.”50 Alberti’s work contains problems typically found in the practical treatises. 1460). After the initial sightings. states concerning his own De Ludo Globi (The Game of Spheres.

whereupon he arrives in a dreamworld atop an impassably steep and rocky mountain populated by countless shades. How does the constructed. so that even the most skilled and seasoned are scarcely able to swim through the wreckage and the throng of 71 . which are twofold. particular motions are effected within and conditioned by spatial relations. At its base he observes a turbulent river “which flowed into itself. each with an allegorical association. and desire. as the passage moves forward. the way of a snake on a rock. gradually progressing toward old age as they make their way to the opposite shore. the snake’s on the rock. 30:18–19). Feeling dissatisfied with their remarks. a wise man measures the limits of his mind against the perplexing motions of creation: “Four [things] I do not understand: the way of an eagle in the sky. these relations map out a spectrum of generative reciprocities defined at one end by the material instinct of the animal world and by the erotic motions of humanity at the other. as the possibility of its navigation (its “way”) is derived from both the basic material contingencies of water and the (re)productive powers of humanity. the eagle’s motion takes place within the sky. Neither self-activated nor solely manipulated from the outside. or “in Latin. Upon entering the river. First. through its ambiguous motions the ship is revealed as the architectural collation of matter. reason. the way of a ship on the high seas.” The allegory opens with Alberti up late at his desk. the ship occupies a unique position in the order of creation. and often capsize. and so on. and its bank is called Death (Mors). where a consideration of the ethical status of construction appears in the short maritime allegory “Fatum et Fortuna. he dozes off and falls into a dream. Second.Michael Emerson In the book of Proverbs. Alberti asks a shade the river’s name and is told it is Bios. studying the ancients’ notions of fate. the river is called Life (Vita) and the age of mortals. 1430–40). and the way of a man with a girl” (Prov.” The shade then instructs Alberti in the various manners of crossing the river. the shades take the form of children. architectural body of the ship and its navigations figure in this catalogue of natural motions? A tentative answer is suggested by the movements of the text itself. only to become shades again when it is reached.” into which the shades descend by a narrow pass. Alberti brings these concerns together in his Intercenales (c. Larger ships are empires and are especially prone to difficulty: “They are dashed amid the rocks by buffeting waves. Occurring at the limits of these.

British Library endangered shades. More praiseworthy are those shades who “from the beginning rely on their own strength in swimming to complete their passage through Life. Alberti closes the allegory with the wish that some day he too will achieve the fame given the worthiest of shades. ancient representations of the world as a relatively flat. but who have expanded and brought about new planks with fragments salvaged from the many unfortunate wrecks. such manner of navigation is of benefit. Asia.” Most fortunate of all are those who help others in their crossings by constructing for them the planks on which are inscribed names of the liberal arts.” However. Second to them are those whose wings and sandals are not perfect and who thus do not fully escape the water.51 The name refers to the map’s representational conventions: a circular earth of three continents. removed from the tumult of the sea below. With wings and winged sandals they walk godlike across the waves. sep72 . Alberti’s description of the dreamscape presents a figure well known to the cartographers of his day.Alberti at Sea Isidorean T-O map (1472). rounded body surrounded by an encircling ocean survived in t-o maps. one for each of Noah’s three sons. Africa. and Europe. Up through the fifteenth century. with a worthy helmsman/ruler and diligent practice of virtue among the crew.

”57 Alberti’s solution was to use empty casks strung across the lake as a floating base for a series of hoists and winches that imported Genoan divers attached to the submerged wreckage with ropes and large iron hooks. The encircling ocean in such representations lies at the edge of the earth. But the traditional figure remained for him a significant literary device and contemplative figure. 1446).54 But the shoreline. south of Rome. nautical 73 . a short work. has also been lost.Michael Emerson arated by the t of three great rivers flowing into a surrounding ocean. its tides somewhat predictable. It is such a liminal position between the earthly and heavenly realms that contemplative activity seeks.” but among them is the Talmudic appropriation of the Greek Okeanos as Oqyanos.52 For Alberti.58 Information obtained in the endeavour regarding the construction of ancient ships appears in book 5 of De Re Aedificatoria. Although in the end only a small part of the wreckage was raised. but in a cursory manner. Some are as inconsequential as the word for “bilge water. In 1446 he supervised the attempt to raise an ancient Roman ship from the bottom of Lake Nemi. now lost. The sea shifts with waves and tides. its surges and recessions are observable. Raphael Patai has given direct evidence of Hebrew borrowings of Greek marine/architectural terminology. which was to be appended to an early edition of the book (prologue. This resistance to measure defines the lifespan of Alberti’s shades when made human by the vivifying waters and underscores both the inevitability and indeterminacy of mortality.”53 a definition that corresponds to the Greek concept of a watery circumference to the world. ostensibly treating the mechanical principles of weights learned during the operation. the project garnered Alberti much acclaim. Alberti’s interest in shipwrecks and shipbuilding was more than metaphorical. In the Vitruvian tradition. such overtly symbolic conventions as the t-o map presents had given way to a more mathematically rigorous mapping system.55 but its boundlessness frustrates precise measuring. the terminal point of the sea. is especially appropriate. Cardinal Prospero Colonna praised him in suitably humanist terms as “an excellent geometer and the author of very fine books on the art of building.56 In choosing Alberti for the task. De Motibus Ponderis. with storms and seasons. 6). the “green line that surrounds the whole earth.59 A second book pertaining to the operation. Alberti instead refers readers to his more extensive treatment of shipbuilding in his treatise De Navis (c.

it is an investigation of the mediated condition of intersubjective encounters. height of mast to ship length for all ships. this setting that allow such inquiry to occur. who has declared himself “obsessed by a spatial sensibility that geometry in and of itself is inadequate to 74 . But he does provide an outline of shipbuilding theory. noting. conclusion Architects and theoreticians have recently expressed a fascination with the sea. it is the objects manufactured for. in which he extends his physiognomic metaphor of construction. of a clipper. the ancients would use the lineaments of a fish. offer an alternative response to the violent character of Alberti’s static aquatic constructions.60 The glimpse of De Navis that Alberti provides focuses on naval applications of military technology and corresponds to the general consideration of military camps in book 5. it does not present such a connection with other such bodies either. If these lineaments were laid out correctly. like those of Cusanus’s map. 9:1. But at the core of each of these is the larger question of the ethical function of architecture in the early Renaissance. But if Alberti’s body presented no inherent connection between himself and the sea. Alberti previously dismissed the idea of a connection between humanity and the sea precisely because the sea presented itself as an entity of disordered motion. For Alberti. 1:1.12. with the proper flaring and tapering from bow to stern. 3:1. the oars as its gills and fins” (5. Such relationships are established only through the products of constructive endeavour.Alberti at Sea motion results from the application of mechanical force. the proportionally derived ship establishes the possibility of humanity’s inhabitation.137).136). These ratios of the ship. Now. then. so that its back became the hull. His is not yet an ethics of intimacy with those around him. the rudder would serve as it tail. and sometimes against. its head the prow.12. moving through the waters “as if of its own accord” (5. the Old Testament mystery of a ship’s vivification is explicitly mathematized according to a set of ideal proportions: length-to-breadth ratio of a cargo ship. with the action of the wind on a sail and a pilot on the rudder described by the principles of the fulcrum. If the sea is an especially propitious place for ethical inquiry. the ship would indeed be fish-like. Case in point: Jeffrey Kipnis. “In building a ship.

notes 1 Eugene T. when given over to reflection. Cecil Grayson. ny: The Renaissance Society of America 1987). 25–29 aprile 1972 (Rome: Accademia Nazional dei Lincei 1974): 129–37.” in Leon Battista 75 . see Charles Burroughs. or otherwise.62 The possibilities and frustrations of aquatic place in the early Renaissance promote a way of thinking and acting that recognizes the world’s surfeit of meaning. become each other. do not lose the traces of their respective geometries. written. Further notes will be given in the text. Roma-Mantova-Firenze. ed. This paper has been concerned less with Deleuzian thought per se than with his observation that the geometries of the sea (“smooth spaces”) and those of the built environment (“striated spaces”) exist within each other. especially the work of Gilles Deleuze. trans. and. David Marsh (Binghampton. always occur as historically specific. despite attempts at generalization. deep space of the ocean.61 Those given to this sub-marine sensibility seek to engender new modes of architectural behaviour by opposing lingering essentialist. Descriptio Urbis Romae. in Convegno internazionale indetto nel V Centenario di Leon Battista Alberti. in building and mapping. embodied events. Ludi Rerum Mathematicarum. and determinist strains in architecture (associated with Euclidean geometries) with a structural metaphorics of fluidity that draws upon recent Continental philosophy. “Alberti e Roma. Neil Leach. viscous. Gendlin. in Opere volgari di Leon Battista Alberti. but rather become inscribed in new ways. trans. These events. Joseph Rykwert. On the Art of Building in Ten Books. possibly. “Fate and Fortune. in which shifting horizons of experience are acknowledged and vigorously explored.” Analecta Husserliana 19 (1985): 383–94. 3 (Bari: Laterza & Figli 1973). 2 Leon Battista Alberti. in thinking. 23–27. and Italian trans. built. ed. in writing. approaching it not as an ineffability or an insurmountable obstacle to understanding but rather as an opening for places. vol. 3 On the fountain.Michael Emerson engender … the geometry of the vast. Giovanni Orlandi. and do so in a complex series of interactions between subjects and architectural objects that.” in Dinner Pieces.” an obsession he believes pervades architectural discourse. hushed. and Robert Tavernor (Cambridge: mit Press 1988). realist. “Nonlogical Moves and Nature Metaphors.

Ten Books on Architecture. Ibid. Alberti in the Mirror: An Interpretation of the Vita with a New Translation. and 10. 134–57. In Profugiorum ab Aerumna (c. 9–10. 3–18. Randles. Raven. trans.8.L. organs. ed. Rowland (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1999). wheels.Alberti at Sea 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 76 Alberti. 96. Presocratic Philosophers. 12–26.E. Theology and the Scientific Imagination (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1986). G. Kirk. also. Raven. “L. W. Ursula Lamb (Aldershot. 1442). See Rowland’s introduction to Ten Books on Architecture. A History of the Theories of Rain (London: Oldbourne 1965).23.262. see Christine Smith. 91. Knowles Middleton. Amos Funkenstein.” Italian Quarterly 30 (1989): 5–30. and M.G. On Leon Battista Alberti: His Literary and Aesthetic Theories (Cambridge: mit Press 1989).122–9. Schofield.” in The Globe Encircled and the World Revealed. “The Evaluation of Columbus’ ‘India’ Project by Portuguese and Spanish Cartographers in the Light of the Geographic Science of the Time. Ten Books on Architecture. For a discussion of this work. The history of this development is treated extensively in Alexandre Koyré. The splitting of the Red Sea is recounted in similarly militaristic terms . 8. 76–99. Renee Watkins.5:205a30–35.S. screws. See W.128. Translations from Aristotle’s Physics Books III and IV. 2d ed.6. preface. Important in this regard is Mark Jarzombek. pumps. 5–6n41. Vitruvius. trans. Aristotle Physics 3. on drums. and an odometer.98–103.E. (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1983). Joseph Rykwert and Anne Engel (Milan: Electa 1994).B. a temple’s roof symbolizes virtue’s battle against vice. J.2. preface. Vitruvius. De architectura 8. and Schofield. Ingrid D. Alberti describes the bridge in dra 8. Edward Hussey (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1983). 9. ed.3. also 2. 96. England: Variorum 1995).. Jarzombek traces Alberti’s use of medieval theological sources to argue his relation to mystical humanism. Ibid. From the Closed World to the Infinite Universe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press 1957)..116–18. Ten Books on Architecture. 8. Architecture and the Culture of Early Humanism (New York: Oxford University Press 1992). Kirk.35. on water clocks. The Presocratic Philosophers.

For Robin Evans. Joan Gadol. Raven. John Pinto sees the medieval nautical chart as a precursor to Alberti’s “ichnographic” map but defers the analysis of such connections to Gadol.C.C. The Fragility of Goodness (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1986). 44–6. ed. see Dana Bennett Durand. Crombie and Nancy Siraisi (Northampton. 53–101. ed. Crombie. ma: Smith College Studies in History 1987).” in Marcel Destombes: Selected Contributions to the History of Cartography and Scientific Instruments. in On Alberti and the Art of Building (New Haven: Yale University Press 1998). who praises the maps for their accuracy and laments the continued use of “impressionistic” and “sensational” maps such as the Mirabilis Romae Urbis.” in The Rational Arts of Living. in The Projective Cast: Architecture and its Three Geometries (Cambridge: mit Press 1995).Michael Emerson 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 (Exod. The 77 . 205–54. Dozeman. ed. 86–7. “The Renaissance City Image. 242. and Steven de Clercq (Utrecht: hes Publishers 1987). See Thomas B. Most closely aligned with Gadol is Robert Tavernor. and Schofield. 13–18. 302–3. Facsimile reproduction in Waters. Rutters of the Sea. See “La diffusion des instruments scientifiques au haut moyen age au xve siécle. “Contingent Expectation and Uncertain Choice: Historical Contexts of Arguments from Probabilities. in the sixth century bc. 158–9. Peter van der Krogt. Crombie and Siraisi. Leon Battista Alberti: Universal Man of the Renaissance (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1969). Aristotle Nichomachean Ethics 1112a18ff. Günter Schilder. see A. Michel Destombes calls Cusa “une grande influence pour la promotion des études géographiques et astronomiques en Italie et dans le Sud de l’Allemagne. such maps as Alberti’s are symptomatic of a change in geometry’s function from formal generation toward description. Liane Lefaivre is more speculative in likening the Descriptio’s map to both nautical charts and the Hynerotomachia’s island map of Cythera.” His astronomical instruments are extant in his library in Kues.” in The Rational Arts of Living. On the role of deliberation in the development of Western thought. See Kirk. A. Thales of Miletus is reputed to have identified the Little Bear constellation. 126–31. Martha Nussbaum. in Leon Battista Alberti’s Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (Cambridge: mit Press 1997). in which the pole star is located. On the controversial history of the map. 14:22–15:18). God at War: Power in the Exodus Tradition (New York: Oxford University Press 1996). Presocratic Philosophers. 168–95.

1. H. 1472–1500 (London: British Library 1987). Dedicatory Epistle. 206. in . See her “From the Desert to the New World: The Viator. Emphasis added. The Soul’s Journey into God. Gerald Christianson and Thomas M. I have amended Hopkins’s translations to retain the original cosmographicus where he has it as “geographer. De Docta Ignorantia. see H. On Learned Ignorance. which is called the macrocosm. Lawrence Bond. 252–66.” For Pauline Moffitt Watts. and more recently. trans. “Nicholas of Cusa from Constantinople to ‘Learned Ignorance’: The Historical Matrix for the Formation of the De Docta Ignorantia. Morrogh et al. ed. It is also a rhetorical topic.” Nicholas of Cusa. trans. Cusanus’s homo cosmographicus marks a profound shift in Christianity’s notion of spiritual journey.” and “the reference. Further references are given in the text. vol. which is called the smaller world. enjoy and judge sensible things. ed. For Marjorie O’Rourke Boyle the experience of place in Cusanus’s illuminative event is an example of epideictic rhetoric: “Place may be a geographical fact.” Journal of Religion 71 (1991): 180–201.” Renaissance Studies in Honor of Craig Hugh Smith. is more significantly symbolic.J. through the doors of the five senses as we perceive.Alberti at Sea 27 28 29 30 31 32 78 Vienna-Klosternburg Map Corpus (Leiden: E. Bonaventure. Banning Press 1996). 35–55. trans. Lawrence Bond. Ewert Cousins in Bonaventure (New York: Paulist Press 1978). 135–43.” See her “Cusanus At Sea: The Topicality of Illuminative Discourse. even if fundamentally literal. in Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings (New York: Paulist Press 1997). H. That Cusanus’s illuminative event may be significant as a fundamentally geographical and literally embodied experience of place is precisely what I intend to address. the Venator. from that of the pilgrim (viator) to the hunter (venator).” in Nicholas of Cusa on Christ and the Church.J. A. Nicholas of Cusa. Campbell notes the similarity between Baltic coastal outlines on nautical charts and those on Cusanus’s map. (Florence: Giunti Barbèra 1985). Lawrence Bond. The Earliest Printed Maps. trans. Izbicki (Leiden: E. Tony Campbell. Compendium. and the Age of Discoveries. 519–30. 69: “It should be noted that this world. Jasper Hopkins in Nicholas of Cusa on Wisdom and Knowledge (Minneapolis. Brill 1952). enters our soul. mn: Arthur J. On the circumstances surrounding Cusanus’s voyage. Brill 1996). 409–11. Nicholas of Cusa.

Haven-Finding Art. Opere volgari 3. There is a reprint of Sonnetti’s Isolario. Taylor. For a general history. On Buondelmonti.” in Écrire la monde à la Renaissance (Caen: Paradigme 1993). Amsterdam: Theatris Orbis Terrarum 1972). in “Fortunes de singularité à la Renaissance: Le genre de l’‘Isolario’. Medieval Maps (London: British Library 1991). Ibid. Helen M. 39–49. 320–3. 212a21–5. andrete altrove in luogo pur simile e veduto de questo primo. Ibid. Books III and IV (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1983). vol.D..12. 4. 117–21. 164: “Fatto questo. e statuiretelo che proprio stia sulla linea medesima di quel numero per quale voi prima lo vedesti al diritto sul vostro instrumento.” Modulus 22 (1993): 3–15. “Local and Regional Cartography in Medieval Europe.. J. Frederick Goff (Venice. Physics 5. P.” Terrae Incognitae 19 (1987): 11–28. 111. 79 . Quoted in Anthony Grafton. ed.. 163–9. “Christopher Buondelmonti and the Isolario.4: 211a1–10.A. 1. mi: University of Michigan Press 1997) 66n47. Frank Lestringant sees sixteenth-century French interest in the “singularities” of the island as part of the development of a scientific world view. Marco Frascari. 2.” Translation by Gadol. Haven-Finding Art. cioè che se da quella torre prima sino a qui una nave avesse a navicare. e porrete il vostro instrumento. Wallis and Arthur H. Ibid.5: 212a31–35. 17–48. see Cartographical Innovations: An International Handbook of Mapping Terms to 1900.4: 212a14–20. 4.A. The process of attaining the desired course from a deviation was called “resolving the traverse” and required the use of two trigonometric tables. Harvey and David Woodward (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1987).D. see Hillary Louise Turner. also. Edward Hussey in Aristotle’s Physics.160–1.B. “The Compass and the Crafty Art of Architecture. ed. The operation is described in Taylor. 175.” in The History of Cartography. verrebbe per quel medesimo vento segnato. intro. 495. Harvey. Harvey.Michael Emerson 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 Nicholas of Cusa: Selected Spiritual Writings (New York: Paulist Press 1997). 1485. P. Robinson (St Albans: Map Collector Publications 1982). Alberti: Universal Man. Commerce with the Classics: Ancient Texts and Renaissance Readers (Ann Arbor. Trans.

48 Gadol. Pauline Moffitt Watts (New York: Abaris Books 1986). See also E. trans. 236. infamous emperors. and Schofield.G. 54 On okeanos. 46 Gadol. and Schofield. 25–32. 125–47. 47 Paul Carter. Putnam’s Sons 1959). 49 Nicholas of Cusa. Even then. Joseph Rykwert and Anne Engel (Milan: Electa 1994). Mapping an Empire: The Geographical Construction of British India. See also Gustina Scaglia. see Kirk. Edney.136. Leona C. Raven. 104–5. see Kirk. “Geometrical Knowledge. Raven. Taylor. 50 Cited by Shelby. see Edgar Wind.W. Tiberius (14–37 ad). Della sphera. ed. The Geometrical Seaman (London: Hollis & Carter 1962). P. Alberti attributed construction to the later emperor Trajan (91–118 ad) at 5. trans. 55 Tidal charts are known from the fifteenth century on. See also Indra Kagis McEwen. Denis Cosgrove (London: Reaktion 1999). The Children of Noah (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1998). Florence A.Alberti at Sea 45 Matthew H. ma: mit Press 1993).” in Mappings. Gabel (New York: G. as lead pipes found with the wreckage were inscribed with the name of his precursor. 316–29. Many of the details of the raising and additional information regarding the lake and its environs are found in Pope Pius II’s commentaries. 222. 1765–1843 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1997). 112. Pagan Mysteries in the Renaissance (New York: W. 80 . 52 Leonardo Dati coined the term “t-o map” in 1422 in his widely distributed book of geographical lore. 175. Socrates’ Ancestor (Cambridge. 16–25. ed.” 395–421. The Presocratic Philosophers. Alberti: Universal Man. 168. Alberti.” in Leon Battista Alberti. 56 The ships are now thought to have been extravagant pleasure barges built by the emperor Caligula (37–41 ad). 55. De ludo globi. 10–17. presumably because his reign’s extensive building program created a more palatable association for Alberti’s patron than either of the earlier. The translation is hers. ed. “Dark with Excess of Bright: Mapping the Coastlines of Knowledge. Gregg. 85–6.R. 16–19. but evidence at the time pointed elsewhere. Presocratic Philosophers. 53 Raphael Patai. in Memoirs of a Renaissance Pope.12. “Alberti e la meccanina della tecnologia descritta nel ‘De Re Aedificatoria’ e nei ‘Ludi matematici’. On serio ludere. 51 On Anaximander. Norton 1958).

nos. See Lionel Casson. 137–40.” Architectural Design 67. but the mode of spatialization. 213–15. 58 Further archeological attempts at Lake Nemi met with similarly dubious results. transformations of one within the other. and more fully in Franco Borsi. tx: University of Texas Press 1994). Alberti: Universal Man. 27. Italian engineers extracted the remains of Caligula’s two pleasure barges by draining the lake.C. 5–6 (May–June 1997): 42–7. Ships and Seafaring in Ancient Times (Austin. Vita di Leon Battista Alberti (Florence: G. 10.Michael Emerson 57 Girolamo Mancini. 314. Alberti’s description of the ships’ materials and construction techniques matches that given by Casson. 61 Jeffrey Kipnis. of being for space. 60 Ten Books on Architecture. 482.3. “(Architecture) after Geometry – An Anthology of Mysteries. Carpanini (New York: Rizzoli 1989). Sansoni 1882). 62 “What distinguishes the two kinds of voyages is neither a measurable quantity of movement nor something that would be only in the mind. Rudolf G. mn: University of Minnesota Press 1987). trans. were on display in a lakeside museum until destroyed in a skirmish with retreating German forces in 1944.123. In the 1930s. trans. The recovered hulls. Brian Massumi (Minneapolis. the manner of being in space. passage translation from Franco Borsi. although missing their superstructure. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. 204n78. Voyage smoothly or in striation. and think in the same way … But there are always passages from one to the other. Gilles Deleuze and Félix Guattari. 81 . reversals” (emphasis added). 59 For a brief discussion of the history of this lost work. Leon Battista Alberti: The Complete Works. see Gadol. Alberti: The Complete Works.

The Rediscovery of the Hinterland Marc Glaudemans Chora .

the clouds drift apart. from how things are given names in language. To recognize and to understand this process is the main issue of this essay. Paul Valéry1 It’s a misty autumn day.4 Every culture has to become familiar with its landscape and even with the category of landscape itself. Lemaire’s fundamental argument about the appearance of the landscape invokes phenomenology: What is the meaning of landscape and nature? What do time. et donc à le voir. However. The first part of this essay is an etymological enquiry.3 Consequently. All of the terms mentioned in this 84 . the sun finally breaks through. derived from the Greek phainomai (appearing). not only for every individual but also for the collective culture. and the horizon widens into the distant line that unites all things in a grand coherence: the world has become a landscape. and the scenery is lost in fog. their being. Ton Lemaire2 with the above quotation the Dutch philosopher Ton Lemaire started his essay “The Appearance of Landscape. et elle les instruisit à ne pas voir ce qui n’existe pas. much can be learned from the etymology of the words. space. Apparently “landscape” is not an a priori category. what is the significance of the historical dimension of our landscapes? Phenomenology.” which describes the evolution of a neutral space into a meaningful landscape. Around noon. when it loses its autonomy and becomes integrated into the urban space of the city. the awakening to this new phenomenon often occurs at the moment of its supreme disappearance. the epiphany of landscape should be understood as a process that is largely mental. and experience signify with regard to landscape? In this context. This arrangement of things into a new. seeks the essence of things. coherent order called landscape follows not only the rhythms of the day or the seasons but also the course of every human life. Whatever this essence may be. Later in the morning the fog disappears and it slowly becomes possible to perceive the world around as the silhouettes of trees and houses appear.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland La photo accoutuma les yeux à attendre ce qu’ils doivent voir. it has to emerge from the disordered elements of the world. et qu’ils voyaient fort bien avant elle.

the observing individual. the mathematical precision. The architectural theorist Mark Wigley pursues this mental aspect of perception: “A building. They do not possess the neutral objectivity.” he states.5 x 62 cm. we may substitute other terms for the term “building. “can no longer be separated from the gaze that appears to be directed at it. Mauritshuis.The Hague brief introduction are historically and culturally defined constructions.” Using almost the same words. Few terms have been more manipulated or more widely defined than “landscape” and “nature.” but also “city” and “culture. This was evident in the Lemaire quotation: the world became a landscape to the spectator. Simon Schama was able to describe the perception of landscape: “Before landscape can ever be a repose for the senses. Moreover. Before having a certain look. the building is a certain way of looking.Jakob van Ruysdael.”5 This is an important observation.” Before these various terms can be defined in relation to one another. View of Haarlem (1628–82).”6 85 . 55. Its scenery is built up as much from strata of memory as from layers of rock. it is important to stress that their “differences” are mental in the first place. it is a work of the mind. that modern science demands of its concepts and terms. Oil on canvas.

of nature and culture. convention. an engagement of culture and nature.” says Magritte. so that neither painting nor view are clearly distinguishable. soil. This certainly applies to landscape. we should also ascribe a transforming impact to our look: the look itself changes what is being looked upon. convention. that we regard the city in its territorial appearance. “This is how we see the world. in the first place. To mark the ground is one of the most fundamental acts of architecture. in which Magritte discusses La condition humaine. “We see it as being outside ourselves. The word “territory” refers to landscape in two ways: as it appears to us in reality and as it is imagined by the mind. The term is introduced because it is a basic concept in the disciplines of architecture. a fascinating painting of a painting that has been placed in front of the view that it portrays. following Oswald Spengler’s observations from his Decline of the West (1918–22). he writes. In this very short overview four similar points of view ascribe a fundamental effect to our perception of things. earth). It is precisely what transforms a piece of land into a territory (from terre and terra. Schama illustrates this statement with an example from the visual arts. and building. even if it is only a mental representation of what we experience on the inside. consequently. He quotes a passage from a lecture by the Belgian artist René Magritte. and cognition: these are the filters that enable the mind to turn the world into a landscape. a mental construction. In the introduction to his book Landscape and Memory. Culture.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland Landscape. All landscapes are the result of the mutual permeation of man and environment. especially as it is viewed from the city. coloured by the observing subject itself. this projection not only regards the passive transformations within the mind of the spectator. 86 . Culture. Seeing is a form of projection. could lead to a refined conception that would benefit many of the current issues in architecture and urban design. nature and culture. This understanding would imply. and cognition enable this form to appear on our retina and perhaps to be experienced as beauty. Moreover.”7 Schama interprets this statement as an illustration of mental projection. Whatever exists beyond the windowpane of our understanding needs a design before we can discern its form and identity and eventually “enjoy” what we see. urban design. Lemaire repeates the notion that landscape is an urban view of the world. has become a cultural phenomenon.8 An integrated understanding of the phenomena of city and country.

the reference of each element to the reality of what Husserl called the Lebenswelt. of course. To attain this goal.9 The question. anticipating the understanding of the city as territory.Marc Glaudemans René Magritte. La Condition Humaine (1934).10 In architecture one of these dimensions often remains absent. is what we would gain from this perspective. It is certainly not meant to deny the difference between city and country but to understand this difference in light of their resemblance. Architecture is then either reduced to a purely formal exercise without the symbolic (in Husserl’s terms. several concepts and terms have to be redefined. its modern founder. Edmund Husserl. stated that each term and each system derives its meaning from two dimensions: the formal dimension. could be understood as landscape. as their communal product and project. and the city. Oil on canvas. territory. 100 x 81 cm. To return to phenomenology. corresponding to the structure or the form of the system itself. Private collection Architecture and urban design are essentially territorial. “intentional”) content that 87 . and the transcendental dimension.

The main question here concerns the difference between understanding the city as a “territory-city” and maintaining the traditional image of the city. The Western idea of the city is often derived from the Greek 88 .The bailiff walked the dotted route (added by the author) three times without interruption.11 I would propose a phenomenological approach that studies the dual phenomenon of city and country with regard to both dimensions: the formal and the transcendental. Map of Amsterdam (1482). I shall first revert to the (alleged) origin of the phenomenon. or it becomes an impenetrable metaphysical or philosophical argument. To begin to answer these questions. Gemeentearchief Amsterdam used to be its very essence. how the city revealed itself both in language and in reality. the idea of the city: the etymology of the greek P O L I S and the concept of territory-city To consider the idea of the city. then twice. divided into four pieces spread out over four days. devoid of the praxis of an applied science. each from a different point of view.F. a few detours will contribute to a phenomenology of the city. de Wit.

the civil society. This reading originated not in the discipline of “urban design. The genesis of such a territory was associated with a change in the execution of rituals. perhaps more fundamental. In two recently published studies this understanding of the city has been explicated. it was much more extended than the innercity itself.14 In Cults. François de Polignac states that the phenomenon of the Greek polis is not convertible to the traditional modernist concept of “city. just outside the inner-city borders). permanent place. This is de Polignac’s main thesis.” which dates only from the nineteenth century. reading of city and country in which this contrast is not an issue. This city-territory was defined by three zones. however. meaning “opposition. such as statues and sanctuaries.” The significance of the polis was more general and rather vague. the relation of city and landscape has always been problematic: each has been understood as the other’s antagonist. In the eighth century these rituals began to be performed in a well-defined. The undefined space of the former landscape – the landscape of the Iliad and The Odyssey – was becoming organized to distinguish sacred and profane places. 89 . and it has dominated thinking and doing up to the present. between culture and nature. The contrast appeared with the genesis of the sedentary space of the city. The nomadic communities had been part of their natural environment. the Greek polis introduced the notion of a contrast between city and country. but in the fundamental and often religiously based act of grounding a city.” In ancient Greece it referred to the “space” for the politeia.Marc Glaudemans polis. spatial objects. The polis could be conceived as a new type of space. the (religiously based) territory of the city. they didn’t profoundly change the landscape that provided them with their means of life. at least not in such a dialectical manner.12 Historically. like our notion of “site” or “place.”13 There is. This is even evident in etymology: the English word “country” is derived from the Latin contra. This “territory” – a term used explicitly by de Polignac – was clearly different from the untouched nature outside the polis. the Greek asty. Although cities existed before that time. De Polignac distinguishes the urban (within the innercity itself). the suburban (asty-geiton. each with a different kind of sanctuary. Territory. and the Origins of the Greek CityState. This immaterial space was symbolized by material. the political community that originated during the eighth century bc. Still. On the Greek mainland this contrast had not been clearly evident before the eighth century. an older.

some six to twelve kilometres outside the city. The fact that these two zones were identical indicates an inseparable unity between the city and its hinterland. all things stepped aside to provide mankind with the space it needed. This process of “making visible” was part of the mental understanding of the city. She concentrates mainly on the importance of religious and cultural acts for activating the space of the polis and emphasizes that this territory was to appear by a permanent “re-making” or “re-weaving” of its surface. in its double significance as both “appearing” and “appearance. This is important. the “statue to be seen from afar” signifies the extra-urban sanctuary that was often dedicated to the city’s most important hero. From the elevated viewpoint of the acropolis. and visiting it to execute 90 . without a statue to be seen from afar. in Greek. This was done through regular acts of agriculture. Wherever man appeared.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland and the extra-urban territory. making the entire space of the city perceptible and clearly differentiating it from the wild and unspoiled space of nature beyond the polis. but from the eighth century onward it referred to the city as a whole.17 This is where the term “epiphany” – in Greek. where the gods roamed. the abysses. never even discovered by a herdsman.15 The extra-urban sanctuaries served as both signposts and frontier-guards. The term polis used to refer only to the acropolis. the distant sanctuaries and statues often could just be seen. until man intervened and filled the decor with pleasure or tragedy. but also by visiting the widespread sanctuaries and executing the appropriate rituals.”16 Insofar as these sentences need any explanation.” surface. an empty stage. They signified the space of human presence in general and the city’s own territory in particular. The religious and cultural space of the polis could continue to exist only if its residents regularly re-confirmed or re-generated it (from the Greek genesis. Determining the right spot. meaning birth or origination). chora. De Polignac argues that the Greek polis is to be regarded as a polycentric city. building the sanctuary. the headland. Rilke poetically clarifies this notion of the city-territory in an essay called Über die Landschaft (On Landscape): “That was the landscape in which one lived. epiphaneia – returns to our argument. of inhuman identity. They were unworthy of words. But strange was the mountain. The architectural theorist Indra Kagis McEwen draws from de Polignac’s argument that the city used to be understood (before Aristotle) as a territory. its territory.

or better. because “men are the city. a formal appearance. As in the later case of the Romans. The city claims a territory by cultivating it. the Athenian commander Nicias told his army that they would be a city wherever they settled. it is the order – the kosmos – of the polis that is being made visible.”22 From the mother-city – the metropolis – this concept was spread. they defined the domain of the polis. From de Polignac and McEwen we learned that the city always generated a much more extensive space than it covered physically.23 Together. By creating a city. by making maps of it. 91 .Marc Glaudemans rituals was a means of “letting appear” (in Greek techne). who carried with him the fire and the “soul” of Troy: Considere Teucos Errantesque Deos agitataque numina Trojae. from the greek P O L I S to renaissance amsterdam: extrapolation of an obsolete theory There is.” poiesis. poiesis.18 To create. made to appear. or a concrete site (the topos). which is subsequently related to the Greek word for “creating. but here it has been a detour in support of our main issue. makes this order visible (Heidegger speaks of Her-vorbringen).21 Consequently. This abstract concept was personified by the eternal fire of the city’s gods. enabling a new polis to be founded. Plato defined the term poiesis in his Symposium: “the cause of everything that arises from the non-being into being is creation. and seek a country where it is permitted them to stop. it is hardly surprising that. not the walls and ships without them.”19 For Plato. much more to be said on the subject of the polis and its territorial aspects. the making of anything generates a certain order. and by dominating it in a military. Remember the legend of Aeneas. economical. according to the Greek historian Thucydides (460–399 bc). they cross the seas. This “something” is to be understood as a certain “order. the coherence of city and country. The city and the gods are with Aeneas. this order is made visible not only by the creative action of the artist or the expert. it is clear that the Greek “city” was understood as a concept rather than a material object.” as we shall soon see. of course. to make. was understood as a “letting appear” that could make something visible.20 Although these etymological readings may seem rather hard to grasp. a distinction was being made between the city as a collection of architectural objects (urbs) and the city as a “way of life” (civitas).

The banpalen drew a circle around the city juridical.Detail of The Renewed Map of North Holland and West-Friesland by Jan van Jagen (1778). after Joost Jansz Beeldsnijder’s map of 1557.25 In the first. the city not only claims a territory. mainly those made by the city’s schout (chief of police). In fact. not only in archaeology (de Polignac) but also in architectural history (McEwen). Joseph Rykwert proposed an understanding of the city as a conceptual model. but recently it has received renewed attention. Agnes Schreiner considers the meaning of certain processions. based on a detailed reading of complex cultural. Gemeentearchief Amsterdam. social. This knowledge is not new. two recent studies of Amsterdam are illuminating. and societal processes. as well as a precise study of specific topographic situations. Preceding this new attention.24 For an understanding of these ideas in the light of the territory-city concept. which were governed by a very strict protocol. and cultural sense. it is one. Schreiner regards these processions as a means to “let appear” – in this case – a juridical “order”: “The procession is an 92 .

there was no clear boundary.29 The city was permitted to render justice throughout a certain area. in this case. “During the procession of the Stedemaagd and as long as it lasted. This is shown even more clearly in the second study. They were not. What counted for the city also counted for the law. “there appeared the city. As Schreiner writes. etching. by Anne van Dooren. and the city itself are not substantial objects. who reconstructs the juridical territory of Amsterdam in the sixteenth century.” as van Dooren emphasizes.28 In my opinion. the fair.Rembrandt van Rijn. As the map clearly shows. which were still being executed during the eighteenth century. not a phenomenon. were also a manifestation of Heidegger’s Her-vorBringen. the city could be experienced. this was an area of some five miles around the city marked by statues placed out in the field. an appearance.30 But even without their personal appearance.27 Only in the circular movement of the procession we experience the presence of the city. also outside the city-walls. such as customs stations: just 93 . de Obelisk (1650).”26 It is a way of giving appearance to something that has no appearance of its own. the law of the city was indicated by the banpalen. the “letting appear” of something. which were placed alongside the major arterial roads. as in techne and poiesis. Amsterdam Historisch Museum appearing. Where the chief of police (the schout) or his servants appeared. the religion. they became during the procession and only as long as it lasted. Like the chora of the Greek polis. six so-called banpalen. and as with the polis. The law. these stone obelisks defined a circle around the city. religion. these rituals.

be it religious. Farmers often regarded the city mis94 . both express the essentially territorial character of the city: they are both signs of the city’s space. This emphasis on leisure and pleasure is important because it may illuminate aspects of the landscape in relation to the city. the analogy in the landscape: the garden as a symbol of an “earthly paradise” As with van Dooren’s study of the juridical territory. Because of juridical reorganization. The statues of Apollo and Hera in the extra-urban territory of the polis and the banpalen.” always was an important feature of city life. From Hendrick Hondius. the space of the law. juridical. Otium. it is possible to reconstruct the “leisure-territory” of the city.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland The garden of Prince Maurits in The Hague. however. these banpalen fell out of use. These signs. literally “empty time. in the open fields of Amsterdam. were understood by everybody. they indicated the forbidden area.31 The studies of both Schreiner and van Dooren seem to prove that a territory is related to a specific feature of the everyday world. In case of a banishment. political. People simply couldn’t imagine this stone obelisk in a typical Dutch landscape. are connected to the Lebenswelt. This is partly why the Rembrandt etching Landscape with Banpaal (1650) has long been regarded as an imaginary landscape. Onderwijsinge in de perspective conste (The Hague. 1623) signs in the open field. and in Husserl’s terms. or otherwise.

which denoted an “enclosed garden. Knowledge manifested in the garden was understood by most learned contemporaries. both as a body of knowledge and as a phenomenon of a higher order that represents something else: in this case.Marc Glaudemans takenly as a place of endless leisure time.33 Amsterdam could also be included as a historic example.”35 The oldest gardens. Florence. but here the city and landscape are very much connected.36 95 . In the late seventeenth and early eighteenth century. Of course. In England. The garden was considered a microcosm. even though these gardens were inspired more by the landscape paintings of Claude Lorrain. from the Old Persian pairidaeza. was dominated by the Medicis. The baroque garden.34 In this essay I would like to investigate only a few phenomenological implications of such a perspective through a single (but not atypical) example. where that order usually was not perceptible. The word “paradise” is derived from the Greek paradeisos. resulting in Chamber’s Palladianism and the rise of the Jardin Anglo-Chinois. It is well known that “garden” is related (through etymology and history) to paradise. Venice saw a real villeggiatura in the sixteenth century. the love of the countryside beautifully coincided with an obsession for classical Italy. The main supposition is that the garden or the villa is comparable to a sanctuary or a banpaal. and was different from nature. had to be understood – just like the city – as the representation of a specific worldview. A well-known Dutch example is the seventeenth-century Hofwijck. Amsterdam saw the rise of an extensive villa landscape. secretary of the stadholder Frederik Hendrik. with Palladio’s villas as a classical masterpiece of architecture. described by Pliny (who owned two large villas himself) and Virgil (who glorified country life in his Bucolica and Georgica). in the fifteenth century. including those in the Netherlands up to the eighteenth century. both substantially and conceptually. the country-house of Constantijn Huygens. a representation of the supposed order of the universe. the city. There are famous examples: Rome had countless suburban villas. were clearly fenced or even surrounded by a garden-wall. who built wonderful villas and gardens overlooking the city.32 but the city’s wealth often was manifested most strongly in the countryside. and Dughet than by the real landscape of the Roman campagna. the garden has always been understood as a representation of the landscape. Poussin. which has never before been studied from the perspective of a territory-city relationship. with its formal layout.

The layout of the garden followed the anthropomorphic principles outlined in Vitruvius’s De architectura. “The key to my heart is the same as the key to this garden. and like the human head it represented reason and thinking and was the site of Huygens’s famous library. Whenever Huygens walked through his own image. which had been closely studied by Huygens and his friends. which encompassed the universe of his garden. strolled in the garden. no. in his poem. First published in Art History 4. projected upon the Vitruvian body (from the 1547 edition of Martin and Gouljon). he simultaneously experienced and invoked the supposed universal geo96 . The various parts and characteristics of Huygens’s body guided the composition of the extensive poem Hofwijck (1653).Hofwijck. the architects Pieter Post and Jacob van Campen. 2 (June 1981): 150–74 The design of the country-house and its garden represented the architectural theory of Vitruvius. Whenever Huygens. In the layout of the garden the house itself occupied the place of the head.” Huygens wrote. The orchard represented the chest and the heart of the Vitruvian body. Courtesy of Robert Jan van Pelt. he travelled simultaneously through a depiction of himself. indicating that he identified his own body with the universal body in the garden design.

This garden. The garden as a sign is an essential part of the conceptual model of the city. the gardens also change.C. C. as is demonstrated convincingly throughout history. they represent a strong humanist morality. must be understood as part of culture. it becomes even clearer that both garden and poem describe the body of the aging Huygens. uses the image of the human body as a microcosm. 97 . 62 x 92 cm. Utrechts Archief metrical order of the universe. for example. but also the garden in general. When we observe the garden and the poem side by side.37 This simultaneity is not only metaphorical but can be reconstructed in the proportions of the garden layout.New Map of Loenen. Moreover. van Bloemswaerdt (1726?). This is why Johan Huizinga pleaded in the 1920s for a cultural history of the garden. One may conclude that this garden is not only an individual work of art but also a major cultural phenomenon that has to be understood in its historical context. as one of its representations. this has to be understood within the micro/macrocosm debate of the 1650s. North is on the right side.38 Whenever the worldview – the Weltanschauung – changes. When Huygens.

however. even if it is only a mental representation of what we experience on the inside. Alberto Pérez-Gómez proposes that this creative act – in Greek. Through creative making – from cultural artifacts to the city itself – a strong link was established between the people and their environs.42 He also proposes that this was explicit until the end of the Renaissance and remained influential until the eighteenth century.” as Benedetto Gravagnuolo wrote in his history of urban design: it is through the windowpane of the present that we observe the past. even have an evident impact on the objects themselves. In the ancient definitions – as discussed in this essay – the city provided a means of reconciliation between culture and nature.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland pan oramic vista “È dalla finestra del presente che noi osserviamo il passato. it is an engagement of culture and nature. between theory and praxis. and created by the city (understood. we have become more and more estranged from it. In the history of architecture (but even more so in the history of urban design) the territorial dimension of the city is often underestimated. The main hypothesis here is that “landscape” was defined. subsequently disappeared in favour of a polarization. The 98 .” as Magritte noted.”40 Both observations can be regarded as illustrations of my argument. moreover. number and symbol. as Wigley demonstrates. “We see it as being outside ourselves. is the paradox: although scientific development has resulted in a huge expansion of specialized knowledge about the world. This. This. Our perceptions of city and landscape are always grounded in culture and. poiesis – was a form of reconciliation between man and the world. as its citizens). recognized. is not a generally accepted perspective.39 “This is how we see the world. in which the city is both the stage and the perpetrator of a paralyzing dialectical opposition between culture and nature. as Thucydides did. Trying to describe a phenomenon in language – bringing together les mots et les choses (Michel Foucault) – is itself a cultural activity.41 This misunderstanding has led to the present situation. This opposition is paralyzing because it is unjustly connected to the phenomenon of the city. This unity between man and the world. while apparently losing the capacity to know nature from within. then. The lonely wanderer from the Romanticist paintings of Caspar David Friedrich appears against the background of a grand and hostile nature of which humankind is no longer a part.

6 Simon Schama. 6–7. and London: mit Press 1995). All foreign quotations are translated by the author unless stated otherwise.” 5 Mark Wigley. when the mutual infiltration of city and landscape is no longer a choice but a fact. ordered – in other words cultivated – in order to have any significance at all. a state of mind. One didn’t think of nature as an état d’âme. 1948).” Ibid. The city itself. because it was the permanent background of everybody’s life and because it had no absolute value. notes 1 Paul Valéry. and has instructed our sight to disregard that which doesn’t exist and which our eyes were well capable of seeing before its time. the search has always been in vain. both as an artifact and as a conceptual model – the two dimensions of Husserl – is a cultural and historical configuration. Nowadays. 366: Photography has trained the eyes to expect that which they should see. which signifies “appearing” but also “appearance” and “surface. White Walls. This attitude would have been completely out of place before the Cartesian split of the seventeenth century. As we have seen. 2 Ton Lemaire. 7 Ibid. “there is none. from the Greek epiphaneia. 2.Marc Glaudemans quest for “nature” has been a common nineteenth.and twentiethcentury phenomenon. this might be a more fertile attitude. however. 12. Italics are mine. 3 In this sense. “It is no use to dream of an unspoilt wilderness far away.” as Thoreau wrote at the end of his life. Designer Dresses: The Fashioning of Modern Architecture (Cambridge. This longed-for savageness was a state of mind. and therefore to see it. as well as the habitat in optima forma in which we all live. Vues (Paris. completely dependent on the spectator.”43 After a life of searching in vain. 7. Landscape and Memory (London: Harper Collins 1995). 4 Epiphany. ma. The activities of both thinking and building the city must reassess this inevitable observation. Lemaire defines adolescence as a “spatial crisis.. he reached the conclusion that he would not find in the wilderness of Labrador a greater savageness than in the back of beyond Concord. 99 . and this was an assignment for art. Filosofie van het landschap (Baarn: Ambo 1970). nature had to be defined.

5. 15 De Polignac. as the word nomos means not only “to take possession of” or “to inhabit” but also “arrangement” or “order. McEwen. 21–2.I. see “Bauen Wohnen 100 . ma: mit Press 1993). 13 Raymond Williams. 18 Martin Heidegger. ed. Cults. Territory. Die Technik und die Kehre (Tübingen. 1962).” in Wasteland: Landscape from Now On. Socrates’ Ancestor. 14 François de Polignac.” Consequently. 10 Edmund Husserl. quoted in Alberto Pérez-Gómez. ”to dwell” is a form of “letting appear” of an order. Formale und Transzendentale Logik (1929). 5. La ville et ses territoires (Paris: Gallimard 1990).” Plato Symposium 205b. 17 McEwen. F.. Socrates’ Ancestor. 10–11. 11–14. Socrates’ Ancestor: An Essay on Architectural Beginnings (Cambridge. and the Origins of the Greek CityState.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland 8 Lemaire. 12 I think this is an important remark. The Country and the City (London: Chatto & Windus. “Between Wilderness and Wasteland. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (Cambridge. ma: mit Press 1983). 1973). 19. 19 Ibid. “The Ancient City: From Fustel de Coulanges to Max Weber and Beyond. 16 Rainer Maria Rilke. 11: “Jede Veranlassung für das was immer aus dem Nicht-Anwesenden über – und vorgeht. Cults. This is also the starting point of Heidegger’s philosophy of dwelling. 81. Territory.” Marcel Roncayolo. translated by Janet Lloyd (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press 1995). 8–9. Finley pointed out the “unbridgeable divide” in the history of cities created by the Industrial Revolution. Originally published as Über die Landschaft (1902). 20 This supposition of both Heidegger and McEwen is confirmed in Greek etymology. of poiesis. translated by William Lovitt (New York: Harper and Row 1977). Het landschap (‘s-Gravenhage: Stols 1944). Giersberg (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers 1992). 9 “La ville est un territoire particulier ou une combinaison de territoires. even though M. 12–13. appendix. For an English translation see The Question Concerning Technology and Other Essays. ist poiesis ist Her-vor-Bringen. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. 11 Pérez-Gómez. A convincing study of these (intentional) origins of architecture is Indra Kagis McEwen.” Comparative Studies in Society and History 19 (1977): 305–27.

Theory and History of Architecture. has perished. and van Dooren. Joseph Rykwert. “Mens en kosmos in Huygens’ Hofwijck. 23–5.” OASE 41 (1994): 11–31. Ackerman. Bouwmeester.” a sculpture of the goddess of the city. and van Dooren. Bouwmeester. 24. Schreiner. 1500–1800 (Gent: Snoeck-Ducaju & Zoon 1996). Both are published in Agnes Schreiner. For a comprehensive overview. In de ban van het recht. see Erik de Jong and Marleen Dominicusvan Soest. 145. Ibid. but not the Trojan civitas” (Fustel de Coulanges. In de ban van het recht (Amsterdam: 1001 Publishers 1991). This was the subject of my phd research at Eindhoven University of Technology. Ibid. urban etiquette is derived from the Greek polis: politesse and politeness. “The urbs of the Trojans. “Le territoire comme palimpsest. Robert Jan van Pelt.” Diogène 121 (1983): 16. 24.. For a comprehensive etymology.” Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges. Schreiner. The Ancient City. The Ancient City (New York: Doubleday 1955).77. The Stedemaagd. 64–9. see James S. In de ban van het recht. The Villa: Form and Ideology of Country Houses (London: Thames & Hudson 1990). was comparable to Athenia polia. Like “banishment. The Idea of a Town (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1976).Marc Glaudemans 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 Denken” in Vorträge und Aufsätze (1954). The garden as a cosmological representation is still a 101 .” the “ban” was an autonomous juridical area from which one could be expelled. the “City-virgin. Thucydides Peloponnesian War 7. Aardse Paradijzen: De tuin in de Nederlandse Kunst. 20. 58. The distinction is still alive in modern language: in both French and English the word for a sophisticated. translated into English as “Building Dwelling Thinking. the goddess of the (Greek) city in general and Athens in particular. Henny Bouwmeester. Hofwijck was not part of the Amsterdam cityterritory but was located in the vicinity of the city of The Hague. and Anne van Dooren. 145). André Corboz. Frederik Hendrik (1584–1647) was the chief of state during the last part of the Eighty Years War.. the material part of Troy. or banned.

It contains a summary in English. When the central figure of the novel finds out that the garden – his world – was merely a spitting image of famous gardens elsewhere. Pérez-Gómez. This observation may seem most applicable to the European context. in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard and the Czech movie The Garden (1995). Natuur en Kunst: Nederlandse tuin. Henry David Thoreau: An American Landscape.The Rediscovery of the Hinterland 38 39 40 41 42 43 102 common theme in literature. In this sense. La progettazione urbana in Europa.” 17. 1650–1740 (Amsterdam: Thoth 1993). the hinterland of the large metropolitan areas. is fully “urban. Benedetto Gravagnuolo. translation: Urbanised space is better defined by the (mental) space of residents that acquired an urban mentality than by the close arrangement of buildings). ed. xii.” and seemingly remote areas. La Busca del Jardin (1976). The book is a Dutch thesis on garden and landscape architecture between 1650 and 1740. 10. are part of the urban territory.en landschapsarchitectuur. where many historic cities still retain their vestigial closed form. such as the Alps and almost the entire coastline. Rothwell (New York: Shooting Star Press 1991). this considers only the formal dimension of the city and can be misleading. introduction. Robert L. 126–7. It is striking that the garden is often where one either loses or recovers one’s innocence: for example. Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science. the European continent. Corboz was quite right when he stated that “l’espace urbanisée est moins celui où les constructions se suivent en ordre serré que celui dont les habitants ont acquis une mentalitée citadine” (“Le territoire comme palimpsest. An example is the novel by Hector Bianciotti. his perception of the world was shocked: “The exact moment at which the image of the garden stopped being personal and was projected [in a book] at unknown places. 1750–1960 (Milano: Editori Laterza 1991). . even more than other parts of the world. However. was when the garden itself stopped being the universe and became a temporary reality” (10). Erik de Jong. See note 5.

The Colosseum: The Cosmic Geometry of a Spectaculum George Hersey Chora .

It is equally ironic that it has been seen. and venerated as a world-famous ruin.Fig. Then. 1 The Colosseum today. par excellence and in its own right. from a huge statue of that emperor that once stood near.1 Erected on the site of a marshy artificial lake in the gardens of Nero’s palace. a monument to the martyrdom of Christians. 104 . the Flavian Amphitheatre. In its heyday the structure was subject to several rebuildings. a recompense for the crimes of Nero that would replace his monuments and his memory. During this millennium it was variously despoiled as a quarry for building stone.2 So it is ironic that in more recent times the Colosseum has been known by that Neronian name rather than by its proper one. the building received its name. often painful afterlife. it endured a long. In early descriptions it is billed as the Flavian emperors’ gift to the people. from the eighth to the nineteenth century. shunned (or frequented) as a playground for demonic forces. Photo: McGill University. as a theatre of crime. we are told. School of Architecture the colosseum was begun by Vespasian in the year 70 and completed by Domitian in 82. but doubtless it was this role as a martyrs’ memorial that helped assure its survival.

2 Section of Colosseum. the arena consisted of a wooden floor. Down below. All were named and coded so that a ticket-holder would know. A plumbing system drained the whole building and supplied each floor with drinking-water and bathroom facilities. except for those in the upper classes. Underneath were corridors and rooms for animal and human actors. or seating sections. Around the upper storey. who could sit in the suggesta. the senate. were segregated into the topmost seats in the cavea summa. revised by R.George L. Some seats were inscribed with the names of their permanent occupants. where to sit. Labels added . and other privileged persons there were special tribunals. masonry oval – a great bowl slung from outer rings of stacked barrel vaults.. above the last set of seats. garden elements. This supported one of the Colosseum’s wonders. was a colonnade with a heavy entablature and outer wall. Women. and the like. A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method. Fig. often covered with sand. restoring the interior. called suggesta. On rainy days and days of hot sun the great canopy was unfurled across the entire cavea. Hersey The building proper is a tall. four-storey. with more comfortable seats. located at what one might call the fifty-yard line. or theatrical scenery. Figure 2 shows some of the main subdivisions of the seating areas. its fabric ceiling or velarium. From Banister Fletcher. 17th ed. The seats ran continuously around the caveae. in the centre. Cordingley (New York: Scribner’s 1963). exactly as in many modern stadia. props. A. The seats were simple stone or concrete benches erected on the tops of ramped barrel vaults that radiated outward from the building arena core. at least approximately. For the emperor.

3 Nonetheless. 3 Part of a modern model of Rome in the early fourth century CE. thick-framed civic structures. But the Colosseum is only partly of this material. geometry The Colosseum is one of a series of large.4 Fig. which were scooped out of hillsides. and while the vaults themselves are mostly concrete or cement conglomerate. Beaux-Arts – would insist on. stone was also used for vaulting – mostly lightweight pumice. the Colosseum is a freestanding building. the so-called imperial fora. While it had long been possible to erect masonry buildings of comparable size and height. As Greg Wightman has recently shown.The Colosseum In contrast to Greek theatres. The walls and piers are travertine-faced brick and tufa. the construction of such a building was probably possible only after the invention of concrete. these public places were designed in accordance with strict geometrical principles – a relative novelty at the time – though the relationships from one forum to another did not accord with the overriding axes and symmetrical alignments that later architecture inspired by these Roman projects – neoclassicism. that the early emperors opened up within the dense urban tissue of ancient Rome. Museo della Civiltà Romana . The Forum of Trajan is in the lower lefthand corner. the sheer amount of concrete used in the Colosseum was unprecedented.

normally were circular or semicircular. Then a workman takes another stake. one could do the same with a pencil.George L. the circle and half-circle were favourite Roman forms. when computer software could automatically draw ellipses of every size and shape. has a continuous curve. quite apart from theatrical structures. they would first establish two foci on the central horizontal x axis. the more nearly circular the shape will be. and everywhere in temple plans. this was one of the main ways in which these forms were laid out.”6 107 . The scholar making this claim. he draws the largest shape that the rope will permit. Each end of a long rope is attached to one of the stakes. both Greek and Roman. unlike many other such shapes. However. sharpened so as to mark a groove in the ground. in small tombs. At the two foci the ellipsemaker then drives stakes into the ground. Ellipses have been known from the time of Archimedes and Apollonius of Tyana. And how would an ancient Roman go about laying out a plan like the Colosseum’s? Let us assume. outside the two foci. Moving the stake all the way round. in a 360degree rotation. They appeared as exedrae in baths and fora. in huge tombs such as those of Hadrian and Augustus. The result will be an ellipse. “I have been able to establish this [fact] without a shadow of doubt. the further they are apart. it has recently been claimed that the Colosseum is not an ellipse. like most (but not all) other Roman amphitheatres. plus all their other possible positions.5 If the people who laid out the Colosseum intended an ellipse. the rope travels through the three positions in the diagram. (A circle may be defined as an ellipse whose two foci are coincident at the circle’s centre. that he was planning to create an ellipse – a well-known and beautiful oval that. But theatre buildings. Jones soon plans to publish on the subject. Until very recently. the longer and narrower the ellipse becomes. In other words. for the moment. Hersey The Colosseum’s oval geometry distinguishes it from most Greek and Roman theatres. Indeed. string.) At the smaller scale of an architectural drawing. is a nonelliptical oval formed from the arcs of overlapped circles. or thread and a pair of tacks. so meanwhile I will simply believe him when he says. Mark Wilson Jones. These must be reflectively symmetrical across the central vertical y axis. says that the Colosseum. though other oval Roman theatre structures – all of them amphitheatres – do exist. The nearer the foci are to each other.

one could lay out the arcs in a convenient out-of-town field and then make a template of that part of the circle one wished to copy – or even half of this curve. I show the curve with a horizontal baseline and a set of vertical lines. there would be no space to lay out the shape. The normals meet the arc’s curve from the inside and map out its shape. since it is bilaterally symmetrical. Alternately. of course. Such a map would then be easy to transfer and reproduce at the building site using taut ropes. in the middle of a city. 5 An oval formed from two circles and from arcs of large circles below and above Figure 5 shows such an oval. There are several ways to lay out such a shape at the scale of a building. so the total amount of clear space would have to be about 1. would require an enormous space of clear ground on which to construct the circles. One is to find the centres of the two circles from which the large arcs are taken (figure 6). 574 Roman feet (512 English feet).000 Roman feet wide – almost a tenth of a modern mile. Note that an oval shaped like the Colosseum. The radii of these two arcs would be almost double the Colosseum’s width of c.Fig. 4 An ellipse. rulers. have fewer problems finding clear space than one like the Colosseum. Finally. but if the site were crowded and urban.” perpendicular to it (figure 8). Oval amphitheatres erected in the countryside would. with f1 and f2 as the foci. called “normals. with its very large upper and lower arcs. as was the Colosseum’s. shaped approximately to the Colosseum’s footprint. Any line from f1 to f2 that also hits the perimeter must be the same length as any other line that does so. one could construct a chubbier oval (figure 7) with shorter radii. and set squares. 108 . Therefore. the three lines shown here are all the same length Fig. It is laid out as a perimeter of arcs from a pair of circles joined together by arcs of much larger circles.

as in the preceding diagram. 9 An Egyptian hieroglyphic fragment plotting a curve using normals. 6 Plotting the arcs of the Colosseum with full circles Fig. La Pyramide à degrés: L’architecture (Cairo: Imprimerie de l’Institut français d’archéologie orientale 1936) 109 . 8 Plotting an arc using normals Fig. From Jean-Philippe Lauer.Fig. 7 Plotting a chubbier oval with full circles Fig.

I have shown one pair of epicycles with the planet at its outer limit and another pair with the same planet (there is only one) at its epicycle’s inner limit. Ptolemy of Alexandria was to prove that. The ellipse indicates the position that the planet would seem to have. One reason is that all ellipses are ovals. for 110 . with its interior foci. circular orbits (cycles). at the four positions used by a putative astronomer in making observations of the planet’s position. and provides fewer opportunities for mistakes. revolving in its cycle and. is much easier than the multiple-arc system. laying out an ellipse.Fig. including every sort of true ellipse. by the way. while at the same time revolving in smaller circular orbits (epicycles). Oval planetary orbits were proven by Kepler.7 Figure 10 is my reconstruction of Ptolemy’s theory that planets travel around the sun in large. Shortly after the Colosseum was built. 10 Ptolemy of Alexandria’s system for a planet’s orbit around the sun It is worth noting. but they had been proposed for centuries. in its epicycle. This curve was for a vault profile. overlapped circles can produce absolutely any closed curve. cosmos We need not pursue the question of ellipse versus oval as if they were two mutually exclusive shapes. Philolaos the Pythagorean (fifth century bce). However. with proper manipulation. simultaneously. that just such a diagram was discovered by Jean-Philippe Lauer at the site of the Step Pyramid of Zoser at Saqqara in Egypt (figure 9). but the same system would work for a plan such as the Colosseum’s. not a plan. The characters inscribed between the normals on the Egyptian fragment would be the measures of their respective lengths. This system of laying out very large arcs would date from around 2800 bce.

” which means that its length-width proportion. observations of a planet’s position. unlike the other planets. In addition. A definitive discussion of all these questions will come. not quite a 1:2 ratio.. though. and the Moon all moved through what he called “oblique circles. is 1:1. In other words. with Jones’s article. comparable site errors occur today. ellipses. not 160. 163 3 318 Roman feet. can easily map out oblong closed curves. Indeed. held that the Earth. However. But my interest here is simply to show that overlapping circles. the Colosseum is shown not as a single ellipse but as a set of concentric ellipses. is 639.e. which puts it in a 1:1 ratio to the arena’s width. and the innermost ellipse. The outer walls. Jones thinks that these “wrong” numbers are not errors but simply that ideal dimensions were never intended. being 6:5 on the perimeter. the Sun. These latter values imply that the Colosseum’s basic planimetric footprint was constructed on a 25-foot module.” i. seem to become gradually more circular. might be rounded off to 700 3 575 (giving respective errors of 1 percent and . despite all the benefits of modern technology. is a very elongated 7:4. of 111 .9 feet long and 530. that of the arena proper. though modern measurements suggest that site errors may have distorted some of the values. That seems acceptable when one considers that the builders worked with stakes and ropes (which stretched and shrank according to weather and handling). presumably.95. This would approximate a 6:5 ratio with about a 2 percent error. most modern drawings do show it as an ellipse. excluding the exterior arcades.9 That is.George L. The cavea proper. rather than nearly continuous. meanwhile. the epicyclic theory is one more way of making ovals – including ellipses – out of overlapping circles. the height of the Colosseum to its main cornice is exactly 163 Roman feet. these thoughts came about because astronomers made highly selective. Hersey example.10 The Colosseum seems to embody some of the ideal dimensions and ratios that Vitruvius proposes for public buildings and that we are told were used in Greek architecture as well. whether or not they are planetary orbits.8 Undoubtedly. is 5:4 in proportion. the successive closed curves of the various parts of the cavea. which measure 694 3 574 Roman feet. Thus he writes that “the width of the arena at the Colosseum is 163 [Roman] ft. from interior to exterior.4 wide.1 percent). which follows the back of the cavea ima. In plan (figure 11). Whether or not the Colosseum was constructed as an ellipse or as a set of arcs. The ellipse. 163 versus 159 (the “correct” width for a 1:2 ratio) is only about a 1 percent error.

in turn.Fig. seems to explain why we often portray the heavens as spheres and hemispheres and why 112 . Cordingley (New York: Scribner’s 1963) course. revised by R. Indeed. From Banister Fletcher. A History of Architecture on the Comparative Method. 11 The Colosseum. was done by astronomers. Rome (70–82 CE). epicycles. almost all the mathematical work that was done on closed circular and spherical forms. A. and we saw that he did this because he wanted to map out planetary orbits. given the oval shape. 17th ed. plan.11 This was even more evident in ages when armillary spheres (models with planetary orbits shown as movable rings) were the main ways of understanding the actions of the cosmos.. ellipses. all sorts of other. There is a reason for going on at length about ovals. ancient and early modern. and ideal ratios. We have just seen that Ptolemy proved that almost any closed curve could be produced with arcs of circles. irrational values would have to be used for measurements during actual construction.12 And that.

to this pious opinion. It is a belief that has reigned for centuries. Under that dome stood a colossal statue of Phoebus holding a celestial orb (this would have been the “colossus” of the “Colosseum”). was painted blue and ornamented with images of the firmament. of Christian martyrdoms only increased its cosmic associations. not just the Colosseum. with the dismembered Christian bodies. its sky. The building became even more cosmic in the middle ages. and the houses of the Zodiac. were constructed with twelve entrances to honour the twelve houses of the Zodiac. He adds that chariots raced around the arena in imitation of the orbits of the heavenly spheres and that participants wore colours symbolizing the cycle of the four seasons. One reason was the Church’s rule. The trade – one could almost call it an industry – flourished during late antiquity and the early middle ages. that the killers impale yet another holy martyr?18 This belief in the Colosseum as a place of Christian martyrs fuelled the Roman trade in relics. The whole building. with the sense of the whole great bowl as an open maw?17 Or Prudentius’s picture in the year 658 of the delicate Vestal. thumbs-down. thousands. ruinous as that survival was.14 In the fifteenth century Leone Battista Alberti wrote that all circuses (the word essentially means orbit or circle).George L. and reigns still. thunder. Who can forget St Augustine’s vivid picture of the howling spectators drunk with cruelty. Hersey domes (hemispheres) are decorated so frequently with heavenly symbols and personages such as suns. moons.16 Yet it probably owes its survival. and with seven metae or race-markers in honour of the seven planets. it was said. Roberto Luciani informs us that in this spirit the Colosseum’s velarium.13 Lightning. seated on high in her upper tribunal and commanding. that no 113 . was once covered with a bronze dome.15 sacrifice The Colosseum’s postclassical reputation as the site of hundreds. Luciani notes that not a single ancient author or contemporary witness speaks of the building as the site of specifically Christian martyrdoms. with the spouting blood. and other cosmic events were also frequently produced in the Colosseum by the scenic technicians. in the Second Council of Nicaea of 787. The legend grew that it had been a temple of the Sun.

Charon. decked with the trophies of animal sacrifice. Apollo. He describes the whole of it. As a religious event. this one non-Christian. he would then face further opponents – animal. and the Dioscuri. we read. Christ has prepared a better theatre for Gaudentius in Heaven. Christians were often martyred outside the Colosseum. Ceres.25 The poet Martial emphasizes the Colosseum’s religious role. or both.21 Another ancient example of Colosseum martyrology. According to Seneca. was thereupon offered as a sacrifice at the inaugural games. usually lions or bears. says a later commentator. in the morning events. There was a tale that the building’s original architect was a Christian named Gaudentius.24 These deaths were sacrifices to the gods whose statues and altars stood all round the arena. bones in general were plentiful there.. Other divinities who were particularly worshipped in the games were Hermes. If a gladiator had the luck or skill to survive. Jupiter. the Roman arena had been erected by Israelite slaves (twelve thousand of them.23 It was the very fact that they were sacrifices that made the games so grisly. due to the games.19 If Christian bones were not so thick in the Colosseum’s entrails as once was thought. I hardly need add. none other than the Marquis de Sade). human. and with all the glory that it gave to Rome. having built the Colosseum.26 The sacrifices also belonged to the cult of the divine emperor.) The Church’s obsession with the Colosseum often crops up in Christian literature and hagiography. men (usually prisoners. The sacrifices all had individual 114 . whose epitaph is preserved in the basement of ss Luca e Martina in Rome. the arena was piled with corpses. The fights almost always continued until one of the participants died.22 The deaths of Gaudentius and the unnamed Israelite accord well with the Colosseum’s role as a place of sacrifice. But. in fact. Vespasian rewarded Gaudentius with death.The Colosseum altar could be consecrated in Catholic Christendom without a valid relic being lodged in it.20 (And. but in later times professional gladiators) would be thrown to hungry wild animals. It states that. as “an altar wrought of many horns. to which all Roman citizens had to pay reverence (and to which the Christians took such exception). is the story in Josephus that. who were encouraged by the crowds to devour their human victims. Their foreman. each game was preceded by a pompa circensis in which statues of the gods were carried. By evening.” i.e. like the walls of Babylon and the pyramids of Egypt. the inscription adds.

Livy mentions sacrifices involving human victims as early as 216 bce. He records great increases in the number of these contests over all the years bce. consisted of slaughtering prisoners on the tombs of recently dead heroes. Hersey Fig. when he was consul for the fourteenth time.27 The sacrificial nature of the Roman games came from the Greek funeral games that were their older cousins.George L. There were the Ludi Magni dedicated to the Capitoline Jupiter. At the Colosseum’s inauguration. 12 Roman medal of Domitian awarding prizes for the Colosseum games. for example. others continued for a week or two. the soul of the person whose funeral was being held. During the venatio (animal sacrifice) held in the year 106 in honour of his Dacian triumph. The Romans did the same. Domitian receives victors in the imperial suggestum. “Domitianus Augustus. The inscription reads. The Manes were thought to inhabit his remains and his tomb. Very large numbers of victims. One early Greek liturgy. Some games lasted one day only. London status – as “solemn games. The purpose of the deaths was to placate the Manes. 88 CE. At the conclusion of a fight the spectators would toast the victors as well as the gods of the fight. either five thousand or nine thousand animals were killed.” “votive games.29 In the medal of the year 88 (figure 12). especially animals. British Museum. By the end of the Empire the Colosseum was being used for these purposes fully 177 days each year.28 These game-sacrifices were normally accompanied by banqueting. could be sacrificed. founder of the sacred 115 . Trajan had eleven thousand animals killed. a tradition that held good at the Colosseum.” “state games.” and the like. according to varying accounts.

Tunisia. This particular scene took place not in the Roman Colosseum but in the almost equally huge North African amphitheatre of Thysdrus.” Beyond the sacrificial bulls. In a third-century mosaic (figure 13).D. five celebrants seated in the cavea ima drink to a pile of bulls.Fig. now El Djem. flanked by columns and with details above that portray the rigging of the velarium.” He leans forward from the imperial suggestum. have been given a sack of prizes.Third century CE. probably food and wine. The inscription makes it clear that the men are rooting for the gladiators. still standing in what is now the Tunisian town of El Djem. The Mosaics of Roman North Africa: Studies in Iconography and Patronage (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1978) games. The lower inscription reads. 116 . 13 Mosaic from ancient Thysdrus. “The bulls are silent and sleep. two priests or attendants are distributing wine. Dunbabin. whose names are inscribed there. From Katherine M. ceremonially dressed in togas. Museo del Bardo. The two gladiators.

in which it came to be revered.” whose task it was to conduct souls to the Underworld. and we have seen its arena. As Luciani writes.George L.” In biology a parasite is any organism that lives on or in another organism and obtains its nutriment either by eating the host’s food or. Nor did the magico-religious aspect of it all stop here. its hysteria and the presence of images of the pagan gods. The crowd was infuriated. Cowbirds lay their eggs in other birds’ nests. Now I would like to move on to the building’s long afterlife. “With its liturgy. would take up the body of the dead gladiator and carry it offstage. in and of itself. ruin-love and architectural parasitism We have seen the Colosseum as it was to its builders and first users. A woman who combed her hair with a dead gladiator’s sword could expect a fertile marriage. Afterward. Hersey There was a further sacrificial aspect on many occasions. as a frequent alternative. knowing that the latter will feed and rear the interlopers. The relics of the fighters were greatly valued. a Christian monk named Telemachus entered the arena during the games to preach against them. but later Christian emperors sometimes relented. I will look at this cult in terms of what I will call “architectural parasitism. Nor are they all microscopic. as a landscape of ruined bodies. Honorius at first merely forbade senators to have gladiators in their service. but then in 403 or 404. as a great ruined body. All this takes us up to the end of the games in 523.33 Bees. indeed. To them the games were not simply grisly. its sacrifices. prohibited the games entirely. For example. they celebrated a rival religion and glorified rival gods. they were nonetheless dead set against the games. The two “gods. as well as the divinized emperor. His equipment and clothing protected against the evil eye. Honorius issued a full prohibition against the games. When a gladiator died. by eating the host. such as 117 .30 If Christians probably were not often martyred in the Colosseum. Their blood was a remedy for sterility and impotence. the arena represented for the first Christians a kind of devil’s palace. at day’s end. Constantine. As a result. and Telemachus was killed. gladiators’ corpses were usually handed over to families or fans for burial. they have been seen as one of nature’s essential strategies. two actors would emerge into the arena dressed as Hermes and Charon. the seat of the Antichrist.32 But parasites are not all bad. almost worshipped.”31 The first Christian emperor.

but they do exploit the hosts’ abandoned body parts. for most of its life. Yet at the time. annoy. castle. The visitors wear out carpets and tile floors. insult. say. to a historic cathedral. or palace. or otherwise wear down the staff (we will consider the staff to be part of the monument’s organism – its autoimmune system). the very presence of these tourist-parasites is flattering. Fig. parasites generally have been thought of as pests. and bore.The Colosseum the mason bee Osmia bicolor. Ever since. In return he was supposed to flatter his host. mark the walls. 14 Maarten van Heemskerck. They too are parasites of a sort. They don’t eat their hosts. They are there to admire and to take away with them something of the building’s beauty.” In antiquity a parasite was someone who literally or figuratively fed at someone else’s table.” But for centuries. Cambridge 118 . and flattery aside. Think of what happens. The Greek words para and sitos mean “others’ grain. A building’s users are also its usersup – its parasites. despite their often constructive role. Self-Portrait before the Colosseum (1553).” “others’ food.34 We might even call the mason bees “ruin-dwellers. Sometimes they do this quite literally. occupy abandoned snail shells and refit them with walling made from pebbles. Fitzwilliam Museum. the word “parasite” has in fact referred to human beings. manipulate. We can apply this to architecture.

Hersey This has been happening to the Colosseum for centuries. I will here define the Colosseum’s parasites as the tourists who stole souvenirs. and you. The upper-floor vaults are already savage. speaking of Babylon’s present “glory of kingdoms. and vegetation triumphs across its skyline. “It is not possible to dig into six feet of earth without finding some precious antique. Of its ghostly crowds of gladiators and martyrs there now remain only a few spidery ciceroni. distorted it.George L. and even as the vegetation that for centuries grew up around and in it and that occupied it. and contadini that eat away at former greatness. And how he relishes the forsaken towers and abandoned fora he describes in the cities that have earned Jehovah’s wrath!35 But the greatest of parasites is Time. as he sees it in memory.” says the prophet. As Ovid puts it: “Time. The Western relish for ruination is present in the most ancient witnesses. envious old age.”36 A perfect definition of architectural parasitism. its beauty. choked it. “their houses shall be full of doleful creatures. as the vandals who destroyed it for fun. you might think. bandits. devourer of matter. snakes.” prophesies that their city will be abandoned by its human population and be invaded by the beasts of the desert. preserving the picturesque wreckage. A French visitor to the site of Plato’s Academy in Athens remarked in 1675. is almost reverting to wild nature. who “weeps when she looks in the mirror and sees her hag’s wrinkles.”37 119 . which. the beauty of the Chaldees’ excellency. Maarten van Heemskerck’s self-portrait of 1553 (figure 14) was painted seventeen years after he had returned to Holland from Rome. where once the blue cosmos of the velarium swayed. When they weep at the architectural equivalent of hag’s wrinkles they weep with pleasure. In the middle ground we see the artist as he was during his Roman stay. praising. with the fangs of mortality destroy everything. Isaiah.” But my real point is that ruin-worshippers (unlike Milo and Helen) actually like wreckage. eating it gradually away into a slow. in a picture. though the poet here has in mind the bodies of two once-beautiful humans: the wrestler Milo of Crotona and the aged Helen of Troy. The artist’s dapper dress and warily pleased expression contrast expressively with the ruined Colosseum behind him. weakened death. as the masons who quarried it for building stone. Collectors can also be architectural parasites. And they like the parasites that bring it about – the toads. and ultimately threatened to bring it down.

Fig. vermin. it hardly needs saying. So powerful did the ruin cult eventually become that in the eighteenth century. Nineteenth-century ruin-fanciers particularly liked to see such wild vegetation seize and occupy an ancient. This handsome artificial corpse consists of a brick. Photo by Julie Dionne This antique. plaster. Giardino Inglese.40 One of the most impressive is the ruderi on an island in the Giardino Inglese at Caserta. Caserta (1792). could and would be taken home – in the cultural sense. Or think of Lord Elgin. This was par- 120 . and Turk. were formed from objects collected in this parasitic spirit.”39 The world’s great modern museums. once-glorious pile. continues. consumed. indeed. King of the Two Sicilies. and Time have spar’d.The Ruins. of course. and a beautiful wreck of a Corinthian portico. a stained and blasted wall whose niches shelter headless statues. who had riven “what Goth. The process.38 Byron even calls Lord Elgin (and all his countrymen) parasites. All of it is deep in weeds and surrounded by a stagnant lake – a house quite literally full of doleful creatures (figure 15). 15 John Andrew Graefer. built in 1792 by John Graefer for Ferdinand IV. and tufa tempietto with denuded tympanum. landscape gardeners built imitation ruins – mimickings of parasitized architectural corpses. removing the Parthenon sculptures and taking them to Britain.

As time went on. in its bloodiest prime. the long grass growing in its porches. were said to grow in the Colosseum and probably nowhere else. It was often said that the plants growing in the Colosseum represented exotic species whose seeds had been brought to Rome in the feed provided from distant lands for the animals used in the games. an inch a year. the monument’s invading vegetation gained a sacrosanct quality comparable to that of the Colosseum itself. the temples of the old religion. mournful sight conceivable. ruin. To despoil it of its parasitical plants was to force possibly unique species to go extinct flora that. was roughening and subsiding back into a state of nature.42 The building had a unique ecology. Some plants. such as the aptly named Paliurus spina-Christi. a ruin. shaped. to climb into its upper halls and look down on ruin. majestic. wicked.George L. is to see the ghost of old Rome. full and running over with the lustiest life. ruin. whose ruin was considered a judgment on pagan Rome and those who had martyred Christians in its arena. hewn. its walls and arches overgrown with green. even published an illustrated botanical treatise entitled The Flora of the Colosseum. have moved the heart as it must move all who look upon it now. grand.” wrote Thomas Cole. Never. wonderful old city … It is the most impressive. the most stately. Right along with the thought of botanical parasitism came the delightful idea that all this beautiful stone and concrete architecture. the Roman Forum. its corridors open to the day. due to their outlandish provenance. “was the vaulted crater of 121 . carved. had their own tales to tell about the Colosseum’s fauna. fallen down and gone. God be thanked: a ruin. Charles Dickens actually exulted as he watched the building’s slow-motion collapse: To see it crumbling there. as well as the Asphodelus fistulosa.41 That was published in 1846. all about it. the Palace of the Caesars. Richard Deakin. To one painter the ruined Colosseum already resembled the crater of a volcanic mountain. young trees of yesterday springing up on its rugged parapets and bearing fruit … to see its pit of fight filled up with earth. can the sight of the gigantic Colosseum. the most solemn. In 1855 an Englishman. and polished. Septimius Severus and Titus. Architecture was turning into mountain landscape. and the peaceful cross planted in the centre. the triumphal arches of Constantine. “This. Hersey ticularly the case with the Colosseum.

human passions, and here burst forth with devastating power its terrible
flames, and the roar of eruption cracked the sky.”43 Cole wrote that in
1832. In 1869 the Goncourt brothers similarly saw the building – and,
indeed, most of Rome around it – reverting to a primordial pre-architectural state. “The grass has burst forth, that same oblivious grass that
is everywhere. Its rough masses have invaded the seats, and the ruined
tribunals have turned back into reddish foliage … Trees have erupted,
woven vines have bearded step upon step and covered shadowy openings eighty feet wide … Blocks of stone have turned into natural rock.44
When, in later years, familiar Roman monuments began to be stripped
of the vegetation that was choking them, ruin-lovers objected. And in
1888 the Times newspaper complained that deprived of its botanical
parasites, the monument had become “hideously vulgar.” D’Annunzio
called the cleanup campaign “a blighting blizzard of barbarism menacing all the greatness and loveliness that were without equals in the memory of the world.” In 1905 the travel-writer Augustus Hare issued a call
to stop what he called the “vandalism” of purging the Colosseum of its
“marvellous flora.”45 Writing in the same year, Henry James lamented
that in the Colosseum “the beauty of detail has disappeared almost completely, since the thick spontaneous vegetation has been removed by
order of the new government.”46
In its heyday as an arena and long afterward as a fabulous ruin the
Colosseum was quite literally a spectacle, and (like other amphitheatres)
the building was in fact called a spectaculum.47 It was a spectacle of the
world. Its crowds, its victims, came from all parts of the known world.
The poet Martial, in a series of epigrams about the Colosseum, asked,
“What race is so distant, so barbarous, Caesar, that from it no spectator
comes to your city?”48 He hailed it as the greatest work in human history, greater than the Temple of Artemis at Ephesus, greater than Babylon, greater than the Mausoleum at Helicarnassos.
Spectaculum and spectator connote the act of seeing. Another name
for the Colosseum does the same: amphitheatre. ue9atron can mean “the
spectators,” “those who are looking.” Indeed, the races that came to fill
the stands were part of the spectacle, as were the emperor and his court,
senators, the Vestals, the priests. In short, the Colosseum was three

George L. Hersey

Roman medal issued by the
Senate after Titus’s death in 81
CE. British Museum, London

things: a place to see for its own sake; a place in which to watch the sacrifices; and a place, a world in which to be seen.49
I thus return to and end with the Colosseum’s cosmic qualities. In postclassical lore the building was a model or talisman for the Earth as the
centre of the universe. “As long as the Colosseum stands, Rome stands;
when the Colosseum crumbles, Rome will crumble. And when Rome
crumbles, so will the world,” wrote the Venerable Bede in c. 700.50 In
this same spirit, in 1328 Ludwig of Bavaria issued medals based on
imperial prototypes (figure 16). The Colosseum was depicted on these
medals, which were inscribed, Roma Caput mundi regit orbis frena
rotundi (Rome, head of the world, holds the reins of the circling orb).
Even today, seen from the air, the great old skeletal spectaculum stares
up to heaven like a giant unblinking eye – the eye of Earth’s orb, of
Rome’s circling world.
1 The best and fullest new book is Roberto Luciani, Il Colosseo (Milan:
Fenice 2000, 1993), with full bibliography. Other items are noted below.
2 Seneca Moral Epistles 1.7, to Lucilius; Martial De spectaculis 2.
3 M. Wilson Jones, “Designing Amphitheatres,” Römische Mitteilungen 100
(1993): 391, with earlier bibliography; note especially J.C. Golvin, L’Amphithéâtre romain; Essai sur la théorisation de sa forme et de ses fonctions
(Paris: Diffusion de Boccard 1988).

The Colosseum

4 Greg Wightman, “The Imperial Fora of Rome: Some Design Considerations,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians 56 (March
1997): 64–85, with copious earlier bibliography.
5 Alexandre Koyré, The Astronomical Revolution: Copernicus, Kepler,
Borelli, trans. R.E.W. Maddon (New York: Cornell University Press 1973).
6 Jones, “Designing Amphitheatres,” 394.
7 Koyré, The Astronomical Revolution, 23–4. See also Germaine Aujac,
Claude Ptolomée, astronome, astrologue, géographe (Paris: Éditions du
cths 1993); John Phillips Britton, Models and Precision: The Quality of
Ptolemy’s Observations and Parameters (New York: Garland 1992).
8 Koyré, The Astronomical Revolution, 39.
9 Note the large number of staircase accesses, known as vomitoria. They
suggest that in case of fire or earthquake the Colosseum probably could
have been emptied quickly enough to comply with the building codes in
force today.
10 In the meantime, see Luciani, Il Colosseo, 56–7.
11 Thomas L. Heath, Greek Astronomy (London, 1932); D.R. Dicks, Early
Greek Astronomy to Aristotle (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1970).
12 F. Nolte, Armillarsphäre (Erlangen, 1922).
13 Luciani, Il Colosseo, 83.
14 There had been a colossal statue of Nero, which Vespasian transformed
into a sun god, on the site. Martial Epigrammata spectacula 2.70.
15 Leone Battista Alberti, L’Architettura [De Re Aedificatoria, 1485] (Milan:
Polifilo 1966) 2, 751.
16 Luciani, Il Colosseo, 10.
17 Confessions 6.8
18 Prudentius Contra Symmachum 2.1091–1101.
19 U. Mioni, Il Culto delle reliquie nella chiesa cattolica (1908).
20 For the legendary twenty-eight wagonloads of martyrs’ bones buried
beneath the floor of the Pantheon, see Susanna Pasquali, Il Pantheon:
Architettura e antiquaria nel settecento a Roma (Modena: Panini 1996),
25. These, however, came from cemeteries, not from the Colosseum.
But, of course, it was the practice to bury those who died in the gladiatorial battles and venationes (wild animal duels) in cemeteries outside
the city walls.
21 Luciani, Il Colosseo, 57–9. This is another way to think of the Colosseum
as cosmic.


George L. Hersey

22 Donatien-Alphonse-François de Sade, Voyage d’Italie (1776), Oeuvres
complètes (Paris: Pauvert 1966).
23 Luciani, Il Colosseo, 113–32.
24 Seneca Moral Epistles 1.7, to Lucilius.
25 Rosella Rea, L’Anfiteatro Flavio (Rome: Istituto Poligrafico dello Stato);
“L’Anfiteatro flavio. Competizioni atletiche e spettacoli anfiteatrali: Il
punto di vista dell-intellettuale,” in Lo Sport nel Mondo Antico [exhibition catalogue] (Rome: Quasar 1987), 79–86; M. Di Macco, Il Colosseo:
Funzione simbolica, storica, urbana (Rome, 1971); Roberto Luciani,
“Ludus Magnus,” L’Urbe 3–4 (1989): 37–46; Kathleen Coleman, “’The
Contagion of the Throng’: Absorbing Violence in the Roman World,”
Hermathena 164 (1998): 65–88.
26 Epigrammata spectacula 1.
27 Luciani, Il Colosseo, 122.
28 Livy Ab, urbe condita 21.57.7.
29 Luciani, Il Colosseo, 139.
30 Ibid., 129–30.
31 Ibid., 173.
32 Jack Cohen and Ian Stewart, Discovering Simplicity in a Complex World
(New York: Viking 1994), 114. For parasites and appearance, see Parasites and Pathogens: Effects on Host Hormones and Behavior, ed. N.E.
Beckage (New York: Chapman & Hall 1997); Randy Thornhill and
Steven Gangestad, “Human Facial Beauty: Averageness, Symmetry, and
Parasite Resistance,” Human Nature 4 (1993): 237–69.
33 Scott Robinson, F.R. Thompson III, T.M. Donovan, D.R. Whitehead, and
J. Faaborq, “Regional Forest Fragmentation and the Nesting Success of
Migratory Birds,” Science 267 (1 April 1995): 1987–90.
34 Karl von Frisch (with the collaboration of Otto von Frisch), Animal Architecture, trans. Lisbeth Gombrich (New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold
1983), 71.
35 Isaiah 13:19–21. Quoted by Rose Macaulay, Pleasure of Ruins (London:
Weidenfeld and Nicolson 1953), 2.
36 Metamorphoses 15.234–6.
37 Georges Guillet de St-Georges, An Account of a Late Voyage to Athens, etc.
(London: Herringman 1676). Quoted by Macaulay, Pleasure of Ruins, 158.
38 Christopher Hitchens et al., The Elgin Marbles: Should They Be Returned
to Greece? (London: Chatto & Windus 1987).


The Colosseum

39 In “The Curse of Minerva” and “Childe Harold” (13), from which the
line comes. Quoted by Hitchens, The Elgin Marbles, 60.
40 Barbara Jones, Follies and Grottoes (London: Constable 1953).
41 Charles Dickens, Pictures from Italy (Leipzig: Tauchnitz 1846), 846.
Quoted by Macaulay, Pleasure of Ruins, 200.
42 Richard Deakin, The Flora of the Colosseum (1855). See Luciani, Il
Colosseo, 246–7.
43 Thomas Cole, Notes at Naples (1832), in Louis Legrand Noble, The Life
and Works of Thomas Cole, ed. Elliot S. Vesell (Cambridge, ma: Harvard University Press 1964). Cole painted the Colosseum interior in this
same year (a painting now in the Albany Institute of History and Art,
Albany, ny).
44 Edmond and Jules Goncourt, Madame Gervaisais (1869).
45 Quoted by Macaulay, Pleasure of Ruins, 202.
46 Henry James, Italian Hours (1909).
47 Vitruvius De architectura libri 10.5.6.
48 Martial Epigrammata spectacula 3.
49 And indeed the root of the word “theatre” is ue9atron, I see. Herodotus
Histories 6.21, Aristophanes Equites 233. In short, the word focuses not
on the stage but on the seating, the cavea.
50 Patrologia Latina 94.543.


On the Renaissance Studioli
of Federico da Montefeltro and
the Architecture of Memory
Robert Kirkbride


Urbino studiolo (c. 1476), Palazzo Ducale.View toward northeast corner, with ideal city at right.
Photo by author

the S T U D I O L I of the ducal Palaces of Urbino and Gubbio offer
elegant demonstrations of architecture’s capacity, as a discipline and
medium, to transact between the mental and physical realms of human
experience. Constructed in the late fifteenth century for the renowned
military captain Federico da Montefeltro, Duke of Urbino, the studioli
may be described as treasuries of emblems, since they contain not things
but images of things. Over the past five centuries these chambers have
themselves become emblems for the intellectual milieu at the Court of
Urbino, crystallizing a unique humanism that bridged the mathematical
and verbal arts, as well as the liberal and mechanical arts.
Owing to their comprehensive iconographic programs – which encompass the seven liberal arts,i the Christian virtues,2 and the heraldic
imagery of the Montefeltro, as well as the personal accomplishments of
Duke Federico – the studioli are often described as encyclopedic containers of universal knowledge. However, careful review of these emblems

1482). Photo by author and their perspectival arrangement reveals that the studioli might have served more as a rhetorical medium for stimulating thought than as representations of a complete body of knowledge. agency for knowing. As such. this article joins recent scholarship on the 129 .Gubbio studiolo (c. and not merely recapitulative.View toward northwest corner. these chambers may be appreciated as associative engines whose unique visual composition assists an occupant/observer to forge new constellations of meaning from a largely traditional set of images. Palazzo Ducale. The following investigation approaches the studioli from a vantage that has not yet been explored: their position within the occidental tradition of memory architecture. the studioli extend an ancient legacy of open-ended architectonic models that were conceived to activate the imagination and exercise the memory as an inventive. Considered in light of pedagogical traditions. By reviewing the rhetorical dimension of architecture in classical Rome and the Middle Ages and offering comparison with salient aspects of the studioli. with instruments of measure and architecture located in the cabinet directly below the word “INGENIOQ(UE)” (genius).

During this period Federico had enlisted two architects – first Luciano Laurana and later Francesco di Giorgio Martini – to redesign the numerous palaces and fortifications of his expanding dukedom.5 Immediate precedents to the studioli include the “studies” of Federico’s mentors – Pope Nicholas V. this inquiry hopes to underscore the rhetorical applications of the studioli while examining their dense weave of tradition and innovation. Completed during di Giorgio’s tenure – Urbino in 1476 and Gubbio in 1482 – the studioli reflect an intense collaboration among the many scholars and artists that Federico and his half-brother Ottaviano degli Ubaldini had gathered to their court. although various artists have been championed as their progenitors. Piero de’ Medici. the function of the studioli is not easily pinpointed: they belong to a rubric of small Renaissance chambers described by such interchangeable terms as gabinetto. and studietto.6 Appropriate provisions for such idyllic preoccupations were often represented in the portraiture of scholarly church fathers and included such items as described by Leonello d’Este: “As well [as books] it is not unseemly to have in the library an instrument for drawing up horoscopes or a celestial sphere. cameretta. as well as literary sources readily available to Duke Federico and the members of his court. any definitive attribution for these chambers is highly contestable. and Leonello d’Este – which had been inspired by Petrarch’s writings on the benefits of solitude and leisure for intellectual pursuits. Indeed. the studioli offer testament to the urbane atmosphere cultivated at Urbino. which were used by their patrons to overlapping and often uncategorical ends. if not somewhat beside the point.The Architecture of Memory history of memory training with iconographic analyses of these Renaissance chambers. Ultimately. a convivial intelligence that was also to be conveyed through Baldassare Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier. scrittoio.4 introductory description The Gubbio and Urbino studioli are capstones to the ambitious building program sponsored by Duke Federico da Montefeltro from the 1460s until his death in 1482 at the age of sixty. As with their authorship. or even a lute if your pleasure ever lies that way: it makes no 130 .3 By drawing on images found within the studioli.

astrological speculation and mnemonic training. such as the “moving” recorder. Lute with two broken strings and recorders. the astrolabe (at left) was used in astronomical observations. By traversing the studiolo the viewer “activates” several optical phenomena.Traditionally.Above: Urbino.The armillary sphere (at right) offered a model of the universe representing the motion of the planets. north wall. Photos by author . Photo by author Right. top to bottom: Urbino. south wall. whose open end appears to follow the viewer.

who negotiated their turbulent political climate as much by tactical eloquence as by militaristic valour. Leon Battista Alberti. both are tall spaces.”7 The humanist theme of privacy and quiet. which formed a common thread among these chambers and their owners. an ideal arrangement for a bold perspectival composition that would invite closer inspection of its subtle and exacting craftsmanship. Alberti was also occupied by the dialectic of the vita activa/vita contemplativa. who dedicated an early version (1452) of his De Re Aedificatore to Federico. Also decent pictures or sculptures representing gods and heroes. described therein the separation that should characterize one’s bedchambers. seeing that the past is a mirror of the present. The lower portion of both chambers is panelled with intarsia (inlaid wood). Alberti deeply influenced a younger generation of powerful and wealthy soldier-scholars. Petrarch had resuscitated classical authors such as Pliny the Younger. Jerome at his writing in the wilderness. ostensibly elaborating on Alberti’s advice concerning the insulation of stone walls: “If you wainscot your Walls 132 . like the Duke [Montefeltro]. The incentive among this new ruling elite to be equally adept with pen and sword was expressed by Vespasiano da Bisticci: “It is difficult for a leader to excel in arms unless he be. by which we direct the mind to the library’s privacy and quiet and the application necessary to study and literary composition. A military leader who knows Latin has a great advantage over one who does not. recommending that “the Wife’s Chamber should go into the Wardrobe. or wall-cupboard. fitted with a gold and azure coffered ceiling set 5 metres above a floor of terra cotta tiles.8 square metres at Urbino and 13 at Gubbio). including Leonello d’Este and Federico. a man of letters.”11 At first glance. For his own part. We often see. the Husband’s into the Library. the studioli appear quite similar: while relatively small in footprint (14. some pleasant picture of St.9 Through his own treatise on the subject.The Architecture of Memory noise unless you want it to. who in his private letters described his study to be located near the bedroom and furnished with a bookpress. Not coincidentally. occupied one side of a more ancient debate concerning the respective values of an active or a contemplative life. This configuration provided large wall surfaces at intimate proximity. too.10 as well as others that extol the virtues of investing in artistic endeavours.”8 In addition to his architectural concerns.

drawn by Renato Bruscaglia with Fir or even Poplar. Axonometric projection. Beyond these basic similarities. warmer in Winter.”12 In both studioli the intarsia illusionistically depicts a series of low benches and book-presses fitted with latticework doors (some closed. however.Ducal Palace. armour and weaponry. some ajar) containing select books. and numerous honours bestowed upon Federico during his enormously successful military career. Instead of building his palace as a hermetic fortress. there are notable differences. Urbino. as did many of his contemporaries. and not very hot in Summer. Both studioli also contained a thematic series of paintings that occupied the area between the intarsia and ceiling. scientific and musical instruments. family crests of the Montefeltro. The location of the Urbino studiolo within the Ducal Palace reveals as much about Federico’s unique approach to governance as his interest in history and innovative architecture. Federico and his 133 . it will make the House the wholsomer.

we are fortunate to have inherited valuable (if slender) accounts of the Urbino studiolo and the role it would have played in Federico’s daily activities. or council chamber. a palace “furnished … with everything suitable that it seemed not a palace but a city in the form of a palace. showing the position of the studiolo (1) between the public and private zones of the palace. Room 5 is the Sala delle Udienze.15 Auspiciously.The Architecture of Memory architects conceived. the studiolo was positioned between the public and private zones of the palace: to be precise. composed in the late sixteenth century. currently installed at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.”13 The convergence of the civic and domestic realms depicted by this statement is not exaggerated: with the exception of the private apartments and the Duchess’s wing (to which only Federico and Ottaviano held the keys). Duke Oddantonio. redrawn by author. Bernardino Baldi offers this cryptic description: Detail of previous figure. and 2 is a loggia that offers a generous view of the countryside and the main entrance to Urbino . 3 and 4 are the Duke’s bedchambers. in Castiglione’s words. The studiolo also occupied a liminal perch between the palace/city and the dukedom. While little information is available from contemporary sources concerning the Gubbio studiolo. offering egress to an exterior loggia that provides a sweeping view of the lands surrounding Urbino. the citizens of Urbino enjoyed a liberal access to the Ducal Palace that was quite uncommon in its time.14 Quite likely. between the Duke’s bedchambers and the Sala delle Udienze. In his biography of the Duke. this degree of freedom reflected an implicit pact between Federico and his subjects in response to the demise of his younger (legitimate) brother. who after less than one year of imprudent rule was assassinated in his bedchamber by a group of citizens.

and includes a brief note of praise summarizing their life. in the Prince’s apartment. the walls are subdivided by a number of paintings [28]. Urbino studiolo. poet. Each painting portrays a famous ancient or modern writer. From the intarsia – which covers the wall from the floor to the height of a man or a little more [2. ruler. and influential contemporary represented a dialectical position concerning the nature and uses of knowledge and wisdom: ancient and modern. [Federico] went into his closet to attend to his affairs and to listen to readings. and Federico’s teacher. lawyer. The cultivation of the ancient virtues of prudence and temperance was not merely a by-product of humanist conceit but a matter of political and professional survival. all made of the most diligent craftsmanship in intarsia and intaglio.Vittorino da Feltre. Vespasiano da Bisticci provides significant clues: “In summer. designated the studiolo. according to the season. sacred and profane.17 Regarding the use of the Urbino studiolo. This mixture of illustrious heroes reflects the need for one to maintain a balance in one’s affairs. to temper one’s own actions and positions in the political arena. At 135 .16 The portraits of the twenty-eight uomini illustri greatly illuminate the scope and demeanour of scholarship pursued by Federico and his court. around which are wooden benches with their legs and a table in the middle. after rising from table [mid-day] and giving audience to all who desired. Bottom (left to right): Federico’s close friend Cardinal Bessarion and Albertus Magnus. Aristotelian and Neoplatonist.Robert Kirkbride Four of the twenty-eight uomini illustri. Photo by author Besides the [Ducal] library there is a small chamber. Each philosopher.68 meters] – up to the ceiling.Top (left to right): Euclid.

The Architecture of Memory

vespers [evening] he went forth again to give audience.”18 Later, after the
evening meal, “the Duke would remain for a time to see if anyone had
aught to say, and if not he would go with the leading nobles and gentlemen into his closet and talk freely with them.”19
It can be imagined that the studiolo offered the Duke a ruminative
atmosphere during the time of day traditionally known as siesta. From
Vespasiano’s comment, it is apparent that Federico, after having granted
audience in the early afternoon in the Sala delle Udienze, would withdraw to the studiolo, at times accompanied by a reader who would read
selections from the Duke’s favourite authors, including Livy and St
Augustine.20 Later in the evening, the studiolo offered a convivial setting
for conversation, seemingly the day’s final activity before the Duke
retired to his bedchamber.
While less important politically than Urbino, Gubbio was the birthplace for both Federico and his heir, Guidobaldo, and was therefore
highly significant to the Montefeltro for reasons of dynastic continuity.
Moreover, following Battista Sforza’s marriage to Federico in 1460, the
Gubbio Palace became her favourite residence. It is quite possible then,

Ducal Palace,
Gubbio. Partial plan
of ground floor.
Chamber I, termed
“gabinetto,” signifies
the studiolo, whose
ceiling and intarsia
are now installed at
the Metropolitan
Museum of Art,
New York City.
Archivio di Stato,
Florence, Fondo
Urbinate, Classe III,

Robert Kirkbride

Urbino.View toward southeast corner with
lectern in a studiolo-within-a-studiolo (left), a
positive organ by Juhani Castellano (right), and
a bench and cabinet door that hinge open to
fulfill their represented function. See Pasquale
Rotondi’s hypothetical arrangement of a bench
and lectern at the southeast corner, below.
Photo by author

as Luciano Cheles has noted, that the renovation of the palace by
Francesco di Giorgio Martini was intended to commemorate the
Duchess, as well as to celebrate the birthplace of the heir.21
As a result, there are subtle differences between the studioli. Unlike
the Urbino studiolo, a between space par excellence, the Gubbio studiolo was a more private cul-de-sac, situated at one end of the palace
library. Moreover, instead of the uomini illustri, Gubbio featured a cycle
of seven allegorical paintings, each depicting a liberal art as a goddess
who offers a manuscript or symbolic object (representative of the respective art) to a mortal. Of the original seven, only the images of four have
survived: Ptolemy with astronomy, Costanza Sforza with music, Federico with dialectic, and Guidobaldo with rhetoric. This last portrait formerly occupied the most central position in the chamber.22
It is even more difficult to discern a “functional” use of the Gubbio
studiolo. For example, while particular areas of the Urbino intarsia folded out into furniture, the paneling in the Gubbio studiolo was entirely
fixed. Unlike at Urbino, there are no hidden cabinets or bookshelves, nor
was there apparently any free-standing furniture. Nonetheless, there are
several clues that point to the uses of the studiolo, the first of which may
be deduced from the cycle of allegorical portraits.
In Dialectic, the Duke is shown genuflecting before the goddess and is
either receiving or returning a closed book. Curiously, Federico’s gaze is
focused not on the goddess but beyond the frame to the adjacent portrait, which depicts his son Guidobaldo receiving an opened book from

Left: Guidobaldo da Montefeltro (1472–1508) with the goddess Rhetoric.
National Gallery, London
Right: Duke Federico da Montefeltro (1422–82) with the goddess Dialectic. Originally in the
Gubbio studiolo, relocated to the Kaiser Friedrich Museum in Berlin and destroyed during
World War II. Staatliche Museen Preussischer Kulturbesitz, Berlin

Rhetoric. The goddess gestures to the verso page while training her gaze
upon us, the observers who would be standing in the centre of the chamber. From this privileged position, which maximizes the effect of the perspectival illusion, we can imagine ourselves in the shoes of the young
Prince – his own image fixed eternally under the Duke’s watchful gaze –
raising his own eyes to meet those of the placidly stern goddess of
Rhetoric. The incentive to attend to his studies must have been enormous.
Another clue is found in the only section of intarsia not immediately
visible upon entering the chamber. Here we find the image of a lectern,
on which a manuscript of Virgil’s Aeneid is illusionistically opened to the
passage describing the death of Pallas,23 likely a reference to the death of
Duke Federico. Above the lectern there is a circular mirror bearing the
letters g.ba.ldo.dx, signifying Duke Guidobaldo.
Since Federico’s ducal insignias are found elsewhere in the chamber, it
might be argued that the studiolo was completed following Federico’s
death. However, one could easily counter that the program for the chamber had been conceived, or adapted, in preparation for the inevitable
transference of the dukedom to, as Castiglione describes it, “a motherless little boy of ten years.” Regardless of the exact timing, the educa138

Robert Kirkbride

Gubbio, window niche. A mirror, traditionally associated with the cardinal
virtue of prudence (and thereby with
memory), with initials proclaiming
“Guidobaldo, Dux.” Photo by author

tional theme of the studiolo, underscored by the portraits of the liberal
arts, would have been most appropriate for a young prince. Seen in this
light, the general tone of the Gubbio studiolo is slightly more “studious”
than at Urbino: there are fewer visual “tricks”; the container of bonbons,
readily “shared” at Urbino, is placed on a cabinet shelf at Gubbio.
From contemporary accounts, Guidobaldo was an avid student: he
was fluent in Greek and could read many manuscripts in the Ducal
Library that Federico, who had received only rudimentary training in
Greek grammar, could not. More notably, Guidobaldo was admired for
his “remarkable powers of memory,” which had been acquired through
“judicious and habitual exercise.”24 As such, the studiolo of Gubbio
might be seen as an educational compass, conceived to assist the young
prince in his navigation of the political uncertainties of the day and to
continue the ascendant legacy of the house of Montefeltro.
From a historical vantage, the studioli are most often regarded for
their display of mathesis universalis, a proportional harmony underlying
all universal phenomena that may be apprehended through the mathematical arts and translated through the medium of architecture to frame
thought and action. In the studioli, this commensurable harmony is

The Architecture of Memory

manifest in the virtuoso marriage of intarsia and the recently formalized
principles of perspective.25
Given the evidence provided by Federico’s biographers and comments
from notable scholars of the Court, including those offered by the Duke
himself, it might appear that the Court of Urbino held the mathematical
arts in preeminence to the verbal arts.26 In his famous patent of 1468,
which awarded Luciano Laurana the architectural commission for the
Ducal Palace at Urbino, Federico declared, “We deem as worthy of honour and commendation men gifted with ingenuity and remarkable skills,
and particularly those which have always been prized by both Ancients
and Moderns, as has been the skill (virtù) of architecture, founded upon
the arts of arithmetic and geometry, which are the foremost of the seven
liberal arts because they depend upon exact certainty.”27
While this passage might seem to summarily quell any further doubts
on the matter, we must take into consideration a curious detail: if the arts
of arithmetic and geometry were perceived as preeminent to the verbal
arts and noting that the program of the Gubbio studiolo in particular
was dedicated to all of the liberal arts, why then was Guidobaldo depicted with the art of rhetoric and not with one of the mathematical arts?
This question may be addressed on (at least) three levels. In humanistic pedagogy, the verbal arts offered precepts for the early stages of
learning, and in fact the construction of the Gubbio studiolo coincided
with this period of Guidobaldo’s education.28 Second, highly cultivated
skills of diplomatic eloquence and persuasion were required to negotiate the interlacing wiles of an Italic peninsula constantly in turmoil,
whether among its own factious powers or in the shadow of the
encroaching Ottoman Empire. Guidobaldo’s tutor Ludovico Odasio
considered the “powers” of eloquence and an extensive acquaintance
with history to be “the great aim of a princely education.”29 Duke Federico’s own successful career had greatly hinged upon the interception
of and response to a discrediting letter written by his lifelong nemesis,
Sigismondo Malatesta.30
The third and most comprehensive response forms the basis of this
essay. During the Renaissance – and particularly at the court of Urbino
– categorical divisions of thought and learning were more fluid and
hypothetical than one might expect: the pursuit of one mode of learning
was perceived, not as contrary to, but rather to the benefit of another.31


Robert Kirkbride

For example, architecture was perceived to offer a bridge between the
mathematical arts, which lend themselves to mechanical practices, and
the art of rhetoric, a discipline significant to the cultivation of memory
and eloquence. While architecture represented a virtuous consummation
of mathematics, as is evident in Federico’s patent, it served also as an
educational model for memory-building. Thus, the study of rhetoric was
not necessarily limited to oral and verbal expression. By the architectonic nature of its precepts, rhetoric was associated with mathematical
expression, even if indirectly; nonetheless, consistent with the tendency
of history to alight upon the unusual and overlook the commonplace,
evaluation of the studioli has stressed the historical significance of their
perspectival compositions. Consequently, over time the more traditional
and, hence, less extolled rhetorical and mnemonic undercurrents have
become somewhat obscured.
It is possible to enrich our understanding of the studioli by pursuing a
line of inquiry hinted at by Alberto Pérez-Gómez: “the [studioli] intarsia
constituted the stage for a new orbis studiorum, a new definition of
knowledge distinct from medieval theology but not distant from its aspirations.”32 How did the studioli serve to redefine the “sphere of knowledge”? In what ways are they similar to and different from medieval and
classical precedents?
While addressing these concerns, my aim is also to examine the role
of architecture in this transformation of knowledge. Traditionally, architecture has provided a concrete, organizational metaphor for learning
and memory-training, with the practice of constructing buildings serving
as a pedagogical mirror to the intimate process of self-edification. As a
medium uniquely conducive to rhetorical and material investigation,
architecture has enabled the mind to ask itself (even to conceive of asking itself) such experiential dilemmas as are reflected in the following
passage from St Augustine’s Confessions: “The power of the memory
is prodigious, my God. It is a vast, immeasurable sanctuary. Who can
plumb its depths? And yet it is a faculty of my soul. Although it is part
of my nature, I cannot understand all that I am. This means, then, that
the mind is too narrow to contain itself entirely. But where is that part
of it which it does not itself contain? How, then, can it be part of it, if it
is not contained in it? I am lost in wonder when I consider this problem.
It bewilders me.”33


The Architecture of Memory

on architecture, memory, and icono graphy
Augustine’s comparison of memory to a sanctuary reflects the deep association between architecture and memory. This kinship stems from a
fundamental awareness that in order to preserve the stuff of memory for
future recollection, it must first be collected and carefully stored in a
manner that enables the mind’s eye to compose and recombine the materials of experience at will, as a given situation demands.34 Through its
tactics of containment, architecture helps the mind envision a spatial
matrix that expresses and recursively facilitates mnemonic practices. By
constructing this matrix, or model, of the mind’s workings within the
mind itself (the kernel of Augustine’s wonder and bewilderment),35 one
edifies oneself as container of the universe of one’s experience. Consequently, architecture historically has served educators as an ideal model
for learning, by furnishing mnemonic armatures that help the mind render knowledge and experience accessible and comprehensible.36
Before our experiences may be stored as the stuff of memory, however, they must be presented in a form that may be grasped by the mind.
According to Aristotle, memories are ideas, abstracted from sensual
stimuli, that the mind cannot apprehend without a representative
image.37 Augustine echoes this thought, “The things which we sense do
not enter the memory themselves, but their images are there ready to
present themselves to our thoughts when we recall them.”38 While it is
now a common notion that the other senses offer significant contributions to the formation of personal memory (even triggering the confounding episodes best described as synaesthesic) the faculty of vision
has been traditionally considered the central agency, the “noble sense,”
of memory and reason.
Despite their pivotal role in preserving sensuous perceptions,
mnemonic images do not inherently mean anything. Reduced to their
essence, they offer mental switches, or conduits, that help one’s mind
constellate ideas from among the elements and experiences at hand.39
This does not diminish but rather reinforces the importance of the representation since from Aristotle on, memory treatises concur that the
images used for memory must be sensuously striking for an idea or experience to be fixed securely in the mind and thus available for recollection.
As Albertus Magnus describes it, “Wonder is like ‘a systole in the heart’


“exhaustive” assessment of the studioli. at the vital emotional center of witness. iconographic analyses too readily attribute a direct correspondence between image and meaning. The question we should ask of the studioli is not only “what do they mean?” but “how do they work?” the phenomenology of the STUDIOLI There are multiple layers of experience awaiting a visitor to the studioli.”41 provides a valuable investigative tool that peels back the surface layer of emblematic works such as the studioli. since an image provides a lasting influence on the eye of the mind only if it has adequately stimulated the corporeal eye. Iconography. The emotional impact of an image – its capacity to move a viewer figuratively and literally. and especially the memory. a misleading presumption. then. A less axiomatic approach is necessary to recollect those mnemonic origins of the studioli that iconographic analysis has not yet revealed and possibly cannot adequately engage. For example. “the description or illustration of any subject by means of drawings or figures. a notable shortcoming in this mode of inquiry is its tendency to emphasize the intellectual value of an image at the expense of its experiential qualities. whether one proceeds by curiosity and instinct or follows a manual or 143 . it is inappropriate to pursue a final. they evoke an ambience of wonder that is ideal for stimulating the mind. However. Scholarship has had great difficulty addressing certain perspectival illusions in the studioli that engage the observer physically but evade categorical assessment.”40 Over time.Robert Kirkbride … someone witnesses something amazing. These illusions are not merely sleights of hand-eye coordination. The intrinsic value of mnemonic imagery is precisely its capacity to convey different meanings to different people under ever-changing circumstances. This is a significant oversight.42 With this in mind. but what matters most is not ‘out there’ … but deep within. the residue of prolonged use and familiarity. if not entirely ignored. inwardly as well as outwardly – is often downplayed. images do accumulate associated meanings. A more comprehensive appreciation of the studioli calls for a mode of investigation that delves beyond iconographic groundwork to engage the dense layering of their imagery and the phenomenological impact of their composition. of course.

appear to follow the viewer across the chamber. evoking the unearthly sensation that the “contents” of the rooms are being manipulated by one’s own eyes. the latticed cabinet shutters appear to swing open and closed according to the observer’s own movement. Others follow clues in the perspectival arrangement and search for standpoints from which the overall composition may be appreciated. For instance. including the heraldic devices (imprese) of the Montefeltro. Most visitors are drawn immediately to examine the intarsia at close proximity: there is an almost overpowering desire to touch the wood paneling. Other objects. as well as the various awards Federico had accumulated during his career. Photo by author docent. “Observation at rest” corresponds to those fixed standpoints from which the illusion snaps into full focus.Urbino. such as the flutes and recorders on the bench. a tactile component decidedly truncated by museum etiquette. from his appointment as Knight of the Pope and pro144 . Further levels of reading unfold only gradually. west wall. Some emblems are purely two-dimensional. shadows seem to appear and disappear. After a visitor has perused the chambers. depending on the position of the observer with regard to certain objects. two modes of apprehending the studioli become evident: observation at rest and observation in motion. “observation in motion” refers to optical effects that are detectable only while traversing the rooms. Likewise. Conversely. Chess pieces. the shadow that extends from the tip of the mace in the Urbino studiolo offers a prime example.

Olga Raggio has suggested that the presence of the ermine and the phrase “non mai” might also have served to refute any question of Federico’s involvement in the assassination of his younger brother. further blurring the distinction between actual and ideal. in both studioli this collar dangles from a drawer or cabinet.The King of Naples awarded Duke Federico with the Order of the Ermine in August 1474. Taking into consideration Federico’s monocular vision. (See the Metropolitan Museum of Art catalogue. the illusionistic shadows cast beneath the benches and within the cabinets “originate” from actual apertures in the rooms.44 145 . the astrolabe and chess pieces refer not only to their practical uses for astronomical calculation and gentlemanly gamesmanship but also to established precepts of memory-training and lessons in prudent governance. “The Liberal Arts Studiolo from the Ducal Palace at Gubbio. from the dado of both studioli. Duke Oddantonio da Montefeltro.43 Other emblems represent three-dimensional figures that hover enigmatically between the realms of material objects and intelligible ideas. however. in 1444. The boundary between the two.” 28.) Photo by author motion to the status of Duke to his celebrated induction into the chivalric Order of the Ermine and Order of the Garter. The ermine that is emblematically depicted in the dado below the studioli cabinets elsewhere appears to dangle from the collar that Federico had received from the King of Naples. which avoided the optical dilemma that was to beguile Descartes over a century later. one can imagine how marvelously real the cabinets and their contents would have appeared to the Duke. For example.and three-dimensional is not always so crisp.Emblem of the Ermine. As another example.The ermine represented purity and loyalty: “non mai” refers to the tradition that an ermine would rather die than soil its own pure white coat.

With the weapons and instruments of scholarship disposed throughout their cabinets. a witty conflation of the vita activa and vita contemplativa. Urbino 146 . describes the appropriate nature of a work’s historia (or subject). Directly behind the central image of the ideal city is a bookpress. which Pliny had described in his letters as an armarium. and Federico’s armour (arma) at left. Book-press (armarium) at centre with panel of the ideal city. The studiolo-within-a-studiolo to the right of the Ideal City represents a place of study that was known also as an armariolum. who discusses this at length in his treatise On Painting (1435). each studiolo thus may be seen as both an armariolum and an armamentum. When Alberti. On the other side of the ideal city we find Federico’s armour. It is vital in the studioli to appreciate the emotional impact of the subject material as well as the compositional technique. known as arma: furthermore. an arsenal for arms and armour was called an armamentum. such as the series of verbal puns in the east wall at Urbino. Soprintendenza per I Beni Artistici delle Marche. east wall. he might well be describing the principles behind the studioli: Urbino.The Architecture of Memory There are other forms of play in the studioli that were highly conducive to memory-work. studiolo-withina-studiolo (armariolum) at right.

The first thing that gives pleasure in a “historia” is a plentiful variety. In light of the deep tradition of memory architecture. Just as with food and music. Socrates compares the memory to an aviary: “Let us make in each soul a sort of aviary of all kinds of birds … When anyone takes possession of a piece of knowledge [a bird] and shuts it up in the pen. To this end. the studioli provided the Montefeltro dukes with treasuries of images that were readily preserved within the memory. as well as the profound influence of classical Roman culture on Federico’s humanist court. on classical architectural mnemonics Can it be that the memory is not present to itself in its own right but only by means of an image of itself? Augustine Confessions 10. novel and extraordinary things delight us for various reasons but especially because they are different from the old ones we are used to … When the spectators dwell on observing all the details. a tactic that would enhance the memorability of the intellectual content of the chambers while conveying the mastery of the artisans and magnificence of the patron. From this point of view. the studioli would have served quite naturally in a propagandistic capacity. then the painter’s richness will acquire favour. we should say that he 147 . the studioli should be considered. particularly that of a visiting dignitary.45 All of these effects contribute to a perception that the studioli were conceived to engage the entire body as well as the eye.15 In Plato’s Theatetus. although this aspect should not be overstressed.Robert Kirkbride A “historia” you can justifiably praise and admire will be one that reveals itself to be so charming and attractive as to hold the eye of the learned and unlearned spectator for a long while with a certain sense of pleasure and emotion. an enquiry on the nature of knowledge. the studiolo at Gubbio was more private and less disposed to such “propagandistic” uses. first and foremost. While the Urbino studiolo occupied a highly political position in the palace and the affairs of the Duke. who would then recount to others the marvelous “sorts” of wisdom cultivated at the Montefeltro court. as idealized settings in which Federico and Guidobaldo would compose themselves and their thoughts as part of their responsibilities of governance.

In 1475 Federico received the Golden Rose from Pope Sixtus IV at the Vatican Palace in the Camera papagalli.”49 These techniques increased memory capacity by storing knowledge securely while providing the mind’s eye with an array of possible routes for mental perambulation and. beehives and their forulae.”46 Unfortunately. Photo by author has learned or has found … knowledge. Due to the cellular. “Confusion is the mother of ignorance and forgetfulness.”47 A retracing of mnemonic models reveals a polithetic evolution in design.50 as well as dovecotes and their loculamentae. Parrot in Italian is papagallo. At Urbino. and knowing. we should say. thought-permutation. In order to prevent such mnemonic misapprehensions.” we might very well reach in and retrieve a dove instead of the parrot we had sought. even within the confines of our own “cage. more complex models often incorporated earlier models into their design. window niche.51 were among the commonplace vessels easily transposed into the mind as models for memorytraining. through extended memory techniques such as “nesting” or “concatenation. if the “birds of knowledge” are permitted to fly about at will.48 As in the studioli. while a cage may seem a logical metaphor for memory. is this. At least as early as classical Greece. from simple architectonic containment toward increasingly elaborate strategies of memory edification. consequently. As Hugh of St Victor warns.The Architecture of Memory Gubbio. bits of information could be discretely stored and then quickly recom148 . but orderly arrangement illuminates the intelligence and firms up memory. lattice-like construction of these containers. it is vital to design memory structures carefully. A caged parrot. a room adjacent to the Pope’s bedroom that was reservsed for confidential negotiations. a cage containing two parrots is “suspended” alongside a mechanical clock.

has gradually given way to the more passive notion that thoughts are things we simply have. personalized palaces outfitted with numerous storage locations for images and expressions of wisdom. representing ideas and rhetorical arguments. or even too poorly “illuminated.Robert Kirkbride bined and re-presented as required for a given rhetorical demonstration. The memory was cultivated not merely for the recapitulation of stored information but as an imaginative engine for mixing and reinventing experiences and ideas from the exterior world within the interior chambers of the imagination. in that they provided the mind with secure memory-fixtures. striking (or monstrous) construction details were considered to be the choice materials for mnemonic construction. it is reasonable to speculate that physical architectural ornament not only influenced but was in turn influenced by the procedures of architectural mnemonics. inner reconstruction of the exterior world. This would have been especially true where sponsors of architectural construction were educated in rhetorical mnemonics. the architecture of buildings and cities provided ideal abodes for the materials of memory. amid rhetorical debate or presentation. physical architecture offered a quarry for an imaginative. The classical Greek and Roman tradition of “architectural mnemonics” consisted of the careful arrangement of images. “You were trained to furnish the rooms of the mind.55 If the locations for memory-placement were too ordinary. one could call upon rhetorical passages at will. Subsequently. As a result.” Mary Carruthers has stated. as the human mind contrived more elaborate matrices for expanding mental and mnemonic skills). One would extract spaces and ornament from the buildings encountered in daily life and recompose them within the mind as fantastic. in palaces and cities constructed in the mind. Significantly.53 As a student became adept at these memory exercises (and in general. a skill highly admired at least until the end of the Renaissance. “because you cannot think if you do not have something to think with. and thinking is the mark of the citizen. from any and all available materials. The architectonic expression of thought became firmly associated with the liberal 149 . the perception that we make our own thoughts.54 In this training.” errors would occur.”52 The demonstration of one’s well-furnished memory through inventive oration conveyed one’s capacity for crafting thought. and re-present them in an appropriate sequence through the mental navigation of a given palace/treatise. as in classical Rome.56 With this in mind.

the architecture of individual palaces and the city provided a ubiquitous map and legend (as well as a mental stage-setting) for composing one’s thoughts – and composing oneself – for the theatre of civic participation.60 The character Antonius recounts how Simonides of Ceos had discovered the principles 150 . Intarsia capital with ornament of the scopas (a hand-brush).This symbol of purity had been absorbed into the dynastic emblems of the Montefeltro through Federico’s marriage to Battista Sforza in 1460.” with the physical architecture and ornament articulating an ambience conducive for thought. Federico was renowned (and feared) as a military leader for his use of heavy artillery as well as his tactical genius.”58 The second part of the phrase. and in sufficient space to accommodate their audiences. which suggests that spaces were created within the private residence to house these rhetorical performances. an enquiry into the ideal philosophical orator. as well as the sensuous conduits for guiding one’s mindfulness to the construction site of one’s memory.”57 The first part of this phrase offers insight into the value that the practice of rhetoric had gained as an educational/theatrical performance.59 Certain areas of the Roman house were designated as places to “enter into thought. Photo by author Right: Urbino. Vitruvius attests to the significance bestowed upon rhetoric during this period: “Advocates [lawyers] and professors of rhetoric should be housed with distinction. is even more notable. Intarsia capital with ornament of exploding grenade. north wall. with a rhetorician earning fees “on the scale of those given to a prima donna in our time.Left: Urbino. For a culture defined by political oration and legal debate. Cicero offers a few examples of these domestic settings. north wall. Photo by author art of rhetoric within the education of the Roman aristocracy. In book 2 of De oratore.

Boscoreale (40–30 BC). Obscure in its origins and function. but read over and over again.”64 Pliny the Younger offers a more informative comment in his Epistolae. now at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. the cubiculum.” a logical assessment given its Latin root cubare. noting simply that “private rooms [cubicula] and libraries should look to the east. for their purpose demands the morning light. The Oxford English Dictionary renders cubiculum (as well as its derivative cubicle) as “bedroom.”63 Aside from the portico and exedra. there is another chamber in the Roman house. and holds books not merely to be read. New York City. to which Crassus (and Cicero. retires to an exedra where he devotes “all this midday interval to the closest and most careful meditation. Antonius chooses to compose his thoughts while walking in the portico. Otherwise.The cubiculum from the Villa of Fannius Synestor. evoking a studious ambience: “My cubiculum has a press let into the wall which does duty as a library. this chamber remains to this day somewhat misunderstood. Vitruvius mentions the cubiculum only once. Photo by Schecter Lee of architectural mnemonics from the banquet table by placing images (imagines) in an orderly set of architectural locations (loci) in his memory.61 Elsewhere in the dialogue. Antonius and Crassus take a siesta to contemplate their responses to matters that others had placed before them.”65 151 . on the other hand. who had purchased Crassus’s house) could retire. to recline.62 Crassus. to meditatively compose himself and his responses.

for conversation with particular friends. as their English translations suggest. Although this particular piece is not original to the chamber. as may be gathered from Cicero. envoy to the Emperor Caligula. “The couches upon which the Romans recline at their repasts shine with gold and pearls. to this end a small couch has been placed in the room. this period of the day and the setting of the cubiculum would have been utilized for “business. As Philo. In accord with traditional scholarship. its inclusion is not erroneous. above) 152 . Pasquale Rotondi’s hypothetical arrangement of a bench and lectern at the southeast corner (recall view toward southeast corner with lectern.”68 Carruthers elaborates: Urbino.The Architecture of Memory A well-preserved cubiculum extracted from the villa of Fannius Synestor at Boscoreale may be visited at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The error lies in the assumption that the couch would have been used for sleeping and not for other activities.”67 Repasts and siestas were not utilized merely as periods of eating and sleeping. for reading and contemplation.66 the label describes the cubiculum as a bedroom. Instead. observed.

the appropriate posture for thought had changed from a reclined to a seated position: Cicero’s “day-bed” was replaced as the furniture-for-musing by the reading lectern. with fantastic. lectus (“gather by picking” like flowers) and “read. but one for conversation and study – perhaps because of its partial homophony with legere. the lectern served a prominent role in commemorating Federico’s death. as Rotondi has suggested. ostensibly to consider and compose his responses by consulting the appropriate authorities and their commentaries on the subject. Furthermore. At Gubbio. via Cicero’s lectulus. The word Cicero uses. lecterns figure prominently in both the Gubbio and Urbino studioli. it is quite likely that it would have been a lectern.70 From da Bisticci’s accounts. since Federico used the studiolo not only to read alone. After hearing their news or requests. there was originally a table placed in the middle of the Urbino chamber. theatrical architecture … The murals make a “theater” of locations that. In the intarsia at Urbino. intercolumnia. Romans meditated in a reclined position – in both the public exedra and the more private cubiculum. meant not just a bed for sleeping. in Baldi’s description. Federico received visitors seeking counsel. was assumed to be conducive to inventional meditation – not because it provided subject-matter. The linguistic interpolation of bed and reading. apparently. the route. lectulus.69 In addition to the peripatetic mode of composition preferred by Antonius. Federico would retire to the studiolo.(and rote-) like quality. but because the familiarity. a large lectern is featured in the studiolo-within-a-studiolo: adjacent panels even fold out to form what may have actually served as a bench and reading stand. it is apparent that Federico used the Urbino studiolo in a manner similar to the Roman cubiculum. However. as is evident in the contemporary portraiture of the scholarly church fathers.Robert Kirkbride [Synestor’s cubiculum is] just large enough for a single couch. In the Sala delle Udienze. of such a patterned series in one’s most tranquil space could help provide an order or “way” for compositional cogitation. Not surprisingly. To draw an even more concrete connection between the studioli and cubiculum. was to continue into the Renaissance: the lettiera was a standard form of bed during the fifteenth century. 153 .” Its walls are all painted in panels. but to be read to by another. Although the exact character of this table is not certain.

when he likened the scholarscientist to a bee in the first chapter of the Novum Organum. we realize that Cheles was more correct in his comparison than perhaps even he was aware: the physical description of Pliny’s cubiculi concurs precisely with the physical arrangement of the Urbino studiolo. Photo by author we might return to Pliny’s phrase.”72 When the studious significance of the cubiculum is restored. in his analysis.71 it is even more interesting to note that Luciano Cheles. whose diligent investigations afield gather nectar to produce honey. In a related note of interest. It is not at 154 . While it is interesting to note that Pliny’s manuscript was present in the Ducal Library of Urbino. when monasteries would literally buzz with the sounds of cogitation. as brethren “ate the book” and ruminated. crops the words cubiculi mei from his citation of Pliny’s phrase.75 While the steady hum of softly vocalised lectio had been all but silenced by the advent of the printed page. the trope was incorporated by Francis Bacon in 1626 as a fundamental image of the scientific method.74 This trope became somewhat less metaphoric during the medieval epoch. perhaps due to its traditional misinterpretation as “bedroom.Gubbio. scholars were likened to bees. Floralegium ornament at ceiling. Virgil in his fourth Georgic speaks of the bees’ cells as cubilia and of the bees retiring for the night in their bedchambers.73 In ancient tradition.

No longer a mere choreographic display of the “birds of knowledge. Augustine. as “Lord of the Mind. Due to the influence of the fathers of the early Christian Church – Paul. as the Maker of all things. In the studiolo at Urbino. Classical architectural mnemonics were transformed by Christian theologists into sancta memoria. or holy recollection. the studiolo at Gubbio served as an incubator for the Duke that Guidobaldo was to become. Ambrose. and the floral ornament often found along the margins of architectural settings of study.Robert Kirkbride all far-fetched. fabricated human memory and therefore. the pedagogical objectives and procedures of memory-training had begun to change markedly. then. to draw a comparison between the mnemonic imagery of classical forulae.” memory came to be seen as a way of thinking in its own right. O Lord! And I have not found you outside it. entwined within the genealogy of these pedagogical metaphors. invisible God. In particular. and Gregory the Great (all of whom had been extremely well-versed in the art of rhetoric)76 – the role of memory expanded from storage and inventory to foster skills of seeking and invention. as a process of inventive wayfinding to be practised throughout the pilgrimage of one’s life. St Augustine Confessions 10. on the medieval S A N C TA M E M O R I A and the mechanisms of memory I have explored the vast field of my memory in search of you. the floralegium (literally. The Montefeltro studioli represent elaborations upon this genealogy. as a cell in which the scholar/bee would distill and preserve the sweet nectar of experience. Jerome. Federico distilled the rewards of the person he had proven to be. memory became the ideal vehicle to facilitate the search for an immutable.” dwells in some “cell” or 155 .24 Even before the fall of the Roman Empire. Nor is it stretching the point too far to envision the cubiculum. the reading of flowers) found in the margins of medieval illuminated manuscripts. a monastic practice that centred on the cultivation of memory through a process known as aedificatio (self-edification). Augustine’s comment that God is not to be found “outside” the memory follows from a sinuous line of logic surmising that God.

To recollect. “First we put in place the foundations of literal meaning [historia]. through the grace of our moral understanding. Through meditation exercises.”79 Memory became. then through typological interpretation we build up the fabric of our mind in the walled city of faith. that by its means [the soul] may be lifted to God. the matrices of memory architecture could be expanded indefinitely.”80 Among the various pedagogical devices implemented in the habitus of memory construction. the circumference of the orbis studiorum was determined elastically by the capacities of one’s memory: hence the emphasis placed on the cultivation of mnemonic powers. The craft of memory-building followed a very different sort of logic: truth in sancta memoria was inventively fabricated through the process of aedificatio. As Gregory the Great describes it in Moralia in Job. Although the orbis studiorum of Augustine’s world was bounded by God. Truth as interpreted through the meditative exercises of sancta memoria is not to be confused with either the knowledgeable demonstrations of a classical education or. as though with added color. particularly with regard to its 156 .The Architecture of Memory “sanctuary” located therein. reproducible evidence.77 Memory offered a dwelling place for God. “Whisper words of truth in my heart … while I withdraw to my secret cell [cubiculo] and sing you hymns of love. and at the end. this was far less constricting than one might imagine. Through concentrated meditation. we clothe the building. a machina mentis – a machine of the mind to stimulate and guide thought and action. with a scientific truth as substantiated by hard. architecture served as the central operative metaphor for this ongoing construction. groaning with grief that I cannot express as I journey on my pilgrimage.” placing it central to the practice of meditation: “a soul placed far from God creates a kind of machine. in which the craft of edifying thoughts mirrored the edifying craft of architecture. Gregory the Great elaborated on Augustine’s image of “memory-lifting. one must first have constructed within the mind the means to recollect. as well as a means to draw nearer to God. the search of one’s fields of memory would reveal God’s wisdom. Yet I shall remember the heavenly Jerusalem and my heart shall be lifted up towards that holy place. in Gregory’s words.”78 The approach to God called upon holy recollection. providing an inward model for a pilgrimage of the external world. As Augustine implores. even less. Since God was not to be found outside the memory.

due to its pivotal role in the construction of divine structures such as cathedrals and monasteries. even those with a clear and common purpose. served as an operable metaphor for this ascent. all collaborative projects are easily sabotaged by miscommunication.”85 This pragmatic observation. while clearly intended as a matter-of-fact account of the process of construction. foreshadowed a central motif of sancta memoria. empowering one to emulate in small compass the labours of God the Architect. in book 10 of his enquiry into the ideals of architecture. As the lesson of the Tower of Babel illustrates. without appropriate planning and prudent guidance. Isidore of Seville extracts the word maciones (mason) from the Latin machina.”84 He then distinguished between machines (machinae) that are “driven by several workmen” and instruments (organae) that “carry out their purpose by the careful handling of a single workman. By entering into (a) memory-building. Previously. citing the tradition of the architect/ inventor who. like Daedalus.Robert Kirkbride material practices of fabrication. due to the overarching notion that God the Architect would have used such a mechanism – a machina universalis – while fabricating the universe.”83 As the integral mechanism of aedificatio. the practice of contemplation facilitated the discovery/fabrication of a universe within one’s memory. As caretaker of the process of construction and the chief fabricator who translates the intangible ideals of a community into its places of gathering. Building became valued as a gerund. 157 . a mechanism for hoisting blocks of masonry into place.82 For Gregory the Great the machina represented the act of contemplation. designs the walls of buildings as well as machines that facilitate their fabrication. The architect’s machina. The operation of machines required collaborative effort to transport materials too heavy for one person. an active state as well as a simple enclosure. one ascended from the world toward God in a state of contemplative love. This simple fact supplied the practitioners of aedificatio with a rich source for allegorical interpretation. that enabled one to elaborate on the foundations of historia and “build up the fabric of [the] mind. Vitruvius had defined a machine somewhat less metaphorically as “a continuous material system having special fitness for the moving of weights. but even more importantly. Memory as a practice of wayfinding drew upon architecture as a process. energized by love.81 In his Etymologiae.

representing the practice of meditation. The indefinite duration of this construction should not be reduced to matters of technological capability but should rather be understood as a reflection of ontological aspirations quite removed from our own. St Paul refers to himself as a wise master-builder. Drawing of the hoisting mechanism designed by Filippo Brunelleschi to construct the Duomo at Florence. the architect’s machina. From the peripatetic St Paul to his monastic descendants. court architect of Urbino an architect is invested with profound ethical responsibility. In 1 Corinthians 3:10–17. Subsequent authors. was conveyed to the site of memory-building as an ethical device essential to the procedures of self-edification. Buildings such as cathedrals and monasteries were continuously under construction. their final form manifesting centuries of communal effort and an aggregation of ornamental character. From the sketchbook of Francesco di Giorgio Martini. For the tradition of sancta memoria. The collaborative nature of construction offered other allegorical dimensions.A Renaissance example of the architect’s machina. such as Gregory the Great and 158 . as bestowed by legacies of architects and master-masons. rhetoricians and educators of sancta memoria played on the image of architecture as an exercise for building personal character and communal identity. claiming to have laid the foundations of a Christian doctrine whereupon others would continue to build within themselves – each as a temple wherein God dwells.

as well as one’s temperament and interaction with others. including the disciplines of grammar and dialectic. expressing itself outwardly in the worldly fruit of one’s labours. all roads led to the New Jerusalem. The practice of aedificatio was thus intimately personal and yet ultimately communal.”90 Meditational composition was characterized by a free play of association and was not obliged to follow a prescribed path. The lectio – “reading” or “study” – trained one’s aptitude for thought “by the order and method of exposition and analysis.92 Apart from the evocative account of its foundations and general character in Revelations 21. lies in lectio but its consummation lies in meditation. Hugh elaborates: “[meditatio] delights to range along open ground. a treatise on education particularly significant for its treatment of both the liberal and mechanical arts. drawing together now these. one’s character was not. where it fixes its free gaze upon the contemplation of truth. drawing on the skills honed by the lectio but not bound by its rules or precepts. The start of learning.86 Although constructed with commonplace materials available to everyone – biblical stories. Although one’s memory structures were visible only to oneself. “We are fellow workers with God. nothing obscure. the convivial aspirations of sancta memoria did not diminish.Robert Kirkbride Hugh of St Victor. but rather fortified. the New Jerusalem was as open to imaginative 159 . attended to the methods of interpretation by which each student would raise. or now penetrating into profundities.88 the Augustinian Hugh of St Victor divided the stages of learning into the lectio divina and meditatio. internally and uniquely. architectural settings and ornament – one’s memory architecture was a personal creation. it was essential for meditation to have a target destination to orient one’s inner pilgrimage. thus. one built personal character and also found guiding principles for everyday life. now those ideas. In the Didascalicon (1128). as architects of their own lives and as participants in the ongoing fabrication of truth. As St Paul exhorts.”87 Nonetheless. you are God’s building. all who practised aedificatio were united by the notion that each continued the work of God. an allegorical superstructure upon the foundations of historia. By aedificatio.91 Nonetheless. reflecting the unique character cultivated through one’s habituation to the precepts of aedificatio. Augustine’s City of God. leaving nothing doubtful. While this mnemonic architecture was invisible to others.”89 The meditatio was more advanced. personal expression. In monastic meditation.

since the accumulation of experience enables one to conduct one’s craft with increasing acumen and foresight.The Architecture of Memory interpretation as the mnemonic models and mechanisms conceived to assist in one’s journeys. because they conveyed thought beyond the realm of the senses.93 A well-trained memory was considered central to the cultivation of prudence. The intangible objective of the New Jerusalem did not diminish.97 Picturae assisted in the memorization of significant narratives by supplying the memory with cues for the turning 160 . like the imagines of classical architectural mnemonics. Cogent examples of such virtù are offered by medieval picturae – actual paintings.”94 Traditionally associated with wisdom by way of sapientia (the term used by Cicero). present. the virtue of discernment between. prudence surveys the cause and effect of past. energized and supplied with the materials gathered from one’s diligent investigations afield.95 Similarly. prudence was considered an essential moral compass for one’s participation in the field of human interaction. Knowledge of a material art was thought to provide a “sort” of wisdom. what is bad. the value of material works. as Cicero describes it. stimulated cogitation and facilitated mnemonic navigation. Also referred to as mappae. and future. toward divine contemplation. and what is neither good nor bad. the City of God also served as a constant reminder that citizenship in the hereafter was determined by the character of one’s actions in the here and now. then. While providing an inner source of hope and fortitude by the promise of an ideal state unassailed by fortuna and the fragility of human affairs. offering inner counsel on the most appropriate course for one’s actions. a procedure considered by Aristotle to be central in the development of one’s character (éthos) and the pursuit of ethical excellence.96 As a result. “what is good. products of artisanry were often termed virtù. the picturae were composed of imagines agentes: activating images that. was to envision the ideal city within oneself as a communal building site for memory. or mental images painted with words – that were conceived to be borne between the eyes of the body and the eye of the mind as guides to contemplation. particularly those that assisted in mnemonic composition. The fruit of study. memory-building was thought to refine one’s natural abilities through habitual training. Whether employed in the fabrication of thoughts or buildings or in the governance of a city. but rather elevated.

picturae offered many visual apertures for an observer to catch hold of and enter into thought. in order to prevent the flow of one’s thought from wandering too far astray. 161 . now those ideas” as one explored the heuristic causeways of the memory. During contemplation of a pictura. This space of engagement was not necessarily limited to a single pictura but could be elaborated into a thematic cycle.100 The representation offered a space of thought. the mind’s eye literally would enter the picture plane and navigate among the images. The imagines agentes provided mnemonic markers along this flow.101 Ductus offered provisional tracks for the pilgrim’s progress. follow Aristotle’s suggestion to begin from a central location and proceed by considering the images on either side. Connective pictoral filaments. altering its pace. “drawing together now these. evoking within the observer the emotions appropriate to respective narrative passages and renewing the observer’s interest and participation. it was essential for meditation to have provisional limits. or guides. served literally as conduits for the flow of one’s thought: redirecting it. One might. for example.Robert Kirkbride points of a given storyline. generating new associations and courses for thought. picturae provided meditational composition with a starting point and the visual channels and ornaments (ductus) to convey the mind’s eye among the imagines agentes of a given narrative.99 Less significant than where meditation began was how it began: for a well-trained memory. These visual prompts also furnished one’s meditations with loci with which to insinuate narrative compositions of one’s own.98 In addition to the destination of the New Jerusalem. In ways akin to the Roman cubiculum. and drawing the mind’s eye along a narrative path while providing opportunities for digression and invention. the point of departure consisted of any phrase or image that adequately stimulated the emotions and triggered the recollective process. Meditation stimulated the discovery and fabrication of alternate routes among one’s memory structures. such as architectural ornament. whether in its presence or in recollection. In addition to its role in articulating physical and mental pictures. a visual setting conducive to mental perambulation. ductus would conduct an observer along extended narrative sequences within a cathedral. Nonetheless.

traditionally associated with charity and concord. Photo by author . centre panel of east wall. At left. at right. a basket of fruit. representative of prudence. a domesticated squirrel.Urbino. seen at distance through the arcade.The ideal city.

104 Through sancta memoria. in addition to its metaphoric dimensions. The cathedral provided the medieval mind with an “engine for prayer.”103 facilitating private compositional meditation and communal ritual proceedings. a physical matrix that set thought in motion by engaging the entire sensory apparatus of the body.102 Narrative cycles could also be dispersed strategically throughout a larger construct as markers for ritual processions. “With [the influence of ] virtù so does one scale the stars. in representations as well as buildings. or as an episode of the worldly pilgrimage. the ornamental language of architecture was conceived and refined as a topological guide to visualizing social conduct. contemplative settings. offered a ductus that conveyed the mind’s eye between the exterior world and the interior seat of witness. With the theological and moral underpinnings of Christian doctrine. as well as the perambulatory flow of pilgrims across Europe toward the earthly Jerusalem. Picturae could be mounted onto wooden panels and assembled contiguously to create intimate. the “twelve stations of the cross” exemplifies a traditional narrative that was frequently incorporated into the ornamental fabric of a cathedral and the ritual choreography of its congregation. as at St Peter’s and Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome.Robert Kirkbride throughout a monastic compound. provided a prosthetic for the mind.” Photo by author 163 . mnemonic architecture became a mode of invention as well as a container for inventory. Architecture. north wall. In this context architectural ornament. Study was considered a Urbino.

how does one live among others? Within these two pedagogical traditions. or as a habitual exercise of self-edification.The Architecture of Memory lifelong endeavour rather than a liminal phase. Whether utilized as a visual matrix to assist in public oration and disputation. By building with the materials in memory. their comprehensive perspectival arrangement signalled a shift from the inward habit of mnemonic composition toward a more extroverted mediation of the world by the corporeal eye and its prosthetic instruments. The practice of meditatio cultivated one’s habits in emulation of God the Architect. with mechanical practices such as perspective serving to recalibrate deeper rhetorical traditions. the architecture of memory offered a mental theatre for actively participating in the apprehension of truth and the determination of knowledge. a scientia mechanica centred on the belief that humans might participate directly in the inner workings of the universe. However. through the metaphor of aedificatio. classical architectural mnemonics and sancta memoria addressed the same fundamental question: how can one integrate personal experience and preexisting constructs of knowledge and truth? In essence.105 Like the Roman cubiculum and medieval picturae. the studioli also manifested a profound transformation in practices of envisioning knowledge. a lifetime of finding and keeping to the Way. as a pilgrim en route between the lost Zion and the dream of the New Jerusalem. The studioli demonstrated the emergence of a quantitative methodology for representing reality. within the studioli this transformation appears as a syncretic overlap rather than an abrupt departure. Historia served as the foundations upon which the edifice of one’s life would be constructed. the Renaissance studioli offered physical “theatres of locations” conducive to contemplation. conclusion: V I RT U T I B U S I T U R A D A S T R A Although their objectives were different. as in classical Greece and Rome. Nonetheless. Lectio prepared the adept with the tools and procedures for crafting thought and thereby edifying oneself. memory offered a site of reconciliation. The passion with which Federico and his scholars embraced the mathematical arts was mixed with a deep appreciation of a history that had been recorded and recovered primarily through 164 . one negotiated everyday life while contributing to the unceasing fabrication of the New Jerusalem.

to our backward gaze. the notion of virtù had accumulated the moral and ethical overtones of medieval Christianity. The studioli were intricately wrought from many philosophical and artisanal traditions: their imagery encompasses subjects that. detail of ideal city seen in illustration of Urbino. scholastic and mechanical science. By Federico’s day. As such. virtù effected an empathy between human emotions and the sensible realm of materials. centre panel of east wall. In Virgil’s Rome. and yet akin. Above all. if not irreconcilable. virtù provided a means to reach the divine and to insinuate oneself within the pantheon of communal memory. above. to their classical and medieval precedents. by its lineaments and ornament. For Federico. Whether manifest as a painting or a room. pagan and Christian wisdom – may be found in the multiple aspects of the notion of virtù.Urbino. a balance maintained between active participation in contemporary affairs and contemplative pursuits. A key to understanding Federico’s world – which turned upon such virulent debates as the vita activa and the vita contemplativa. these two states 165 . virtù represented military valour. a palace or a city. Photo by author the verbal arts. From Federico’s vantage. virtù represented a well-tempered personal character: in particular. as well as the skills demonstrated in the crafting of thought and material artifacts. Architecture. provided a tangible medium for the expression of virtù in the realm of human affairs. often appear contradictory. As an integration of the visible and invisible. the artifacts themselves were considered virtù. in fact. the studioli are distinctly removed from.

Federico. providing Federico and Guidobaldo with treasuries for personal experience. Architecture provided a material and metaphoric expression for this integration. while those who trust to theory and literature obviously follow a shadow and not reality. and templates for action. soon acquire influence and attain their purpose. sources of willpower. The studioli may be seen as open manuals for navigation. one might draw a phrase from Vitrivius to appreciate Federico’s affinity for this discipline: “architects who without culture aim at manual skill cannot gain a prestige corresponding to their labours. awaiting the liberating flights of Columbus and Copernicus. While we tend to imagine the early Renaissance humanists to be encaged in a closed universe. one could ascend within the prevailing social and political structures. Federico da Montefeltro’s rise from military captain to Duke offers an illustrious example of the capacity to intervene in one’s own fate.The young prince’s position at the Duke’s right knee recalls the ancient Roman practice of demonstrating patrolineage. 166 .Portrait of Federico and Guidobaldo. a well-trained memory was considered an indispensable recombinatorium for ideas and a speculative mechanism for change. if not codependent.”106 Until well into the Renaissance. like Alberti. Photo by Massimo Listri were cooperative. But those who have mastered both. his life accomplishments demonstrated to his contemporaries that the hermetic cycle of noble birth could be negotiated. By an appropriate integration of the vita activa and the vita contemplativa. ca. Recalling the visual and verbal pun of the armarium/armamentum and the ideal city located between them. like men equipped in full armour. 1475. painted by Justus of Ghent. was an illegitimate child.

The studioli do not represent total knowledge but offer an architectonic matrix within which the observer figures as a vital participant-agent in retrieving associations and forging them anew. and The Craft of Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1998). and charity. dialectics. and artisans. Mary Carruthers. 3 For the history of memory training. visitors to touch the intarsia? Although the exact appearance and use of mnemonic palaces and cities vanished irretrievably with their authors. Over the ensuing five hundred years. hope. if not beside the point. architect. It is precisely by their capacity to engage the observer – to draw us into speculation on the possible meanings of particular images. and temperance – adopted from the Old Testament (Book of Wisdom 8:7–8) and classical pedagogy (Cicero’s De inventione). Ivan Illich. La stanza della memoria (Torino: G. fortitude. prudence. to ask questions to which he could then knowingly respond? Would he have permitted. in the presence of their patron. as well as the potential meanings constellated from clusters of images – that these chambers reveal their quintessence. propagandistically conceived? Or would he have tailored a unique itinerary to each visitor. according to his perception of the other’s vested interests? To what extent were the narratives extemporized? Had Federico cultivated a repertoire? Would he have indulged a guest to muse aloud. scholarly consultants. we may discern the following from the evidence available: at the moment of their physical completion. 2 The Christian virtues include the four cardinal virtues – justice. Einaudi 1995). gathered and presented in a highly innovative manner. The theological virtues are faith. see Lina Bolzoni. and music) and the verbal arts (the “Trivium”: grammar. and rhetoric). the studioli have accumulated further layers of significance from the glosses of scholarly interpretation. geometry. the studioli embodied a deep history of ideas and practices of knowing. The absolute and original meaning of the studioli proves elusive. possibly even encouraged. In the Vineyard 167 . The Book of Memory (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1990). astronomy.Robert Kirkbride How would Federico have conducted a new guest through the studiolo? Did he have an ideal narrative. notes 1 The seven liberal arts consisted of the mathematical arts (the “Quadrivium”: arithmetic.

The Ten Books of Architecture. Like Federico. Ten Books. Maria Grazia Pernis. 1755 Leoni Edition (New York: Dover Publications 1986). Luciano Cheles. William George and Emily Waters (London: George Routledge & Sons 1926). chap. Biblioteca Vaticana: Codices Urbinates Graeci (Rome: Ex Typographeo Vaticano 1895). providing Federico with numerous manuscripts for the Ducal Library. 99. De Commodis Literarum atque Incommodis (On the Advantages and Disadvantages of Scholarship) (1428). Studiolo. 10. pa: The Pennsylvania State University Press 1986). he was deprived of his inheritance. Federico da Montefeltro and Sigismondo . Alberti was an illegitimate child. Alberti. Pisanello and Manuel Chrysoloras. the Indice Vecchio (hereafter abbreviated as i. The Studiolo of Urbino: An Iconographic Investigation (University Park.” Recent scholarship has illuminated the position of these rooms in the origins of the contemporary museum as spaces of inquiry newly emerged between the private and public sphere.v. The Book of the Courtier. Vespasiano was a bookseller in Florence and also ran a copy-house. The earliest surviving catalogue of the Ducal Library of Urbino. Leonard Opdycke (New York: Horace Liveright 1929). Castiglione. Alterations to the Duchess’s wing were not completed until after the death of Battista Sforza in 1472. Possessing Nature (Los Angeles: University of California Press 1994). bk.The Architecture of Memory 4 5 6 7 8 9 i0 i1 i2 i3 i4 i5 168 of the Text (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1993).). trans. 3. and Virginia Grace Tenzer. See Martin Kemp’s introduction to Alberti’s On Painting (New York: Penguin Books 1991). Cosimus Stornajolo. chap. see Maria Grazia Pernis and Laurie Schneider Adams. “Guarino. was published between 1482 and 1490 by the ducal librarian Agapito. A seventeenth-century plan of the Ducal Palace at Gubbio lists its studiolo as “Gabinetto.” Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 28 (1965): 196. and Frances Yates. bk. See Paula Findlen. 23. Since 1985 valuable iconographic research on the studioli has been presented by Luciano Cheles. trans. 17. For an account of this rather indecorous episode. 5. As a result. Leon Battista Alberti. See also Cheles. 14. and throughout his life he had to strike a balance between intellectual and economic pursuits. Vespasiano da Bisticci. 9. M. The Art of Memory (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1966). Leon Battista Alberti. Baxandall. 36. The Vespasian Memoirs.

some ten or fifteen years before. Although Alberti was certainly an influential figure in the Court of Urbino. with assistance from Anna Botta and Arielle Saiber. 492. 107. and to have repeated with perfect accuracy successive pages which he had read only once. 1 (London: Longman. 101. his penchant for extremism – for example. Studiolo. Vespasian Memoirs. Dialectics and Astronomy were destroyed in Berlin during World War II and exist now only in photographic record. vol. Green. 22 Rhetoric and Music are at the National Gallery in London. 25 While Alberti composed the first formalized treatise on the art of perspective (De Pictura. Brown. He is said to have possessed that rarest gift of never forgetting anything he wished to recollect. 25. and by judicious and habitual exercise were extended with advancing manhood. 21 Cheles. Also cited by Cosimus Stornajolo. duca di Urbino (1604) (Rome: F. 20 Iris Origo. xiv. 296–7. the perspectival 169 . Over time. Memoirs of the Dukes of Urbino. My own translation. As James Elkins has pointed out in The Poetics of Perspective (Ithaca: Cornell University Press 1994). Sigismondo Malatesta. 23 i. an elder rival of Montefeltro who greatly influenced Federico’s patterns of patronage. and Longmans 1851).” James Dennistoun.” Horizon 2.g. i8 da Bisticci. i9 Ibid. 109. Della vita e de’fatti di Federigo di Montefeltro. i7 Even a highly cultivated condottiere was not immune from scrutiny regarding flaws of character. Also: da Bisticci. Vespasian Memoirs. however. “most measured Renaissance architectural scenes were done using visual-ray methods. 26. 3 vols.” rather than the velo method. 24 “His [Guidobaldo’s] powers of memory were especially remarkable. Biblioteca Vaticana. See also da Bisticci. was both renowned and feared for his intelligence and battle skills. no. Zuccardi ed.Robert Kirkbride Malatesta (New York: Peter Lang 1996).v. i. 1824). 1435) his velo technique was employed more often as a rhetorical explanation of the geometric principles of Brunelleschi’s experiments than as an actual method of construction. 3 (1960): 68. Vespasian Memoirs. his overzealous advocacy of the neoplatonist Gemisthus Pletho – alienated his patrons and eventually led to his excommunication. i6 Bernardino Baldi. no. “The Education of Renaissance Man.

” Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Louise Pelletier. 1. . Memoirs. complementary to the practices of rhetoric and the verbal arts. Vespasiano da Bisticci frequently cites the Duke’s inclination toward mathematics and architecture.57.8 (i. Luca Pacioli offers various categories for knowledge in his De Divina Proportione. Within the Court of Urbino. Patrons and Artists in the Italian Renaissance (London: Macmillan 1970). as an examination of the contents of the Ducal Library illuminates. letter-writing was considered a significant rhetorical practice. “Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli. Norton 1971). ma: mit Press 1997). Training in the verbal arts commenced at age six or seven. See Pérez-Gómez. “a masterpiece of libelous eloquence. Architectural Principles in the Age of Humanism (New York: W. which concluded with the burning of a straw effigy of Malatesta on the Compidoglio. relocation. 262. 84–9. D. rather. Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge (Cambridge. Poetics. Federico’s response. “The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli. See Pernis and Adams. 165. and Alberto Pérez-Gómez. Dennistoun. composed while at Urbino under Duke Federico’s patronage (see Elkins. Nicholas of Cusa conducted the trial. vol.W. fire and woodworms. See also Rudolf Wittkower. it was not at all to the detriment of but was. However. 10. From ancient Greece and Rome through the Renaissance. Regardless.” not only annulled Malatesta’s charges but was in turn used sixteen years later by Pope Pius II as the basis of an excommunication trial brought against Malatesta.v. no.” in this volume). 1979) 224. Renaissance Thought and Its Sources (New York: Columbia University Press. Medieval and Renaissance treatises on education offered unceasing variations on the number and nature of these arts. 298.The Architecture of Memory 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 170 composition of the studioli seems to have been influenced instead by the methods described by Piero della Francesca in his De prospettiva pingendi. while this inclination may have been remarkable for its time. Chambers. 39). 67n2.S. See Paul Oskar Kristeller. St Augustine Confessions (London: Penguin Books 1961). the studioli contain the most comprehensive examples of perspectival intarsia to have survived the ravages of time – of despoliation. Federico da Montefeltro. Guidobaldo was born in 1472 and the Gubbio studiolo was constructed between 1476 and 1482. 29–33. caption 2.

90–102. Currently. Currently. 39 It is significant to distinguish between semiotics and mnemotechniques: there is no inherent meaning in a memory image. 171 . In other words. much of the brain is connected not to the sensors along the body’s surface (skin. and sharing of knowledge over a lifetime. “Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli.” See Pérez-Gómez. Building Community: A New Future for Architecture Education and Practice (Princeton: Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Learning 1996). See also Bolzoni.5. which then serves as a switchboard for the rest of the brain.” 38 St Augustine Confessions 10. 35 St Augustine Confessions 11. application. xvi. ears) but instead to a representation of the body (the “homunculus”) that is mapped directly onto the surface of the brain. nonmaterial realm of cyberspace. 40 See Lawrence Weschler. Mr. even in the protean. 36 A recent study summarized: “Architecture education is really about fostering the learning habits needed for the discovery. in our daily peregrinations. research is focusing on the degree to which the body map/homunculus may be trained or retrained. Luca Pacioli reiterates this notion in his De Divina Proportione: “nothing can be grasped by the intellect unless it has been previously offered to perception in some way. 78. educators are calling on the interdisciplinary skills of architects to assist in the reevaluation of learning – not merely for the physical design of educational buildings but to participate in the reorganization of the curriculum. As neurologist Wilder Penfield discovered in the 1950s. Mitgang.Robert Kirkbride 34 Research has established that the fabrication of this matrix is neither purely theoretical nor merely metaphorical.” Ernest L. 178. no. and 331n23. 37 Aristotle De memoria 450a 10–15 (i.8. Boyer and Lee D. integration. eyes. architecture serves as an operative metaphor: the Internet Architecture Board is an international technology advisory committee responsible for the worldwide integration of computer hardware and infrastructure. 214 and 215).v.” Sensory stimuli are gathered from throughout the body and conveyed through neural centres to this homunculus. La stanza della memoria. Wilson’s Cabinet of Wonders (New York: Pantheon Books 1995). Architecture continues to provide a model of integrated thought and action. the mind functions by creating a small representation of “itself. See Carruthers. The Craft of Thought. Moreover.

” Virgil Georgics 4. such as the ancient catena aurea (or golden chain). 49 “Nesting” entails the placement of memory images one within the next. 51 Loculamentum is used by Columella to describe the cells for bird-nests and beehives (De re rustica 8. See also Carruthers. This accident and Alberti’s recommendation for the pictoral treatment of this disfigurement contributed to Federico’s famous profile. no. 40. ma: mit Press 1990). respectively.v. This genealogical character has also been described by Barbara Duden as polithetic – consisting of discontinuous yet overlapping strands. trans. 261). and note 43. as in a hemp rope. 50 “The word forulos is of uncertain derivation. 47 De Tribus Maximis Circumstantiis Gestorum (appendix a of Carruthers. of which it is clearly the diminutive. “Complebuntque foros et floribus horrea texent. ma: Harvard University Press 1993). Techniques of the Observer (Cambridge. Michel Foucault. 45 Ibid.v. bk. no. 197d. Power/Knowledge.” “Concatenation” consists of forging links by which to construct extended chains. “Inventory” and “invention” have the same etymological origins. ed. See Alberti.J. as Foucault and Crary have discussed. 43 These accolades were received in the fall of 1474.. 44 In 1451 Federico’s right eye was destroyed and his nose broken in a ceremonial joust.12. 46 Plato’s Theatetus. no. 438) and 172 . 257.8 and 9. 90. is used by Virgil for the cells of bees. Marsilio Ficino’s translation of this work was included in his Commentary on Plato’s Convivium … de amore (i. This kinship is fundamental to the tradition of memory-training: inventive thought could not occur without a careful inventory of the materials of experience within the memory. “iconography. 221). Willis Clark. 33. i. just before the construction of the Urbino studiolo. 31. ed. Levett (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing 1992). 40.v. M. See Jonathan Crary. Duden. 492).” J. Book of Memory. 6.V. as in a “Russian doll.The Architecture of Memory 41 Oxford English Dictionary. Disembodying Women (Cambridge. Sussex: Harvester Press 1980). but foros. and trans. On Painting.” 42 Carruthers. Book of Memory. 117. 48 By evolution I do not mean to suggest a categorical history of visuality but rather. The Care of Books (Cambridge: University Press 1901).250 (i. S.2. Bernard Williams. a genealogy of practices that may be retraced. 2. Colin Gordon (Brighton. Book of Memory.

Loeb Classical Library. 71: “The ‘places and images’ [loci and imagines] scheme of artificial memory – which I call the ‘architectural mnemonic. Granger. 1. no. to show) thoughts.9. memory errors were believed to occur during the process of collection. For a rich discussion of this notion.4.v.” The DNA-Photon Project. 177.86. i. trans. Vitruvius. In antiquity and the medieval mind. which is dated 86–82 bc. 1. trans. F.’ a term more accurate than Frances Yates’s ‘Ciceronian mnemonic’ and less misleading than the Renaissance’s ‘the art of memory’ – is described most fully in Rhetorica ad Herennium. introduction and chap. ma: Harvard University Press 1983).” Dan Rose. Rackham.7.1. Ten Books of Architecture. Art of Memory. 291). since they provided the memory with visual cues by which to demonstrate (de + mostrare. “(in porticu) a structure that provides the intercolumnia [intercolumnar loci] often recommended as backgrounds for memory work. 2. Yates. md: Rowman & Littlefield 1991). i. Vitruvius should not be taken too literally: just as his measurements and proportions often did not correspond with the 173 . See Carruthers. Renaissance Thought. Mary Carruthers. Monsters of Architecture (Savage. esp. due to a failure to transform sense-impressions into secure mental images.” One might safely describe these details as monstrous. 291 and 292. Book of Memory. “Micro-Speculum. See also Kristeller. Vitruvius Ten Books 6.25. Craft of Thought. we now believe that errors of memory (including inaccuracy and forgetting) occur in the process of recollection.v. Cicero De oratore 3. Ibid. and Frances A.2 (i. only thinking with.v. 1925–1995. Granger. Vitruvius Ten Books of Architecture 6. just after Cicero’s De inventione. Craft of Thought.2. H. 447. see Cicero De oratore. no. chap.” Poetry Calendar 23. 10. 223. Simonides “discovers” architectural mnemonics by re-membering the fragments of the instant prior to the catastrophic conclusion of a lyric poem he had recited for the members of the banquet. Loeb Classical Library (Cambridge. no. “The City in Our Minds: Memory Makes Poetry at the Met. 1 (January 1999): 11. Significantly. see Marco Frascari.Robert Kirkbride 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 by Vitruvius as a small box in which is placed a mechanism for measuring distances.” Carruthers. nos.5. introduction to Vitruvius Ten Books 2. For the full account. Carruthers. “There is no thinking.

cited by Cosimus Stornajolo. our belly is filled spiritually and our guts are satisfied. no. Carruthers. 178. 492). Augustine Confessions 10. (i.14–15. we store away the book of the Lord in our memorial treasury.v.7. The cubiculum from the villa of Fannius Synestor faced north.16. Expositio in Canticum Canticorum 2 Corpus christianorum. 65).8: “Parieti eius cubiculi mei in bibliothecae speciem armarium insertum est quod non legendos libros sed letitandos capit. vol. 464.v.v. series latina 144. Epistolae 2. Moralia in Job (i. trans. Virgil Georgics 42.17. con le scantie de sotta da tenere li libri fisse nel muro. See Proverbs 6:8.” Also St Augustine Confessions 10. Gregory the Great. Craft of Thought. ma: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press 1987–91). no. Documenti Urbinati (Urbino: Accademia Raffaello 1976).v. Carruthers.. by diligent meditation. Paul Veyne. Augustine taught rhetoric before his conversion to Christianity. Craft of Thought. In the Vineyard of the Text. . Also Carruthers. Prologue: “Epistola ad Leandrum.The Architecture of Memory 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 174 actual structures. xiv.” Fert Sangiorgi. 1: From Pagan Rome to Byzantium. As conveyed through Pliny the Younger Natural History 9.g. “una tavola nel mezzo …” Bernardino Baldi. no. Ibid.14. Also Carruthers. 18. 149. no. We know only that the “table” was decorated in intarsia and was last accounted for in an inventory of 1609: “935 Tavola de noce intarsiata. his rules of proper orientation seem to reflect his ideal. See Ezekiel 3:1.v. Biblioteca Vaticana. When. series latina 143. no. Gregory the Great.35. “Go to the bee …” The image of “eating the book” has deep origins. Arthur Goldhammer (Cambridge.” 3 Corpus Christianorum. 12. 81. 378–9. 353). St Jerome (Commentarium in Ezekiel 3:5 [i. 44. Also.110–114. 4. i. 3. Cheles.” See The History of Private Life. Ibid. 10. 22.25. ed. Illich. 25]) notes that “Eating the book is the starting-point of reading and of basic history. i. 86. Studiolo. rather than actuality. Craft of Thought.243 (i. Book of Memory.

92–3. Craft of Thought.” Gregory the Great.28. 86 See Carruthers. a well-furnished memory and experience in diverse matters is termed Wisdom. 87 1 Corinthians 3:9. 79). 88 i.v. 83 “The machine of the mind is the energy of love. See also Carruthers. 162. “Indeed the vigor of love is a machine of the mind which. and 10. see Carruthers. no.8. 6. chap.1.” Also. by a certain judicious method.1–2 (i. 84 Vitruvius Ten Books 10. 33–50.” For a thorough discussion of memory and prudence. Book of Memory. intelligence. esp. nos.v. See also Augustine Confessions 12.37. 160. 3. 162. 1. lifts it on high. 19. Book of Memory.Robert Kirkbride 81 Augustine Confessions 11. no. 11. 93 Ibid.3. 91 Augustine Confessions 10.1. 175 . Foresight is the faculty by which it is seen that something is going to occur before it occurs. 94 Cicero De inventione 2.7–10. In the Vineyard of the Text. 61–71. likewise the knowledge of an art is called Wisdom. the Book of Wisdom (8:8): “She [Wisdom] knows the past. 16–21. Bembo’s description of the ascent from corporeal desire through contemplative love is deeply influenced by the writings of Marsilio Ficino and clearly echoes Hugh of St Victor’s Didascalicon.15.17. Note also Pietro Bembo’s discourse on contemplation and love at the conclusion of Castiglione’s The Book of the Courtier (290–303). of distinguishing good and bad. no.v.58 (Corpus christianorum. 10. 40.2. See Jerome Taylor’s translation.53. Also Augustine’s Confessions 10. 95 Prudence is an “intelligence capable. Also Illich. 89 See Carruthers.” Also. Craft of Thought. Also Carruthers. Intelligence is the faculty by which it ascertains what is.16. 41. while [the mind] draws away from the world. 82 Isidore of Seville Etymologiae. Beyond this definition. and foresight. 90 Hugh of St Victor Didascalicon 3. and again.1. Craft of Thought. esp. 87.” Ad Herennium. 85 Ibid. series latina 143. and 58). she forecasts the future. 328. See Carruthers. Cicero continues: “Its parts are memory. 445).16. The Didascalicon of Hugh of St Victor (New York: Columbia University Press 1961). Moralia in Job. esp.3 (i.5. Memory is the faculty by which the mind recalls what has happened... 23 and 81.v. 92 There were three copies of St Augustine’s City of God in the Ducal Library of Urbino (i. Book of Memory.118–19).

The Book of Memory. 105 The Latin quotation in the heading for this conclusion is from Virgil: “With [the influence of] virtù so does one scale the stars. 176 . 101 J. not what is assembled elsewhere. In Latin. Antoine. and yet structure is somehow distinguished from ornament.1. meaning I assemble or I collect.” Aeneid 9. “in the woods. although ductus is discussed in various forms and to various ends throughout this work. rouse”) is defined in rhetoric … as a combinative or compositional activity of the mind. 198–205. 205. 62. silva. 205–208).” See also Carruthers. represented confused and disordered material. or literally.38–44. This notion has continued in modern Italian through the idiomatic expression imboscata.. 100 Ibid. and the Studiolo of Urbino. lieux et invention spatiale dans le peinture italienne des xiiie et xive siècles. Craft of Thought.-P. But the word cogito is restricted to the function of the mind.11. see Carruthers. these verbs encompassed both. Craft of Thought.2. 104 The role of architectural ornament in mnemonic work suggests a new approach to understanding Alberti’s seemingly contradictory discussion of concinnitas. wherein architecture is to be whole and irreducible.” 99 See Carruthers. because it combines imagines from memory’s store. “Mémoire. 103 Ibid. It is correctly used only of what is assembled in the mind. 33: “Cogitatio (con + agito. 261. See Carruthers. which means I think. 263.” 98 In memory training.v. For in Latin the word cogo. 106 Vitruvius Ten Books 1. 102 On picturae and tabulatum. esp.” Annales ESC 48 (1993): 1447–69. It necessarily uses memory. in the same way as ago is related to agito or facio to factito. As Carruthers notes: “Bede uses the verbs ornare and decorare throughout his description [of picturae].The Architecture of Memory 96 Nichomachean Ethics 1103a17 (i. is related to cogito.” Craft of Thought. they are untranslatable in modern English.11: Cogitare – “to think or to collect one’s thoughts. The Book of Memory. nos. “move. It might simply derive from a matter of translation. 201.. since we insist on conceptually separating decoration from function. the forest. 97 St Augustine Confessions 10. to be confused.

Architecture. Mysticism. and Myth: Modern Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby Joanna Merwood Chora .

Lethaby examined the relationship between architecture and culture that had existed in the premodern past. architectural competitions.Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby for many years in the early part of this century. the war. the shocking state of art in modern England. Drawing on contemporary theories of creative production and aesthetic perception. Architecture. In these letters the two men discussed the weather. and have felt that most of art was science in operation. in order to create a new relationship for the twentieth century. Art then I would say was the expanding experimental application of science in human service – something like that!1 This dashed-off note to a friend rephrases a position Lethaby had long maintained. met a new aesthetic partly derived from symbolist art and literature in which pure mass.” Very interesting about the Diderot Encyclopedia. most of all. when he wrote his first book. Lethaby sat down at his desk to answer a letter from Peach. By this stage in his life he had abandoned any reference to the “mythical” or the “magical” as the embarrassing enthusiasm of youth. a complex. corrupt. yet the ideal and essence of operation (and art) is to go beyond the known of science by imagination … adventure and experiment. I take it the definition would now be of “science” and although I have long been against nonsensical views of art. shape. claiming nature as the model for the creative imagination. a respected teacher and architectural writer acknowledged as an authority on modern design. Mysticism and Myth. his view of art as “science in operation” represents not a reversal but an extension of his early writing on architectural symbolism. Ruskinian notions of the inherent morality of art. and line were explored as potentially containing psychological associational value. The attempt to define art in relation to culture had been with him since 1891. and. The definition of art is interesting as showing how quickly words alter their value. Lethaby’s “town-tidying” campaign. William Richard Lethaby. recent publications about design. the owner of a Leicester basketware factory. On a particular morning in February 1923. 178 . maintained a correspondence with Harry Hardy Peach. However. He particularly wanted to comment on something his friend had recently drawn to his attention: Diderot’s definition of “art. and sometimes confused examination of the role of architecture as a universally understood symbol of belief in preclassical society.

“One of my purposes in this essay. Spending long solitary hours in the British Museum.” he wrote. It is here that stories about magical buildings are told through architecture. but its built form had yet to be decided. The resulting book appeared in this way not as an architectural history but rather as an unscholarly but deeply felt search for the revelation of original meaning. he pieced together fragments of ancient and contemporary writings that reinforced his mystical understanding of architecture and informed his writing. an understanding deeper than chronological cataloguing.Joanna Merwood The problem of European architecture during the years 1880–1900 was one of identity and self-representation. Their writing played out a complex renegotiation of the role of architecture in society. they always acknowledged industrialization as central to the modern condition. They took an interest not only in the new sciences of technology and construction but in the new sciences of society and the mind. Gimson. When he wrote his first book. His fascination with the mystical was the product of both the spirituality of Ruskinian thought and the general rise of interest in alchemy. ancient magic. While it certainly may be claimed that Lethaby and his contemporaries Mackmurdo. historical precedent as well as simple technological innovation represented a fundamental redetermination of the role of ornament in architecture and meaning in design. and psychology.”2 His sources were not 179 . and Eastern religion in late nineteenth-century England. and Prior did not embrace the aesthetic of machine production. The repression of the late nineteenth-century English contribution by historians of the Modern Movement depended on the perception that technological advances were rejected by English architects of the previous generation. Experimental forms drawing on new architectural typologies. and myth. The modern era was almost a century old. anthropology. “is to open up a view of building and the crafts wider than ‘aesthetic’ appreciation. Lethaby was thirty-four years old and a draughtsman in the office of Richard Norman Shaw. mysticism. This search for the symbolism of modernity drew from both “high” and “low” sources in Lethaby’s writing. In his writing the popular strain (leading to spiritualist movements such as Theosophy in its most extreme form) was entirely interwoven with the medieval sensibility of the symbolist writers and artists. sociology. In general their approach was not to adapt architecture to technology but to examine how architecture could “work” in the technological era.

Highly poetic in style.3 Unstructured.” and “Ceilings Like the Sky. architecture acted as a magical 180 . he wrote. Lethaby was fascinated by the role of architecture in early society as “embodied magic.” “Pavements Like the Sea. From William Lethaby. dense. Architecture.” Plundering ancient mythology. His book is divided into twelve sections.Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby Left: The Jewel Bearing Tree.” “The Planetary Spheres.” Although maintaining a distinct separation between ancient mythical understanding and modern culture. Mysticism and Myth was an attempt to discover the mythical origins of architecture. literature.” “The Golden Gate of the Sun. and wideranging in its reference. From William Lethaby. Mysticism and Myth (1891) from the architectural canon but from contemporary works in the fields of archaeology and anthropology. Lethaby divided the world into mythical and scientific periods that corresponded to two ways of thinking about building – “ancient magic architecture” and “modern scientific building. Architecture. Mysticism and Myth (1891) Right: The Labyrinth. Architecture. he resurrected the primal role of architecture as the built archetype of a universally understood cosmology. and the new field of anthropology was of major interest to architects of Lethaby’s generation. Mythology as it was explored through art. these chapters reveal themselves largely through stories: “The JewelBearing Tree. each of which seeks to explain an architectural symbol found in myth.” In mythical societies.

”4 The origin of all building.8 “We may see that the progress of science is merely the framing and destruction one by one 181 . whether temple or dwelling. and James Frazer. Lethaby’s understanding of myth was informed principally through the contemporary anthropological writing of Andrew Lang. “The intention of the temple (speaking of the temple idea as we understand it) was to set up a local reduplication of the temple not made with the hands. in which there was a vast reappraisal of mythical understanding. From William Lethaby.”6 Myth was a form of “savage reasoning. Architecture.5 Although seen as retaining and perpetuating a dangerous element of superstition. its form governed by the science of the time. Edward Burnett Taylor. Mysticism and Myth (1891) Right: The Heavenly Gate of the Sun. Mysticism and Myth (1891) symbol of the universe or as the built expression of the mythopoeic state.”7 In his 1887 text Myth. it was a heaven. From William Lethaby. Architecture. an observatory and an almanack. myths were no longer viewed as diverting stories but as representations of belief or “an explanation of nature. the World Temple itself – a sort of model to scale.Joanna Merwood Left: Pavements like the Sea. Ritual and Religion (from which Lethaby admitted that he had cribbed his own title) Andrew Lang hypothesized that there is a state of the human mind in which myths are “natural and rational” – this state is the “mythopoeic” state and is common to all cultures. was the mimicry of “nature” through sacred symbolism.

to show that the geometries and symbols of their architecture had the same basis. Tylor’s view that “the several depart182 . His concern in Architecture. During the evolutionary process. This desire to rationalize. if not the same.” in which elements of prelogical society were seen to have survived into the present day.Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby of a series of hypotheses. For him this was proof that the magical element of architecture that had once existed in our own culture was universal to all cultures and times. in his rambling narrative William Lethaby compared ancient Egyptians. to see ancient magic as the original science.”9 Lethaby cited the German philologist Max Müller as an authority who had found evidence of this universality in similar stories told in medieval Germany. was carried over into Lethaby’s writing in order to facilitate a historical continuity between the magical architecture of the past and the scientific building of today. In “The Sources of Architectural Types. these forms lost their functional purpose but continued to be used out of habit. picking and choosing his examples almost at random from diverse texts. in which all parts of a culture are interrelated. He went about proving this by using the comparative method of analysis. and that the early cosmogonies are one in kind with the widest generalizations of science – from certain appearances to frame a theory of explanation.”12 Lethaby’s use of the comparative theory was related to Tylor’s theory of “survival.11 Indeed.” one of his few writings on architecture. As the French sociologist Marcel Mauss later pointed out in criticizing the British school of anthropology. and modern India.10 Edward Burnett Tylor’s doctrine of universality stated that all mythical cultures have the same basic concept of the world. concept of the universe. In Spencer’s view all ornament originally had a function. or classify myth as a branch of human knowledge. attaining the abstract status of “beauty. a doctrine based on the primal role of the products of human creativity as “magic amulet. After Tylor.”13 Imagining ornament to have an original purpose more sacred than pragmatic. medieval masons. Myths in particular were regarded as reliquaries of early mentality. and contemporary Chinese. ancient Greece. comparative theory emphasizes similarity rather than difference. fetish. the sociologist Herbert Spencer applied this theory of “survival” to architectural ornament. Lethaby’s understanding of “function” differs from that of Spencer. he adopted the concept of cultural integration. charm. from phenomena to generalize law. Mysticism and Myth was to demonstrate the origin of all world religions in a similar.

Considered dangerous precisely because they had an inherent intentionality.19 Lenormant’s book. Eastern religious texts achieved an enormous popularity when translations were first widely distributed in the late nineteenth century.”17 This concept of magic which Frazer expanded on in The Golden Bough (1890). The Veda of Hinduism. The theory of animism. formed the basis of much anthropological research of the late nineteenth century. were of particular interest to those who dabbled in the occult.15 James Frazer expanded this animism into a theory of totems. Lethaby made much use of these “Chaldean inscriptions” as an authority on ancient custom and ceremony. Magic was produced sympathetically through imitation and contiguity by “using objects whose qualities are analogous to the desired effect. describing the origin of religious ritual in magic ceremonies performed to placate evil spirits. ancient Sanskrit hymns extolling the deities who personified natural and cosmic phenomena. although remaining present as a trace. presented translations of ancient Chaldean tablets with cuneiform inscriptions.16 His Totemism (1887) explained the idea common in “primitive” cultures that the soul is external to the body.14 It was not only possible but inescapable that architecture had an association with the general concept of the natural elements of the universe as magical.21 Kenneth Clark makes the case for a relationship between late nineteenthcentury medievalism and ethnology in a common desire for knowledge 183 . The totem was defined here as the receptacle of the soul. in which all things have souls and are invested with spirits. the French Assyriologist. is essentially the same as Lethaby’s. anthropologists argued that magic need not involve the agency of supernatural beings such as gods but that objects themselves had the ability to effect change. they satisfied the late Victorian fascination with magic and Eastern mysticism in general. Differentiating magic from religion.20 Since most of the tablets Lenormant described are magic spells of various sorts. was widely influential.18 The common anthropological belief that all religion was derived from magic was repeated by François Lenormant.Joanna Merwood ments of life are inextricably interwoven and interdependent” in primitive societies was the basis of Lethaby’s understanding of architecture in premodern times. more popular than scholarly. totems contained occult powers and demonic possibilities. Spencer’s idea of the originary meaning of form being lost through time. whose book Chaldean Magic (1874) was Lethaby’s principal source on matters magical.

Magical Instruments. From Éliphas Lévi. Transcendental Magic (translated 1896) .

Attracted by the lyricism of the translations of Eastern myths and by the possibilities of Eastern magic. 185 . by ancient or modern methods. In his 1856 text.” he wrote. “The secret agent of the magnum opus … is Magnetized Electricity.Joanna Merwood of “primitive” or pre-Renaissance understanding. Lévi’s idea of magical creation depends on the existence of a single.22 Lethaby’s interest in Eastern religions may have been initiated partly by his growing belief that Gothic architecture was heavily influenced by the East. “The union of these two words does not reveal us much.23 However at the time of writing Architecture. powerful artificer. To Lévi the evocation of symbols relied essentially on the “force of will” of the invoker. Éliphas Lévi wrote that his goal was to “revolutionize heaven and earth by the creation of a new dogmatic symbolism. Lévi attempted to find a place for the mystical practice of alchemy in contemporary life. Emphasizing the strong influence of Byzantium on Western Gothicism was the sole aim of his 1904 book on medieval art. Mysticism and Myth.”24 The most extreme nineteenth-century enthusiasts of Eastern mysticism sought to revive a knowledge of spirituality that could once more precipitate change. Describing him as a “modern magician. spiritualist societies. the ability of the magician/artist to change the world by transforming material or creating art objects was due to the expression of his will. recovery of the alchemical doctrine.”28 Thus. a magus. a defrocked French priest who blended oriental religion with occultism. “The significance of symbols [of the Tarot] varies in essence and extent with each individual … The Great Arcanum is the secret of will-ability. and music hall “mediums. whose “force of will” has the power to mold matter. Lethaby was yet to develop such a scholarly interest in Eastern texts. he tapped instead into the vague understanding of Eastern mysticism widely disseminated into popular thought through contemporary literature. He introduced a modern psychological reading of alchemical symbols when he wrote.26 Recognizing that modern alchemy had the discoveries of science to draw upon. through which one could literally transform matter and manipulate natural law. nevertheless they perhaps enclose a force which can revolutionize the world.”27 To such practitioners of the occult.” Lethaby often quoted the pseudonymous Lévi. meant that symbols could again achieve direct identification with that which they represented.”25 By this he meant the discovery of the key to ancient alchemy. Dogme et Rituel de la Haute Magie.

Lethaby emphasized the collective nature of the understanding and creation of architecture in ancient times. only a developed intellect could appreciate pure form. Holding the same view of the social function of magic that the English anthropologist A. penance. who was critical of the effects of industrialization on architecture. Lethaby defined medieval architecture as “the harmonious association of all the crafts. as well as creation. argued strongly against the view of the architect/creator as a solitary genius who creates out of his own unique sensibility. or ceremonial magic.”31 Arguing against this separation of higher and lower understanding of art in modern society. RadcliffeBrown would later propose. He maintained that the sensuousness of pure form had a more direct connection to the mind of modern man.” he wrote. Symbols were fetishes for primitives. and veneration. as an expression of a collective consciousness rather than a single mind. too. Arthur H. In his writing Gothic architecture is zoomorphosed in its adaptability: “It can 186 . Lethaby’s writing implicitly criticized the individual theory of architectural reception put forward by some of his peers. Gothic building was almost alive in the way it changed from part to part according to the whim of its creators. he argued that magic embodied the desires and needs of whole cultures.” “The realistic art.30 Artistic reception. For Riegl. art was autonomous and could not be shaped by a single person alone. based on a deeper understanding of “Nature. He made no distinction between “high” and “low” art. “is as impossible as it is wanting in force of interest. which he described as “mood-made character. Lethaby.R. the Middle Ages represented the most refined sensibility of the prescientific era. Echoing this sentiment. was a communal activity. For example. The architect/artificer had reached the pinnacle of his abilities as a magician: as one who had a spiritual connection to his material and could mould it to reveal its true self. the act of creation was based on ritual. seeing art as representing the “will” of society – Riegl’s kunstwollen. For him.”32 In his text. rather than the psychological need of the individual.29 Although it is doubtful that he shared Riegl’s concept of the autonomy of the art form.” To Ruskin.33 According to Ruskin. it was the medieval craftsmen who most embodied the ideal of collective creation as an act of faith. he wrote.Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby The popular and scholarly discourse clashed over this conception of the artist’s individual creative power. Mackmurdo no longer regarded pictorial symbolization as an appropriate way of seeing.

but through the sacred ritualistic activity of a culture. or spring into a spire with undegraded grace and unexhausted energy.Joanna Merwood shrink into a turret. as is the fictional Sir John Mandeville’s fourteenth-century Voyages and Travels and the Early English Romance of Alexander. Lethaby’s sky ceiling and sea floor partake of this alchemical ideal. just as Frazer’s religious totem was animated. incorporating a quotation from The Romance of Merlin. In 1890 Lethaby designed a stained glass window for a house in Bromley. Francesco Colonna’s fifteenthcentury Italian romance describing architectural fantasies. expand into a hall. art always remained the totemic agent of desire brought to life through sacred ritual. art was “an instrument of magic. giving them as much authority as the surviving examples of ancient and medieval architecture? One answer can perhaps be found in his distrust of the examples that were available. Highly poetic. his interest in medieval art extended far beyond an aesthetic appreciation. Saturated with references to precious stones and metals. architecture was truly animated. many of which had deteriorated due to vandalism or restoration (two acts that were comparable in his view). Architecture. like Morris and Ruskin.38 He invoked these texts for their fantastic and beautiful descriptions of the symbols that make up the chapters of his book. in the “medieval” style.40 Lethaby himself largely abandoned Gothicism in favour of a more abstract 187 .”35 The object was not just a representation but the thing itself. It was in these literary sources and not in archeological accounts that the true romance of medieval architecture was made apparent.37 Dante.39 Why did Lethaby cite these romances as evidence. Changing form by alchemical magic. the architectural discourse turned away from Lethaby’s post-Ruskinian ideals and sought a renewal of classicism. is also quoted. and magic numbers. Created not by an individual. coil into a staircase. Hypnerotomachia Poliphili.”34 Lethaby took Ruskin’s concept of living architecture to an extreme of vitality. whom Ruskin made much use of in The Stones of Venice. he wrote. seemed to hold a particular fascination for Lethaby. Chaucer is quoted on the title page of Architecture. his understanding of medieval architecture and much of his knowledge of the mystical symbolism of the Middle Ages came from the literature of the time. From its origins and up until the Renaissance. Kent. cosmological classification. Around 1905. Mysticism and Myth attempts to demonstrate the deep alchemical significance of architectural symbolism through literary reference. Mysticism and Myth.36 However.

Conceding that the earlier book was “very insufficient and in many ways feeble. While he did not reject Ruskin’s teaching in favour of an architecture of aesthetic autonomy. “second-rate and second-hand authorities were mixed up with true 188 . Architecture. Mysticism and Myth.Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby “Hypnerotomachia Poliphili. retitling it Architecture.” he wrote.41 he increasingly turned to psychology for an explanation of the meaning of architectural form. Mysticism and Myth (1891) architectural symbolism. Nature and Magic.” From William Lethaby. In 1924 he rewrote Architecture. as did Geoffrey Scott under the influence of Wölfflin and Burckhardt.

” To Lethaby the Renaissance was a fundamental break in the history of human thought.47 Art was seen as the history of the human will. the perception of symbols. “The Gothic art of the Middle Ages was an outcome of the whole mind and feeling of the times. Once again opposing the “magical” ancient world and the “scientific” modern world. This direct visualization of symbol established a link between psychology and the arts. A “general idea” of the circle was thus reached … This recognition of a type in the heavens and of man-made imitations on earth would have seemed a mystery – as indeed it was – and every such imitation must have had something of a magical character. Lethaby started to present this psychological appreciation of levels of development. In a recent essay. At the same time an observant man must have noticed that the sun in the heavens was a perfectly true example of the same shape. Nature and Magic.”45 For example.”42 This new edition attempted to cast architecture as the symbol of the psychological make-up of man throughout his historic progression.46 In Architecture.”43 In this book Lethaby introduced the words “psychology” and “unconscious” into his writings for the first time. he now declared the impossibility of reconciling the two.Joanna Merwood sources. One of his new sources was Worringer’s “Art as Human Psychology. The nineteenth-century prefiguring of psychoanalysis relied on a close reading of the face and head to provide a direct visual understanding of the inner soul. and their identification with certain wider ideas. In his thesis the collective consciousness of a society was no different from the sum of individual thought. and the whole was uncritical and inexpert. The earliest constructive works of man – holes for shelter. which reveals to us “the actual psychology of mankind. I tried to show that it was inspired (unconsciously) by the forest life and forest psychology (The Legacy of the Middle Ages) … the buildings were produced by the same minds and hearts that produced the forest ballads. and clay vessels – would quite obviously have been more or less round in general like a child’s sand pit or a bird’s nest. Tylor’s theory of the development of primitive cultures depended on those cultures developing increasingly more complex ideas. pits for burial.” published in Form in 189 .44 Anthropologists of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries took a psychological point of view that advocated “culture as the manifestation of thought.

Lethaby had a psychological explanation for the creation of the Gothic architecture that he so admired.”50 190 . Let us be poetic.48 In Abstraction and Empathy (1908) Worringer had described art as answering a mental need particular to its own time. reside in these clear. Lethaby was probably drawn to Worringer by his description of Gothic art and architecture. he merely touched the surface of Worringer’s theory. When poetry and magic are in the people and in the age they will appear in their arts. romantic understanding. in his thoroughly logical conception.Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby Gothic (1912). Each group had a unique artistic expression. quoting his equation of ornament with tattoo. but there is not the least good in saying ‘Let us go to and build magic buildings. classical. inevitable line symbols. and oriental.’ Yet let me say again.” Lethaby explicitly and damningly recanted his previous thesis. poetic. Nature and Magic betrays the new influence of Worringer’s theory. even mystic and magic. He adamantly opposed the possible adoption of a “Magic Style” due to the influence of his writing: “Building has been. In a lecture given to the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1910 entitled “The Adventure of Architecture. which assumed for the Middle Ages a fundamentally different relationship between man and the wider world than the relationship we now experience. Nor did he shift his attention from the objects of perception to perception itself or from the collective to the subjective individual. However. by covering all his cherished belongings with these magical signs. based on its relationship to the phenomenal world. and I want them. an explanation that was comparable to Ruskin’s consideration of its aesthetic appeal to the eyes of nineteenth-century man. an art.”49 This psychological understanding of magic was quite different from Lethaby’s earlier. it is because I want these things that I face this problem. imaginative. art was an “absolute symbol” designed to counteract the “arbitrary” experience of the visual world: “He employs the magic powers which. To primitive man. and first and foremost seeks to make his person taboo by ornamental tattooing. The chapter entitled “Ornament and Style” in Architecture. He did not make the same fundamental distinction between linear and organic art. from the evidence of his own writing. stable. In Form in Gothic Worringer defined three classes of “original types of mankind”: primitive. and may be. Thus. recognizing the different perception of different eras.

as “a search for the absence of style. and line) but in terms of a deeply poetic understanding of built form as a text describing our relationship to the world. the word “experiment” may seem peculiar.52 Lethaby’s theory comes from an English tradition that in its Romantic antecedents is fundamentally different from Continental modernism.55 By end of his life the “living force” Lethaby so admired in medieval architecture.e. 191 .”54 He was sure that this language would be found not in any “vague idea of an abstract and absolute proportion” but in a spontaneous agreement. colour. In the twentieth century it was the engineer who embodied the ancient alchemist’s ability to convert material from one form into another. space. collectively imagined and created art. architecture could only “work” in a technological society through the definition of science. For him the recovery of this poetic understanding would be through science – but through science considered as the brave new form of faith with “a new magic wonder of its own.”51 While this view does have a certain currency (he was clear in his criticism of “the treadmill of style-mongering”). He struggled to incorporate the psychological theories of form to fit his essential understanding of architecture as a “common” art. not in opposition to art. the idea of “vitality” that had captured his imagination in the writing of Ruskin. always maintaining its moral role and its social necessity. Throughout his writings Lethaby’s goal was to renegotiate the role of architectural symbolism.”56 This was prompted not by a rejection of the poetic in architecture but by a rejection of the architecture of formal stylistics that he saw all around him.. but as the true myth of modernity. Lethaby took the totemic view of myth from anthropology and attempted to give life to a modern symbolism through the conception of architectural creativity as a renewed mystical practice. until we remember the role of experiment in natural magic. had been converted into a scientific “spirit of experiment in building. To return to the formulation proposed earlier. contour. He classified architectural symbolism not in terms of form (i.57 Since it was not part of the everyday architectural vocabulary of the day.”53 He continued to emphasize the communal nature of architectural creation but this was now the expression of some vague and ill-defined “common current language.Joanna Merwood It is this position that has led many writers to describe Lethaby’s theory as protomodernist.

Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby

1 William Richard Lethaby, letter to Harry Hardy Peach, 18 February 1923.
Collection of the Royal Institute of British Architects Library.
2 William Richard Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth (1891; London: Architectural Press 1974), 17.
3 The only architectural sources Lethaby mentioned explicitly in Architecture, Mysticism and Myth were Vitruvius (236 and 241), concerning the
human body being used as a unit of measurement of building and the measurement of the earth’s circumference, and Viollet-le-Duc’s Dictionnaire de
l’architecture (222), concerning the medieval custom of painting a ceiling
to represent the sky.
4 Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, 6.
5 Edward Burnett Tylor (1832–1917) is generally regarded as the founding
figure of cultural anthropology. His many works include Researches into
the Early History of Mankind (London: J. Murray 1865), Primitive Culture (London: J. Murray 1871), and Anthropology: An Introduction to the
Study of Man and Civilization (London: Macmillan 1881). He proposed
that society, like a natural organism, progressively evolves and that all cultures are part of a unified whole. Andrew Lang (1844–1912) wrote Custom and Myth (London: Longmans, Green 1884), Myth, Ritual and
Religion (London: Longmans, Green 1887), and Magic and Religion (London: Longmans, Green 1901), in which he was concerned with the reappearance of certain common elements in myths and fairy tales. He stressed
the need for a systematic accumulation of information to establish a rational basis for understanding early man and his beliefs. James Frazer
(1854–1941) wrote The Golden Bough, 2 vols. (London: Macmillan
1890), building on Tylor’s work and explaining many ancient and contemporary myths and rituals in relation to the cult of kingship.
6 Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, 32.
7 John J. Honigmann, The Development of Anthropological Ideas (Homewood, il: Dorsey Press 1976), 126.
8 Andrew Lang, Myth, Ritual and Religion, 4.
9 Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, 9.
10 Ibid.
11 Marcel Mauss (1866–1943), review of F. Byron Jevons, An Introduction
to the History of Religion, in L’année sociologique (1898). See Honigmann, Development of Anthropological Ideas, 165.

Joanna Merwood

12 Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, 33.
13 Michael W. Brooks, John Ruskin and Victorian Architecture (London:
Thames and Hudson 1989), 305.
14 Honigmann, Development of Anthropological Ideas, 115.
15 Ibid., 157.
16 Ibid., 150.
17 James Frazer, The Golden Bough, 10–12, 30–1.
18 Stocking, Victorian Anthropology (London: Collier Macmillan 1987),
19 François Lenormant (1837–83), La magie chez les Chaldeens et les origines Acadiennes (Paris: Maisonneuve 1874), translated by W.R. Cooper as
Chaldean Magic: Its Origin and Development (London: S. Bagster & Sons
1877), 70. Lenormant’s main area of study was ancient Mesopotamia,
which he studied through its cuneiform language. “Chaldea” refers to the
land bordering the head of the Persian Gulf. “‘Chaldean’ also was used by
several ancient authors to denote the priests and other persons educated in
the classical Babylonian literature, especially in the traditions of astronomy and astrology.” One of Lenormant’s other books was entitled Les sciences occultes en Asie (Paris: Maisonneuve 1874–75).
20 Lenormant, Chaldean Magic, 71.
21 Lethaby mentions “the cosmogonic theories in the Veda” that were summarized by H.W. Wallis in the Academy (November 1887) and explained
the origin of the world as a “building,” in much the same way that a house
is constructed. Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, 16.
22 Kenneth Clark, The Gothic Revival: An Essay in the History of Taste
(London: Constable 1928), 302.
23 W.R. Lethaby, Medieval Art: From the Peace of the Church to the Eve of
the Renaissance, 312–1350 (London: Duckworth 1904).
24 For example, Emma Hardinge Britten, a New York medium, published
Art Magic (New York: William Britten 1876), a work of “divine dictation” through which Mrs Britten made public the words of an “Adept,” a
spiritual being who spoke to her. In 1877 Madame Blavatsky, the founder
of Theosophy, published Isis Unveiled (New York: J.W. Bouton 1877), an
“exposition of Egyptian occultism,” also dictated by invisible hands. The
relationship between mysticism and architecture was explored at this level.
In 1875, at the founding meeting of the Theosophical Society in New
York, a Mr J.G. Felt gave a lecture entitled “The Lost Canon of Proportion of the Egyptians.” Citing a formula known only to initiates, Mr Felt

Symbolism in the Writing of William Richard Lethaby




proposed to discover the practice of incantation used by the ancients to
raise spirits as well as pyramids. Rudolf Steiner, a more well-known
Theosophist who later rejected the movement in favour of his own religion, Anthroposophy, extended his theory of curative education into the
building of schools and hospitals. See Peter Washington, Madame Blavatsky’s
Baboon: A History of the Mystics, Mediums, and Misfits Who Brought
Spiritualism to America (1993; New York: Schocken Books 1995), 50–3.
Éliphas Lévi (Alphonse-Louis Constant 1809?–1875), The Mysteries of
Magic: A Digest of the Writings of Éliphas Lévi, trans. Arthur Edward
Waite (1886; Mokelumne Hill, ca: Health Research 1996), xix. Lévi’s main
works on magic are Dogme et rituel de la haute magie (Paris: G. Baillière
1856), Histoire de la magie: Avec une exposition claire et précise de ses
procédés, de ses rites, et de ses mystères (1860; Paris: Éditions de la Maisnie
1976), and La clef des grands mystères (Paris: G. Baillière 1861). In 1862
he started the series Philosophie occulte with Fables et symboles (Paris: G.
Baillière), followed by La science des esprits (Paris: G. Baillière 1865).
Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, 142.
Lévi, La clef des grands mystères, 207.
Lévi, The Mysteries of Magic, xl.
Alois Riegl, Problems of Style: Foundations for a History of Ornament
(1893), trans. E. Kain (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1992).
A.R. Radcliffe-Brown (1881–1955), The Andaman Islanders (Cambridge:
The University Press 1922).
Arthur H. Mackmurdo, “The Spiritual in Art,” Hobby Horse 1 (1884):
William Richard Lethaby, “Art and the Function of Guilds” (1896) in
Form in Civilisation (London: Oxford University Press 1922), 205.
W.R. Lethaby, “Some Northhamptonshire Steeples,” Art Journal (1889):
231. Quoted in Godfrey Rubens, William Richard Lethaby: His Life and
Work, 1857–1931 (London: Architectural Press 1986), 94.
John Ruskin, The Stones of Venice (1851–53; London: Collins 1960) 179.
William Richard Lethaby, Architecture, Nature and Magic (New York: G.
Braziller 1956), 88.
Rubens, Lethaby, 94.
“And upon pelers gete, of Jasper longe / I sawgh a temple of glas ifounded strange.” Lethaby, Architecture, Mysticism and Myth, title page.
Ibid., 208.
Ibid., 140.

Joanna Merwood

40 Reyner Banham, Theory and Design in the First Machine Age (Cambridge,
ma: mit Press 1960), 45.
41 Geoffrey Scott, The Architecture of Humanism (1914; London: The
Architectural Press 1980). For a wider discussion of Scott’s sources in German theories of Einfühlung see David Watkin’s introduction. Scott rejected the Ruskinian Gothic revival that had dominated English architecture
since the mid-nineteenth century in favour of a renewed classicism influenced by Wölfflin’s writings on the Baroque.
42 Lethaby, Architecture, Nature and Magic, 15.
43 Ibid., 140.
44 Mary Cowling, The Artist as Anthropologist: The Representation of Type
and Character in Victorian Art (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press
1989), 87.
45 Honigmann, Development of Anthropological Ideas, 116.
46 Later writers in French sociology, such as Durkheim, Hubert, and Mauss,
proposed that societal institutions such as law and religion were to be
studied separately from individual behaviour. They believed that there is a
collective consciousness that differs from individual psychological considerations. Ibid., 175.
47 Lethaby, Architecture, Nature and Magic, 18.
48 Wilhelm Worringer, Form in Gothic (1912), ed. and trans. by Sir Herbert
Read (London: A. Tiranti 1957).
49 Worringer, Form in Gothic, 17.
50 W.R. Lethaby, “The Adventure of Architecture” (1910), in Form in Civilization (London: Oxford University Press 1922), 92.
51 Mark Girouard, Sweetness and Light: The Queen Anne Movement
1860–1900 (New Haven and London: Yale University Press 1977), 227.
52 Lethaby, Architecture: An Introduction to the History and Theory of the
Art of the Building (London: Williams and Norgate 1912), 245.
53 Lethaby, Architecture, Nature and Magic, 16.
54 Lethaby, “The Adventure of Architecture,” 67.
55 Lethaby, Architecture, 239.
56 Ibid., 68.
57 It was not only in building but in architectural history that Lethaby
lamented this failing. In the conclusion to Architecture, Nature and Magic
he wrote, “Modern histories of old ‘architecture’ have been accounts of
how mere forms appeared to our eyes apart from any meaning they might
have” (144).

Gordon Matta-Clark’s Circling the
Circle of the Caribbean Orange
Michel Moussette


Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle

Yes. This is a Caribbean Orange – or a winter circus. Everybody knows that circuses go south in the winter, right? So
it’s a winter circus. It’s a circus because it sets a stage for people, sets a kind of stage from the ground up. Circus – basically, the reason for “Circus” in my own dyslexic manner
means “circle” through which you operate. It means a circle
in which you circle – a place of activity, a circle for action.
Gordon Matta-Clark1

architecture as middle zone. A place between sky and earth.
Closed upon itself. Where everything is either too shallow or too deep.
At zero and infinity there is not much to be experienced. No wind no sun
no rain. Only dust. Dust coming in. From everywhere. Inexorably relentlessly etc. Dust accumulates. Has to be carried away. In garbage bags
bins crates trucks etc. Dust layers over dust layers. Everywhere. Someone once initiated dust breeding. Élevage de poussière. And it reached
quite a price per square inch. But no repeat. Wonder why. You can wonder why. Anyway the second law of thermodynamics is clear. Someday
probably not tomorrow or the day after everything will have transformed into dust. That is in fact rather cold dust. The sighting of a dust
cloud will be quite an event. Comparable in our terms to a coup de
foudre. Or to the close encounter with the moon of a faraway planet.
The universe as a big dust-producing machine. Zero infinity and dust.
But that is only if you believe in progress. That is only if you don’t have
circles on your mind.
Machines everywhere. Autistic children often dream that they are
machines. Or geometrical figures. Vacuum cleaners washing machines
and televisions. Office buildings shopping malls and bungalows. All
machines. Imagine that something not quite right is going on. Or maybe
do not imagine at all. Just build a machine and couple it to another
machine. “Where?” is our problem. For now.
The middle zone. Again. Maybe it is possible to incorporate the underground the sky and the building. Someone who played chess as a kid
with our previously mentioned Dust Breeder once said that. Well maybe
that is possible. We shall see. Maybe when the sentences get longer and
the quotation marks begin to multiply. When the concepts are exposed
and the power tools put to work. Then maybe something will happen.
We shall see. Things take years to happen and we do not want to talk

Gordon Matta-Clark, Splitting. Englewood, NJ, 1974

years. Nor do we want to write years. So let’s quote someone. Right now.
Otherwise we shall not be convincing anyone. Worthy of that name.
Anyone. And as Gordon Matta-Clark says, “You have to walk.”2
Opening the middle zone. What does that mean. Two things mainly.
Two verbs actually. To capture and to unbalance. But that has to be qualified. We cannot stop here and unveil the lively bibliography. Not right
now. We would not have convinced anyone. So let’s cut it out. The capture. How do you capture the wind the sun and the rain. How do you
capture the underground. The answer is, you have to build a machine. A
capture machine. And to do so you have to dance au pas-de-deux, learning the building’s own particular ways. To dance with the building is to
make the building dance. Is to make everyone dance in a tangle of light
feet. A specialist of the hammer once wrote that “one must still have
chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.”3
So we become the building and the building becomes us. Part of us is
trapped in the building. Part of the building is trapped in us.4 We enter
the becoming of the building. We plunge into surfaces. Into the condensed strata that are the traces of process. Of years. But still no question marks. Not right now. We shall come back to surfaces later.
First we shall hunt. Very quickly. Just as an example. The act of killing
is secondary in hunting. Most important is the becoming. The good
moose hunter occupies a volume that is not human. He breaks branches eight feet above the ground and makes too much noise when drinking

That would be too easy. esteemed as a prize food. So what I try to find is the subterranean kernel. Even before the Splitting. Rather an elusive centre. because it relates to an inner-personal gesture. Just try. One that can never be totally circumscribed.go. Wind remains wind. Because you are walking. Sometimes I don’t. Not too quickly. A moose rhythm. Very fleshy. Bin. by which the microcosmic self is related to the whole. a truffle is a fantastic thing buried somewhere in the ground. Sometimes I find it.5 Second we shall dance. Ask how so.” Centring machines and capture machines. To get the ingredients going. NJ. 1974 the center of each structure. Splitting. Breathing and walking follow what appears at first as nonrhythm. “I see in the formal aspect of past building works a constant concern with Gordon Matta-Clark. Englewood. “I work similarly to the way gourmets hunt for truffles. But no domestication involved here. Answer.”6 Another quotation. Sky remains sky.ne and Pier 52 projects. which were direct exercises in centering and recentering.Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle at the lake. Not the geometrical centre. I would usually go to what I saw as the heart of the spatial-structural constant that could be called the hermetic part of my work. Because dancing with a building is not so easy. I mean. Machines that capture. Because you have to 200 . Finding the centre is everything. And see.

Vertigo machines that bring us into motion with the sky.” Building houses high-up in the trees.Michel Moussette walk. Where the real and the imaginary are compressed together.’ it was first necessary that we lose our grip as erect beings. And later. To fall in all directions at once. the old linoleum. Unbalancing machines. There is also depth to them. “Physically penetrating the surface seemed the logical next step. and the plywood all be pulled at once from under our feet. Rather to live within the surface. the underground and the building.”7 That the carpet. Above and below the plane of the Middle Zone. Yes. Ugly.” However inappropriate “what is already there” may seem. as if in order to learn ‘what space is.9 The next step dances with “what is already there. At this point. Digging under the foundations of an art gallery to expose from below the building’s “enormous compressive confining forces. as one suddenly realized that one could not differentiate between the vertical section and the horizontal plan (a perceptual undifferentiation particularly dangerous in a piece of Swiss cheese full of holes reflecting one into the other and in all directions). “There is a kind of complexity which 201 . Maybe. There are no images. Even as death lurks around the corner as it is fond of doing.” The next step is away from elements as such. But this might sound vague. Not much to do with machines. There is something literal about these actions. But not to get to any profound depths. Only an inside where everything plays and dances. But watch this.8 Along a line at midpoint. Cutting every column of an art gallery at midpoint and inserting a small metal cube in which the entire building’s forces would have been concentrated. So depth as starting point. So let’s get back to machines. Vertigo machines. So far.” This points to a movement that can be followed. Establishing fields. The centre at the centre springs into mind. But certainly no outside. Maybe some layered close-ups. Replace. To put it simply: from depth towards surface. Crawling through a rope tunnel over a ravine at two hundred feet above the closest ground. but the thin edge. Or maybe rather to explore an extremely densified shallow depth. Splitting in two an entire house. Wasn’t depth the starting point? If we may say so. the severed surface that reveals the autobiographical process of its making. Always to gain a vantage point. “To visit his final works was to be seized by vertigo. In the surface. “Aspects of stratification probably interest me more than the unexpected views which are generated by the removals – not the surface. Like Alice.

Not quite the first thing that springs to mind. Capture. Chop. Machines are not deep. Centre. retranslating it into overlapping and multiple readings of conditions past and present. Walk. Cut. conventional. Conical Intersect. 202 . Something like that. Cook. Blend. But then. Mix. Moose and truffles respond differently. First things that spring to mind do not lead anywhere. Paris. Cut. Domesticating the unknown by means of the familiar is best left to museum builders and cattle raisers. Matta-Clark and surfaces. Dance. albeit anonymous situation and redefining it. Boil.Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle Gordon Matta-Clark. Machines couple with other machines. Dance. Maybe we are walking in the wrong direction. Centre. Maybe we should have waited somewhere. Walk. Machines are not moral. And our concern here is machines.” So. They stand. Dance. 1975 comes from taking an otherwise completely normal. Fall. Machines produce.

Gordon Matta-Clark. Temperature at about twenty degrees Celsius and humidity at about 30 percent. But you have to wonder. They convey. Chicago. They are powerful. They are the leftovers of leftovers. Their size is impressive. Not even trying to go beyond our analogous thinking. Valencia. We could build an imaginary museum for the extracted surfaces. Some are soft some are hard some are carpeted some are clad. No direct sunlight. Paris. the way people steal stones from the Acropolis. There are photographs.10 Our orderly thinking so needful of examples. To name just a few as there will be many more. Imagine. Layers can be taken out of context and put into crates. In the proper environment these surfaces will last for very long. Even better. For now. 1975 . The exhibits are a “profound dilemma. Conical Intersect. Square feet are doing quite well. And then taken all over the world. Even if they are good stones they are not the Acropolis.” There is a “price to pay” and “my work pays more. Our architected thinking. Santiago.” How does one answer this relentless demand for surface? “The desire for exhibiting the leftover pieces hopefully will diminish as time goes by. Layered surfaces for which there is a great demand. Matta-Clark certainly did. Amazing. This may be useful for people whose mentality is oriented towards possession. Most of them taken by the artist himself.” The extracted surfaces come in many sizes and shapes. Beautifully. Beautiful wooden crates. And some order is now most obviously required. Very wonderful.Michel Moussette The machines produce layer upon layer. That would certainly be a break.” “The installation materials end up making a confusing reference to what is not there.

0 The first step is to build a surface we may inhabit. Office Baroque. Splitting. Caribbean Orange. So geometry we shall follow for the time being. Gordon Matta-Clark. NJ. A simple two-dimensional plane.go. A painter painted horror in dark basements while the war raged high above. We shall call it the Building Works Line.Photowork. 1.. Build him a long corridor connected to a thin tower right in the middle of nowhere. Englewood. Something like this: Treshole. Pier 52. 1. And along this direct track. Splitting. It goes from looking for the centre at the centre to falling in all directions at once. Conical Intersect. 1974 A sculptor sculpted lonely elongated figures. Another painter painted painting after painting of fluttering wild geese. This will be the beginning of our museum. Easily representable on a piece of paper. Build him a labyrinth of concrete with only screams of light coming in. Bin. Then build him a huge barn on stilts with roof-doors open to the sky of a slow river.1 Our first axis is time itself.ne. Or in one’s head. What can we make of Matta-Clark? Geometry springs to mind immediately. Datum Cuts. 204 . Sort of an index for the leftover pieces.

The performance of the cut then becomes something important. By moving from centre to periphery comes back to centre. To the time of the experienced photograph.” Photoworks that are a “kind of narrative which is subject to all kinds of variations. 2.” These Photoworks use the Building Work “as a kind of stage” and “as a point of departure. The irregular surfaces 205 . Our two curved lines as we shall see. Another circling back toward a “point of departure.” They are a simple play that produces an image where all sense of gravity is lost. 4. Moving toward the surface gets back to depth. We would have circles only if we stood very far above our surface and maintained a complete immobility in relation to our coordinate system.0 The second step is to obtain a volume by projecting the surface of the index into space. In other words we have spirals and not circles.” And this certainly points to interesting directions. Sort of. The traces of the collaging and montaging are left in a manner qualified as “deliberately artificial. Into the heavy wall sections and into the unsteady grainy silent black-and-white movies.”11 2. And most of them were produced by a direct work on the negatives.0 But if our lines circle back toward the origin. In some of the Photoworks there no longer exists a “confusing reference” made to an experience outside the gallery.” 3.2 Building Works Line. As usual.” Quickly. Tape cut and negative margins are visible. You have only one chance. The most obvious is a circular one. Where the Swiss Cheese Vertigo roams again. Photoworks that are a “sort of documentation/time evolution of the piece. 2. Some eventual “others” can put some order into Matta-Clark’s other extracted surfaces. This is how our second line goes: Documentation Photographs. We shall call it the Extracted Surfaces Line. Using “what is already there” connects to what is “beyond. Collaging and montaging. This can be done only by following our two lines. Matta-Clark. Almost structural. Walkthrough Photographs.Michel Moussette 1.2 Our second axis is all about representation.1 Extracted Surfaces Line.0 Our museum now could be described by the points corresponding to spiraling axes set in two different planes. The time of the cut becomes related to the time of the exposed photograph. To keep things simple we shall concentrate on photographies. they still do not intersect it. No direct attempt to be faithful to a “beyond.

past or present.” Compress and Flatten.” Pushing the established limits so that the elements lose their hierarchy. Niagara Falls. retranslating it into multiple readings of conditions. The threshold. The orange is Leftover pieces. Gordon Matta-Clark. But it might be time for us to move on.12 In fact. Out of these conditions. Taking the initial condition and “redefining it. Already. In Caribbean Orange the raindrops are horizontal and the sun shines from underground. A field of elements? Maybe. The infinite janitor skewed into space could leave only the wind and rain to clean up the building. Peering from above. An “about to be disintegrated level. 1974 . The multiple layers are pushed toward a limit. Setting it all into motion and going wherever they go.Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle would be many and hard to sweep clean. To circle new circles. So we are leaving geometry. It does not really make any difference. Bingo. and the column are gone. the staircase. To look at them from all sides. NY. Only a field is left. Compressed within a surface. Investigating from below. Machines that add layer upon layer. And going back to machines. the elements disappear.

The simple tracing of the dissection lines already making the machine vibrate. But we are not stopping anywhere. Or to Piranesi and the importance of walking and crawling in relation to the infinite. But quickly back to surfaces. depth kicks back in. And if life is all about depth is there a precise point. 1978 sliced diagonally. Death was lurking around the corner. That of the section revealing the “thin edge. In their very own way. Forget Pier 52. They have never been so alive and so dead. In lightless cold basement. Be it an orange peel or a raindrop. Something in deep centre was wrong. like all of us. “I don’t know 207 . Or is it the waves that pull at the moon? Anyhow. Surface and geometry as others. Layers beginning to project. Chicago. Forget Conical Intersect. the severed surface. But it won’t. He is subject to tides. Dig Descending Steps For Batan in humid earth. The act of cutting.Gordon Matta-Clark. Typical Caribbean fashion. Space. an actual hinge between depth and surface? Is this what these machines are all about? The artist is alive. A whole set of right angles has just gone down the drain. Others that can be brought within the vicinity of life but that always remain unfamiliar. A-live. Rather. Easy enough to understand. And from then on. Caribbean Orange. Vertiginous. We could not care less about being orthogonal. something was wrong.” All this could easily lead to a tale of infinity and transcendence with famous philosophers and poets as main characters. Elements have stopped relating to another level. As more important for Matta-Clark than the extracted surfaces. Last cut. We are following a movement. Elements have never related so strongly to another level. a surface or a storm. Or even the “final” result. when twin-brother Batan jumps out the window of Matta-Clark’s seventh floor studio. Not this time.

But I am not quite sure what it means. Just another layer.” 390. Almost named them. ed. Some very important. You can only walk. Thrice is too much. To that exactly. Let’s name them. You have to walk. I keep using it. Known. If only we could stand. But that would be the end. See his comments in Gordon Matta-Clark: A Retrospective. And then the cut itself through the strata. ed. Depth and surface. Once all is eaten make necklace with bone and wave bye-bye to satisfied customer.Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle what the word space means either. Interventions as specific. ed. “Interview with Gordon Matta-Clark.mental. Walter Kaufmann (New York: Penguin 1978). Through the first layers of sedimentation. But do not force it. frog legs. We could not have afforded to waste Food. Do not force it. Do not force it. 21.” in Gordon Matta-Clark. Even if the blade might kick back. Important projects also forgotten. 4 Artist Dennis Oppenheim marvelled at how Matta-Clark managed to trap deep parts of himself within his Building Works. The whole house creaking. 17. Through the structure. Non. Chop mushrooms. trans. Anytime. At certain moments more than others. An. For a couple of minutes. Push the tool over its limits. Sawdust flying everywhere. Mary-Jane Jacobs (Chicago: Museum of Contemporary Art 1986).”13 The word space. Maybe it is best when dealing with dust to get a job at the Bibliothèque Nationale and write books. “Interview with Gordon Matta-Clark. Oeuvres Vives. With circles and machines and other machines. Thus Spoke Zarathustra. Mix with marrow and rice. Twice is enough. seaweed. To dust exactly. Only thing important. That wonderful thin edge. 5 Painter Jean-Paul Riopelle’s observations on hunting can be found in Riopelle. We shall see. Surface and depth. So you’d be better to chop it up. Calibrated. To nothing left standing. Almost is often. Food was important. notes 1 Judith Russi Kirshner. But certain words have been forgotten.architecture. Let’s not name them. We shall see. 2 Kirshner. Stuff beef bone. The building projects all destroyed. Dancing. Maybe not. 3 Friedrich Nietzsche. But goes on. Corinne Diserens (Valencia: ivam Centre Julio Gonzalez 1992). Dust. Capitalization of first letter as permanent feature. Michel Tétreault (Montreal: Art International 208 . 392.u.

For what appears to be an interesting influence on Matta-Clark. Roberto Matta-Echauren. From Donald Wall’s interview with Gordon Matta-Clark. In a striking parallel in hockey. It is rather an idea of subversion that deploys itself within the existent perceptual. quite inappropriately.” Minotaure 11 (1938): 43. for an illustration of Sébastien Le Prestre de Vauban’s défense en profondeur. Transforming elements into fields is a favourite strategy of what might be named. social.” see Pamela L. They are an attack on a certain way of life and were certainly read that way. where a “politicized public” accused Matta-Clark of “exploiting the sanctity of domestic space. Lee. Vauban (Paris: Fréal 1971): 96–104. see the work of his father. For more on Matta-Clark not equating “his cuttings with the wanton destruction of buildings. 209 . “Treshole.” Matta-Clark’s work certainly does tap into this sanctity but the objective is not to overcome the system. Formless: A User’s Guide (New York: Zone Books 1996).” October 85 (summer 1998): 65–89. See Michel Parent. the Buffalo Sabres’ Dominik Haçek has revolutionized goaltending by departing from the butterfly style to invent a completely new “horizontal” style. He now lives peacefully on Île-aux-Oies. mn: University of Minnesota Press 1986). especially in Europe. in “Gordon Matta-Clark’s Building Dissections. Yve-Alain Bois.” in Yve-Alain Bois and Rosalind Krauss. no. The cuts do have a certain violence and crudeness to them. where he roams around in a hearse. especially “Mathématique Sensible – Architecture du temps.Michel Moussette 6 7 8 9 10 1993). A nice and appropriately architectural example of using a “space of thought” and its discourse to get somewhere else is Michel Foucault’s Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Pantheon 1977).” Arts Magazine 50. Riopelle spent most of his life painting wild geese. where elements are progressively multiplied and disseminated over a field. Unless otherwise specified. “Micro-Techniques and Panoptic Discourses: A Quid pro Quo. Also see Michel de Certeau’s commentary. 191. “On the Holes of History: Gordon Matta-Clark’s Work in Paris. all quotations are from this interview.” in Heterologies: Discourse on the Other (Minneapolis. an article describing a true vertigo machine that would bring human verticality to the forefront of consciousness. Anti-Architecture. I am not being ironic here. and built frameworks. 2 (May 1976): 79.

1972 Datum Cuts. Things are not going well. 1963 Poetry studies at La Sorbonne.go. Reality Properties: Fake Estates.” Beautiful photographs. 1975 Day’s End (Pier 52). Jacob’s Ladder rope bridge in Kassels. “Interview with Gordon Matta-Clark. 1964–9 Architectural studies at Cornell University with Richard Meier. .” 393–4. Purchase and documentation of fifteen totally unusable interstitial spaces auctioned off at twenty-five dollars apiece by New York City. Batan. et al. bibliography 1943 Birth of Gordon Matta-Clark and his twin brother. All works by Gordon Matta-Clark (and pictures of the artist) are reproduced courtesy of the Estate of Gordon Matta-Clark. 1978 Caribbean Orange (Winter Circus) in Chicago.” 280–1n15. 1973 Treshole. “Treshole. An understanding of the absence of hierarchy in the later work of Matta-Clark can however be found in Yve-Alain Bois. Paris. see Kirshner.” 394. and agar. Meets Robert Smithson and works in collaboration with Dennis Oppenheim. 1974 Splitting and Bingo (Bin. ct. Opening of the restaurant FOOD. Open House. lone survivor of a series of “paintings” done with wine. Special unforgettable meals including Bone Meal and Live Sea Shrimp in Hardboiled Egg Meal. Descending Steps for Batan. Weston. 12 There is a critical tendency to bunch all of Matta-Clark’s works together and hence to downplay any development.ne). Trip to South America. Marriage with Jane Crawford. Hole project unsuccessfully attempts to reveal gallery foundations from underneath. Death from cancer at age 35. 1976 Window Blow-Out at Cornell. 1970.Matta-Clark’s Circling the Circle 11 For a revealing discussion of the Photoworks. “A foot or two of someone’s driveway but most of it is gutter space and curbstone. 13 Kirshner. Michael Graves. “Interview with Gordon Matta-Clark. Almost begins to work for Richard Meier. 1977 Office Baroque in Antwerp. Conical Intersect (Quel Can) in Paris. Sous-sol de Paris movie. 1969 Land of Milk and Honey. food. Plans for Time Sphere Launch on Times Square.

Geometry of Terror: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window Juhani Pallasmaa Chora .

which has a kitchenette separated by cupboards. but there is no other place in the flat where the implied bedroom could be located). and a front door three steps up from the floor. and the events are filmed from the window of one apartment and mostly through the eyes of one person: the magazine photographer L. The fictional address presumably is due to a practice established by the Motion Picture Association of America.2 However. another red brick building is so high that the upper storeys never appear in the film. The address is made up. when the protagonist’s girlfriend Lisa goes in to change into 212 . Everything takes place in a block of apartments at 125 West Ninth Street in Greenwich Village. Most of the buildings around the courtyard are typical American tenements built in the grim Federal Brick style. and the apartment block in the film was modelled on an actual building located at this address. in reality this part of the street has no such number. which requires that a film crime shall not take place at a real address. and directly in front is a small two-storey building. at the south end of Manhattan – or more precisely. and at the right rear is a part jutting out with a roof terrace joined to a glass-fronted studio flat. confined to a wheelchair with his leg in plaster. On the extreme left.Hitchcock’s Rear Window Hitchcock … is so emotional that he pretends to be thinking only of the money. a door to the bedroom (various essays on the film refer to a bathroom.B. It takes place during four days. L. a fireplace. Rear Window (1954) is probably Alfred Hitchcock’s most perfectly constructed film. within the buildings surrounding the courtyard. The bedroom door is opened only once. On the extreme right is a multistorey plastered building next to a four-storey brick house. It contains a bay window overlooking the yard. The partly paved and planted courtyard has various levels. Jeffries (James Stewart). to the left of which is an alley leading to the street. 125 Christopher Street was the address of the film murderer before the street name was changed. because it changes into Christopher Street before reaching number 125. from Wednesday to Saturday.B. Jeffries’s home is a two-room apartment. François Truffaut1 mathematics of the stage with its precision of mathematical thought. The film takes place in the living room.

and other furnishings have been moved to allow for his immobility and treatment. The second part shows what he sees and the third part shows how he reacts. This is actually the purest expression of a cinematic idea. in which the door of a locked room is never opened. This mysterious room. You have an immobilised man looking out.Jeff surveying his neighbours through the telephoto lens of his camera Jeff and Detective Doyle her nightgown. which is never shown to the audience. The extreme spatial restrictions of Rear Window – the film is seen from the perspective of a person bound to one spot and everything takes place within one huge set – was a stimulating challenge for Hitchcock: “It was a possibility of doing a purely cinematic film. a high bed has been moved into the bay. That’s one part of the film.”3 213 . During the period of Jeff’s convalescence. is a familiar Hitchcockian psychological theme that appears also in the film Rebecca.

photographs. on the opposite side. 5 open shelves in three parts. 2 high bed. with three windows that can be opened.Reconstruction of Jeff’s apartment (drawing by the author): 1 bay window. three steps up to the door. 6 table with broken camera. below cupboards. easy chair. possibly a balcony for the bedroom. lamp suspended from ceiling. low table. low drawer. etc. trunk. with photographs. 3 side table. 4 kitchen furniture. fireplace. 214 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 carpet. .. etc. table lamp. presumably kitchen cupboards.

20 passage to the street. 16 ground floor: Miss Lonelyhearts’s bedroom.Reconstruction of the courtyard (drawing by the author): 1 Jeff’s apartment. and second floor: dog owner couple’s kitchen 15 ground floor: Miss Lonelyhearts’s living room. 10 ground floor: the sculptress’s terrace. 14 ground floor: Miss Lonelyhearts’s kitchen. 11 stair to Miss Torso’s balcony. 6 roof terrace attached to the studio apartment. 5 part of the songwriter’s studio apartment. 9 first floor: Miss Torso’s bathroom. 19 room of the newly married couple. 13 balcony with emergency stair. 12 corridor (on all three floors). 8 first floor: Miss Torso’s balcony. first floor: the Thorwalds’ kitchen. 21 restaurant with Miss Lonelyhearts’s table 215 . first floor: Miss Torso’s room. first floor: the Thorwalds’ living room. 2 stair/hallway. 4 lower courtyard. 3 bedroom (never shown in the film). first floor: the Thorwalds’ bedroom. 7 ground floor: the sculptress’s apartment. 17 Mr Thorwald’s flower bed. 18 lady with a bird cage. second floor: dog owner couple’s bedroom. second floor: dog owner couple’s living room.

and the film’s protagonist. a salesman (Raymond Burr) and his invalid nagging wife. a childless couple doting over their little dog. They are all divided into innumerable.6 Lower-middle-class life was familiar to him from his own childhood in the suburbs of London.5 Despite being so contrived and restricted. gateway. a sculptress. Jeffries (James Stewart) and his wealthy. and the sense of gravity increases. simultaneously animated theatres. the apartment block in the film is a rich excavation of city life. courtyard. a young dancer keeping her figure trim. who lives in the high-rent district of Park Avenue and Sixty-third Street “and never wears the same dress twice. in which the layers are exposed only gradually.” There’s a heat wave going on.Hitchcock’s Rear Window the characters in the film Walter Benjamin’s description of the theatrical character of the townscape of Naples is an exact picture of the combined stage and auditorium in Rear Window: “Buildings are used as a popular stage.” Hitchcock said about the world in his movie. The 216 . fashion-conscious girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly). A black cat running across the stairs in front provides a subtle. passionate newlyweds.” writes Paul Virilio. As the story advances.”4 The tenants observed through the windows of their apartments are like a collection of butterflies in glass-covered cases – the director even puts this idea into the mouth of the photographer: “They can … watch me like a bug under glass. if they want to. shadows grow darker. the magazine photographer L. “What you see across the way is a group of little stories that … mirror a small universe. Balcony. staircase. so everyone keeps their windows open.B. The tenants form a closed community for whom the outside world appears distant. it is seen in the film only as a painted silhouette and a narrow view of the street. roof are at the same time stage and boxes. The first images of the film give a cheerfully humorous description of daily activities of the inhabitants and pigeons within the enclosed realm of the courtyard. superstitious omen.” The tenants form a crosssection of New York’s colourful populace: a songwriter-composer. a middle-aged spinster longing for male company. window. and to while away the time the convalescent photographer in his wheelchair begins to observe what’s happening in the courtyard. the air becomes heavier. “The field of vision has always seemed to me comparable to the ground of archeological excavation.

they remain strangers to each other. The darkness of this window. strangling garment. “You don’t know the meaning of the word neighbour.7 217 .” Although the tenants have outside friends. The tenants never encounter each other.” says Hitchcock about his cinematic dramaturgy. This deviation brings about one of the most dramatic scenes in the film.” says the strangled dog’s owner to her neighbours in this most dramatic scene in the film. which the salesman crudely terminates with “Why don’t you shut up. In this scene the camera moves temporarily and unnoticed into the courtyard to view the characters from below as a single wide-angle shot from the perspective of the strangled dog. He can be seen smoking a glowing cigarette in his darkened apartment. Not until the scream following the discovery of the strangled dog do they come into the courtyard space.The murderer and his wife space begins to wrap around the viewer like a dark. An equally tangible void is the silence of the telephone at the moment Jeff realizes he has confirmed his identity to the murderer. except for a brief exchange of words between the sculptress and the salesman at the beginning of the film. “The size of the image is used for dramatic purposes. reminiscent of René Magritte’s painting La réponse imprévue (1933). meanwhile. is undoubtedly one of the most evocative darknesses in cinema. the darkened windows reveal the dog strangler and wife murderer withdrawn from the group.

Miss Torso (Georgine Darcy). the central theme of the film. the sections without dialogue constitute 35 percent of the entire film. the nickname given to the shapely dancer. Hitchcock’s initial idea was to have the musical background consist entirely of the piece of music gradually composed by the songwriter during the course of the film. contain meanings: for example.” in accordance with the female protagonist. too. Miss Lonelyhearts (Judith Evelyn) is coded in green. and levels. space and image details. camera angles and shot compositions. Hitchcock even wrote an enigmatic article about his wife Alma entitled “The Woman Who Knew Too Much.8 As an artistic masterpiece. Hitchcock slowly builds in the audience a stream of suspense that he dams until the final cataractic release. Hitchcock planned his film so precisely that after it had been edited.”9 The words of the songs heard in the background always relate ambiguously to the scene. role characterizations. intimates mutilation. this episode. 218 . her dresses are always shades of emerald green. He has expressed his dissatisfaction with the music in the film. Rear Window weaves innumerable details into a faultless fabric in which allusions and hints criss-cross unendingly in all directions. starts one of the stories that will develop after the film has ended. in fact. its architectural messages. and there are no other green clothes in the film.10 although his idea is realized to the extent that the songwriter plays his new record to Miss Lonelyhearts at the end of the film. Colours. But great works always contain a great number of redundancies. 1934 and 1956).” an allusion to the film Hitchcock directed twice (The Man Who Knew Too Much. and words and music constitute a mosaic that builds up the suspense with the infallibility of the geometrist. Rear Window is truly a masterpiece of artistic condensation: its richness and logic are revealed only after seeing it several times. Rear Window is an exceptionally visual film. atmospheres and secret hints. only a few dozen metres of film remained on the cutting-room floor. Every episode or line appears to contain meanings and allusions. The little dog is killed because “it knew too much. The composition is entitled “Lisa.Hitchcock’s Rear Window the logic of terror The suspense in the film is based on the irrefutable logic of terror. depths. The narrative logic of the film.

I practise absurdity quite religiously. the boss of General Motors.16 219 . the audience is led wherever the director wishes. “Some films are slices of life.” as Hitchcock says. such as the insurance nurse-therapist Stella’s (Thelma Ritter) story of how she foresaw the Great Crash of ’29 from the number of times her patient. of course. but on the other hand Hitchcock’s films are the metaphysics of a perfect. mine are slices of cake. whereas everyday life is too loose and unfocused to be a story. clarity. logical structure. the simultaneously entertaining and metaphysical essence of his films – the image of a cake makes one think of cinematic slap-stick humour. rhythm. while the word commands. “The impact of the image is of the first importance in a medium that directs the concentration of the eye so that it cannot stray. but life with the dull bits cut out?” Hitchcock concludes. soon the whole nation is ready to let go. or camera angle frees the dialogue for its contrapuntal purpose.”13 Hitchcock’s ability to reveal the hidden feelings and moods of the characters with a simple gesture.15 Another meaning of Hitchcock’s metaphor of a slice of cake is. cinematic still-lifes whose minute details form a perfect. “The fact is. A work of art is always a deliberate condensation and representation. Accompanying the everyday pictorial narrative.”12 Hitchcock is interested less in the stories than in the way they are told. lines are spoken that have quite surprising or absurd dimensions. “Clarity. after all.” Hitchcock has said in his characteristic capricious humour. In the theatre.14 This presumably implies that his films do not attempt to imitate the realism of everyday life but are artistic constructs.” he confesses. In the cinema. you cannot have blurred thinking in suspense.” she remarks. visited the toilet: “When General Motors has to go to the bathroom ten times a day. just something that comes out of the mouths of people whose eyes tell the story in visual terms. “What is drama. enclosed world.Juhani Pallasmaa The film ends like a geometrical exercise at school – qed – which was to be demonstrated. the eye wanders.11 the situationality of meaning Hitchcock stresses the importance of pictorial and material expression and makes the narrative dialogue subservient: “Dialogue should simply be a sound among other sounds. clarity.

when the murderer is cleaning the butcher’s knife and little saw while children can be heard playing. Even the murderer is having an illicit love affair. On the other hand. such as when a bloodcurdling scream from the yard interrupts Lisa displaying her enticing lingerie. Jeff’s rebuffing of Lisa and his occasional rudeness are not explained by their difference in class or customs. the men fawning over Miss Torso. as he would have it. such as Lisa’s pining for love and Miss Torso’s erotic teasing. Jeff has both phallic symbols (the telephoto camera) and manifestations of frigidity and impotence (a leg in plaster and immobility). and the lovelorn Miss Lonelyhearts. their intermingling and occasional triviality – such as the helicopter at the beginning of the film hovering over the buildings to gawk at the bathing beauties on the flat roof – increase the credibility and irrevocability of the main story in much the same way that mundane and incidental details appear in the epic works of the great painters of history. Jeff rebuffs Lisa’s approaches but obviously is interested in observing the intimate life of the dancer from a distance. Fear and love are contradictory and mutually exclusive emotions. there are powerful erotic suggestions and sexual symbols. and a mother with a child in her lap. a boy playing with a dog. Miss Lonelyhearts’s preparations for suicide at the same time that Lisa faces a dangerous situation in the murderer’s apartment.Hitchcock’s Rear Window the extraneous and the contradictory The extraneousness of the events. A story achieves the aura of real life when it does not proceed too linearly and obviously. the individual will of the narrator-director controlling the events appears to submit to the overriding power of destiny. Hitchcock creates a feeling of terror through carefully juxtaposed scenes when the mind is most receptive. the intimacy of the newlyweds behind the drawn blinds. or when Lisa is kissing Jeff while his mind is preoccupied with the significance of the murder weapons. Alongside the yearning and problematics of love. talking to a monk. The events in the lives of the tenants develop independently of the main story. In Rear Window suspense and fear often develop alongside the love affairs: the scenes in which Lisa and Jeff are kissing. but occasionally the climaxes of these separate stories are connected: for example. 220 . Titian’s monumental painting Presentation of the Virgin brings a touch of ordinary life through irrelevant episodes: a countrywoman selling eggs.

Peeping into the apartments through the photographer’s telephoto lens and binoculars is a bit like channel-swapping with a remote.” writes Hitchcock.” and “The show’s over for tonight. Jeffries in a cast. is also a reference to the cinema-like structure of the story.” as she pulls down the window shade in front of Jeff’s curious eyes – all indicate a show. as she flashes the overnight bag containing her nightgown.17 spectacle The lives of the tenants in Rear Window are observed in the lit rooms behind uncurtained windows.Jeff considers the significance of Mr Thorwald’s kitchen tools while kissing Lisa The murderer’s gardening hobby also belongs to this series of contradictions.18 Lisa Fremont’s metaphors – “It’s opening night of the last oppressing week of L.” “I bought the whole house. “Emotion is an essential ingredient of suspense. The transfer of the action from one window to another – as if moving from one screen to another – creates a comical effect but also brings to mind René Magritte’s painting 221 . and the contents of this film are aptly left to the viewer’s imagination. with its white shade pulled down.B. The occasional background sound of a soprano practising scales simultaneously lulls the audience into a benign sense of security but invokes a premonition of fear from the higher notes. “Preview of coming attractions. is like a cinema screen without a film projected onto it. The window of the newlyweds.” says Lisa. like separate silent films or tv programs.

Actually.René Magritte. juxtaposed canvases. For instance. The whole story might just be a dream or a hallucination brought on by his immobility. it is a film about cinema. L’evidence éternelle (1930). Miss Lonelyhearts has her lonely supper with an imaginary male companion. The director himself confesses the cinematic essence of the film: “Rear Window is not about Greenwich Village.”19 mirror-images The narrative of Rear Window is structured through a number of mirror-images. Houston L’evidence éternelle (1930) of a woman’s body painted in parts on five separate. Jeff is both the film’s director and spectator. The Menil Collection. as he interprets the meanings of the unrelated events he observes and almost directs how they will develop. whereas with the Thorwald couple on the opposite side of . Hitchcock has pointed out an essential reversed symmetry in the film: the photographer is immobile while his fiancée moves freely. and character metamorphoses. Jeff appears to create the story of the film in his own mind. and I do know cinema. as Jeff and Lisa are enjoying their lobster dinner brought from a top quality restaurant. reversed relations. He also cuts the film into montages by transferring his view (= camera’s view = spectator’s view) from one window and episode to the next and by selecting the image frames and distances with his own eyes through the alternative optics of the telephoto camera and binoculars. and Rear Window is a metaphor for making and viewing a film.

only the flats of the salesman and Miss Lonelyhearts are connected to a corridor. we see more. And where is the murderer’s bathroom located. the realism of the set The apartments are like stages stacked one upon the other. in order to carry his bride over the threshold. 223 . such one-sided flats are sometimes called “railroad flats. for instance. out of sight from the camera.”21 For example. so that everything can be seen through the camera in Jeff’s room. without access to the ground water. he is capable only of uttering the frustrated question.20 The photographer hero seems to conceal a yielding helplessness. The block of apartments in the film is like a tree lifted from its roots. the wife is bedridden while her husband comes and goes freely. the walls of which he is shown to be washing? Hitchcock even utilizes the blank wall spaces between windows. to staircases and corridors. This incident even reverses the location of the auditorium and the stage. She has no escape route. but where the door leads remains unclear. and vague reflections in the open window panes to stimulate the viewer’s imagination and feeling of suspense. “What do you want from me?” An essential role reversal is the unexpected change from pursued to pursuer. is revealed first as an aggressive character. after the murderer discovers his surveyor. with no access to the rest of the normal anatomy of an apartment block. and the frightened hero verbalizes the fear of the viewer who feels guilty for having allowed the woman to put herself in this danger. in the sequence when Lisa is in the murderer’s apartment and the policemen finally arrive to save her. most of the time we see what Jeff sees. The young man in the flat just rented on the left reopens the front door. whereas the coddled fashion girl exhibits reckless courage as she climbs into the murderer’s flat. Nor are the plans of the apartments “real. and finally as the cruel killer of his wife. the flats of the Thorwalds and Miss Lonelyhearts are approached unorthodoxly through a kitchen. But at the moment he enters Jeff’s room. helpless and pitiful. like urn recesses in a columbarium. but during the three occasions when he is asleep. The travelling salesman. who tends flowers in the garden. The identity of the viewer in relation to the protagonist also shifts.Juhani Pallasmaa the courtyard.” as they have been flattened against their facades.

The scenographer of a film must know laws of optics and perception more accurately than an architect. The courtyard and the apartments facing it form a huge stage surrounded by what appears to be a hidden backstage where the occupants move from the street to their flats. the film has not been shot consistently from the protagonist’s room. despite the audience’s narrow view of a rear street with a restaurant that appears in the opening between the buildings. but we can assume that subtle perspectival distortions have been made in the geometry of the courtyard as well as the individual rooms. Certain vertical and horizontal planes presumably have been tilted toward the sight line of the camera – in the manner of tilted table tops in cubist paintings – to provide the required visibility and frontality. a canyon. although it appears orthogonal. 224 . The wall for the newlyweds is clearly positioned diagonally. as it appears to us experientially. These deviations from orthogonality would facilitate the intended shots as seen from Jeffries’s room. The author has been unable to obtain the set drawings for Rear Window. Besides. with excavated flats that apparently lack another side.The stage of the film The apartment block in Hitchcock’s film appears to have been built like a mountain. and the back wall of the Thorwalds’ bedroom is probably also skewed.

The exit from Jeff’s flat to the street is somewhere to the left behind the audience. The terror is not in the scene projected on the screen but in the minds of the audience. their invisible. and it is this unfamiliar rear that maximizes the threat: at this stage the threat is not just the rather pathetic Mr Thorwald but the labyrinthine unfamiliarity of the building itself. The murderer creeping up the stairs to Jeff’s flat brings the unfamiliar rear of the building into the audience’s imagination. intimate life and subconscious. The threat is not contained in what is shown but in what is not shown. and of those routes the characters use in or between these places. In watching a film we form in our minds diagrams of the relationship between the different places on which the film is constructed. The true identities of the tenants.”22 Since most of the routes used by the characters in Rear Window are hidden in the unknown backstage.Juhani Pallasmaa the physical map of the film Peter Wollen regards the series of places in a film as its structural elements: “Building up the story of a film … also means drawing a psychical map. Experiential movements in the courtyard and through the block (drawing by the author) Doyle D . the audience cannot form the kind of psychical map that Wollen mentions. appear to be concealed in this backstage.

insurance company nurse.27 In a drawing from The Art of Living (1945).”23 He goes on to define the difference between the two: “Suspense is more enjoyable than terror. Hitchcock says that fear was his special cinematic field: “My special field [I have split] into two categories – terror and suspense … terror is induced by surprise. however. published a few years before Rear 226 . with its ominous. and detective buddy can enter. but more the professional curiosity of a photographer. An extra dimension of terror is provided by the narrow strip of light under the door. a sexual perversion. while terror. if only when we see an intimate film. it’s like the blade falling. suspense by forewarning.” François Truffaut notes when interviewing Hitchcock about his intentions in Rear Window. to be truly effective. in which the location and role of the viewer have also been a subject of philosophical contemplation. must come all at once. actually. like a bolt of lightning.26 Jeff’s voyeurism is not. The duality of the gaze is expressed by Jeff as he suspects murder: “It’s not an ordinary look … the man behaves as if he is afraid someone is watching him. When the passage lights suddenly go out as the footsteps reach the door.”24 the geometry of voyeurism The film tells the story of a murder and its exposure. guillotine-like shape. the twenty-eight hundred-page History of Private Life shows that it has both an interesting history and a multiplicity of dimensions. The knowledge that the door is unlocked increases the threat of the footsteps creeping up the stairs in the finale of the film. And James Stewart is exactly in the position of a spectator looking at a movie. curiously. to savour. the three steps leading to the door prevent the wheelchair patient from opening it. and is more difficult.Hitchcock’s Rear Window The wheelchair-bound photographer has to leave his front door unlatched so that his girlfriend.” The complicated relationship between the viewer and the viewed in Rear Window brings to mind Velazquez’s painting Las Meninas. therefore.25 “We’re all voyeurs to some extent. Although the concept of private life would appear to be self-evident. because it is a continuing experience and attains a peak crescendo fashion. one hardly pays attention to this minor architectural detail before the stairs are emphasized by the threat of the approaching murderer. but its central philosophical theme is actually the voyeur’s gaze.

The fascinating attraction of privacy is also exemplified by the success of a small Manhattan theatre in the mid-1960s. The flat was rented to a family who lived their daily life unaware of being on stage and being watched. Le magazine pittoresque. as far back as 1847 Le magazine pittoresque’s cartoonist depicted in his Tableaux de Paris different lifestyles and social classes within the framework of a single building.28 But even Steinberg had his predecessor. 1847 Window.”29 227 . The theatre was open twenty-four hours a day and the seats constantly sold out – until the city authorities closed it for being “inhuman. the well-known cartoonist Saul Steinberg shows a similar dissected apartment block exposing the private lives of its tenants.Apartment block as the stage for various lifestyles and social classes. The stage of the theatre was a small flat that could be viewed from a small auditorium through a one-way mirror. From Tableaux de Paris.

Hitchcock’s Rear Window The voyeuristic stage and private performances of Rear Window are also connected to the private peep shows. People do a lot of things in private that they couldn’t possibly explain in public. we know what the pilot is seeing because a moment earlier the viewer has seen two women enter the terrace and throw their bathrobes over the balustrade. like a view opening below drowsily raised eyelids. of Parisian brothels in the nineteenth century. when the murderer pushes his exposer out the window. along with the photographer. the scene of the unfolding drama. private world you’re looking at out there. as they rise. the residents Lisa and Jeff are alarmed by the scream of the dog owner 228 . “That’s a secret. the bamboo shades rise slowly underneath the credits. and the camera moves outside. this is also a reference to the gradual awakening of the unsuspecting sleeping photographer to the reality of murder. Throughout the film. The shades are likewise a metaphor for the stage curtain. the tableaux vivants. the camera – the voyeuristic eye – is bound to the wheelchair in the photographer’s room. As an introduction to the voyeuristic content of the film. they reveal the courtyard. This introduction to the theme of voyeurism is also present in the hovering helicopter ogling at the scantily dressed girls on the roof terrace.” says Detective Doyle (Wendell Corey) to Jeff. except for the climax. At this very moment.

The camera is outside.” accuses Stella) but later become keen peepers themselves. alone and bound to his chair in the darkness of the cinema.Juhani Pallasmaa who have been viewed turn into active onlookers. the protagonist’s realm of awareness during the three sequences when he is asleep: at the very beginning when the scene is introduced.”30 The protagonist in Rear Window and the spectator are likewise bodiless observers. dreamlike state. Jeff’s immobility eliminates the physicality and tactility of experience and transforms it into something purely visual. The camera also pops outside during the scene of the strangled dog. with binoculars and wild opinions about every little thing you see is … is diseased.” warns Stella. The middle sequence is particularly important because it enables the viewer to know more than the protagonist. His complete reliance on vision represents the spectator. when Thorwald leaves his room early on Thursday morning with an unidentified woman.” Lisa scolds Jeff. It is this spectator’s immobility that lulls him into a regressive. the philosopher David Michael Levin uses the term “bodiless reader.” says Stella when warning Jeff of the dangers of peeping. “The way you look into people’s windows is sick … Sitting around. the eye subordinates the other senses. looking out of the window to kill time is one thing – but doing it the way you are. the morality of voyeurism “The New York State sentence for a Peeping Tom is six months in the work house … You know.” replies Lisa to his semirhetorical question. In analyzing Descartes’s writings on reading. but the spectator hardly realizes that it has momentarily strayed into the courtyard. Jeff ponders whether it is ethically acceptable to spy on people through his telephoto lens. and in the very last sequence when he is asleep with both legs in a cast. in the old days. “I’m not much on rear-window ethics. At the end of the film the murderer literally fulfills the nurse’s idea by pushing Jeff out the window – to see the inside of his flat from the outside for the first time. At first both Lisa and Stella disapprove of Jeff’s snooping (“window shopper. Scratching his itchy leg under the plaster with a Chinese back scratcher epitomizes Jeff’s loss of movement and touch. “What people ought to do is get outside their own house and look in for a change. The murderer realizes he is being 229 . they used to put your eyes out with a red-hot poker … We’ve become a race of Peeping Toms.

the philosopher Martin Jay brings out Freud’s views on the relationships between the desire to know. Publicity photograph for Rear Window watched only when. his field of vision is toned red – showing his temporary blindness and increasing rage. In his book Downcast Eyes. At this dramatic moment Jeff changes from being the surveyor to being the surveyed. On two occasions Jeff’s suspicions about the crime appear to be unfounded. This feeling of disappointment induces a sense of guilt that involves the audience even more closely in the story. In trying to delay the approach of the murderer in his flat. are temporarily disappointed that no murder has been committed after all. “I wonder if it’s ethical [to watch a man]. and voyeurism: “Freud came to believe that the very desire to know (Wisstrieb). In the eyes of the murderer. following Lisa’s hand movements. as well as the audience. In this scene the contrast between darkness and light assumes an obvious symbolic meaning. The main characters in the film. he notices the position of his observer. was itself ultimately derived 230 . even if you prove that he didn’t commit a crime?” muses Jeff.Hitchcock’s Rear Window Jeff in his wheelchair. Whether a murder has been committed is important also to the moral acceptability of peeping. Jeff blinds him with flashbulbs. sexuality. and all of a sudden his former victim gains the upper hand. rather than being innocent.

At the centre of 231 . The fact that the subjects of Jeff’s (the spectator’s) interest never look back turns the spectator into a Peeping Tom whose feeling of guilt also makes him feel he is being scrutinized. Walter Benjamin discussed the psychological difference between these two art forms in one of his bestknown works: “The artistic performance of a stage actor is definitely presented to the public by the actor in person. that of the screen actor.33 In his book Discipline and Punish Foucault uses Jeremy Bentham’s panopticon as the main theoretical means for explaining how man became the object of surveillance in the institutional control. Sexuality.” concluded Foucault. but in the panoptic machine.”31 surveillance and the surveyed: the panopticon But Rear Window also philosophizes about the distance between the surveyor and the surveyed. There is an important psychological difference between the events in Jeff’s room and those in the apartments opposite: the former are theatre. whereas the distant episodes are cinema. “Our society is not one of spectacle but of surveillance … We are neither in the amphitheatre. Infantile scopophilia (Schaulust) could result in adult voyeurism or other perverse disorders much as exhibitionism and scopophobia (the fear of being seen). Lack of sound in most of the sequences seen across the courtyard turns these events into fragments of more archaic silent film. In the film the latter are always distanced by the courtyard or some technical gadget (window. as well as a subconscious feeling of guilt from being a Peeping Tom.34 Bentham’s panopticon had its predecessor in Louis Le Vau’s menagerie at Versailles. scientific research. Distance promotes a sense of helplessness and loneliness. and behavioural experiments of modern society. mastery and vision were thus intricately intertwined in ways that could produce problematic as well as ‘healthy’ effects. however. but those in the apartments opposite as unrelated fragments.Juhani Pallasmaa from an infantile desire to see. this increases the sense of distance and also suggests comical readings. Another element in the film is the duality of the voyeuristic gaze: simultaneously spectacle and surveillance. which had sexual origins.”32 The audience experiences the events in Jeff’s room as a continuum. with a twofold consequence … The camera that presents the performance of the film actor to the public need not respect the performance as an integral whole. binoculars). is presented by a camera. camera lens. nor on the stage.

with its courtyard. 2 the photographer watches through his telephoto camera. Stage 18.35 “Can I borrow your portable keyhole?” asks Stella. the eighth side was reserved for the entrance. which is what Hitchcock’s film is all about. Stella. The set – Rear Window’s panopticon – was made under the supervision of Joseph MacMillan Johnson and Hal Pereira. In using a perspective device an artist normally requires an assistant. Hitchcock himself supervised the construction. and 3 the audience in turn watches the events through the illusion projected onto the screen. is likewise reminiscent of the panopticon. was made in Paramount’s largest studio. The film raises peeping to the third degree: 1 the movie camera watches. of which twelve were fully furnished. which measured fifty-five by thirty metres and was twelve metres high. The Peeping Tom is basically the photographer’s room. The structures contained seventy windows 232 .36 It was the largest set ever built for Paramount. as well as the set in Rear Window. just as Lisa. Vincenzo Scamozzi’s design for the stage of Andrea Palladio’s Teatro Olimpico (1584) in Vicenza. streets. which took six weeks. which brings to mind the perspective drawing device used by the Renaissance artist in Albrecht Dürer’s engraving Man Drawing a Reclining Woman (1538). on every side of which large windows looked out onto seven cages containing different species of animals.Hitchcock’s Rear Window the building was an octagonal pavilion containing the king’s salon. gardens. Rear Window is a heightened central perspective film. and Doyle function as Jeff’s legs in his investigations. and is perfect as the logical architectonic projection of the story. is simultaneously a member of the cinema audience and the first-person narrator of the story. a vista of seven different streets. CA M E R A O B S C U R A and the stage as a machine The photographer tied to his room becomes both camera and projector. Jeff. cars and thunder showers. taking Jeff’s binoculars. Similarly. in the Rear Window menagerie there are seven flats being scrutinized and an alley from the street to the courtyard! But Foucault perhaps dismissed the possibility of simultaneous spectacle and surveillance. and included thirty-one flats. The point of projection of the central-perspective. and its spatial location in the apartment block enables the ensuing situation. as well as a camera obscura representing his own room. The set.

in which each actor is alone.Juhani Pallasmaa Camera obscura. is securely confined to a cell from where he can be seen from the front by the supervisor. but the side walls prevent him from coming into contact with his companions. It is also the architecture of surveillance and domination according to Michel Foucault’s well-known analysis. and the view above of the south town silhouette. perfectly individualised and constantly visible … Each individual. exemplifies the solitary cells in Rear Window’s panopticon. separated by only the thickness of the wall. Ars Magna Lucis et Umbrae (1649) and doors. As much as the narrative itself. the structure of the film relies on the spatial relationships and geometry of the tenants’ flats. so many small theatres. and the walls in Jeff’s flat were removable to allow for all possible camera angles. the alley to the street. pearl necklace. the courtyard. The set is thus a variation on the theme of the promenade architecturale – architecture subordinated to a linearly advancing story.37 The artificial lighting for this colossal set required all of Paramount’s equipment.”38 The scene in which the apparently naked dancer is in her bathroom and the murderer in the corridor leading to his apartment. 233 . The lowest level of the courtyard was built below the studio floor. the name Eagle Road Laundry on the murderer’s laundry parcel) would not have been possible in natural light. From Athanasius Kircher. in his place. but he does not see. he is the object of information. his picture of the cells in the ideal panopticon-prison corresponds exactly to Hitchcock’s cinematic panopticon: “They are like so many cages. He is seen. Filming the events in the individual flats and all the small objects (the ring. the street itself with the restaurant on the opposite side. never a subject in communication. The apartment block is a stage machine that produces the narrative according to the script.

looking from the outside through a window into a room became 234 . the theme of which is an illuminated room in the house opposite. (1926) painting themes in R E A R W I N D OW Edward Hopper’s painting Night Windows (1928). A figure looking out of a window has been a familiar motif in painting since the Renaissance. is also like one of Hopper’s paintings – for example. while Apartment Houses (1923) and Room in New York (1932) are intimate interiors of private homes. the artist. with its lonely woman sitting in a café – even the green colour of her dress appears in Hopper’s painting.M. in Office in a Small Town (1953) a lonely man in an office appears to be surveying and commanding his immediate surroundings in much the same way as L.Edward Hopper. whereas in Eleven A. is always in the same space as his model. Miss Lonelyhearts. the spectator. with his or her approval.B. However. Many of Hopper’s other paintings are also related to the voyeurist theme of Hitchcock’s film. In Night Hawks (1942) and New York Office (1962) the subjects of external scrutiny are a night bar and an office. Jeffries in the film. Eleven A.M. thus problematizing the entire issue of voyeurism. On the other hand. Girlie Show (1941) draws directly on the sexual content of voyeurism. Automat (1927). is like something out of the voyeurist world of Rear Window. (1926) a naked woman is staring fixedly at the courtyard from an open window. Finally. waiting for her imaginary companion or contemplating suicide. It is evident that Hitchcock was fully acquainted with the works of Hopper. for he had the Bates house in Psycho (1960) built according to the artist’s painting House by the Railway (1923).

as the subject is not conscious of being under external scrutiny. “We pass 235 . not in. which the artist was making at the same time that Hitchcock was making his film. 2. is observed through two holes in an ancient Spanish timber door. The young. a gas lamp raised in her left hand. An intimate event becomes public when a crime has been committed and a district attorney becomes involved. as Octavio Paz notes in his essay on Duchamp. “Let’s start from the beginning. but the event remains unexplained. but the incident in Duchamp’s work remains forever enigmatic. fair-haired female figure’s hairless pubes are indecently exposed directly in front of the viewer’s eye. Jeff. A view of the inside from the outside confuses and perverts the ontology of the window and makes it a voyeuristic instrument. a woman lying with her legs apart on a reedy shore. The inside is always definitely somebody’s territory. as it was believed he had given up art altogether. In Duchamp’s three-dimensional composition. is this Duchamp’s perfect crime? But. tell me everything you saw … and … what it … means. in the dazzling light of a diorama. Both the film and Duchamp’s enigmatic work are studies in fixed-eye central perspective. The best-known work dealing with the nature of voyeurism is undoubtedly Marcel Duchamp’s Etant donnés: 1. regardless of her initial suspicion. the interaction of intimate privacy and voyeurist gaze. By its very nature. a window is meant for looking out. La chute d’eau. and the intertwining of eroticism and violence.” says Lisa as she realizes that a crime really could have taken place. In the background sparkles an electrically operated illusionary waterfall. Le gaz d’éclairage (1944–66).Juhani Pallasmaa popular only in the twentieth century. The incident in Hitchcock’s film is exposed as a crime. The perspective diorama composition suggests a narrative of sexual perversions or violence. hitchcock and duchamp The voyeurism of Rear Window and the boundary between private and public domains create a link to some of the central themes of modern art.39 The way in which the spectator’s mind seeks a causal logic from the hints in Duchamp’s construction is reminiscent of the way Jeff perceives the logic of the series of unrelated episodes he sees from his window. Duchamp’s work arouses a simultaneous feeling of scopophilic excitement and voyeuristic shame. Duchamp made his final work in complete secrecy. whereas the outside is anonymous.

” says Stella) represent violence. the roles of objects The language of objects plays a central role in this film. The shot ends in a framed negative of a beautiful woman next to a pile of magazines with the same image on the cover. the close-ups of racing cars.42 The earlier slide photographs of the garden – in which the murderer has buried something – are another dimension of the camera. in Rear Window the voyeurist gaze ultimately leads to clairvoyance and the mental purification that characterizes a work of art. Lisa deduces the course of events through the victim’s handbag. through several of the flats. and finally to the objects in his flat) offer clues to why he is in a wheelchair with his leg in plaster: the photographs indicate his profession. the aluminum jewelry sample case that was used to convey the dismembered body. and the rope-bound trunk containing the wife’s belongings (Jeff and his assistants. as in all Hitchcock films. As Jeff is trying to find proof for the crime in the murderer’s tools of violence. and a burning car in a war zone reveal the dangers he loves. The rope conjures an unpleasant association with hanging in the spectator’s mind. “He better get that trunk out of there before it starts to leak. and investigating and ultimately becomes a weapon of self-defence. The murdered woman’s ring and handbag also play a role in the story. I would feel that I’d been remiss if I hadn’t made maximum use of those elements.41 The photographer’s 35-mm reflex camera naturally plays a fetishistic leading role. warning. a military explosion.”40 Likewise. Lisa’s slipping the ring onto her own finger has a double meaning in its reference to her ardent desire to marry 236 . moving from the childless couple sleeping on the fire-escape platform. but during the film it changes into a means for observing.” says Hitchcock about the importance of location and objects in his films. and wedding ring. In the murderer’s apartment the murder weapons (the knife and saw). The objects in Jeff’s room (revealed by a magnificent continuous shot. The camera is Jeff’s tool and livelihood. to a medium close-up of Jeff’s head. are temporarily led to believe that the trunk contains bits of the body. and the shattered 8x10 view camera signifies the accident on his last assignment. as well as the audience. “I make it a rule to exploit elements that are connected with a character or a location. jewelry.Hitchcock’s Rear Window from voyeurism to clairvoyance.

It is through the distinct but interpenetrating economies of money and photography that a whole social world is represented and constituted exclusively as signs. The characters in the film are treated as objects. In his immobility and helplessness Jeff is also transformed into an object that the others have to move and care for. whose name Lisa spells out letter by letter.”43 There is thus no real contradiction between the worlds of Lisa and Jeff. Lisa’s fashionable clothes – particularly her overtly provocative diaphanous nightgown – and her fetishism for expensive objects related to her value world create a powerful symbolic tension compared to the mundane lower-middle-class existence of Jeff and his fellow tenants. from the beginning they both belong to the same power elite. But in his book Techniques of the Observer. in my neighbourhood they still nag. thus emphasizing his identity. This objectivization of characters maintains an air of parody.Juhani Pallasmaa Jeff. “Well. Architecture 237 . The apparent contradiction between the wealth of Lisa’s family and profession and the photographer’s impoverishment (“I have never more than a week’s salary in the bank”) is continuously emphasized by Jeff. All of them remain nameless except for the murderer.” Jeff observes. The dancer and the ideal of perfection that Lisa represents are personifications of magazine femininity and erotic desire. In the end even the murderer loses his vileness and repugnance when revealed as the pitiful product of an unfortunate fate he has only tried to conceal. Jonathan Crary connects photography and money in a way that eliminates superficial class differences: “Photography and money become homologous forms of social power in the nineteenth century. regardless of the tragedy. fiction and reality In Hitchcock’s films the audience is so gripped by suspense that the obvious theatrical unreality and the architectonic incredibility of the buildings can no longer release or moderate the reality of terror. maybe in the high-rent district they [wives] discuss. Due to their prototypicality all the characters in the film represent their own genre-models and concepts. They are equally totalizing systems for binding and unifying all subjects within a single global network of valuation and desire … Both are magical forms that establish a new set of abstract relations between individuals and things and impose those relations as the real.

the staged background can also be seen as a striving for absolute truthfulness. due to his wig and lower set of false teeth. where Jeff lures the murderer. but in fact the Sixth Precinct of the Manhattan police is actually on Tenth Street. thus the film’s fictional crime acquires a realism from two real-life cases. was on the corner of Tenth Street and University Place when the film was being made. The nocturnal moment when the murder takes place is 238 . A leg in the East River …”. dismembered her body. except for the head. to which Hitchcock added some authentic material about two macabre crimes. since then it has been refurbished as an apartment block. He was recognized while making his escape by steamer in the company of his mistress disguised as a boy. and threw the bits one by one from a train window. “In a job like that it must have splattered a lot”. “Just where do you suppose he cut her up? … Of course – the bathtub! That’s the only place where he could have washed away the blood” (during this comment from Stella.”45 Innocent macabre comments by Jeff and Stella inveigle the audience into imagining that a woman’s body has been dismembered in one of the flats and the bits carried away in the sample case: “That would be a terrible job to tackle. The script of Rear Window was based on Cornell Woolrich’s short story of the same name. “She’s scattered all over town.Hitchcock’s Rear Window has lost its normal meaning and has submitted to terror. Jeff is trying to eat bacon for his breakfast). In the Patrick Mahon case.” The film does not show the murder or the dismemberment. just opposite the entrance to Jeff’s flat. At the end of the film the police arrive in Jeff’s room only a few seconds after being alerted.44 humour and fantasies It is characteristic of Hitchcock to raise the threshold of an audience’s suspense by creating a smoke screen of macabre humour: “And for me. The Hotel Albert. just how would you start to cut up a human body?”. For a long time he managed to delude friends who were curious about his wife’s disappearance by telling them she had gone to California. but they appear even more realistically in the minds of the audience. and “The only way anybody would get that ring [Stella’s wedding ring] would be to chop off my finger. a man murdered a woman. not even a drop of blood. ‘suspense’ doesn’t have any value if it’s not balanced by humour. which he burnt. a man murdered his wife and also dismembered her body. On the other hand. In the Dr Crippen case.

beyond realism there is always surrealism. forgotten. in which the murderer also had trouble disposing of the victim’s head. 239 . Subconscious.”47 An object or place becomes horrifying and unreal when we are able to see through its normal realism. but when Jeff is violently attacked at the end of the film.Juhani Pallasmaa marked by a woman’s muffled shriek and the sound of a glass breaking. Even the faces of our mothers are transformed into frightening. after hearing that Thorwald had dug it up and put it in the victim’s hat box. The events that the audience imagines are more impressionable. the psychological security created by the theatre illusion is shattered. and suppressed images seep through the ordinary consciousness dominated by the superego. This episode brings to mind the Mahon case.46 At the end of the film the audience is forced to imagine the part of the woman’s body that was buried in the flowerbed. this they acquire later when the audience returns in its mind to the chronology and logic of the drama. In the traditional theatre the spectator is inviolable. our brains and nervous systems chart the dangers lurking behind the familiar. But the murderer also steps into the domain of the audience: Thorwald’s arrival takes place quite clearly behind the vulnerable and unprotected back of the audience.” said Hitchcock about his principle of cinematic minimalism. “Things are not as they would appear to be. The night thunder that accompanies these sounds probably gives the audience a feeling that something tragic has occurred. During the film the spectators and actors in the spectacle change places on two occasions: Lisa moves from the auditorium to the stage (the murderer’s flat). without noticing it. eroded landscapes if we stare so long that their familiar and loved features lose their ordinary meanings. the murderer moves from the stage to the auditorium (Jeff’s flat). In Hitchcock’s films it is the wavering between ordinary consciousness and dreams that predominates: the unreality of reality and the reality of unreality. “I have always felt that you should do the minimum on the screen to get the maximum audience effect. but at this stage the audience is not ready to appreciate the meaning of these almost imperceptible sounds. and conversely. As he says. the realism of dreams In his films Hitchcock reveals that behind everyday reality there is another reality.

8 Alfred Hitchcock. Cahiers du cinéma 190 (May 1967). Albert J. According to the New York City mayor’s office. 5 Paul Virilio. 6 Truffaut. Architecture.” in Focus on Hitchcock. nj: Prentice Hall 1972). Donald Spoto.. Hitchcock (London: Paladin Grafton Books 1984). Hitchcock on Hitchcock: Selected Writings and 240 . New York) and the author. But even the artistic stages of architecture are always something other than the sum of their material structures. 3 François Truffaut. The Art of Alfred Hitchcock (New York: Doubleday 1979). 1. quoted in Jonathan Crary. architectural representations. 327. 4 Walter Benjamin. LaValley (Englewood Cliffs. ma: mit Press 1995). leads our imagination to another reality. 324. Peter Demetz (New York: Schocken Books 1978). too. Man does not live by murder alone – he needs affection. 201. 13 January 1997 and 12 November 1998. 217. Correspondence between Peter Reed (Museum of Modern Art. 7 Ibid. Quoted in François Truffaut. Abrams 1985). L’horizon négatif (Paris: Galilée 1984). Sir Alfred Hitchcock’s toast49 notes i Interview by Jean-Louis Comolli and Jean Narboni. a filmmaker today may use a real address if the property owner’s permission is obtained. ed. ed. all the elements in our lives contain something make-believe. 9 Hitchcock published this article in McCall’s magazine two years after completing Rear Window. 167.48 This becomes particularly clear when we watch Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. encouragement and every now and then – a drink. Hitchcock. Cambridge. 2 In 1953 moviemakers had to refrain from using actual addresses for murderers. “Naples. They are primarily mental spaces.” in Reflections. The film is a conscious dream.” wrote Jean Renoir in his autobiography. Truffaut by Truffaut (New York: Harry N. Techniques of the Observer: On Vision and Modernity in the Nineteenth Century (1990. 43. 319–20. “Rear Window.Hitchcock’s Rear Window “For a director who bothers to really open his eyes. and images of the perfect life.

Gottlieb. See Michel Foucault. It is fairly certain that when Rear Window was being planned and shot in the first half of the 1950s. Truffaut. Ibid.” Rakennustaiteen seuran jäsentiedote 4 (Helsinki 1996): 14. Philippe Ariès and Georges Duby. 332.” which became a hit five years later. Stefan Sharff. 324. Patrick Humphries. Alfred Hitchcock. Ibid. general editors (Cambridge. The Art of Living (London: Hamish Hamilton 1949). Well it didn’t quite work out the way I wanted it to and I was quite disappointed.. which is heard in the scene of the composer’s party. 19. 7. Truffaut.” in The Order of Things: An Archaeology of the Human Sciences (New York: Vintage Books 1994). Truffaut. sung by Conway Twitty. but more likely film watching. Hitchcock. ed. 321. A History of Private Life. “The Enjoyment of Fear” (1949). “Las Meninas. The author recalls reading a small note about this theatre at the end of the 1960s. ed.. 20. 135. “I wanted to show how a popular song is composed by gradually developing it through the film until. 120. Peter Wollen. possibly in Architectural 241 . The Films of Alfred Hitchcock (London: Bison Books 1986). Truffaut. Alfred Hitchcock. Hitchcock did not have tv channel-swapping in mind.. Gottlieb. Sidney Gottlieb (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1995). 3–16. Alfred Hitchcock. The source remains unidentified. Hitchcock. 120.” The song. is “Mona Lisa. Sloan. 89.Juhani Pallasmaa 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 Interviews. 392. in the final scene. “Film Production” (1965). Alfred Hitchcock: A Filmography and Bibliography (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1993). 51–3. ma: Harvard University Press 1986). Sloan. in Hitchcock on Hitchcock. preface. Ibid. 216. Saul Steinberg. “Architecture and the Cinema: Places and Unplaces. ed. Hitchcock. The Art of Looking in Hitchcock’s Rear Window (New York: Limelight Editions 1997). Ibid. in Hitchcock on Hitchcock. Jane E. Hitchcock. it is played on a recording with a full orchestral accompaniment.

Walter Benjamin.” American Cinematographer (January 1990): 34–40.. The English version is entitled Philosophical Remarks (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1975). Rear Window: Reflexivity and the Critique of Voyeurism” in A Hitchcock Reader. ed. The set and lighting arrangements for Rear Window are described in David Atkinson. 215. ia: Iowa State University Press 1994). Stam and Pearson also mention the camera obscura device as one of the frames of reference in Rear Window. lighting a cigarette. 332. Downcast Eyes: The Denigration of Vision in Twentieth Century French Thought (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press 1994). 200. as it were.” Ludwig Wittgenstein. After writing the paragraph about the idea of the panopticon. 347. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction. at the same time. “Hitchcock’s Techniques Tell Rear Window Story. Michel Foucault. Hitchcockin kosketus. Yleisiä huomautuksia. Modernity and the Hegemony of Vision (Berkeley: University of California Press 1993). with our own eyes. Alfred Hitchcockin elokuvat. upon whom Chaplin had based his film Monsieur Verdoux eight years earlier. The writers also connect the idea of the panopticon to Rear Window. The word “laundry” alludes to the French mass-murderer Henri Désiré Landru. 198–206. This would be awful and. Let us imagine a theatre with its curtain rising to reveal a person alone in a room. Marshall Deuterbaum and Leland Poague (1986. I read Robert Stam and Roberta Pearson’s superb article “Hitchcock. ed. part 3 (1951–6). walking back and forth. 228. more miraculous than anything a poet could make people act or speak on the stage. Martin Jay. Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (New York: Vintage 1979). when he believes that no one is observing him. . etc. in 1947. David Michael Levin. Ames. Ludwig Wittgenstein perceptively observed the strange duality of voyeurist interest: “There can be nothing stranger than seeing a person during his everyday pursuits. sitting down. Translation from Finnish by the author. This observation originates from Heikki Nyman’s ingenious and detailed analysis in an unpublished study: Heikki Nyman.Hitchcock’s Rear Window 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 242 Design.” in Illuminations (London: Fontana/Harper Collins 1992). We would suddenly see this person from outside in a way that we can never otherwise see him – as if we could see a chapter of a biography. ed. George Henrik von Wright and Heikki Nyman (Helsinki: Werner Söderström 1979).

stretched on a kind of bed or pyre of branches and leaves. among some rocks.” in Anne d’Harnoncourt and Kynaston McShine. In the top left-hand corner there is a little window that has also been closed up.Juhani Pallasmaa 38 Foucault. her face almost completely covered by the blond mass of her hair. 157. Fascinated by this challenge to our common sense – what is there less clear than light? – our glance wanders over the landscape: in the background. The opposite of the hinges and their paradoxes. 40 Ibid. he will see a scene he is not likely to forget. a waterfall catches the light. In the far wall. 145. All is real and verges on banality. First of all. The immobility of the naked woman and of the landscape contrasts with the movement of the waterfall. green and reddish. Stillness: a portion of time held motionless. The door sets its material doorness in the visitor’s way with a sort of aplomb: dead end. If he goes even closer and dares to peep. all is unreal and verges – on what?” Octavio Paz. the hand grasping a small gas lamp made of metal and glass. lower down. Marcel Duchamp (Munich: Prestel 1989). in which a camera is used as a murder weapon. There are no windows. No painting on the plastered walls. 42 Rear Window has many parallels with Michael Powell’s film Peeping Tom (1960). also inevitably white. the pubes strangely smooth in contrast to the splendid abundance of her hair. The protagonist is a young photographer who murders women and meticulously records the act with his 16-mm film camera. and closed by a rough crossbar made of wood and nailed on with heavy spikes. patched. into a room somewhat on the small side. wooded hills. completely empty. a small lake and a light mist on the lake. her legs open and slightly bent.. On the far right. a wide open space. An inevitably blue sky. But if the visitor ventures nearer. 39 Octavio Paz gives the following vivid description of Duchamp’s work: “The visitor goes through a low doorway. Discipline and Punish. In the end he even films his own death. Two or three little clouds.. The little lamp glows in the brilliant three-o’clock-in-the-afternoon light of this motionless. her right arm out of the line of vision. he finds two small holes at eye level. and through the slit. 200. end-of-summer day. her left slightly raised. worm-eaten. The silence is absolute. 243 . luminous and seemingly bewitched. a brick wall with a slit in it. embedded in a brick portal topped by an arch. Very near the beholder – but also very far away. 41 Truffaut. there is an old wooden door. Hitchcock 328. eds. “* water writes always in * plural. on the ‘other side’ – a naked girl.

. in Hitchcock on Hitchcock. ed. in Hitchcock on Hitchcock. Hurley. “A Redbook Dialogue” (1963). 333–4. 46 Alfred Hitchcock.Hitchcock’s Rear Window 43 Crary. 60. 13. Soul in Suspense. Soul in Suspense: Hitchcock’s Fright and Delight (London: The Scarecrow Press 1993). 244 . Hitchcock. Gottlieb. 45 Alfred Hitchcock. 144. 48 Jean Renoir. 47 Neil P. 111. 49 Hurley. Elämäni ja elokuvani (1974. 2. 146. ed. Techniques of the Observer. “Why I am Afraid of The Dark” (1960). The English version is entitled Jean Renoir: My Life and My Films (London: Collins 1974). Helsinki: Love-Kirjat 1980). 44 Truffaut. Gottlieb.

The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Alberto Pérez-Gómez Chora .

his knowledge of Vitruvius’s treatise. our Lord God’s heaven. from the lower. mortal heaven. easy to construct geometrically as an operational device. is incorruptible and unchangeable. having the colour of the sky which you can see by a diametrical line which divides the upper part. nor cold and wet in water. An “irrational” proportion (1:1. that is from the impurities which are of a muddy colour. Sacra Theologie Magistri in Artes arithmetice & 246 . Pacioli’s plagiarism of Piero della Francesca’s work. so the quintessence occupies a similar place regarding the lower world … Mortal heaven is incorruptible in regards to the four qualities of the human body. as well as a lack of evidence that Pacioli’s contemporaries were interested in his book. That is. So it is not hot and dry in fire. have not contributed to challenge scholarly perceptions about the relative obscurity and marginality of his work. in regards to the four elements. The quintessence is superior. that is mortal heaven.” That is to say. the golden section can be found easily in built examples. Despite his personal acquaintance with Alberti and Leonardo. nor hot and moist in air. nor cold and dry in earth.and early twentieth-century mystifications of the topic.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli The philosophers call the purest substance of many corruptible things the “quintessence. particularly in the wake of nineteenth. On the contrary. and his presence in important architectural contexts such as Urbino and Milan. extracted by human craft. our quintessence is as incorruptible as heaven. is incorruptible in itself. De Secretibus 2 the importance of luca pacioli’s late fifteenth-century work on the golden section and its applications to stereotomy has never been properly grasped. and this has created skepticism about its intentional use. Although there is a whole section devoted to architecture in his Divina proportione. The Book of Quintessence1 The quintessence separates in the vessel. and so it is naturally proven that our quintessence. that is the Fifth Essence.3 “applications” of the golden section in design are characteristically difficult to diagnose.618).4 Pacioli was first and foremost a Franciscan professor of theology: “Ordinis Minor. mainstream architectural history has generally ignored his work.

His theory represents a crucial yet neglected aspect of Renaissance architectural discourse that was never explicitly followed up. 13 geometrie. geometry. 100 ce). and architecture. late sixth to early seventh century ce). Paris. to accounting. ms. and algebra. This belief seems to continue a late-antique and medieval interest in numerology with a rather different lineage than traditional Biblical exegesis – a tradition that includes Nichomacus of Gerasa (c. the Summa de arithmetica geometria proportioni et proportionalita.Alberto Pérez-Gómez An image from Pretiosissimum Donum Dei. 975. Martianus Capella (De nuptiis Philologiae et Mercurii. f. 410–29 ce). c. 247 . not because of its theoretical nature but because Pacioli spoke of difficult things and tried to demonstrate the notion that mathematical numbers in both theory and practice merely prepare the student for divine numbers. and Isidore of Seville (Liber numerorum. wherever these ratios might be found in divine and human works: from organic growth and the composition of the soul. Bibliothèque de L’Arsenal.5 The primary aim of his work was to “demonstrate” theology through applied proportion. art.” This is how he presents himself in the dedication of his compendium on arithmetic.

The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli

Luca Pacioli’s life-long work, from the practical concerns of his Summa
to the more esoteric issues in his Divina proportione, was always guided by a conviction about a preexisting ontological unity that was subsequently broken into the dualities and multiplicities of the mortal world.
He sought to understand how the lowly mechanical arts could become a
“ladder” for the spiritualization of matter. The relative importance of
arts and crafts (such as painting, sculpture, perspective, architecture, and
mechanics) and of disciplines (such as rhetoric, poetry, military arts, philosophy, alchemy, and medicine) depends on their capacity to demonstrate how sublunar multiplicity could be reconciled with the divine
monad, thus becoming vehicles for the knowledge of Truth. In the tradition of medieval arithmology, ultimately derived from Plato’s Timaeus,
the monad is the originating principle (unit) of the number series and is
formally identified with God.6 The monad is not a number but an
essence, a “potential number,” as a point is a potential figure. According
to Capella, the monad is all that is good, desirable, and essential – a
notion that was explicitly introduced into Renaissance theology by
Nicholas of Cusa in his influential work De Docta Ignorantia.
In the introductory remarks to his two major works, the Summa and
the Divina proportione, Pacioli names the important painters and architects of his own time, together with mathematicians and astrologers
from antiquity and the present and quotes Solomon “nel secondo de la
sapientia … nothing is without number, weight and measure.”7 “Quantity is noble and excellent, it is what makes substance eternal … Nothing truly can be known to exist among natural things without number.”8
For Pacioli, all numbers are analogical and are related to higher truths;
his aim was never simply to engage in “formal” geometrical manipulations, as might be inferred from his fascination with the “golden” proportion. Geometry is a vehicle to demonstrate the primary status of the
monad. His obsession with “solving” problems of area and volume was
invariably an obsession with showing “equivalence” among figures and
thus to reconcile differences.
Pacioli was always aware of the crucial distinction between a mathematical point and a point in the real world. They should not be confused;
“mathematics is abstract and subtle … [yet] it should always be considered as kindred to sensuous matter.”9 In this Pacioli seems to follow the
program set for mathematics by Nicomachus in his introduction to Expositio rerum mathematicorum: “For it is clear that these studies are like

Alberto Pérez-Gómez

ladders and bridges that carry our minds from things apprehended by
sense and opinion to those comprehended by the mind and understanding, and from those material, physical things, our foster brethren known
to us from childhood, to the things with which we are unacquainted, foreign to our senses, but in their immateriality and eternity more akin to
our souls, and above all to the reason which is in our souls.”10
the lesson
It is in his Franciscan habit that Pacioli appears in a woodcut printed
several times in the Summa, as well as in the famous portrait by Jacopo
de’Barbari, now in the Museo di Capodimonte in Naples.11 In both
images he addresses us as a teacher and is prepared to demonstrate, with
his various mathematical and geometrical implements, the wonders of
revealed Truth to all who might listen. The painting by de’Barbari offers

Jacopo de’Barbari,
Portrait of Luca
Pacioli in His Study
(c. 1498). Museo
di Capodimonte,

The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli

many details about his lesson. On the table lies a beautifully bound volume with the letters li. r. lvc. bvr. (Liber Reverendi Lucae Burgensis)
identifying it as a book by Pacioli himself. On top of the book is a
wooden dodecahedron, described by Pacioli as the symbol of the “quintessence” because its construction subsumes the other four (the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, and icosahedron) and because it must be
constructed from the divine proportion, the golden-section ratio that is
inherent in the pentagonal faces of the solid. With his left hand Pacioli
points to the words liber xiii in an open book, while the pointer in his
right hand is directed toward the geometric diagram on a slate with
euclides inscribed on the side of its frame. Clearly, Pacioli is demonstrating proposition 8 of the thirteenth (and last) book of Euclid’s Elements, where Euclid discusses the regular
bodies: “If an equilateral triangle be inscribed in a circle, the square on the side
of the triangle is triple the square on the
radius of the circle.”12 This theorem is
crucial for nesting regular bodies into a
sphere. It is also the beginning of speculation about the “squaring of the circle,”
the attempt to construct a square whose
perimeter would be equal to the circumference of a circle inscribed in the square
(a problem that was recognized as impossible only in the nineteenth century, when
the irrational constant π was understood). In other words, this theorem was
believed to be the geometrical key to the
potential “solution” of duality into unity. It
was a significant reference in the discourse
of logical reason for architects, alchemists,
mathematicians, and Trinitarian theologians until the late eighteenth century.

Solid and hollow icosahexahedron (twenty-six-faced
body), from Divina proportione. This is the same
volume that appears in de’Barbari’s portrait of Pacioli

Alberto Pérez-Gómez

On the lower left corner of the slate, a column of square roots refers to
the Euclidean theorem but also suggests a connection to the golden section. Two of the numbers, 621 and 925, are close to numbers in the
Fibonacci series and divide into a ratio that closely approximates the
golden section proportion.
The most striking feature in the painting, however, is the floating,
shimmering corpo transparente on Pacioli’s right. This crystalline icosahexahedron (twenty-six-faced body) seems to be half-filled with a transparent elixir and appears both solid and hollow. It is reminiscent of the
engravings (by Leonardo da Vinci) of regular and space-filling bodies
that illustrate the Divina proportione. These engravings consistently
illustrate the bodies in both modes, as solid volumes and as empty structures, and suggest Pacioli’s unwillingness (and perhaps inability) to show
such bodies merely as “objective” geometric shapes. This simultaneity of
solidity and space is likely an allusion to the “ungraspable true nature”
of the primordial substance/space of the universe that is described by
Plato in Timaeus, the prima materia that is both the substance of human
artifacts (such as art and architecture) and the geometric space that is the
place of human culture. As primordial ground, it enables humanity to
recognize the identity between words and worldly things, while as primordial matter it allows for ideas to become incarnate in human constructions.13 In the painting this is strikingly evident: all eighteen squares
and eight equilateral triangles are perfectly and simultaneously visible,
illuminated by an unseen source of light that makes the vessel appear to
radiate from within.
Indeed, this sophisticated perspectival depiction of the icosahexahedron seems to represent an intentional synthesis of light (from the
medieval tradition of perspectiva naturalis, a true emanation of God and
the human soul) and proportion (from the newer Renaissance tradition
of perspectiva artificialis, in all likelihood gleaned by Pacioli from Piero
della Francesca’s De prospectiva pingendi) as vehicles for ultimate unity.
Although unity could not yet be demonstrated rationally (by solving the
problem of the squaring of the circle), Pacioli declared that it was still evident to the senses. The recognition of unity is equivalent to a recognition
of meaning (not of “a” meaning); like erotic experience, it overwhelms
our capacity to describe it, and it changes our life. The human capacity
to perceive and eventually understand the reconciliation of the manifold
into unity signified for Pacioli the possibility of true knowledge, which

The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli

was exemplified by the artist’s and the alchemist’s ability to recognize and
unify the fragmented human being that has been split in half at birth. The
artist and alchemist pursue the experience of completion that gives sense
to human life here and now, the elixir or alchemical gold that is nevertheless ever ephemeral and never a permanent object or accomplishment
in our perennial (mortal) transmutation.
The theme of reciprocity between container and contained is also present in alchemical treatises, particularly in the myth of malleable glass,
the supreme analogy of the Elixir, a dream that has appeared since
antiquity (e.g., in Pliny’s Natural History 36.26) and was repeated often
during the Middle Ages, culminating in the late fourteenth-century
alchemical text of Guillaume Sedacer, Sedacina Totius Artis Alchimie,
in which the “quintessence” or “mortal heaven” is identified with glass
itself. These writers tell the story of a glass-maker who was assassinated by Tiberius for having found the secret of making malleable glass.
By overcoming the brittleness of glass – obviously its worst fault – this
secret would have enabled glass to surpass gold as the primary goal of
the alchemical opus. More about this later.
In addition, the twenty-six-faced body depicted in the painting is one
of two space-filling bodies that were recommended explicitly by Pacioli
as being important for architects (the other is the hebdomicontadissaedron, with seventy-two faces).14 While Pacioli’s architectural recommendation of the seventy-two-faced body is accompanied by practical
remarks (because it is almost spherical, it is useful for the construction
of vaults, domes, and sections of domes), his preference for the twentysix-faced body remains enigmatic. Of course it too is “practical,” because
it yields an octagonal plan, a familiar figure in Renaissance centralized
sacred buildings. More importantly, however, it is composed of equilateral triangles and squares (dual isosceles triangles), the basic figures of
creation for the architect/demiurge, as described by Plato in Timaeus.
context and precedents
Luca Pacioli was born around 1445 in Burgo Sancti Sepulcri (Borgo
Sansepolcro), a small town in Umbria that was also the birthplace of
Piero della Francesca. During his first two decades he stayed mostly in
town, where he was influenced by the artistic and mathematical work of
Piero. Eventually he went to Venice, and in 1464 he studied there under

Alberto Pérez-Gómez

Woodcut of Luca Pacioli teaching the mathematical arts, from
his Summa (1494)

Domenico Bragadino and was employed as a family tutor by a wealthy
merchant. After a few years (c. 1470) he continued to Rome, where he
lived with Leon Battista Alberti, to whom he had been introduced by
Piero. In 1477 he took his vows as a Franciscan friar and subsequently
taught mathematics in various Italian cities, including Perugia, Zara,
Florence, Naples, Bologna, and Pisa. He also returned to Rome, where
he was appointed professor in the Sapienza, and to Venice (c. 1508),
where he was involved in editing Campano’s Latin translation (from
Arabic) of Euclid’s Elements. During his itinerant life he wrote several
treatises. Besides his published books, some of his writings still exist in
manuscript form (such as De Veribus Quantitatis Cioe Dele Force
Quendam Miraculose de Numeri et Quantita Continua et Vulgare)15
while others are lost, such as a treatise on algebra (probably written in
Zara, c. 1481), and a translation of Euclid’s Elements into volgare (Italian), on which he possibly worked during his stay in Perugia around
1487.16 In 1496 Ludovico Sforza invited him to Milan, where he participated in the duke’s accademia and where he met and befriended Leonardo da Vinci. It was on this occasion that he decided to write his treatise
on the Divine Proportion, which he published in Venice in 1509. A year

The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli

later he was named commisario of the Franciscan convent in Borgo San
Sepolcro, with the charge of bringing back “the perfect rule.” It was
probably there or in Rome that he died, no later than 1514.17
Piero della Francesca’s dual interest in mathematics and art profoundly influenced Pacioli. This interest, however, was by no means
exceptional.18 In Renaissance culture, fleshing out these relationships
was crucial for demonstrating the capacity of human artifacts to reveal
transcendental meanings. Pacioli apparently was asked to teach arithmetic and geometry to architects and stone-masons in his native town
quite early in his life. This experience led him to write his “practical”
treatise as a “complement” to Vitruvius, and it eventually became the
second part of his Divina proportione. What is remarkable about Pacioli’s work is the explicit desire to demonstrate a noninstrumental,
“opaque” relationship between the most abstract and the most concrete.
His work, from the early Summa to the later Divina proportione, is a
comprehensive examination of practical applications of arithmetic and
geometry, as well as mystical numerology; architecture, as we shall see,
was perhaps the most propitious site for “experiencing” this dark, “irrational” continuity.
In De prospectiva pingendi Piero had defined painting as part of perspective – in his terms, as a branch of geometry: “painting is nothing but
the demonstration of diminished (degradati) or augmented (acresciuti)
bodies … perspective is necessary because it discerns all quantities
through proportion like a true science, demonstrating the diminution or
augmentation of all quantities (sizes) by the force of lines.”19 Furthermore, Piero conceived of his mathematical exploration of the regular
bodies as absolutely essential for his understanding of perspective.20
Pacioli shared Piero’s obsession with proportions and proportional relationships. He invariably understood numbers and their applications in
terms of proportion. As is well known, Pacioli “borrowed” Piero’s treatise on the five regular bodies (Libellus de Quinque Corporibus Regularibus) and appended it (in Italian) to his own Divina proportione. He
was also influenced by Piero’s other “minor treatise,” a book on arithmetic entitled simply Trattato d’abaco.
The importance of these books on arithmetic tends to be either underestimated in the history of art or misunderstood in the history of science.
Piero’s Trattato d’abaco, Pacioli’s Summa, and some aspects of his Divina proportione belong to a series of similar texts that borrow exten254

following Euclid’s Elements. In the section on geometry of his Trattato d’abaco. Piero deals exclusively with the measurement of abstract polygons and polyhedra. realized that “the side of a hexagon joined to the side of a decagon inscribed in the same circle results in a line divided into its mean and extreme ratio (golden section)” and consequently. the area of a plot of land. Although Piero does not call this ratio either “divine” or “golden. 2. a greater interest in abstract problems is evident. Indeed. 5. All seem to be derived ultimately from early thirteenth-century works by Leonardo Pisano (called Fibonacci): the Liber abbaci (1202) and the Practica geometriae (1220). 8. This series was generated arithmetically by adding the two previous numbers in the series: 1. or the volume of architectural elements such as columns and piers. 377. 1597.. 233. 13. 610. particularly in the light of the symbolic value attributed to six and ten as perfect numbers in the architectural treatise of Vitruvius. 55. Unlike his Trattato d’abaco. 89. however. he explains how to measure the five regular and other irregular solids inscribed in a sphere. devoted exclusively to the five regular bodies. 21. Piero. they also include the technical mathematics that subsequent Renaissance artists and architects would use to calculate the height of a building. the Libellus de Quinque Corporibus 255 . Then. the golden section first appears in the geometric exercises for the pentagon and in his demonstration of measuring a dodecahedron in a sphere. “the side of a hexagon joined to the side of a decagon is equal to the side of a pentagon inscribed in the same circle. Fibonacci was responsible for introducing Arabic numerals into Western mathematics and for identifying the series of numbers that yields (approximately) the golden section ratio when the higher number is divided by the preceding one. While these books and manuals address eminently practical questions for commerce.” These equivalencies have an enormous significance that Pacioli must have recognized in his association of “divine” proportion and classical architecture. continues to discuss mathematical problems in abstract terms. 987.” the clarity of his exposition suggests that the proportion indeed must have been known in artistic circles before Pacioli’s more elaborate discussion. 3. 144.618 (the golden number). In Piero’s Trattato d’abaco and in Pacioli’s works. In Piero’s book. for example. 34. Piero’s second mathematical treatise.Alberto Pérez-Gómez sively from one another. commenting on Euclid’s book 13. some of these earlier works already included similar problems. etc. 1597 = 610 + 987 and 987/1597 = 0.

with its famous “definition” of God as a circle whose centre is ubiquitous. and their The five (regular) Platonic solids .The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Regularibus does not belong to a pre-existing genre. This was formalized in Pacioli’s work as an explicitly Christian ontology that fit Franciscan contemplative practices perfectly and resulted in a synthesis of different traditions from classical antiquity and the Renaissance. their mutual relationships.22 These three books describe the construction of the five regular polyhedra. ranging from Euclid’s Elements and Plato’s Timaeus to medieval numerology and Biblical exegesis. as well as the “new” theology of Nicholas of Cusa. demonstrates a new concept of mathematics as a form of ontology.21 The particular point of departure for Piero’s Libellus is in books 13–15 of Euclid’s Elements. Its focus. obviously shared by Pacioli.

as we shall see. published in Venice in 1494. in book 13 of his Elements. Pacioli generally avoided Latin. There are indeed only five equilateral. last but not least. merchants. to make his works accessible to artists. the dodecahedron has twelve surfaces that recall the twelve signs of the zodiac. and craftsmen (although he does include extensive Latin quotations of Vitruvius in his Divina proportione). and in the Renaissance these solids were often understood as the origin of all form. the octahedron. The Summa. suspended between two opposite points and turned as on a lathe. Luca Pacioli made this explicit connection between the regular bodies and the golden section in his 1509 edition of Euclid’s Opera. conveys an image of great mobility. It is included in the first six propositions and is indispensable for constructing the dodecahedron. and. This interest in “popularizing” mathematical theories was indeed precocious for the late fifteenth century. is also crucial in the development of his arguments in the Divina proportione. These perfect bodies have exercised an inevitable fascination through the centuries. was a large. not very handsome volume written in very bad volgare. the icosahedron has the greatest number of sides. the golden section plays a fundamental role as the proportion that divides a line into its mean and extreme ratio. the tetrahedron’s pointed form suggests fire. In Euclid’s presentation of these regular bodies. pacioli’s S U M M A D E A R I T H M E T I CA G E O M E T R I A P R O P O RT I O N I E T P R O P O RT I O N A L I TA Pacioli’s more “practical” work can serve as an introduction to his more esoteric treatise on divine proportion. so it corresponds to celestial matter. This topic also appears in the first part of the Divina proportione and is clearly related to the cosmogony described in Plato’s Timaeus. gives an impression of stability and is therefore identified with the earth. and it encloses the greatest volume (being the closest to the sphere).Alberto Pérez-Gómez inscription within the sphere. and its globular form most closely resembles a drop of water.23 Mathematical treatises usually were associated with classical theoria (a liberal art whose purpose was to reveal 257 . This relationship. rising from a quadrangular base. with abundant Latin and Greek expressions and grammatical irregularities. equiangular polyhedra that can be inscribed within a sphere. like the air. Plato relates each of the five regular bodies to the natural elements: the cube.

and the fifth part is a treatise on pure and applied geometry. The mathematical sources quoted by Pacioli throughout his book include Ptolemy. Pacioli’s deliberate attempt to make mathematical discourse accessible to artists and craftsmen. Biagio Pelacani da Parma. Numerology is present in the first part of the Summa. because it is the number of elements in the universe and the number of regular bodies. while explicitly revealing its theological implications. Antonio da Pollaiuolo. The book itself. and man. Pacioli acknowledges in the preface the influence of writers such as Alberti and Piero della Francesca and numerous artists including Gentile and Giovanni Bellini. of course. Boethius. is not concerned with artistic or scientific applications. “archimandrita de li phylosophanti. This concept is crucial to understand his particular interest in architecture in the Divina proportione. however. The Summa was dedicated to Guidubaldo da Montefeltro. including music. and Andrea Mantegna. Regiomontanus (Johannes Müller) and. Euclid. must be regarded not as an early modern progressive attitude but as a particular outlook on the relationship between thinking and making that needs careful qualification. obviously regarded by Pacioli as intrinsic to the subject matter. the third discusses bookkeeping. Filippo and Domenico Ghirlandaio. Duke of Urbino and son of the more famous Federigo. It includes five parts: the first and most extensive deals with arithmetic and algebra. Although Pacioli’s main interest here seems to be the use of mathematics for commercial purposes. Five is also excellent. Piero della Francesca. God created the world in six days. the second with its applications to commerce. which was also a perfect number for Vitruvius. medicine. the Summa also contains extensive discussions of esoteric and mystical issues. The first perfect number (in the sense of Euclid) is six. cartography. was created during the last day. Albertucci (Albert of Saxony). cosmography. the most perfect creature. who have “calculated their works with level and compass. Pietro Perugino.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli truth by contemplating the Created cosmos) and had nothing to do with practical interests.”24 The number 258 . Andrea del Verrochio. Leonardo Pisano. Alessandro Botticelli. including the perfection of numbers and their symbolic meanings. as explained by Plato. the fourth compares different monetary systems. Sacrobosco (John Hollywood).” He proclaims the importance of mathematics for all arts and sciences. the military arts. philosophy and alchemy.

and he praises Brunelleschi’s church of San Lorenzo in Florence as an example of a modern.” The sixth distintione of the first section is dedicated to proportions: the founding concept that rules everything in the human arts and sciences and manifests the harmony of all phenomena in the universe.”25 Curiously. however. Pacioli quotes extensively from Alberti. and especially in art. Here. in mechanics and fortifications (between the violence of a projectile and the strength of the fortification wall). For Pacioli.Alberto Pérez-Gómez seven is discussed extensively for its capacity to relate gynecological and physiological phenomena. Pacioli acknowledges the Franciscan Albertuccio. Proportion is the thread that unites all things and is the ultimate basis for applied mathematics. He elaborates on the importance of proportion in various fields: in medicine (the proportion between the intensity of a sickness and a prescribed remedy). proportion governs the relationship between the human body and the work. proportion rules everything. Pacioli devotes many pages to reconciling the biblical command “go forth and multiply” with the apparent paradox that fractions diminish as they multiply. where proportion is “mother and queen. altramente chiamata Algebra et almucabala in lingua arabica … Algebra id est Restauratio. while fractions are rotti (“broken numbers”). In the section on geometry. Pacioli provides the rules for the resolution of second-degree equations in verse. Equally. the eight general themes are related to the octo beatitudine of Christianity. 259 .26 Pacioli introduces this theme by alluding to the proportion that surely must exist between sin and punishment (in the Christian sense). as an immediate source. one senses that his precocious interest in algebra was not unrelated to these mystical interests: “Arte magiore cioe pratica speculativa. author of Tractatus proportionum. so the Scriptures had to be understood literally. Whole numbers are called sani (literally “healthy numbers”). using three “Latin quartets. the covenant between the Word and the world had not yet been broken. well-proportioned building. Conversely. Almucabala id est oppositio. owes a greater debt to the tradition that extends from Plato himself to Nicholas of Cusa’s coincidentia oppositorum and Alberti’s concinnitas. In architecture. The ontological concept of proportion in Pacioli’s work. emphasizes Pacioli.” In linear perspective and in the mixture of colours. the unambiguous nature of mathematical signs seemed to provide a perfect vehicle to grasp the Creation and humanity’s place in it.

philosophers. and the famous Leonardo da Vinci. In the first chapter.Title page of the manuscript of Divina proportione (c. It consists of three distinct parts. Pacioli’s Divina proportione is the culmination of his search for “unity” through the founding notion of proportion. With Pacioli’s multiple interests in the “mathematical arts. In this symposium. the last of which is Piero’s text on the five regular bodies translated into volgare. Pacioli states that he decided to write the Divina proportione after having been invited by the duke to a scholarly reunion on 9 February 1498. More significantly. attended by bishops and theologians. the work culminates in a section on “practical” aspects of architecture. 260 . doctors. National Library of Geneva. Switzerland D I V I N A P R O P O RT I O N E Although it seems less focused than the Summa. dedicated to Ludovico Sforza of Milan. astrologers. Pacioli evidently believed that architecture could fulfill the human quest for spiritual unity that underlies the mathematical demonstrations in his treatise.” this section on architecture is no mere coincidence. Pacioli’s mystical discussion of the golden section synthesizes Pythagorean and Platonic themes with Christian theology. as well as orators. 1498).

” stating that whoever possessed a gift of knowledge and shared it with others was the most pleasing to God and the world. has caused the invention of number. sculpture. Convinced that mathematics is “the most true of all true things. The psychosomatic unity of human consciousness (as opposed to post-Cartesian concepts) remains here a primary assumption. which has motions akin to the orbits of our soul and which. for instance) understood from some godly point of view. yet its epiphanies are corroborated through enlightened human action. the equinoxes and the solstices.” Pacioli decided to finish and publish his work on divine proportion. Pacioli’s Plato is still the Greek Plato. the real human experience in which Being and becoming appear simultaneously.”27 The first four chapters of part 1 are a fascinating account of the nature of theory and mathemata in general. as anyone who makes intelligent use of the arts [and crafts] knows. it never dictates to the hands of the artist “how” or “what” to do. Plato clearly states that the ultimate aim of philosophy and the arts is the moral attainment of a certain kind of life and the tuning of the soul in harmony with the universe. including their relevance for painting. because it enables the intellect to “understand and taste. There is no semblance of a modern platonism with an autonomous ideal realm beyond the world of experience. and made us inquire into the nature of the universe.28 He insists that nothing can be grasped by the intellect unless it has been previously offered to perception in some way. the months and returning years.” unknown until now as the source of all other “speculative scientific. in accordance with the Greco-Roman understanding of theoria as a contemplation of truth that also “saves the phenomena. capable of thinking the ideal through the specific. Timaeus states. music. This “traditional” theory could never be an imaginary (scientific) construction of the world (like Copernicus’s cosmology. The most noble sense is sight.Alberto Pérez-Gómez the duke uttered “sweet and golden words. perspective. given the notion of time. practical and mechanical operations. based on the wonder that likely accompanied the experience of cosmic phenomena such as a lunar eclipse. particularly in works of art and craftsmanship. “the sublime and highest knowledge. He emphasizes the origins of theory in vision. yet never forgetting the opaque nature of chora. is 261 . and architecture.” Such theory is always “discovered”. “The sight of day and night.” This “theory” is always in and of the world. thence we have derived philosophy … All audible musical sound is given us for the sake of harmony.

which. Pacioli quotes a passage from Civitas Dei about the six days of creation and the perfect number six: 31 “we must not despise the science of numbers. the sub. which is even more dignified because it is the first gateway of the intellect. towers. as is commonly thought.30 Among the Church Fathers. He praises existing applications of mathematics to practical endeavours in the “mechanical arts” and presents a fascinating montage of examples from disciplines that no longer seem to have much in common. this signifies the correspondence between the inferior and the superior universe.and supralunar worlds. In this regard.”29 Pacioli insists that this understanding is shared by his Christian sources. In discussing these proposed additions. architecture. geometry. perspective also contents the sight. and astronomy. “If music pleases the ear. there is no reason for the moderns not to add perspective.33 Mathematics. who employed Euclid’s principles to explain the flooding of the Tiber. weaponry. to give irrational pleasure. who also quotes directly from the Scriptures (Wisdom 11:21). moats. as is taught in the theological work of Brother Guido.’”32 For Pacioli. that which is stable and therefore can be taught. a crucial reference. In chapter 3 Pacioli explains the etymological meaning of mathematics. St Augustine is. geometry. although he fails to mention some important works by earlier fellow Franciscans obviously part of this tradition. which is one of the natural senses. etc.).”35 While music creates har262 . of course. he declares that perspective (proportionality) is the tacit foundation of architecture and cosmography. claims Pacioli.34 He then defines various mathematical disciplines: arithmetic. and cosmography. but as a heaven-sent ally in reducing to order and harmony any disharmony in the revolutions within us. After commenting on mathematical contributions to the arts of war (fortifications. is found to be of eminent service to the careful interpreter.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli not to be used. Pacioli continues with a seamless narrative on the importance of mathematics in the subtle theological speculations of Duns Scotus. from the Greek maqhmaticoz: that which is “capable of discipline”. He argues that since the ancients added music to arithmetic. and music (the traditional quadrivium) and adds perspective. Neither has it been without reason numbered among God’s praises ‘thou hast ordered all things in number and measure and weight. astronomy. in many passages of Holy Scripture. who proved the existence of angels through Euclidean geometry. even provided the just perfection of municipal law.

perspective (proportionality) contains the secret of mimesis. and to the measure of the line of sight” and uses arithmetic and geometric proportions.”36 For Pacioli.” is approximately 0. this demonstrates the meaningful distance he maintains between the realms of the ideal (the abstract mathematical disciplines) and the real (the applied arts of representation) and points to the role of architecture and the crafts as truly “mediating” arts.” We see and hear the harmony in the depiction of these figures. the “golden number. After this important preamble. and astronomy) and that the others are subordinate.” it arises as the constant factorial relationship between 263 . Pacioli concludes that we must either accept that there are only three principal mathematical disciplines (mathematics. the “divine proportion” is invariable and “continuous. The first of the five major correspondences is with the absolute uniqueness of this proportion. there is simply no other proportion (a:b::c:d) with the same characteristics.Alberto Pérez-Gómez monic proportions through pitch and rhythm. Again. The fourth correspondence is with the immutable essence of God. Pacioli praises the miraculous “simulacrum of the glowing desire for our salvation” painted by Leonardo in his Last Supper. The second correspondence is with the Holy Trinity. “the supreme epithet of God Himself”. perspective relies on “the natural number according to all definitions. this proportion cannot be constructed with “intelligible numbers. so life-like that Christ’s disciples seem fully aware of the ineffable truth spoken by the Saviour: “one among you will betray me. “more a matter divine than human. It is significant that Pacioli leaves the question open.” remaining always “occult and secret … irrational in the words of the mathematicians”37 (f. geometry. a quasi-divine “power” that must be engaged in the making of architecture and in the cosmographic depiction of the universe. in their acts and gestures. It is defined by one mean and two extremes (proportio habens medium et duo extrema) and therefore is analogous to the Trinity’s one substance in three distinct persons (f:1::1:f+1). He claims that this proportion resembles God himself through five major correspondences and reveals Christian truth through thirteen important properties that correspond to Christ and his twelve disciples. this proportion demonstrates unity with only three terms. Pacioli explains in chapter 5 why the golden section merits the attribute of divine.618). and with three terms alone. The third correspondence concerns the impossibility of defining God in human terms. including music and perspective. or indeed acknowledge that there are five.

618 The “hollow” icosahedron (top) and dodecahedron (bottom). if the side A’E’ = 1. if MN = 1.618.The geometric construction of the golden section and its elementary properties. constructed with twelve pentagons. The construction simply projects the diagonal of the halved square. from Divina proportione. is formed by means of the golden proportion and therefore is associated with the quintessence . BC = 0. The dodecahedron.618. If AB = 1. A’C’ = 1. In the pentagon. NP = 1. In the golden rectangle (bottom right).

The thirteenth (and last) effect concerns the proportion between the sides of the pentagon and its diagonals. Pacioli argues that God himself created the quintessence and from it. water.618(1 + 0. the pentagon. “which should not be understood as natural. the quintessential dodecahedron completes the set of five regular bodies. our proportion gives form to an infinite number of dependent bodies” (“space-filling” or irregular polyhedra) that provide the complex richness we normally encounter in our experience of the world. and fire. the octahedron to air. and the icosahedron to water. Pacioli emphasizes that these constructions are generated by divine proportion. He reminds us of Plato’s triangle as the first generative figure of the cosmos (the simplest polygon that provides the “primordial seed”).39 “And through them. identified here with a prima materia. attributing to it the figure of the dodecahedron … the body made of twelve pentagons that cannot be formed without our proportion. air. Most importantly.” In this case. The generative function of the quintessence (God’s heaven). the leader of the twelve apostles).82 = 10. where 6. or “celestial virtue. Pacioli concludes.Alberto Pérez-Gómez consecutive terms of the Fibonacci series (mentioned above). the four elements that compose the universe: earth. this proportion functions as a “continuous quantity” that assigns its respective forms to the four elements: the tetrahedron to fire. that 10:6. but Pacioli identifies these operations with a true miracle taking place in the realm of numbers. The fifth correspondence is an analogy to the quintessence.”40 The fact that 0.82. the same triangle that Euclid described as the basis for demonstrating nested regular polyhedrons (as illustrated in Pacioli’s portrait). or that 1. Pacioli identifies the Christian God with the Platonic demiurge and Creation with the cosmogony described in Timaeus.18::6.18 + 3. and Pacioli relates this again to the quintessence (numerologically corresponding to Christ.18:3. is analogous “to our holy proportion that provides formal being (according to Plato in his Timaeus) to the heaven itself. Pacioli proceeds to enumerate the special mathematical properties of the golden number. and the dodecahedron.”38 Consequently.618 may seem somewhat trivial to us.618) = 12. the cube or hexahedron to earth. without the divine proportion it is impossible to establish the geometric relationship among these bodies and to demonstrate how can they be circumscribed by a sphere and thus reconciled with a primordial unity. The ninth and thirteenth “effects” demonstrate the relationship among the divine proportion.41 265 . but are truly divine.6182 = 2.

demonstrating how it is indeed the “receptacle” of all the others. from Divina proportione.” or irregular.44 These operations are “constructive” in nature. In fifteen short chapters he then describes the relative proportions among the surfaces of the bodies and their nested relationship to one another. This is the only volume that is not shown in “hollow” mode The following chapters discuss the regular polygons. and the proportions between their surfaces and the sphere that circumscribes them. the dodecahedron can circumscribe a tetrahedron and a cube simultaneously). and Pacioli associates them with stone-cutting and masonry. Once again. solid and hollow” bodies or by projecting the surfaces up to a point to generate “stellated (elevated). He concludes this 266 . solid and hollow” bodies. then generates derived bodies either by sectioning the apices to create “truncated (blunt).43 This curious problem is of great importance to him.42 Pacioli insists it is significant that there can be only five such bodies and he defines the quintessence as a “celestial virtue which sustains in their being” all other bodies. the “architectural” substance and space of the universe. the divine proportion is presented as the key to a quintessence that is both primordial matter and receptacle. bodies are discussed in the following eight chapters. The “derived. Pacioli systematically describes the “solid and hollow” regular bodies.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Solid sphere. their construction. He “discovers” that not all bodies can circumscribe the remaining four and that only the dodecahedron is capable of such a feat (in fact.

Switzerland Left.Alberto Pérez-Gómez Above: Drawing of a truncated solid hexahedron (cube) from the manuscript of Divina proportione. from Divina proportione 267 . from Divina proportione Solid and hollow stellated tetrahedron. the first of the Platonic volumes. from Divina proportione Solid and hollow truncated tetrahedron. after the drawing by Leonardo da Vinci. National Library of Geneva. top to bottom: Solid and hollow tetrahedron.

it demonstrates that Pacioli’s interest was not in abstract mathematical and formal problems. the second composite solid of particular interest to architects. Pacioli concludes his chapter with an apology for architectural theory (understood as principles of proportion and geometry) and criticizes practice without “philosophy. from Divina proportione section with a description of twenty-six.” While acknowledging that masons sometimes construct good buildings without “any knowledge of Vitruvius.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Solid and hollow seventy-two-faced body. weight. He pursued this topic for its relevance to the architecture of the universe and its human counterpart. Indeed. This is significant.” He laments that contemporary buildings often deteriorate very fast. the description of the geometrical properties of the seventy-two-sided polyhedron finishes with a long digression on architecture. and measure. Pacioli emphasizes the usefulness of this polyhedron for constructing vaults and domes and refers to the Roman Pantheon. due to a lack of knowledge of “the great architect and mathematician Vitruvius who wrote about this discipline and provides unequaled teaching on every sort of construction.” No other space-filling bodies are discussed.” he insists that a craftsman’s intuitive awareness of proportion and geometry demonstrates that everything in the world is based on “number.”45 He reminds us that Pythagoras’s discovery of the proportions of the right268 .” as well as contemporary examples such as Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan. so carefully proportioned that “one sole opening is sufficient to fully illuminate it with great splendor.and seventy-two-sided polyhedra that are “extremely useful in architecture. despite the fact that Leonardo illustrated nearly sixty.

cones.Alberto Pérez-Gómez Far left: Solid hexagonal and hollow pentagonal columns. the issue here is very different. The stone mason insisted that it would be an easy task despite his ignorance of geometry but ended up spoiling many pieces of marble and giving up in humiliation. from Divina proportione. despite the disbelief of “dumb” stone masons and other arrogant craftsmen. (A mistake was made in the original pairing of these images. it is impossible to know the difference between good and evil. from Divina proportione angled triangle is absolutely indispensable to building vertically and even to recognizing justice. He describes a stone-cutting operation in which each of the regular bodies is carved from a sphere. In one case. Pacioli and the painter Melozzo challenged an able stone mason to carve a capital in the form of one of the regular bodies. and the text provides ample anecdotal evidence of the usefulness of geometry. “for without it.”46 After briefly discussing the geometric generation of the sphere from a rotating semicircle in chapter 56. The concluding chapters of part 1 present other architectural themes that deal with prismatic and pyramidal bodies. or to obtain any certain measure in our works. columns. Although this seems somewhat redundant.) Left: Solid and hollow pentagonal pyramid. Pacioli describes in chapter 57 the inscription of the five regular bodies within the sphere. and pyramids and teach 269 . They describe the geometric properties of cylinders.

”48 The two final chapters in Part 1 provide a glossary and refer to the figures in the treatise that were “drawn in plan and perfect perspective by Leonardo da Vinci. and the volume of pyramids. truly like the sun that illuminates and gives warmth from one pole [of the earth] to the other. who.” between supports of black amber. and sculptors from his home town (all mentioned by name). is dedicated to the masons. architecture and the philosopher’s stone The manuscript that became part 1 of the Divina proportione was finished on 14 December 1498. In the chapter that would have discussed the volumes of the regular bodies. Pacioli recommends to the duke that these wondrous bodies should be carved from precious metals and fine stone. it seems that Pacioli decided to add the section on architecture (part 2) and Piero’s Libellus.49 Although they were made of “lowly material” because of his own limited resources. Pacioli understood architecture as a fertile ground for seeking the culmination of the alchemical opus.” Pacioli also refers here to the “built work.47 Pacioli concludes with praise for the Duke of Urbino. Piero’s Libellus was also related directly to his concept of architecture.” the models of the bodies (sixty in all. Alberti’s remained in Latin. In the Sforza Palace in Milan they were “suspended from a cord with their name and a reference number. Although other books on architecture had been written in the fifteenth century. 270 . since it was based on the divine proportion. stone-cutters. as he states elsewhere) that he apparently had given to the duke. according to Pacioli. and a translation of Vitruvius into volgare (by Daniele Barbaro) did not appear before 1556. Part 2. Pacioli refers the reader to the extensive description in his Summa.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli elementary stereometry to determine the volumes of circular columns. together with his text. the approximate volume of noncircular columns. When it was being prepared for printing in Venice in 1509. this decision was not merely an arbitrary afterthought. had asked him to provide guidelines for architecture based on arithmetic and geometry. on architecture. Filarete’s and Francesco di Giorgio’s existed only in manuscript. whose benevolent “sight brings happiness and health to all those whose vision is troubled. In the context of Pacioli’s work.

Alberto Pérez-Gómez Pacioli’s text draws from classical and humanistic sources. and although “Vitruvius does not speak about it explicitly. Pacioli divides his exposition of proportion into three parts. Pacioli merely devotes a few pages to the exploits of famous military men associated with his home town and his patrons and declares that the topic deserves to be discussed further. Unlike Vitruvius and other contemporary writers on the subject. Pacioli refers his readers to Vitruvius for instruction on temples. believing it all too well-known. public or private.” while the third caters to the wishes of individuals. However. jasper. which would become the norm for modern architecture. The first two are public buildings for the “salvation” and defense of “small and large republics.” No buildings.51 It is crucial to note that “proportions” for Pacioli refer to the “practice” of architecture. on the other hand. serpentine marble. Pacioli defines the realm of architecture exclusively as buildings. he “postpones” a discussion of the parts and rooms of palaces and other private buildings.”50 This part of architecture best “ornaments” buildings when it follows geometric proportions. a “materialistic” and “technical” emphasis indeed pervades Pacioli’s architectural theory. be it marble. With this he can now concentrate on his own original contribution to Renaissance theory.” Pacioli insists that all stone masons should know “drawing by the ruler and the compass” in order to accomplish the desired aim. can be well ornamented (and therefore possess true meaning) without “very finely carved stone. must be discussed because the ancients did not anticipate the invention of artillery and other weapons. rather than to the design of lineamenti in the mind or the architect’s drawings of plans and elevations. This is very different from the use of proportions in the better-known treatises of Alberti and Palladio. profane structures. and private dwellings. “a very necessary part for the other three that we have mentioned. the actual stereotomy and stereometry of stone masonry. again concluding that Vitruvius has already shown how to design them with the appropriate proportions. was indeed a novelty in the early sixteenth century. but it is not a mere simplification or reiteration of Vitruvian theories. In the preface Pacioli states that architecture is divided into three parts: sacred temples. Architecture for defending cities. porphyry. Similarly. This assumption. or some other rock. analogous to the three parts that constitute the “divine proportion” (a mean and 271 .

from Divina proportione .The composite order. from the architectural section of Divina proportione The frontispiece of Solomon’s Temple.

This analogical argument locates the discussion within his general concern. distinct aspects of architecture rather than opposing poles linked by an instrumental relationship. the equilateral triangle.52 His concept contradicts our conventional understanding of the “transformation” of the medieval mechanical arts into liberal disciplines. “like a citadel guarding the bodily edifice. all bodily parts suffer. For Pacioli. his own exposition of the topic is explicitly Platonic. “preferred by the ancients for their temples. The triangle played a crucial role in Plato’s cosmogony and.Alberto Pérez-Gómez two extremes). Pacioli’s preface states that he will discuss the proportions of the human body as the origin of all measurements given by “the finger of God. in Pacioli’s own “lesson” on divine geometry as depicted by Jacopo de’Barbari.” placed in man’s spherical head all the right proportions that correspond to the other parts of the body. following the prediction of Ezekiel and God’s “own” architecture as a model for practice.53 Although Pacioli was familiar with Vitruvius’s discussion of proportions in architecture. and Pacioli shares Euclid’s fascination with the “first” of the polygons.56 A significant Platonic influence is evident in Pacioli’s discussion of the head’s proportions.” clarify some obscure terms from Vitruvius. and when the head is afflicted by some impairment. Nature. and finally show how these elements are used in a gateway similar to that of the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. it was the foundation for all of Euclid’s work. Indeed.”55 The head has seven orifices through which the intellect engages the external world. architecture is both “material” and “mystical. Pacioli’s discussion of the proportions of the head in profile notes the importance of “irrational” proportions that cannot be 273 . This conclusion leads Pacioli to a more traditional (Vitruvian) praise for the square and the circle. we may recall. “the minister of Divinity.” which could circumscribe “the horizontal body of a man” with the centre of the compass on the navel.” a “mechanical” craft and a “liberal” contemplative discipline. “generated from the first rectilinear figure. His chapter on the measurement and proportions of the human body discusses the “spherical” head placed by God at the highest point. describe the architectural elements (stereotomic bodies) used by contemporary craftsmen.”57 While the triangle was unimportant for other early Renaissance writers on architecture.”54 Pacioli repeats his story about the importance of the senses: “nihil est in intellectu quin prius sit in sensu. much closer to the Timaeus than other Renaissance treatises.

” the famous paradox from the theology of Nicholas of Cusa that was associated with God’s vision during the fifteenth century.The proportions of the human head based on the triangle.59 This allusion to the frame and grid of perspectiva artificialis again demonstrates Pacioli’s analogy between linear perspective and proportion and underscores his belief in perspective’s general usefulness for architecture.” in the way that they are described by Euclid in his Elements. from Divina proportione expressed through numbers and must remain a decision of the “perspectivist” (the painter or architect who employs proportions of “continuous quantities”). he says. This crucial insight qualifies Pacioli’s theoretical discourse: “The sciences and mathematical disciplines are abstract and it is never possible to make them visible actualiter. 274 . a “centre at the circumference. which is also the dimension between the plane of vision and the seat of consciousness in the nape of the neck) that makes perspective “possible” by reconciling binocular vision with a geometric point.58 This meditation on the proportions of the equilateral triangle also led Pacioli to a brief digression on the grid used by painters to “see” proportions in scenes and objects to be depicted on their canvases. imitates nature and therefore must always remain distinct from it. he notes the “irrational” distance between the eyes and the back of the head (the primal equilateral triangle’s height. This “irrational” proportion of the spherical head also suggests a ubiquitous centre. or a [geometric] surface. Significantly. a line. even though we may use these names to refer to the marks made by pens and other instruments. Art. The hand can never give form to a point.

Pacioli does not question the classical orders.Alberto Pérez-Gómez Pacioli discusses the proportions of the whole body in chapter 3 of part 2.”62 He justifies the orders’ ornamental features through an analogy to the Christian tradition in which the attributes of the saints.e. chapter 8 describes where one might find “the best made columns in Italy.” while the ornamented and slender Corinthian capital resembles “clean and happy young women. and sixteen. Indeed. Pacioli quotes Vitruvius extensively (in Latin) on the distinction between the three orders but edits out the major stories about the origin of the orders. Thus. He cites Vitruvius extensively.” i. is described merely as “melancholic. Pacioli recommends drawing a vertical line and subdividing it. His understanding of anthropomorphic proportions seems more literal than his sources. and beauty as an independent value is never mentioned. the formal and material configuration of buildings. and declares that the male body’s height is equal to ten heads. and armour of Saint George or the tower in which Saint Barbara was jailed.. “as in the case of world maps or navigation charts.” He praises the new buildings in Florence. Pacioli suggests conceiving these dimensions in scale. such as the sword. repeats the Roman author’s reasoning concerning the perfection of the numbers ten. such as Brunelleschi’s Santo Spirito and his “own” Franciscan convent of Santa Croce. but his explicit interest is solidity and durability. with contours widening in the middle and narrowing at the bottom and top. Pacioli declares that the “dress” makes the (public) person and thus that ornament is crucial for architecture. Indeed. following the relative thickness of the human body. for instance. six.60 To understand the divisions of the body. adding that measurements should be taken to the bone to avoid discrepancies between muscular and weak men. The Ionic. and is particularly impressed by the twisted columns at Saint Peter’s in Rome “that were 275 . horse. both ancient and modern.”61 The following chapters describe the classical orders and their parts. Although he remarks on the “erroneous rituals and divinities” of the ancients. His main concern is the geometric design and proportions of the various parts of the orders “for masons. regardless of actual dimensions. a novel notion during the early Renaissance. it is possible to recognize the length of the foot as one-tenth of the height. because as a widow it rises without arrogance. symbolize the holy person and his or her virtues. Following this “technical” interest. He clearly describes the anthropomorphic proportions of the columns.

and Chaldean letters.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli taken from the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem. again “for the particular benefit of masons. Greek. emphasizing its appropriateness to the rituals of fertility celebrated in that sacred space.” one of which has miraculous powers against evil demons. Pacioli concludes his writing on architecture with two chapters about problems confronted when an architect must build in narrow sites and 276 . The analogy with architecture is obvious: architecture can “write” in a universal language and implement humanity’s highest concerns. as the trace of God’s light upon the Tables of the Law or the minds of mortals. Similarly. Thus. Pacioli’s newly designed alphabet is generated geometrically to reveal the letters’ ultimate origin. While acknowledging that Vitruvius never speaks of pyramids or cones. He suggests that these Platonic figures may be used as capitals or as bases of columns “according to your judgment. The rest of the treatise on architecture describes the disposition of columns in buildings.”63 This “perceptual knowledge” of wholeness is precisely the province of architecture. Pacioli mentions an icosahedron.” and refers the reader to part 1 of his book. He claims that the square and the circle are all one needs to design not only Roman letters but also Hebrew. in chapter 8 he offers advice to stone masons and sculptors concerning the five regular bodies. Pacioli refers to the Roman alphabet as one more demonstration of the importance of the circle and the straight line. “as for me I can demonstrate [its truth] palpabiliter [in a palpable manner.” to provide proper ornament and a place for speculating on the virtues of the divine proportion. Pacioli includes a short chapter on the subject. Speaking about “columns with sides” (pillars or “square-based columns”). “the figure of water” sculpted by Phidias in the Roman Temple of Ceres.64 In a special chapter on letters. at the very origins of human culture and memory. with long Latin quotations from Vitruvius accompanied by fragments and observations that reveal Pacioli’s true concern: the capacity of the “craft” of architecture to reconcile duality with unity through geometric operations. he refers to the “difficult problem of proportioning the circle to the square using the science of quadratura circuli. geometry is understood as the origin of writing.” He then speculates that the wise philosopher who is capable of finally solving the problem may have been born already. through tactile intuition].65 Letters had been objects of contemplation in the Franciscan tradition. to anyone who may question it.

He shares the general Renaissance preference for using the circle and the square in architecture whenever possible and also advocates simple proportions (a third.Examples of letters from Pacioli’s alphabet. Pacioli declares the superiority of geometry over arithmetic. a half. in which the “effigy” of a building was not fixed before construction began. perhaps similar only to the equally “unorthodox” understanding of architecture in the neoplatonic and “alchemical” Hypnerotomachia Poliphili (1499). architecture can merely approximate the natural order. as with Alberti and other fifteenth-century writers. etc. he was much more sympathetic to medieval building operations in situ. even though proportions originate in nature.e. from Divina proportione use “irrational” proportions. and ultimately unknowable “divine proportion.). Indeed. geometry has an unlimited capacity to generate order from both “continuous and discrete measurements” and is therefore more useful than arithmetic. From this careful reading of his treatise we may conclude that Pacioli’s concept of architecture was unique. Pacioli argues. Pacioli’s concern is 277 . a fourth. Compared to his contemporaries. based on natural numbers). which is irrational and unknowable. because it enables one to “draw lines and surfaces” even if the proportions are not “rational” (i. A clear example is Vitruvius’s argument about making the upper columns of a multistorey building one-fourth smaller than the lower columns.” continuous. This is clearly an allusion to the “organic.” In fact. because the proportion should acknowledge the tapering trunks of trees. The final paragraph warns the architect not to impose obsessive symmetry and proportion on a site that may not allow it..

the careful “geometrizing” of stone through cutting and polishing. Pacioli’s mathematics were never truly “of this world” but must be grasped through the senses. Although he was familiar with the new power of art (particularly the perspectival epiphanies of painting). although architecture may be a craft. in which nothing is superfluous or accidental. Only by recognizing his work in the work of the world could the craftsman/alchemist recognize himself as a nonself in communion with the eternal God. his emphasis on craft distinguishes him from most contemporary writers on architecture.” a mortal quintessence with a greater digni278 . Indeed. Consequently. alchemy insists that the quintessence is a “mortal heaven” that is not identical to God’s heaven. for example.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli “technical” rather than “humanistic. Analogously. Pacioli was not interested in the ability of an architect/author to produce “pictures” of a future building. could transmute and spiritualize lowly matter. emerges from humble materials. a “mediating art” par excellence.” architecture for Pacioli was a craft and a philosophical discourse in search of nonduality. an alchemical symbol of rebirth and salvation. Just as alchemy distinguished the material and spiritual realms while proclaiming their inseparable nature in the experience of the alchemical opus and in the self-understanding brought about through “making.” recalling the alchemist’s search for “gold” as a mineral “sol” that is distinct from the true sun in heaven. glass is equivalent to the “philosopher’s stone. The “philosophical” work of the architect was modelled on the architecture of the Platonic cosmos that was echoed in God’s design for the Temple of Jerusalem. had revealed not only his Euclidean teaching and its allusion to divine proportion but also his interest in a stereotomic glass architecture.” Architecture. Stereotomy and stereometry offer techniques but also a philosophical understanding of what may be revealed in the process: the “ephemeral gold” that must be recognized in the unending process of transmutation that is a human work. like the glass that forms Pacioli’s floating icosahexahedron and is generated artificially from lowly ashes and sand. In Guillaume Sedacer’s alchemical treatise. evoking St John’s Heavenly Jerusalem made of “pure gold resembling pure glass. More significantly. Pacioli believed that stereotomy. it need not be devoid of a “philosophical” component. from the earth itself. Pacioli’s portrait. On the contrary: its discourse is mathematical and theological. The aim of the architect/craftsman was not to render the ideal world as a concrete physical presence. this would be an absurd impossibility.

perhaps associated with the imminence of the Christian end of time and the messianic advent of the Heavenly Jerusalem (the ultimate realization 279 . yet never objectifiable “space/matter.” enables humanity to “experience” unity in multiplicity. as Nicholas of Cusa had declared. The Franciscan professor of holy theology thus completed his lesson for the architect. water. whose sole vocation. 1622) ty and importance than crystal because it is generated “technically. From an alchemical treatise by Mylius. Human architecture.” by human means.” and is therefore never circumscribable by the mens (mind). while still tasting like bread and wine). This is the “truth” of the prima materia. alluding to the relationships among the triangle. the Quintessence itself.Alberto Pérez-Gómez The sun and the moon framing the earth and its geometries. could be understood as a transformation of matter and spirit beyond death. is mensura (measurement). appearing only in “continuous [mortal] magnitudes.66 Glass is resistant to time. Consistent with his theological belief in the “fact” of transubstantiation (the sacrificial Christian ritual in which the priest’s hands enable bread and wine to become the body and blood of Christ. Pacioli’s suspended icosahexahedron generated by triangles. Pacioli believes that architecture may effect a similar transmutation. is made of glass and contains both a crystalline liquid and a source of light: the Elixir and the Stone. While the hope for an ultimate solution to the squaring of the circle remained alive in Pacioli. Philosophia Reformata (Frankfurt. The architecture of the universe. the square and the circle and the possibility of unity from duality. and fire and can be transformed by blowing. involving the last human residue. through the spirit (pneuma) itself. as both an act of willful making and a recognition of the ever present. This fiery transmutation of sand and ashes.

61. and the man into unity through the squaring of the circle by means of the triangle (bottom).1. q. From Sylvia Philosophorum. Leiden. 4-12) . Voss. chem.Cosmological geometries reconciling the four elements into the Quintessence (top). f. an anonymous seventheenth-century alchemical manuscript (Biblotheek der Rijkunstuniversiteit. Cod.

British Museum. 73. capable of transmuting matter (the earth) and liberating it from gravity and enabling humanity (humus) to recognize its spiritual wholeness. There is also a Spanish translation by Ricardo Resta. which had often become associated with power and wealth. mi: University of Michigan Studies in the Human Sciences 1926). Summa de arithmetica geometria proportioni et Proportionalita (Venice: Paganini 1494). 5 Luca Pacioli. Ghyka. 4. Opera a tutti gli ingegni perspicaci e curiosi necessaria que ciascun studioso di Philosophia Prospectiva Pictura Scultura Architectura Musica e altre Mathematice suavissima sottile e admirabile doctrina consequira e delectarassi co varie questione de secretissima scientia (Venice: Paganini 1509). 8. 2 Alchemical text by Raymund of Tarrega. and a recent French translation. fol..I. translation of Le nombre d’or. For this article I have used mostly the Spanish and French translations.67 notes 1 An alchemical manuscript from the mid-fifteenth century. 281 . A German translation by Constantin Wintenberg. truly a form of meditation. Matila C. architecture could be construed as a virtuous and ethical craft.” quoting “Wisdom of Solomon. La divina proporción (Buenos Aires: Losada 1946 and 1959). 16. The manuscript apparently was finished on 14 December 1498 and is now in the Geneva Public Library. Following Pacioli’s alchemical path. 10. Summa. The Golden Number (London: Tiranti 1958). with its vow of poverty. 7 Pacioli. Divina proportione.” 11:20b. 1542). was published in Vienna in 1889. El numero de oro (Buenos Aires: Poseidon 1968).. trans. and M. 4 See. vol. 22. Divina proportione: Die Lehre vom goldenen Schnitt. Architecture had always been a problematic activity for the Franciscan order. An English translation is expected in 2002. his meditation retained a dignified status for architecture. “Dedication.Alberto Pérez-Gómez of the ideal world). Borissavlievitch. 2 vols. for example. D’Ooge (Ann Arbor. 3 Luca Pacioli. 8 Ibid. 6 Nicomachus of Gerasa. Sloane ms. Divine proportion (Paris: Librarie du Compagnonnage 1980). M. Introduction to Arithmetic. falsely assumed to be Raymund Lull (Venice.

65. 10 Nicomachus of Gerasa. 16 Had it been published. Introduction to Arithmetic. Daly Davies. 18 Brunelleschi’s friendship with Paolo dal Pozzo Toscanelli. See M. ed. Manetti. Vita di Filippo Brunelleschi. 20 Piero intended his book to stand “penes aliud nostrum de Prospectiva opusculum. Daly Davies. 488. La divina proporción. vol. See Margaret Daly Davies. quod superioribus annis edidimus. 466–7. De Corpuribus Regularibus. Piero della Francesca’s Mathematical Treatises. 20. In fact. De prospectiva pingendi. 12. 186–7. 70. Piero della Francesca’s Mathematical Treatises (Ravenna: Longo Editore 1977). T. Pacioli’s would have been the first Italian translation of Euclid’s Elements. 17 For biographical information see Pacioli. Jacopo Bellini’s experiments in perspective were encouraged by Giovanni Fontana. D. not published until 1879 by Baldassarre Boncompagni in Bulletino. Divine Proportion. 12 The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements. by M. Pacioli. 1976). La divina proporción.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli 9 Luca Pacioli. and Margaret Daly Davies. 250. Timaeus and Critias. ed. 14 These recommendations appear in chapters 53 and 54 of art 1 of his Divina proportione. 128–9. In the Veneto. 115–18. 74–6. 11 The responsibility of Pacioli in the design of his own portrait has been well established. preface by Aldo Mieli. Girolamo Mancini (Rome. 1916). 21 While this famous definition has been traced back to the earlier Middle 282 . Sarrade. 1 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press 1994). Mieli mentions a biography of Pacioli by Bernardino Baldi (1553–1617). by Aldo Mieli (Buenos Aires: Losada 1959). La divina proporción. Pacioli. 13 Plato. 19 Piero della Francesca. Nicco Fasola (Florence 1942). for example. vol.” Piero della Francesca. Biblioteca Universitaria di Bologna. Spanish trans. and Toscanelli’s collaboration with Alberti in astronomical calculations is well documented. See also my essay “Chora: The Space of Architectural Representation” in CHORA : Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture. Piero della Francesca’s Mathematical Treatises. Heath (New York: Dover Publications 1956). 4n10. vol. intr.L. See A. ed. the first translation to appear was by Niccolo Tartaglia. 15–17.T. lasted over forty years. Quoted by M. De Robertis (Milan. ed. 1–34. a writer on perspective who had studied under Biagio Pelacani in Padua. G. 5–6. published (with extensive commentary) in 1543. 15 Cod. 16.

Mieli’s introduction includes a helpful. and it is unlikely that a learned Franciscan such as Pacioli would not have known it. preface by Aldo Mieli. absolute Truth. brief description of the contents of the Summa and its sources. ma: mit Press 1989). was edited for publication by Pacioli (Venice. The Campanus edition in Latin. PérezGómez and L.. England: Penguin 1965). which in the Middle Ages constituted the basis for Jewish and Christian cabalistic practices (the contemplation of God’s name. for example. He defines algebra as a major speculative art related to the knowledge of letter combinations. Pelletier. Bonaventure’s Itinerarium mentis in Deum was copied and distributed widely. 1509). only Nicolas Oresme and Nicolas Chuquet were writing in French during the fifteenth century.. Lee (Harmondsworth. Quoted in Pacioli. 25. 63. ma: mit Press 1997). Books 14 and 15 in the Campanus translation that Piero used are now known not to be by Euclid himself. Rykwert (Cambridge. i. Timaeus and Critias. Bonaventure was also the author of a treatise 283 . Ibid. perhaps more understandable omission in Pacioli’s text). La divina proporción. 16–18. In the French context. 20. See The Thirteen Books of Euclid’s Elements.D. the Parisian general of the Franciscans during the thirteenth century whose mystical work was greatly influenced by Augustinian “perfect” proportions and by an obsessive numerological concern for the number six. Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge (Cambridge. Following from Hugh of St Victor’s concern with the place of the mechanical arts in a Christian world (another. La divina proporción. It may be worth noting in this connection that the well-known thirteenth-century Christian cabalist Raymund Lull was closely associated with the Franciscans.Alberto Pérez-Gómez 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 Ages (the thirteenth or even the eleventh century) by some scholars. Pacioli. 60–1. through the combination of letters). trans. See A. H. Plato.e. Perhaps Pacioli’s most important omission is Bonaventure.. by J. Ibid. Euclidis Megarensis philosophi acutissimi …. 47a. For a commentary on this difficult term see the glossary of the recent translation of Alberti’s On the Art of Building in Ten Books. Nicholas of Cusa’s comprehensive geometrization of theology is a considerable innovation of great significance for the Renaissance.

nothing is so delightful as mutual love.2). also a likely precedent of Pacioli’s outlook within the Franciscan tradition.. I owe a debt of gratitude to Dr Gregory Caicco for having raised the Bonaventure issue after reading my manuscript. 10. 30b–50ce. and has completed a doctoral dissertation on the Franciscan tradition of architecture in the History and Theory of Architecture program at McGill University. The quotes are from Eco. 66. Phil. art theories. Ibid. trans. 69.. Dodds. These correspondences between Platonic cosmogony and the Biblical genesis had been formulated first in the extensive exegetical work of Philo of Alexandria (also known as Philo the Jew) c. 1.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 284 entitled On the Reduction of the Arts to Theology. Augustine. 64. Umberto Eco (Art and Beauty in the Middle Ages [New Haven: Yale University Press 1986]. Bonaventure declared that the laws of aequalitas (smoothness. and early modern speculations about the structure of the uni- . and uniformity) could be discovered by the artist in the depths of his own soul.. a crucial concept in Pacioli’s Divina proportione. Ibid. 11.1. cited by Christopher Butler. and without love there is no delight” (In I Sent. Furthermore. Fernand Hallyn has demonstrated convincingly the profound relationship among Renaissance theology. Ibid. 24. Number Symbolism (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1970). Opera omnia (Florence. 67. Civitas Dei. “This affection of love is noblest of all because it partakes in liberality to the highest degree … As far as creatures are concerned. 85) has emphasized the importance of Bonaventure’s interpretation of Augustine’s De musica. 1990).. Ibid. evenness. Dr Caicco has written on the architectural implications of Bonaventure’s Itinerarium (M.. 70. Ibid. This resonates with the later speculations about nested polyhedra in Kepler’s Mysterium Cosmographicum.30. See also St Bonaventure.. Bonaventure clearly understood the relationship between love and aesthetic delight resulting from “a conjunction of the delectable and the person who takes delight in it” (In I Sent.2). 1902). Pacioli. Cambridge. La divina proporción.3. In the Franciscan school we find the initial insights into the nature of artistic inspiration and its relation to self-realization. 67..

153. Pacioli. Pacioli. Ibid. as I will show. Ibid. Ibid. 73–4. 138. Stereometry is also the main subject matter of Piero’s Libellus. Ibid. Morgan (New York: Dover 1960). 155–6. 7 and 8. In the case of Pacioli’s reference. 136–7. The Ten Books on Architecture. M.. chaps.Alberto Pérez-Gómez 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 verse. 152.. 159. 151. Ibid. Ibid. See my “Juan Bautista Villalpando and the Architecture of God. which Pacioli added as part 3 of the Divina proportione. Ibid. chaps.. 285 .. see chap. Ibid. esp. 6–23.. Ibid. particularly in the cosmologies of Copernicus and Kepler.. chaps. Ibid. chap.” in CHORA : Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture. book 3. For the argument concerning the perfection of numbers see Vitruvius. Pacioli provides an image of this gateway but does not elaborate on its significance in the text. 32–48. Ibid. chaps. and Ezekiel’s description is a well-known instance of numerology incorporated into the Judeo-Christian tradition. vol. however. 24–31. Ibid. See The Poetic Structure of the World (New York: Zone Books 1993). Exegetical work on the Temple was done by earlier Franciscans.. trans.H.. 150. 117. the Temple remains an ideal image and is never intended as an “actual” building. 2.. Ibid. 154.. La divina proporción.. a deliberate inclusion that. 1. Ibid.. Ibid. It is important to emphasize Pacioli’s insistence on describing both the solid and void conditions in all cases. Ibid. Ibid. 159. Ibid. 152.. 83. is indeed relevant to complete his architectural discourse.. 3 (Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press 1999). La divina proporción.

The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli 62 Ibid. according to which an aperture of any shape will project the sun as a circle. 166. The ex-communicated Brother Elias.” in Alchimie art. This alphabet is. This phenomenon remained a source of wonder during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. well after Kepler’s demonstration of the “pin-hole” principle. very similar to Dürer’s in Unterweisung der Messung (Nürnberg.. 66 See Pascale Barthélemy. 1529).h. one that was never free of controversy. 11. was thought to be the author of various alchemical treatises during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. 65 Ibid. 1525). Authorship of the famous alphabet by Pacioli was questioned by Geoffroy Tory in his Cham-Fleury ou l’art et science de la deue et vray proportion des lettres (Paris. 67 It is worth recalling the Franciscan tradition of seeking self-realization through making. “Le verre dans la Sedacina totius artis alchimie de Guillaume Sedacer. and Dürer was certainly influenced by Pacioli. 63 Ibid.. It was argued that the letters had been designed by Leonardo. Pacioli took great care to acknowledge this many times in his text. 203–33. 64 We might recall here the “wondrous demonstration” of the squaring of the circle when a beam of sunlight is projected into a dark chamber through a square orifice and the projection turns out to be a circle. histoire et mythes (Paris: s. chap. While the geometric bodies were originally Leonardo’s drawings.e. of course. 171. Modern scholarship tends to give credit for the alphabet to Pacioli himself. 170–1. 286 .. a rumour magnified by Giorgio Vasari. second general of the Franciscans (1226–84).a 1995).

Simplex sigillum veri: The Exemplary Life of an Architect David Theodore Chora .

) Tractatus §7. but rather demonstrates right action. indicates something. I can imagine what Heidegger means by being and anxiety. functionalism or formalism. of course. or gestures. In thinking.” he told his disciples. darüber muss man schweigen” (whereof one cannot speak. the tautological.”3 (Tractatus §5. for instance: “The difficulty in philosophy is to say no more than we know. “or the art of throwing eggs. On your own interpretation. assumes the principle.” something important.”5 §2.The Exemplary Life of an Architect §1. It strives to leave out the unnecessary. works through a transformation of the architect: “Just improve yourself. abstraction.4 In the 1930s he told a friend: “To be sure. And what you demand of them.”7 Architecture’s contribution to transforming the world. the celebrated house in Vienna he worked 288 . too. of simplicity.0: Wovon man nicht sprechen kann. on how you see things yourself. “that is all you can do to improve the world. and minimalism arises from deep ethical preoccupations: reduction need not designate a style. Signs which serve one purpose are logically equivalent.” the “difficulty is not to make superfluous noises.421: “Ethics and aesthetics are one. signs which serve no purpose are meaningless.”8 Kundmanngasse 19. the very best we can achieve in all things.”2 Even in polemic. (Tractatus §6. which don’t harm the other man but only yourself. Man feels the urge to run up against the limits of language … This running up against the limits of language is ethics. It is lucid.47321: “Occam’s razor is. In ethics we are always making the attempt to say something that cannot be said … But the inclination.1 This restraint is the best. therefore. the running up against something. His architecture. the virtue. even though it comes at the very end of his book: “Tractatus §7. That is. not an arbitrary rule nor one justified by its practical success.”) How much did architecture mean to him? Did he have architectural genius? Does his architecture depend on his philosphy?6 He liked to say: “Work on philosophy – in many ways like working on architecture – is really more like working on the self. It “indicates something. It simply says that unnecessary elements in a symbolism mean nothing. It shows clearly its clarity. let this be known right from the start.0 is a logical truth and an ethical precept. thereof one must be silent). Minimal precision has thus a clear moral purpose. His concern for precision.

Photo courtesy Terrance Galvin on from 1926 to 1928 for his sister Margaret Stonborough. John Maynard Keynes helped him to receive a fellowship at Trinity College. something was askew. his already famous first published book (1921). working on it. From Wijdeveld. did not change his philosophy. so that he made different demands on his philosophy. G. had changed him.David Theodore Door hardware for Kundmanngasse designed by Wittgenstein. Building it. 289 .E. Moore and Bertrand Russell asked him a couple of questions about it for his defense. But now when he started to do philosophy again. as his doctoral dissertation. Ludwig Wittgenstein The Kundmanngasse 19. In 1929 Cambridge University accepted the Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus.

liberal arts. the best representation. was about 5’6”.”11) §4. At Saturday afternoon philosophy meetings in the 1930s he “related a riddle for the purpose of throwing some light on the nature of philosophy. how much above the surface of the earth would it be?”10 To answer this riddle. It is discipline. flannel trousers. But “preoccupied with other things and with his architectural work in particular.”12 He was trying to be honest. While he worked on Kundmanngasse.”9 But showing is not picturing. He detested Carnap. Here is an accurate picture of him. it ought to show not say … The master should be known by his work. with open shirt and without tie. never fat. If the cord was kept taut and circular in form. but he was known for his shabby appearance: “brown coat and grey. usually sitting with his back to the audience. In group photos he sometimes appears to be sleeping. first anonymously to artists such as Georg Trakl. especially those of Rabindranath Tagore. and then just away. For him “knowledge … was intimately connected with doing. Oskar Kokoschka. a soldier and a gardener. patrician.”13 His own training echoed Vitruvius’s prescription for the education of an architect: manual skill. Friedrich Waismann.” Later he declared these camp followers orgulous and derivative: “What the Vienna School has achieved.The Exemplary Life of an Architect §3. 290 . Now suppose that a piece one yard long was added to the cord. the nascent Vienna Circle gathered around him: Moritz Schlick. Schlick’s great culture set him at ease. He was a school teacher. If we have the right picture. an ascetic aesthete. His clothes were carefully chosen from the best English tailors. though. [he] was not always prepared to talk about philosophy. He was at the front in World War I. It is crippling. probably patched. sometimes Herbert Feigl and Maria Kasper (later Mrs Feigl) and Rudolf Carnap. Sometimes he preferred to read out poems. and Adolf Loos. He lived the exemplary life of an architect. a musician and a sculptor. we do not necessarily arrive at the right answer. geometry. It went as follows: Suppose that a cord was stretched tightly around the earth at the equator. arithmetic. we make a picture of the situation. medicine. Waismann took notes. (“The most accurate picture of an entire apple tree has in a certain sense much fewer similarities with the tree than the smallest daisy. He gave away all of his inherited fortune. All personal reorientation is difficult. a philosopher. He had chestnut hair. They came to his rooms. Rainer Maria Rilke.

and to make sculpture. He would be Daedalus. to conduct music. Ludwig Wittgenstein astronomy. In 1910 he patented some “Improvements in Propellers applicable for Aerial Machines. music. He developed an idea for propulsion later adapted to build helicopters in World War II. In Derek Jarman’s film this ambition is caught in an image: “wearing kite wings [he] picks up two lawn mower sprinklers and holds them out 291 . When he was ten he contrived a working sewing machine out of wood.14 He built kites with William Eccles. Ludwig Wittgenstein [dressed in workman’s clothes]. From Wijdeveld. he wanted to fly. He learned to whistle. staying at the Grouse Inn at Glossop in the Derbyshire Moors amidst a clutter of books. and construction supervisor Friedl on a balcony of the Kundmanngasse. including physics.A friend of Thomas Stonborough.” He called himself an “aeronaut”. and philosophy. He built machines.

From Wijdeveld. Ludwig Wittgenstein 292 . From Wijdeveld. 1908. c. Ludwig Wittgenstein Ludwig Wittgenstein (right) and William Eccles at the Kite Flying Upper Atmosphere Station.Construction drawing of the variable volume combustion propeller engine. near Glossop.

Wittgenstein 293 . From Eagleton and Jarman.David Theodore Older Wittgenstein as Daedalus.

§5. He will regard humans and beasts quite naively as objects which are similar and which belong together. etc. … Whoever realizes this will not want to procure a pre-eminent place for his own body or for the human body.e. ‘To the glory of the most high God.” In the introduction to the Philosophische Bemurkungen he added: “I would like to say ‘this book is written to the honour of God. Rush Rhees. but if someone feels it is archaic (altväterisch). (Translated by Mr.” “purpose. etc. He wrote in a note to himself: “Genius is talent in which character makes itself heard … [it shows] no mere intellectual skeleton.” “character.’ That is what I would have liked to say about my work. Schopenhauer’s ‘as which’ for instance.The Exemplary Life of an Architect like the propellers of a plane.”19 But 294 . The light catches the swirling water like a Catherine wheel. If this was a real talent. it would not be correctly understood. and that my neighbour may be benefited thereby. But in searching for mathematical solutions to aeronautical problems. He can not make it more free of these impurities than he is himself. among beasts. he had a moral duty to exercise his talent.. plants. It means the book was written in good will.)”17 “Impurities”: the problem is ethical.. “A stylistic device may be useful and yet I may be barred from using it. i.’ but nowadays this would be the trick of a cheat. Sometimes this would make for much more comfortable and clearer expression. and he must not disregard this feeling either.” and “symbol” have to do with culture. if he could make a real contribution. he discovered a talent and appetence for thinking about logical problems.”18 §6. He used his work to understand the world and himself. He told a friend in conversation: “Bach wrote on the title-page of his Orgelbuchlein.16 “Meaning. about having the right relationship to the work. and so far as it was not but was written from vanity etc. but a complete human being … That too is why the greatness of what a man writes depends on everything else he writes and does” [emphasis added]. stones.”15 He thought of his aeronautical experiments as a failure. is a part of the world among others. he cannot use it. At first he thought: “The human body … my body in particular. [sic] the author would wish to see it condemned.

with profound roots in the ways of life established around the Hapsburg court. it is always I who see. While he worked on Kundmanngasse. And it isn’t essential that my body. I don’t always see part of my body when I see. and the human subject is not an object within reality. something is seen. In fact I don’t mind how much it changes.” I. and even about my memories. He came from Vienna. He grew up in the Alleegasse. and I feel the same way about all the properties of my body. 295 . he stayed with his sister Margaret Stonborough in her baroque palace.” but the experience of seeing itself.e. – When I think about it a little longer I see that what I wished to say was “Always when anything is seen.” What is it I want all these cases of seeing to have in common? As an answer I have to confess to myself that it is not my bodily appearance. one mental and one physical. rather it is a limit of the world: the world and life are one” (Tractatus §5. the characteristics of my behaviour. So he wrote this instead: “The world is my world: The subject does not belong to the world. Johannes Brahms were frequent guests. but the limit or horizon which brings that reality into focus. after all – were all the experiences of living. He had a deep appreciation of Viennese aristocratic building traditions. since it resides in the human subject.David Theodore he realized this description could lead to philosophical errors. §7. that “I” has.”20 glosses this passage thus: “Value cannot be in the world. that of which I said it continued during all the experiences of seeing was not any particular entity “I.641). that readers might mistake its moral injunction for a philosophy of positivist objectivism. with its “seven pianos” and Wiener Werkstätte interiors. “the most significant Marxist literary critic of his generation. He wanted to say that philosophy should help us to resolve the delusion that there are two kinds of material.22 More important. and more difficult to articulate – thereof must one be silent. Terry Eagleton.6–5. The culture that he understood so well was bourgeois and artistic. if seen amongst the things I see.”21 So who is “I”? We read in his notebooks: Now let us ask ourselves what sort of identity of personality it is we are referring to when we say “when anything is seen. of culture. namely. should always look the same. the eighteenth-century Palais Batthyány-Schönborn. Gustav Klimt. Bruno Walter.

(Loos der einmal zu [ihm] gesagt hat “Sie sind ich!” [Loos once said to him. He sent postcards to Adolf Loos in Paris. Otto Weininger. Ludwig Wittgenstein built by Johann Fischer von Erlach. His father financed the Wiener Secession exhibition building in the Karlplatz. From Wijdeveld. his exiguous groping towards significance. Brahms. Palais Batthyány-Schönborn. Otto Spengler. an architect. his lack of genius. He remained self-consciously Viennese. Although baptized and buried a Catholic. three philosophers. a journalist. Bertrand Russell.24 Two physicists. Gottlob Frege. his second-rate imitative “Jewish reproductive” talent. Karl Kraus. Ludwig Wittgenstein Right: Johann Bernard Fischer von Erlach.Above:The Galerie in Wittgenstein’s family home in the Alleegasse. He believed his “race” determined his thinking. second rate was Mendelssohn. a logician. Arthur Schopenhauer. From Wijdeveld. Piero Sraffa.)23 His declared influences were Ludwig Boltzmann. Jewish. 1698 –1705. the home of Margareth Stonborough in the 1920s.25 296 . Greatness in music was Beethoven. he believed in the significance of his Jewish origins. Heinrich Hertz. “You are me!”]. a sexologist and an economist. He liked Beethoven and Karl Kraus. Adolf Loos.

Architecture saved his life. September 1925.David Theodore Postcard from Wittgenstein to Adolf Loos. (“Wie Traurig. too. Rudolf took cyanide in a Berlin pub in 1904. (He barely escaped suicide himself. wie traurig!!!” he wrote.”26 This exigent charge evokes judgments not just of our work but of ourselves. the gestures we make are meaningful within a culture that shares our judgment.)27 Boltzmann killed himself the year he was applying to study with the physicist at the University of Vienna. Adolf Hitler was there. Kurt shot himself after his troops disobeyed him in World War I. too. Van der Nüll. The poet Georg Trakl overdosed on cocaine in a military hospital near Krakow two days before he was set to visit. He told Marguerite Respinger that “the design and building of the house [Kundmanngasse] had rescued him from the deep moral crisis caused by his failure as a teacher. architect of the Wiener Staatsoper. Ludwig Wittgenstein The times determined things. The things we say. showing where he lived as a school teacher in Otterhal. Thus the “great architect in a bad period (Van der Nüll) has a totally different task from the great architect in a good period.” Beethoven’s house in Schwarzspaniergasse in Vienna. committed suicide when Emperor Franz Joseph expressed displeasure with the entrance.”)28 In October 1903 he was a student at the Realschule in Linz. Suicide was everywhere.29 Here he learned that twenty-three-year-old Otto Weininger shot himself in the “death place. From Wijdeveld. Three of his brothers took their own lives: Hans disappeared from a boat in Chesapeake Bay in 1903. they shared a history teacher who foretold the decline of the “decadent” Hapsburg dynasty. 297 .

31: truth tables From Weininger’s Sex and Character he learned to separate love from sex. sex. §8.”31 Jarman is probably right to insist that from our point of view the links between his hatred of disorder. Only art can express moral truth.”33 Frank Ramsey once commented.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Tractatus §4.” but of course that is exactly how we can mean what we cannot say. Not because there is some eternal truth about such links – i. Of all these preoccupations (philosophy. on the ground that art alone can express the meaning of life.e.. 298 . and we can’t whistle it either.”30 Derek Jarman notes that he died in 1951 of “cancer of the prostate – the most unexplored of erogenous zones. They are the terms in which he and his peers have described him. and only the artist can teach the things that matter most in life. architecture) was the most important. after all. his Viennese background. death). He was. The Tractatus “assigns a central importance in human life to art. “But what we can’t say we can’t say. They sketch possible moralities. and his (homo)sexual guilt should be taken seriously. a split necessary because “sexuality is incompatible with the honesty genius demands. art (literature. incapable of living in a messy room or of staying in a room when sexual matters were discussed if women were present. in Ernest Jones’s conception in “Anal-Erotic Character Traits”32 – but rather because they form an adequate first description of his personality. music. That is exactly the necessity of whistling.

beyond logic. Tractatus §4. He came to despise them.”42 Upon release from an Italian prisoner of war camp in 1919.35 “He had hoped that the experiments would throw light on some questions of aesthetics that interested him. Not every functional movement of the human body is a gesture. on psychological “rhythm-experiments” in the psychological laboratory. they make accurate pictures of logical problems. There are nonverbal meanings. extra-nuncupative but irrefragable.g. Art could connect logic and culture. but what connected logic and life? Apparently nothing. gestures like kissing a photo or making music? What does understanding music mean?40 He thought about Brahms and ground his teeth together. “that it expresses a thought. He stopped and continued to think about Brahms.)37 (The truth tables are his most important contribution to formal logic [e. Then he noticed himself grinding his teeth.) But logic is bounded. boxing ears and pulling hair.David Theodore “How can I say how much music has meant to me?” he asked in his diary. Movements. Gestures.41 §9. “Architecture is a gesture. meanings outside of language. a musician and mathematician.34 At Cambridge he worked with his friend David Pinsent. Places. ghostlier. music. Conditions.”38 The Italian economist Piero Sraffa. less rich. He recited The Brothers Karamazov out loud to the village priest. “Recall the impression of good architecture. The meaningful gesture appears in a culture. but the notes were less clear.” he wrote later to himself. a friend of Gramsci no less. Buildings.. Music. He had told Bertrand Russell that studying logic improved one’s aesthetic judgment. He wrote letters 299 .”36 What was so important about aesthetics? (Even logic had to be a mere tool to art.”39 But can someone be taught to understand a gesture. Friendships. once made this distinction clear with an illogical yet meaningful gesture. “The author of the Tractatus thought he had solved all philosophical problems. he attended the Leherbildungsanhalt in the third Bezirk in Vienna to become a schoolteacher in rural Austria. not every functional building is architecture. He beat on hebetudinous schoolchildren. failure. These are in some way aesthetic: beyond language. Niederösterreich was like this: loneliness.31]. It was consistent with this view that he should give up philosophy. Likewise. One would like to follow it with a gesture.

showing British and American variants of Sraffa’s gesture.The Glass Architecture of Fra Luca Pacioli Still from Jarman’s film Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein 300 . From Jarman and Eagleton.

He went to work as a gardener in the monastery at Hütteldorf. a winch and cable mechanism which enabled a bucket to be lowered to hoist water. in which language homogenizes the world. Ludwig Wittgenstein . A simple house. He returned to it Wittgenstein’s first house. but apart from the world. and an attic. with a basement. The first house he had built was like this: “The house was constructed of wood in the local fashion. living in the tool shed.”45 It was built in 1914 near the Norwegian village of Skjolden on the shore of the Sognefjord. miserably failed. Hassbach. made of wood. a ground floor with a few rooms. His mother died. and Otterthal. From Wijdeveld. near the Sognefjord. Puchberg.David Theodore to architect Paul Engelmann and played clarinet. not a dictionary. among other things. It was modest in size. … Because it was situated against a steep slope high above a lake (one could reach it only by rowing over) there was.43 He taught at Trattenbach. He thought he had failed as a teacher. but a spelling book.44 §10. in 1926 he returned to Vienna to work with Engelmann on the house in Kundmanngasse. He published a Wörterbuch für Volkschule.

Kundmanngasse has no ribbon windows (solid over solid.”46 Kundmanngasse.47 But he had little truck with the homogenized. This was the best place for thinking (about logic and about sin). good manners. he did the least that he could at that time. That is. void over void). “‘Then my mind was on fire!’ he used to say. brought together culture and order. that it lacks health. no free plan. no technological optimism – and no harmful “superfluous gestures” either.” Keynes wrote to his wife Lydia – as if it were merely fashionable. One could also say. showing the virtue of restraint. Kundmanngasse was a failure. it is architecture that connects ways of life and logic. “In this same sense: my house for Gretl is the product of a decidedly fine ear. on the other hand.” he wrote. “But primordial life. 1929. Christopher Wood: An English Painter (London: Allison & Busby 1995) in 1931. From Richard Ingleby. its “indecent openness. no roof terrasse (the house sat originally in a large landscaped garden). He sent some photos of the house to John Maynard Keynes. the expression of a great understanding (of a culture.”48 its functionalism. (Kierkegaard) (Hothouse plant). etc. like a Christopher Wood painting. no pilotis.”49 302 . He understood his work as precise and honest. “A la Corbusier.). unlimited space of the New Architecture. wild life that tries to break out – is missing.Christopher Wood’s painting of Villa Savoye.

Ludwig Wittgenstein The grand staircase of the Alleegasse. From Wijdeveld. From Wijdeveld. Ludwig Wittgenstein Wittgenstein’s entrance hall at Kundmanngasse. Ludwig Wittgenstein 303 . From Wijdeveld.Clockwise from left: A comparison of Viennese staircases Stairs in the Palais BatthyánySchönborn.

The Exemplary Life of an Architect After finishing Kundmanngasse. a revenant. As in Kundmanngasse there were always flowers in a vase on the windowsill. [sic] in his bedroom a zinc bathtub which hung against the wall when not in use. Instead of the fireplace. From Wijdeveld. [He] changed the proportions of the (neo-Gothic) window by gluing black strips of paper across it. the pipe of which disappeared straight through the ceiling. with the exception of a silhouette of a young woman in an elaborate gilt frame. to reading and writing. Ludwig Wittgenstein 304 .50 Wittgenstein’s rooms at Cambridge. On the mantelpiece was a lowpowered bulb on a retort-stand for lighting. The other furniture consisted of one simple wooden chair and a few [canvas] deck chairs (during lectures more deck chairs were brought in from the corridor) and. he returned to Cambridge. to philosophy. in front of the window. and there was a house plant. [he] used an old-fashioned black stove. a folding card table used as a writing desk on which stood a fan which muffled the noise from neighbours [a piano-playing undergraduate]. a small bookcase and. His two rooms in Whewell’s Court at Cambridge were like this: The walls were bare.

56 His method resists systematization. an enormous Nachlass. moral hygiene (“scrupulously clean”). purist. a confession. but also Weininger. Hebel’s Schatzkaestlein.59 He read American detective stories. fan. Among the books he brought with him to England as a student were a beautifully made facsimile edition of Leonardo da Vinci’s technical inventions. “Scientific questions might interest me. To force my thoughts in a row is a torment for me. At first he thought he would start his book with a description of nature.54 Self-knowledge is different from knowledge of objects. functional.52 It is a question of order. George Fox’s Journal. marginalia. At Cambridge he tried again to write philosophy. The former is the more urgent problem. an effort that perhaps has no value at all. Should I try to do it now? I waste an unspeakable effort in ordering my thoughts. apothegms. annotations. As usual. §11. “If I am thinking for myself. Only conceptual and aesthetic questions do that for me. notebooks. That is what he wrote. folding card table). then. It is a dialogue. I am indifferent to the solution of scientific problems. I jump around the theme.”58 “They are rich in mental vitamins and calories” he said. Renan’s Le peuple d’Isräel. he organized a simple architecture that blurs the boundaries between good thinking and good living. Tolstoy’s Gospel in Brief and Hadji Murad.David Theodore “There was a metal safe in which he kept his manuscripts. and Dr Johnson’s Prayers and Meditations. That is my natural way of thinking. Augustine’s Confessions. William James’s Varieties of Religious Experience. Goethe’s great teacher. but not to the other questions. showing at once a concern with aesthetics (he manipulated the window proportions). especially those published in a detective story magazine by the American firm Street & Smith. the erotic body (bathtub and nubile silhouette).”51 This is a hard spartan space. mechanical objects (deck chairs. but never really grab on to me.”55 He left mostly fragments. untrammeled nature. aphorisms.57 §12. a number of seventeenth 305 . what did he read? He “was fond of short detective stories. the sixteenth century Machinae novi by the Italian Veranzio Fausti. without wanting to write a book. The rooms were always scrupulously clean.”53 He wrote in metaphors. the mathematical work concerning the mechanics of Galileo Galilei.

irate and loud. is also significant. Disciples included Maurice Drury. he died while reading Black Beauty. He had two works by Gottlob Frege. Unceasing argues. ever saw. Julian Bell circulated a poem: For he talks nonsense. His lack of connection with these shy young Englishmen had to do with his tendency toward homiletic instead of maieutic pedagogical relationships. bound in one volume with a cover of saffian leather designed by the Wiener Werkstätte and provided with new titles that pleased him better. talks of day and night. on any issue. Desmond Lee. Norman Malcolm. Ben Francis. Sure that he’s right.The Exemplary Life of an Architect century German Theatri machinarum on mechanical and hydraulic engineering. 306 . Chartered accountant Gilbert Pattisson. and of his rightness proud. Georg Kreisel. Forever his own vow of silence breaks: Ethics. Ben Richards. Francis Skinner. Ludwig refrain from laying down the law? In every company he shouts us down. refulgent. And calls things good or bad. At Cambridge he again felt he was a failure as a teacher. He was farouche. on Vitruvian subjects. Gardener Hermann Postl.63 (The list of people missing from his life. And stops our sentence stuttering his own. numerous statements makes. S.K. The rough boys at the Prater. Friends included Engineer William Eccles. Bose. and eighteenth century French and Italian studies on the aeronautics of ballooning. Economist John Maynard Keynes. yet. Architect Paul Engelmann. He was accused of not being able to hold a discussion. Who. harsh. David Pinsent. and wrong or right. scabrous. Conspicuous absences include Virginia Woolf.60 An architect’s library. aesthetics.61 (“It is questionable if when he died he had ever come to any understanding of the number 2. Two what?”)62 §13. Obviously disciples were better than collaborators. then. given his social connections. the logician whom he so much admired. Lovers included Marguerite Respinger.

It consists not simply of what he built but of how he lived. everyone present [at the Saturday afternoon philosophy meetings] was inclined to say that the distance of the cord from the surface of the earth would be so minute that it would be imperceptible. The Blue and Brown Books (New York: Harper & Brother. Then ornament. anyone from Paris. we might again have something to celebrate. It does not illustrate his philosophy. his “hothouse plant. But this is wrong.”66 He believed that in times to come. disciples. His architecture is not doctrinal. 45. Kundmangasse is not a representation of the logic of the Tractatus. Arthur Schnitzler. “Sound doctrines are useless. “Therefore there can be no architecture where there is nothing to glorify.David Theodore Robert Musil. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus (London: Routledge and Kegan Paul 1922). it is ethical. 307 . (Or the direction of your life.) Sometimes a number of these companions might gather in his rooms for philosophical “at-homes”: at home. 1958). And the riddle of the earth and the cord? Malcolm continues: ”Without stopping to work it out.)”65 §15. among friends.” he wrote. It does not belong to a movement in architecture. Les Ballets Russes. but rather to the movement of his days. The actual distance would be nearly six inches … This is the kind of mistake that occurs in philosophy. thinking. lovers. something to monumentalize. 2 Ludwig Wittgenstein. “You have to change your life.” was declared a monument and spared demolition. §16.67 notes i Ludwig Wittgenstein. would again have meaning. Arnold Schoenberg [whose music he despised]. his beloved baroque. Can we say what Kundmanngasse means? Is it a gesture? Can we “follow it with a gesture”? “Architecture immortalizes and glorifies something. §14.” he brooded to himself. the architectural gesture would again be gravid and full.”64 We should not be misled by pictures of his one white house. There is no small irony that in 1971 Kundmanngasse. It consists in being misled by a picture.

the search for what Nana Last calls “a possible mediation between architecture and philosophy. see Nana Last. nj: Rowman and Littlefield 1981). Sense and Subjectivity: A Study of Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty [Leiden: E. Peter Winch (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1980). Wittgenstein. 2d ed.The Exemplary Life of an Architect 3 Quoted in Rush Rhees. Heidegger and Wittgenstein loved nature.H... etc. Much has been written lately about the relationships between Wittgenstein (analytic) and Heidegger. and from Merleau-Ponty on the availability of prelinguistic experience. although it is still an insightful comment about Heidegger.g. 17–18.” is the crux of most considerations of Wittgenstein as an architect.E. this is not what Heidegger meant. 7 Wittgenstein.” Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections. thought music beyond the power of philosophy. Ludwig Wittgenstein: The Duty of Genius (New York: Macmillan 1990). an isomorphism of philosophical and architectural structures.E. 20. G. 8 Quoted in Monk. Likewise. he disapproved of G. ed. 6 The relationship between Wittgenstein’s architecture and his philosophy. Wittgenstein and Phenomenology: A Comparative Study of the Later Wittgenstein. the similarity of arguments and argument structures in Wittgenstein and Merleau-Ponty: see Philip Dwyer.J. Moore’s cooperating on the book The Philosophy of G.) and complex (e. Husserl. trans. Merleau-Ponty. Wittgenstein. “Transgressions and Inhabitations: Wittgensteinian Spatial Practices between Architecture and Philosophy.g. 68–9. 224–5. and Husserl (continentals. and Merleau-Ponty [Albany. The Wittgenstein I detail here would differ from Heidegger on exactly this question of ethics. Grier. ed.. a bibliography is included in Nicholas F. 156. von Wright and Heikki Nyman. from Husserl on the question of science. Heidegger. 9 Waismann. 5 Friedrich Waismann. that I try to lay aside here. 4 Ray Monk. trans. ny: State University of New York Press 1981]) detailing connections both superficial (e. Brian McGuinness.” Assemblage 35 (1998): 36–47. The actual forms of Wittgenstein’s buildings are quite secondary to the question of whether the shape of his entire life made him an architect. see 308 . To be sure. “Postscript. ed. Joachim Schulte and Brian McGuinness (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1979). Culture and Value. Moore (1942). Wittgenstein and the Vienna Circle: Conversations Recorded by Friedrich Waismann. dressed like peasants. But it is precisely this search for a symmetry between the two. Rush Rhees (Totowa. Brill 1990]). 18.

Malcolm. Culture and Value. Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein. Eagleton and Jarman. Anscombe (Oxford: Basil Blackwell 1979). Monk (Wittgenstein. 65. Anscombe. (Both writers had great influence on Wittgenstein.. 46.” in Jaakko Hintikka. 83. Wittgenstein. Terry Eagleton and Derek Jarman. 68–9. 2d ed.. Wittgenstein. 82. “Some Notes on Conversations with Wittgenstein. 20. Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Memoir. 76. Notebooks 1914–1916. Wittgenstein: The Terry Eagleton Script. Wittgenstein. 1–3 (Amsterdam: North-Holland Publishing Co. Acta Philosophica Fennica 28. 2d ed. 313–17) clarifies that Wittgenstein follows the racial conception of Jewishness formulated by Otto Weininger. Paul Wijdeveld. Culture and Value. trans.. ed. Wittgenstein.E.M. 22. Architect (Cambridge. G. 63. 19. quoted in Bernhard Leitner. Wittgenstein. Drury.” Brian McGuinness. “It is interesting to note that Wittgenstein’s idea of a combustion chamber together with a tangential reaction nozzle at the tip of a propeller blade was brought into practical use for the rotor blade of a helicopter by the Austrian designer Doblhoff during the second world war and is now adopted by Fairey’s for their Jet Gyro dyne as well as by others. von Wright and G.E. (New York: Oxford University Press 1984). The Derek Jarman Film (London: bfi Publishing 1993). Malcolm. ma: mit Press 1993). Malcolm. preface to Eagleton and Jarman.H. 16–22. von Wright.O’C. Wittgenstein. 24.M. A Life: Young Ludwig 1889–1921 (London: Duckworth 1988). to Karl Kraus’s cultural conception of Judaism.) Monk also notes the reverberations of Wittgenstein’s thoughts on Jewishness with those of Hitler in Mein Kampf. 1976). ed.H. nos. Ludwig Wittgenstein.David Theodore 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 Norman Malcolm. note to page 32. “Excerpts from the Family Recollections” by Hermine Wittgenstein. Culture and Value. Wittgenstein. Colin MacCabe. as opposed. Ibid. G. say. Blue and Brown Books. M. For some recent speculation on the importance of the Hitler309 . 6. Essays on Wittgenstein in Honour of G. 3. The Architecture of Ludwig Wittgenstein: A Documentation (New York: New York University Press 1976). 92. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein. 18.

and that makes it possible to personify time. 40. Culture and Value. Eagleton and Jarman. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein. von Wright. Culture and Value. and obstinacy. 22. 74. In this essay Jones develops Freud’s characterization of Analerotik Charakter in three categories very characteristic of Wittgenstein: orderliness. Culture and Value. 234–5. 5. Wijdeveld. Monk. Wittgenstein. Uncovering the Secret Connection that Changed the Course of History (London: Century 1998). Wittgenstein. 42. Cornish’s book The Jew of Linz is based on a group photo purportedly including both young Hitler and young Wittgenstein. The Jew of Linz: Hitler and Wittgenstein. rev. Ernest Jones. is no less amazing than if we had made gods of the logical constants” (Wittgenstein. Malcolm. 119. Malcolm. Ibid. Frank Ramsey. Monk. Wijdeveld. 664–88. Monk. Wijdeveld. “Last Papers. 30. Wittgenstein. Basil Reeve. Ludwig Wittgenstein. 238. Wittgenstein. Culture and Value.. 28. 7. 69–70. . see Kimberley Cornish.H. G.” in The Foundations of Mathematics (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul 1931). 25. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Wittgenstein’s Vienna (New York: Simon and Schuster 1973).. 22).The Exemplary Life of an Architect 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 310 Wittgenstein link. Papers on Psycho-Analysis. Ibid. “The power language has to make everything the same. Wijdeveld.. Wittgenstein. Monk. which shows most bluntly in the dictionary. 193. Ludwig Wittgenstein. 65. 94. Wittgenstein. 11. parsimony. Wittgenstein. 38. Wittgenstein. 27. 251. quoted in Monk. A Portrait of Wittgenstein as a Young Man from the Diary of David Hume Pinsent 1912–1914 (London: Basil Blackwell 1990). Ibid. (New York: Wood 1919). 182. Wittgenstein. Allan Janik and Stephen Toulmin. Wittgenstein. ed.

Hans Sluya and David G.hd. 53 Ibid. Based on D. Stern. 11–12. He especially liked the story “Rendezvous with Fear” by Norbert Davis.a. 79. Ludwig Wittgenstein. ed. H. nj: Rowman and Littlefield 1981). under the influence of Wittgenstein.s.A. 54 Jerry H.T. “Wittgenstein. that meaning existed in lived relationships between the knower and the known. ed. 28.P. 24. young men went about saying: ‘It’s absurd to say that 2 is a number – what else could it be?’”. New Jersey: Humanities Press 1996) that Wittgenstein believed metaphor was constitutive of reality.C. & so America will be the loser in the end” (ibid. Lee (Chicago: University of Chicago Press 1980). George Pitcher (New York: Anchor Books 1966).. When these stories became difficult to get during World War II. 61 Guy Davenport.. 32. 58 Malcolm. won’t give us detective mags we can’t give them philosophy. Fania Pascal. 62 Ibid.” Philosophy 54 (1979): 211–20. 56 On the importance of these notes and miscellaneous materials to the understanding of Wittgenstein’s philosophy. 52 Wittgenstein. he wrote. 311 . 59 Ibid. see “A Personal Memoir. “If the u. “Ludwig Wittgenstein.” The Cambridge Guide to Wittgenstein.” The Australian Journal of Philosophy 29 (1951): 234–48.no/wab/. “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Later Philosophy. Wittgenstein. who taught him Russian. “The Availability of Wittgenstein’s Philosophy.P.” in The Geography of the Imagination (San Francisco: North Point Press 1981). Culture and Value. Gill argues in Wittgenstein and Metaphor (rev.D. Ludwig Wittgenstein. Gasking and A. ed. 30. 1931] when. “Wittgenstein 1921–1931. Wittgenstein.. A Collection of Critical Essays. 87. Wittgenstein‘s Lectures.” in Wittgenstein The Philosophical Investigations. and H. Stern (New York: Cambridge University Press 1996). 24–5.David Theodore 50 Wijdeveld. ed.D.uib.. 57 The importance of Wittgenstein’s confessional style is explored in Stanley Cavell. Wittgenstein’s Nachlass is being released electronically by the Wittgenstein archive at the University of Bergen: see http://www. Lee. 51 Malcolm. recalled that “This was the time [c. see David G. ed.” Ludwig Wittgenstein: Personal Recollections. Rush Rhees (Totowa. Jackson. 55 Wittgenstein. 195. 97). 60 Wijdeveld. 151–85. 335. Cambridge 1930–1932: From the Notes of John King and Desmond Lee. Culture and Value. 442–76.

who. Wittgenstein. 65 Wittgenstein.. Deconstruction. Monk notes (passim) that it is possible to argue that all these relationships were unconsummated sexually. 312 . in his chapter on Wittgenstein in Interpreting Environments: Tradition. 46. Hermeneutics (Austin. 66 Ibid. 69. 67 This irony seems to have escaped Robert Mugerauer. declares that “Wittgenstein shows us that we can be at home while remaining unsettled and that a house is a monument to the activity of building” (22). Culture and Value. 64 Malcolm. 53.The Exemplary Life of an Architect 63 Monk provides standard accounts of Wittgenstein’s sexual relationships. tx: University of Texas Press 1995).

Ranelagh Gardens and the Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade Dorian Yurchuk Chora .

Bartolozzi-Cipriani.A Ranelagh masquerade ticket.2 314 . The game was popular in Saint James’s Park in London and gave its name to the street called Pall Mall. a precursor of modern croquet.i In this ancient game a round boxwood ball was struck with a mallet and sent through a ring elevated on a pole that stood at the end of an alley. a stick with a mallet at one end used for playing the French game palemaille. we get the name of a device called a pallamaglio. 1776 f ro m t h e o l d h i g h g e r m a n word palla (a ball) and the Latin malleus (a hammer).

”6 The fact that people were willing to pay to see Ranelagh even before it was finished attests to its uniqueness in both form and concept. rather than a craftsman. totally removed from the residential and commercial fabrics of cities. although today they are increasingly occurring outside these areas. The building is not yet finished. former architect for the East India Company. an internal diameter of 150 feet (46 metres). Walpole wrote to Mann.7 and a circumference of 555 feet (169 metres). in the apprenticeship rolls. but they get great sums by people going to see it and breakfasting in the house. It remained in operation until 8 July 1803. shaded public walk. The project had received so much publicity that an overwhelming number of people came to visit the site and began to interfere with construction. This was a pleasure garden devoted to the passive and active aspects of assembly: an arena for the activity of exhibiting oneself and beholding others. The rotunda at Ranelagh was raised and finished under the “immediate inspection” of Mr William Jones. It also suggests that the demand for entertainment in eighteenth-century London was outpacing its supply.4 Financing for this amphitheatrical structure in what came to be known as Ranelagh Gardens came from thirtysix subscribers who purchased one-thousand-pound shares. Some malls were located in the hearts of communities and in political centres. the rotunda stood with an external diameter of 185 feet (56 metres). “I have been breakfasting this morning at Ranelagh Garden. the underlying concept has not changed.8 There were fifty-two boxes in the 315 . When completed. I will look into the possibilities of similar interaction in our ever more virtual society. this essay will centre on the facilities and activities of an eighteenth-century London institution called Ranelagh Gardens.3 His building was ready for public reception in the year 1740. there were yesterday no less than three hundred and eighty persons. no one at all was admitted. and on Sundays. After examining the various devices employed to these ends. was perhaps the first British architect to be listed as an architect. a celebratory act of mutual affirmation. Malls continue to provide an opportunity for ostentation and observation in a constructed environment. A shilling admission charge was then instituted. Jones. 5 On 22 April 1742.Dorian Yurchuk Soon the word “mall” became a general term for a level. With such issues in mind. While the term “mall” has recently acquired a more commercial connotation. at eighteen pence apiece. when all the rowdy apprentices had a day off.

each with benches and a table inside. 1743 Bottom: Inside view of the Rotunda with the Company at Breakfast (1751) interior arcade of the rotunda.Top:The Rotunda at Ranelagh. and around its extremity was a rainbow. When the two tiers of boxes did not suffice to accommodate the crowds. Lydia Melford. according to Tobias Smollet’s character.9 The ceiling was painted an olive colour.”10 316 . that emulate the noon-day sun. in two circles. The space was. additional tables were placed in various parts of the rotunda. Twenty chandeliers descended from the ceiling. “enlightened with a thousand golden lamps.

for the most part. architecture having the same effect on the eye as music on the ear. it was well within reach of the middle classes. According to the guidebook just mentioned. Ranelagh consisted also of formal gardens. In addition to Ranelagh’s sights and sounds. Within the Circuit of Twenty-five Miles: Describing Whatever is remarkable. the mind is absorbed in an extacy.15 During intermissions people could stroll in the illuminated gardens to the sounds of horns and clarinets. The season would start in April and end in July. food and drink. the concerts usually ended around ten o’clock.17 It became fashionable to arrive at Ranelagh at about eleven or twelve 317 . all at once. as well as to dancing and even more intimate touching. Use. The Stranger’s Companion in a Tour round London. or. a place of summer amusements. Evening concerts commenced at half-past six or at seven o’clock. Ranelagh was.” Those who chose to visit Ranelagh Gardens would travel either by boat or by coach to a district in Chelsea. and a canal with an island. Elegancy. a guide book of 1782. or Curiosity: Not only of Use to Strangers. before the families of distinction usually left London to reside in the country. compares the sensation of entering the illuminated rotunda for the first time to “hearing suddenly a fine concert. Although the fee was too high for poorer people. followed by a public breakfast that was included in the price of admission.”12 This comparison of architecture and music shows that being at Ranelagh was a thoroughly sensual experience.13 Besides the Rotunda. gravel walks. All the body’s senses were stimulated.16 After the musicians had played several pieces of music and sung several songs.14 Concerts were given in the morning. and the harmonious distinction of the several pieces. Upon arriving at Ranelagh House they would pay an admittance fee and proceed to the gardens through the residence. Then doth the masterly disposition of the architect.”11 The Ambulator. appear to the greatest advantage. as if formed from the very substance of light. a circular Temple of Pan. the proportion of the parts. The amphitheatre itself was reflected in a “bason” with a fountain at its centre.Dorian Yurchuk “When all these lamps are lighted … all parts shine with a resplendency. one was exposed to perfumes and sweat. but the Inhabitants of this Capitol. the most minute part by this effulgence lying open to the inspection. Collected by a Gentleman for his private Amusement. either for Grandeur. whose full title is The Ambulator. just outside London. The mind had plenty of cause to be “absorbed in extacy.

25 Occasionally audience members took to the stage themselves.” An illustration by William Newton portrays the interior of the rotunda framed as if it were a stage set. and theatron.”21 Yet there was more to Ranelagh than dancing. crowding.”22 Webster provides the following etymology: the Greek amphitheatron comes from amphi.23 That is an apt description of what went on at Ranelagh: people came to “look about” as well as to be “looked upon by all around.27 Aspinwall writes that the amusement of Ranelagh “is to walk round the room & to see and be seen. the shape of the rotunda forced all to participate.24 Like Ranelagh. about. The so-called “beaus” and “dandies” would amuse themselves and other concert-goers by taking off their wigs and combing them during a performance. and food.20 On other nights the company would go outdoors to watch fireworks.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade o’clock at night. Members of the audience performed as much as the actors on stage. The dancers continued on into the night. from theasthai. and staring. each with a band of musicians from the orchestra. as long as they thought proper.”19 When the entertainments were over.26 At Ranelagh the whole space was a stage. in an eternal circle.”28 The Ambulator adds that “it is at once exercise and entertainment. in riots such as those in Drury Lane and Covent Gardens theatres. an hour after the concert had finished. when the Sun is about two hours high – but few ladies of the Town there. When William Jones completed the rotunda in 1741 it was referred to as “the amphitheatre. to see or look. drinking. Horace Walpole writes that to this “vast amphitheatre” came everybody who loves eating. balls were given there. At least fifteen hundred well dress’d and genteel women were in the room at that time and as many men … The time of leaving this fashionable place is from three to six o clock in the mornings. indicating its similarity to theatres of the time. There were two sets of company dancing almost every night.18 American John Aspinwall noted in his diary that he “got there @ 10 o clock but as that was too early not much company … @ about twelve o clock the company became more numerous. After one such pyrotechnic display Aspinwall returned to the rotunda: “@ two o clock in the morning the place was most throng’d. like so many blind asses 318 . conventional theatres in the eighteenth century were forms for mutual observation and active participation.”29 Smollet’s character Matthew Bramble has a different opinion of this arrangement: “One half of the company are following one another’s tails. fireworks.

It was invented. Also. it is hardly surprising that people would pay money to visit lavish assembly spaces located amidst clean. In that case. and theatres. alcoholism had become a serious problem. small assembly rooms offered subscriptions for such activities to the middle classes. in a London climate. totally removed from the fabric of London. Usually malls created for the purpose of promenading took the form of a long. the architect set up a far more efficient system: an endless mall. each of which could also be an event in and of itself. poor people drank so much of it that they had to steal in order to support their habits. The circular plan allows for unlimited promenading and provides maximum opportunity for mutual observation. was quite attractive to the inhabitants of this physically and socially dilapidated city. Hogarth comments on the social implications of inebriation in his prints Beer Street and Gin Lane. Fielding explains that although gin was inexpensive. the eighteenth-century London social scene was ripe for commercialization. dead drunk for tuppence. often resulting from a path connecting two destinations. idyllic gardens in the nearby countryside. Ranelagh Gardens operates in this sensual mode. linear walkway. The promenaders could choose either to participate in that event or to turn around and walk back in the other direction. At first. In January 1751 Fielding writes of “a new kind of drunkenness. In Gin Lane both the social and the physical fabric of the city crumble as a result of people’s addiction to gin.Dorian Yurchuk in an olive mill. The first consists of social and physical interaction among human beings.”31 The availability of cheap gin resulted in much crime. With such conditions existing within the City of London. In Ranelagh. Among other social ills. efficiently and equally meting out melody in all directions. The second mode is one of withdrawal into oneself.32 319 . unknown to our ancestors … drunk for a penny. of dulling one’s senses.”30 The reference by critics to asses and horses in a mill underscores the machine-like qualities of Ranelagh. people would wander back and forth between those anchoring destinations. quiet. regardless of the weather and time of day. All this would take place around a centrally located orchestra. The place did not just occur. Such a closed system. The homes of the new leisure-hungry middle class were much too small to accommodate fashionable activities such as private parties. orchestral concerts. and with a very specific purpose in mind: to facilitate the patrons’ ambulating and ogling.

The gentlemen who sat in the boxes of the Ranelagh rotunda also paid for bleacher seats at executions. unattended. For a small fee the average Londoner could immerse himself in a different world. One could just decide to go. with participation requiring admission fees to individual events. cheesecake. as it was more popularly known. This mass demand for leisure was spawned. I found a hundred people at least. nuts. by the onset of cheaper books. King George II’s Swiss master of revels.”35 Another favourite diversion was attending executions. Inmates’ poetry was sold like a theatre program. was a notorious hospital for mental patients. John James (Count) Heidegger. who.33 These luxuriously designed. were suffered. in part.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade As “culture” increasingly “seeped through” the ranks. accessible exclusively to the aristocracy. making sport and diversion of the miserable inhabitants. well-dressed decoys were sent to walk along the Mall at St James’s Street. peo320 . proclaiming loudly from time to time what charming weather it was for going to Ranelagh. Ranelagh and similar venues such as Vauxhall offered the middle class a close-up glimpse of the aristocracy. Other institutions satisfied more esoteric curiosity.36 While the point of public executions was to deter people from crime. The public amusement park was born. Besides engaging in the spectator sport of lunatic-watching. and beer from the guards. or Bedlam. easily purchased documents promised their bearers entry into whole new worlds. complete with ornate landscaping and architectural follies. For a half-penny one could also rent spy-glasses for a better view of the mounted heads. even at the spur of the moment. In fact.34 No longer were fancy gardens. the more expensive the seat. It was visited by so many people that the operators of Bedlam. Soon it was a fullfledged place of entertainment. made masquerading a profit-making capitalist venture in London when he invented the masquerade ticket. A writer in the 1753 World commented on a visit to Bethlehem Hospital: “It was in the Easter week. began to charge an admission fee to look at the inmates. Bethlehem Hospital. these spectacles also satisfied a growing thirst for public entertainment. With primers such as Harris’s Lexicon Technicum. just like the construction crew at Ranelagh. the visitors could purchase fruit. when to my great surprise. to run rioting up and down the wards. having paid their two-pence apiece. much more efficient entertainment “machines” such as the Ranelagh rotunda were born. encouraging spontaneous visits to the pleasure garden. The more notorious the criminal.

commercial leisure venues such as Ranelagh were marketed through the newspapers. The masqueraders would superimpose new bodies over their old ones. a means of communication. For those who wished only to obscure. It fluctuated between “nonbeing” and “becoming. which published not only advertisements for events but also criticism and gossip columns about them. carnival represented 321 .” Castle draws a comparison between disguise and lying.38 To understand the newsworthiness of masquerading. “to disguise” is “to conceal by an unusual habit or mask.Dorian Yurchuk ple were able to educate themselves in their free time and pull themselves up the social ladder. Its conventional symbols can establish a connection between identity and the trappings of identity.44 The domino. to alter the form of. to hide by a counterfeit appearance. it is necessary to examine the implications of attire in the eighteenth century. a neutral costume of Venetian origin. The “self” and the “other” would become merged in time and space. and age of the wearer. to cause an incorrect impression.”41 Similarly.43 It consisted of a black hooded cloak with nondescript mask that erased the identity.40 By Webster’s definition.”42 A lie verbally subverts a generally accepted “truth. In the days of Ranelagh Gardens one would obscure oneself by employing a mask or a disguise. while negating the form of the wearer.”45 The other option for revellers wishing to participate in the masquerade ritual was not only to obscure but also to confuse the appearance of the self. to present a misleading appearance. was also an emblem of potentiality. This was accomplished through impersonation. “to lie” is “to deceive and disappoint confidence.39 Masquerades amount to transgressions against the sartorial social contract through “playfully or criminally inappropriate dress. For the duration of the masquerade the second identity became an extension of the body. like language.” and a disguise alters one’s prescribed personal appearance. mask as medium Clothing can be a collection of signs.46 The choice of characters one could assume was quite extensive. gender.37 Newspapers printed “masquerade intelligence” stories alongside articles about troop movements and parliamentary matters. Traditionally. with only one underlying requirement: that one’s actual position in life be not just altered but contradicted outright. there was the domino. Later.

” In this mundus inversus. Yet they practice all day what they seem to despise.50 Although a mask portrayed what the wearer was not. on the other hand. the Latin word for “mask” (from personare – to sound through).” derives from persona. A writer in the Universal Spectator of 1792 notes that “Everyone here wears a Habit which speaks him the Revers of what he is. Saturnalia temporarily replaced the present with Saturn’s golden age on earth.” A correspondent at the Guardian saw “women changed into men. gods or goddesses. social.47 This aspect of the medieval carnival was evident in the eighteenth-century masquerade. Celebrations sponsored by the Church or the state sanctioned the existing pattern of things.”54 In the eighteenth century the persona assigned to a person depended on his or her socioeconomic standing. One ought to be able to distinguish a bishop from a politician or a dockworker. Established conventions dictated which image was appropriate for various classes of people. reinforcing inequality. People who dressed as themselves were not admitted to the masquerades.”48 The relationship between the face and its mask was expected to be ironic.”51 In his poem “The Masquerade. and young ladies came “trouser’d. Carnivals.52 The very word “person. Duchesses dressed as milkmaids. it often portrayed what the wearer would like to be. sexual. In the Middle Ages.” Fielding muses that revellers “masque the face … t’unmasque the mind. and the world is a ball. footmen as kings.” In an “Essay on Masquerades” in a 1777 issue of Lady’s Magazine. men into women … ladies of the night into saints. people of the first quality into beasts or birds. writes in Spectator 14 that at masquerades “People dress themselves in what they have a Mind to be.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade opposition. carnivals opposed the seriousness of medieval ecclesiastical and feudal culture. In ancient Rome.53 This suggests that a “person” is always role-acting. masquerades are described as events where people divest themselves of the “borrowed feathers” of social appearances and reveal their true natures. even scandalous.49 This self-alienation was practically obligatory. and metaphysical hierarchies were reversed. Each mortal’s disguis’d. a contemporary of Ranelagh Gardens. a cathedral should 322 . provided temporary liberation from the established hierarchies. as well as for various types of institutions. Addison. In 1749 John Beard sang at Ranelagh: “Tho’ our revels are scorn’d by the grave and the wise. Likewise. Examine mankind from the great to the small. and not what they are fit for.” though defined by Webster as “an individual human being consisting of body and soul.

a History of the Black Art. and even one’s aspirations. There must be privileged points.” at any given moment or place. It cannot. It is these norms that masquerades sought to question. and Mardi Gras.” During festivals. in spite of the calendar. The ritual of masquerade allows a person to temporarily escape his persona and inhabit a different “self.59 The masquerade also has mythological roots.Dorian Yurchuk be distinguishable from a government building or a private dwelling. borders.61 And yet. having been created in illo tempore by a god or ancestor. that is to say that the decoration of buildings should not be arbitrary but must always be in relation to the rank and quality of those who live in them and conform to the objective envisaged. Writing about architecture. the operators of Ranelagh wished to operate this amusement park almost every night. or. Traditionally. Marc-Antoine Laugier refers to this “appropriateness” as bienséance.”60 Paradise. carnivals were held in profane spaces such as town squares and streets. one’s behaviour. which means “propriety” or “decency. and thresholds in time as well as in space. however.62 Others were held in association with coronations and royal birthdays.”58 Every ritual has “extrahuman” origins. Like a theatre.”55 According to bienséance.56 These norms pervaded eighteenth-century life. Rykwert identifies one of the conditions for collective sensorum to function: group action requires repetition. and this repetition must be rhythmic. primordial time. before society had a “meed of dialectic. is not attainable “on demand. like a church.57 Castle proposes that saturnalian rituals such as masquerade try to restore a time before classification. also began to occur for their own sake. was already removed from daily activity but did not fully engage another realm until a ceremony would take place. Midsummer’s Eve. masked and otherwise. “The Devil’s first Game. It served as an interim level that. 323 . however. Under the proper conditions a profane street could become host to illo tempore. a building should be “neither more nor less magnificent than is appropriate to its purpose. which he in Eden play’d … when he harangu’d to Eve in Masquerade. dictating one’s appearance. people living in profane time may access illo tempore. Defoe explains in his 1727 System of Magick. which physically shuts out the rest of the city during a performance. be daily and continuous. Some of the masquerades coincided with traditional carnival dates such as May Day.63 But assemblies. a different. church feasts. Ranelagh Gardens also needed to be separate from London. of masters and slaves.

Hogarth comments on fashion by categorizing period wigs “architectonically” . “The Five Orders” (1761).William Hogarth.

embracing. Another period costume was that of a woman.64 However. and the other half of the face painted white. etc. even though the reveller’s own “personal sphere of influence” may have been partially erased. which began within the space of the mask itself.Dorian Yurchuk For eighteenth-century English masqueraders. house and gardens at Ranelagh (1751) . fondling. a person diminishes the “protective spatial bubble” that exists around individual human bodies in polite society. body and costume. he had begun to construct a new one. and spatially. A Methodist preacher was spotted walking around giving “very pathetic lectures to the ladies. half young and half old. Period writings began to refer to the revellers simply as “masks. Castle claims that by wearing a disguise. illo tempore may also be described as a parallel time and space of desire. creating a dialogue within the costume itself.”66 The word was used to designate the whole ensemble: person and persona. with the word “plaintiff” written on it. spiritually. impromptu dancing.” meaning that people would act as well as look like the character whose being they had assumed. not content with the dialectic between “self” and “other.65 Therefore. Some people. One costume on a law theme consisted of half of a face painted black. This allows for behaviour previously unthinkable among strangers in public: touching.” took on two roles. with the word “defendant” on it.” to everybody’s amusement. He then could be said to inhabit the mask of his appropriated character literally. Castle also mentions that costumes were often “supported. Hermaphroditic disguises were also popular. The revellers inhabited their masks.67 Rotunda.

Addison complains in Spectator 14. for the most part. and punch. Behaviour in general was much freer at Ranelagh masquerades than at any other event attended by members of both sexes.69 When wearing masks. In the ridottos. women were using the “pert Stile of the Pit Bawdry. and the like had been the sole privilege of men.”75 Encouraged by burgundy and champagne. but at the masquerades.”76 326 . loud joking. violence (carnage). On the other hand. and cyder” at the rotunda. those who were assumed to be virtuous could engage in otherwise unacceptable behaviour without besmirching their good names.” This liberty stemmed from the use of the mask as an “involvement shield … a portable bodily accessory” that would protect the wearer’s identity from the judging eyes of others. carne. a Ranelagh masquerader then would try to gain entry into someone else’s identity.71 The first ingredient.” and “I am sure you don’t. Walpole describes how he “took the English liberty of teasing whomever I pleased. in Humphrey Clinker. Cursing. the revellers also sought the realm of the tangible. It was directed at neighbours or figures of authority and came from women as well as from men. A ritual exchange of words would occur between masks: “Do you know me?” or “I know you. Besides attempting to conquer identities. “Amazon like. obscenities.72 Violence at Ranelagh. Matthew Bramble. both figuratively and literally. recalls seeing people “devouring sliced-beef.” even between strangers. bels pares.68 These exchanges indicate the simultaneous desires to defend one’s own anonymity and undermine that of others. food.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade Having occupied a mask. Their collective sense of increased liberty spawned a “new behavioural and bodily idiom. was definitely present at the Ranelagh assemblies.”73 Verbal aggression was tolerated at carnival time.74 Women especially were allowed to speak freely. suggests the underlying themes: eating (carnivorous). consisted of what the Weekly Journal called “absolute Freedom of Speech. but I do.” and “Yes. the lower class and those with tarnished reputations could pass for respectable citizens.70 The result was a celebratory atmosphere reminiscent of the ancient sensual tradition of carnival.” etc. and sex (carnal). and masquerades of Ranelagh Gardens the social structure of eighteenth-century England was suspended. attack their gallants. The root of the word. and swilling port. “Nymphs in loose and antick robes” and forward young ladies with “cocked hat and masculine air” would.

I mean Shame. In London few institutions (other than the Church) could be frequented by unescorted.77 MASQUERADES Masquerades were especially liberating for women.Dorian Yurchuk Elizabeth Chudleigh’s infamous 1749 appearance at Ranelagh.78 327 . social restraints such as sexual segregation were removed. encouraging female emancipation. Other women kept their disguises (and reputations) intact Sexual freedom was perhaps the most popular aspect of the eighteenthcentury London masquerade. In fact. As the Bishop of London explained in 1725. may be committed in Word or Deed.” With masks and disguises protecting the reputations of middle. whatever Luxury. no one’s Character is responsible for it. which keeps multitudes of Sinners within the Bounds of Decency. or Extravagance. no one’s Reputation is at Stake. the freedoms grew so extensive that soon many assumed any woman attending a masquerade to be a whore. … deprive Virtue and Religion of their last Refuge. respectable females.” This was “wonderfully contriv’d for the Advancement of Cuckoldom. Immodesty.and upper-class women. who are obliged to quit them upon their first Entrance. Addison writes in Spectator 8 that “The Women either come by themselves or are introduced by Friends. after they have broken all the Ties of Principle and Conscience … and whatever Lewdness may be concerted.

an extensive technical manual on the “whole art of hairdressing. When a movement was begun to make masked assemblies illegal.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade Reputation was of utmost importance in the days of Ranelagh Gardens. Gin Lane (1750). Stewart cautions against vanity. “Great care should be taken to be always dressed like the reasonable people of our William Hogarth.”79 Although the mask was utilized to exploit people’s morals and bodies in all sorts of commercial and noncommercial ways. soul. proper Care will be taken to oblige them to shew their Faces. the proposed punishment for improprieties or crimes committed while in costume was unmasking: “And.82 According to him. Plocacosmos. and then their Names. Although the young Irish beauty Maria Cummings died from consumption as a result of using white lead as a cosmetic. and society 328 .81 He mentions an ancient belief that hair is an excrement of the human body. there was another aspect of personal artifice in eighteenth-century England. tho’ they may imagine themselves conceal’d by being mask’d. and Places of Abode … printed and posted up in all public Places in London and Westminster.80 professionals in the make-up and hairdressing business were concerned with the physical and moral wellbeing of the public. After instructing the reader on the techniques of beauty. “dress” is a foolish thing. The suicide of the barber (upper right corner) symbolizes the corruption of body. however.” An extraordinary amount of labour went into the preparation of hair in the days of Ranelagh. and yet it is a very foolish thing for a man not to be well dressed. In 1782 James Stewart published Plocacosmos. is devoted mainly to morals.

”87 In such circumstances it became almost impossible. There a barber has hanged himself because he had no work. Nevertheless. were glad to escape the decorum required of them at every turn and did not mind the presence of riffraff at their gatherings. to “distinguish. Hogarth depicts the converse of this idea in Gin Lane. Horace Walpole provides evidence that the aristocracy enjoyed this temporary levelling: “The King was well disguised in an old-fashioned English habit. in the place we are.86 A 1784 edition of the European Magazine criticized Ranelagh Gardens: “All sorts of people are frequently confounded or melted down into one glaring mass of superfluity or absurdity. in the words of Matthew Bramble. hoping that a “degree of politeness” would diffuse itself throughout the several orders of participants.”88 and yet. Only the lowest end of the London social gamut was missing from the festivities at the gardens.84 For his clientele. The lower classes are entirely lost in a general propensity to mimic the finery of the higher. since they are too busy destroying themselves with gin. nor be distinguished. was being subverted. the new wealthy classes imbued themselves with supposed importance.” We should despise dress. and much pleased with somebody who desired him to hold their cup as they were drinking tea. Laugier stresses that the job of the architect is “knowing well what is fitting to each person … the facades of houses must not be left to the whims of private persons. In fact. The public advertisements promised that only people of the highest quality would be admitted to the festivities. like eighteenth-century women.Dorian Yurchuk own age. 329 .”89 By embellishing their habits and habitats. This is not to say that the proprietors of Ranelagh did not try to maintain a reputation of elitism. sartorial as well as architectural. either despite the presence of the “inferiors” or perhaps because of it. the riffraff mingled freely with the fashionable classes. distinction was crucial to the eighteenth century. but not show the fact that we despise it. Henry Fielding felt that some coincidence of ceremonial space might actually be a good thing. Order. hairdressing is not a priority. “Ladies and Gentlemen of Quality” came en masse.”85 Royalty. they sought out such entertainment.83 The underlying message is that the upkeep of one’s appearance is closely tied to one’s physical and spiritual wellbeing.

Night.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade By mingling with people of other social classes. thereby opening them up for comment. Day. and the antics of Bedlam inmates. the castrati genre of singing rose to popularity. theatrical personalities. dark races on the light. This created a new set of surprises. Ideas were drawn from engravings. a butterfly and a 330 . The human voice could reveal at least one’s gender. International costumes often made the place seem like a utopian “Congress of Nations. book illustration. the unfamiliar. they criticized the sartorial code of the time.97 The revellers seemed to strive for absurdity. Temperance. the clientele of Ranelagh Gardens suspended the rules and regulations of the eighteenthcentury London social hierarchy. if not one’s actual identity.” A geographic fluidity resulted: the exotic was superposed on the indigenous.95 The general mélange of the masked ball was heightened through the constant introduction of new costumes. etc. adding to the overall aura of danger and excitement. capitalizing on the general confusion that granted heretofore unknown liberty to them.93 Props were constructed to add to this sense of exotica.92 Cultural and national identities were also mingled. Having concealed all other vestiges of identity. By dressing unlike themselves. there still remained the sound of one’s voice.96 Emblematic figures such as Fortune. Yet.” In 1740 a correspondent for the Daily Advertiser refers to the scene as “This Piece of ridiculous.90 This confusion was pursued consciously by the maskers. The clientele at Ranelagh seemed to have a penchant for the foreign. The London homosexual population regularly attended Ranelagh masquerades.”91 Amidst all this mystification of gender. Nary a paradigm would be left unrecombined after a night of masked assembly at Ranelagh. A writer in the Weekly Journal in 1724 describes the result: “The first Noise which strikes your Ears upon your entering the Room is a loud confused Squeak.94 Its identity seemed less important than the “fantasy and inconsequence” it added to the masquerades. The Weekly Journal reported various “impossible pairings”: a lion and a shepherdess. so the revelers attempted to disguise their voices in various ways. Many costumes obscured their wearer’s gender. these are hardly the only conventions that the Raneleans shattered in their holy quest for chaos. the North on the South. and Liberty were discovered in works such as Ripa’s Iconologia. squeaking Nonsense. paintings. producers on the consumers. the Oriental on the European. One such structure was called alternately a Chinese pagoda and a Venetian pavilion.

London experienced earthquakes in February and March of 1750. from the reverse panopticon of the television studio to the a-centric Internet.98 In this phantasmic world. characters were released from perspectival and chronological hierarchies. The resulting stream juxtaposes scenes of cooking of fowl with the live birth delivery of human quintuplets.101 medium as mask While Ranelagh Gardens is no more. They even tampered with the very mechanics of the universe by altering the cycle of night and day: they slept in the daytime and revelled from dusk until dawn.Masquerade scene with unholy liaisons prize-fighter. several people from anywhere in the world may take part in chaotic conversational 331 . scenes of nature with supernature. other species. a Presbyterian parson and a nun. and other dimensions.” On the Web. Modern communication technology. and the historical danced with the fictional. Entities from various eras mingled with members of other lands. has assumed the role of “masquerade. The recombinatory sensation in the chaotic eighteenth-century London masquerades may be evident in the more recent phenomenon of channel surfing with a remote control. a Devil and a Quaker. a cardinal and a milkmaid. soon after Ranelagh opened. Castle likens this revocation of cosmos to a “metaphysical shockwave.100 The Church wasted no time in singling out masquerades and pleasure gardens as scapegoats for the earthquakes. etc. disruptive behaviour abounds in our modern everyday life.”99 It did not take long for some Londoners to associate this blatantly disruptive behaviour with certain natural disasters of the day. scenes of pornography with televangelism.

The attack on Dr John Hill at Ranelagh (1752): an actual (as opposed to a “virtual”) encounter .

The crucial difference lies in the scope of one’s potential actions. On the other hand. Chatters inquire about each other’s sex. and wellbehaved citizens as foul-mouthed deviants.”102 Therefore. in a colour of the writer’s choice and with whatever photographs or icons the writer wishes to include. attached to the pseudonyms. As in real life. Sometimes a conversation starts up between participants. be from anywhere. 333 . for at Ranelagh the threat of bodily pain was a factor in one’s decision making. If our minds are to be absorbed in the type of “extacy” described by the Ambulator. Chats take place in virtual “rooms” that the participants select by topic and language. is exactly what is missing from cyberspace. age. the body always emerges intact. the friction between mediated action and its environment that imbues the situations with excitement. they choose the ones to which they wish to respond. In a chat room all are equal.Dorian Yurchuk “chat” events. Fourteen-year-olds may pose as adults. One such site is aptly named Masquerade. all of our senses must be stimulated. Participants may reveal as much or as little about themselves as they wish. The messages appear. While one risks moral corruption in a chat room. mediates personal space within a physical building. however. most are available to the general computerized public. the online masquerade is more liberating than the one at Ranelagh. It is the contrast. these events faithfully replicate many characteristics of the masquerade phenomenon. Ranelagh allowed for an act to develop from a moral stage to a physical one. Indeed. This excitement. much of the dialogue consists of questions. As these messages scroll down the participants’ respective screens. the chat room does not offer the reward of bodily pleasure. in virtual reality one is always “becoming” and never actually achieving a state of being. And all are anonymous. One of Webster’s definitions for the word “virtual” is “potential. and say anything. The internet’s masquerades and the eighteenth-century ones both mediate between people. this tension. anyone else who is present may eavesdrop and interject. While some services charge a membership fee for chats. women as men. one may transcend one’s inhibitions and act with impunity. the masquerader is ready to plunge into a stream of text. regardless of the offers of “live” sex for ninety-nine cents a minute. and geographic location. In a way. A chatter may become anyone. As with masquerades. As with the Ranelagh masquerades. Participants type and send messages that appear one after another as they are received by the central computer hosting the chat. A Ranelagh masquerade. After choosing a pseudonym.

dc: aia Press 1991). The Expedition of Humphrey Clinker (1771). and professional instruction in return for five to seven years of labour. 8 Warwick Wroth. 10 Tobias George Smollet. 1205. Collected by a Gentleman for his private Amusement (London: J. Architectural Drawings of the Regency Period 1770–1837 (Washington. Both apprentices and articled students received board. 201. Bew 1782). or Curiosity: Not only of Use to Strangers. 19. 7 The Ambulator. 13 Sands. Elegancy. London Past and Present. either for Grandeur. notes 1 Walter W. perhaps a combination of actual and mediated space is in some way essential for our survival. 158. 11 Ambulator. Webster’s Universities Dictionary Unabridged (New York: Library Guild 1940). The Concise Dictionary of English Etymology (Hertfordshire. The London Pleasure Gardens of the Eighteenth Century (London: Macmillan 1896). Within the Circuit of Twenty-five Miles: Describing Whatever is remarkable. 158. 158. The Stranger’s Companion in a Tour round London. 334 .The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade That is not to say that there is no place for mediation in our lives. 148. but the Inhabitants of this Capitol. 3 (London: John Murphy 1891). The difference was that an articled student also paid the architect a premium (Jones received £50 from Jacob Leroux in 1753). Invitation to Ranelagh: 1742–1803 (London: J. lodging. ed. Wheatley. 33. The Wonderful Village (London: Mills and Boon 1918). 84. 4 Reginald Blunt. England: Wordsworth 1993). 87. Invitation to Ranelagh. James L. Skeat. 2. In an age of ideological. and environmental unrest. Thornson (New York: Norton 1983). Use. 5 Mollie Sands. while professional architects such as William Jones and those who followed him took articled students. or. 6 Henry B. 12 Ibid. Westhouse 1946). explains that craftsmen took on apprentices. epidemiological. 2 Noah Webster. 3 Giles Worsley. 267. 9 Ambulator. vol.

58. Terry Castle. Travels in Britain. 200.Dorian Yurchuk 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 Ambulator. ca: Stanford University Press 1986). Expedition of Humphrey Clinker. Apperson. Wroth. Wroth. Smollet. Sands. G. Invitation to Ranelagh. 206. Wroth. 158.L. Collins. 92. Beresford Chancellor. London Pleasure Gardens. ed. Greatgrandfather of Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Neil McKendrick. ed. Wroth. Invitation to Ranelagh. The Pleasure Haunts of London during Four Centuries (London: Constable 1925). 32. Invitation to Ranelagh. Castle. 204. Ibid.” Country Life (15 May 1986): 1380–4.. Ambulator. Giles Worsley. 984. Sands. The Birth of a Consumer Society: The Commercialization of Eighteenth-Century England (London: Europa 1982). with a Brief History of His Aspinwall Forebears. Birth of a Consumer Society. 11. 3. 157. 85. 158. 153. Sands. ed. 199. Bedlam (London: Michael Joseph 1977). Travels in Britain. Travels in Britain. Ambulator. “I Thought Myself in Paradise: Ranelagh Gardens and its Rotunda. Aileen Sutherland Collins (Virginia Beach: Parsons Press 1994). 282. Webster’s Universities Dictionary. 61. 158. 90. Blunt. Bygone London Life: Pictures from a Vanished Past (New York: James Pott 1904). 56. Webster’s Universities Dictionary. London Pleasure Gardens. 1794–1795: The Diary of John Aspinwall. Masquerade and Civilization. McKendrick. 47. 335 . Ibid. Ambulator. Anthony Masters. 92. E. Masquerade and Civilization: The Carnivalesque in Eighteenth-Century English Culture and Fiction (Stanford. London Pleasure Gardens. London Pleasure Gardens. 89. The Wonderful Village. 272. 55. 84. Collins.

Castle. Webster’s Universities Dictionary. Masquerade and Civilization. Castle. Rabelais and His World. Blunt. a bad Return for the Merciful Deliverance from the late Earthquakes (London: W. Smollet. 63. Ibid. Bakhtin. Invitation to Ranelagh. 64. at Ranelagh Gardens. Masquerade and Civilization. “The Purpose of Ceremonies. Owen 1750). 85. J. trans. Ibid. trans. Joseph Rykwert.. 10. 99.. Cosmos and History. Ibid. 4. 66. Mircea Eliade. 90. Mircea Eliade. Wolfgang and Anni Herrmann (Los Angeles: Hennessey & Ingalls 1977). Masquerade and Civilization. Masquerade and Civilization. 518. 21. 22. The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion. . or. trans.. Ibid.H. Sands. 44. 34. Douglas (London: Cassel 1975). Rabelais and His World. 77... Castle. Castle. The Wonderful Village. 4. Marc-Antoine Laugier.” Lotus 17 (1977): 57. 76. Willard Trask (New York: Harcourt. Masquerade and Civilization. Masquerade and Civilization. Willard Trask (Princeton: Princeton University Press 1954). Brace & World). 90. 50. Webster’s Universities Dictionary. Ibid. 85. 1251. The Myth of the Eternal Return. English-French Dictionary. Castle. Masquerade and Civilization. Castle. 37. Castle. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe (London: Temple Smith 1978). Cassel’s Compact French-English. Masquerade and Civilization.The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66 67 68 69 70 71 72 336 Ibid. 75. Castle. 6. 498.. Peter Burke. trans. 35. Masquerade and Civilization. Castle. Ibid.. ma: mit Press 1968). ed. Helene Iswolsky (Cambridge. Mikhail Bakhtin. Expedition of Humphrey Clinker. Jubilee Masquerade Balls. 28. 186. 73. Ibid.. 15. 8. An Essay on Architecture.

94 Ambulator. In a Letter from a Hottentot of Distinction. Blunt. The Wonderful Village. 97). 187. to his Friend at the Cape of Good Hope. Jubilee Masquerade Balls. 222. 99. now in London. 337 . 95 Sands. 82.” It is structured after the Christianity that had been practised in England at the time. Invitation to Ranelagh. start a new “religion. 88 Smollet. James Stewart. Masquerade and Civilization. 18. 100 Sands. 97 Castle. 85 Castle. Invitation to Ranelagh. Bedlam. 98. Castle.. 96 Masters. Burke. 51. 84.Dorian Yurchuk 73 74 75 76 77 78 79 80 81 Castle. together with a true Copy of their new Liturgy (London: W. 91 Ibid.. 98 Ibid. 54. Sands. 84. Plocacosmos. 163..” after finding the tenets of Christianity inadequate for their needs. Masquerade and Civilization. 87 Ibid. 1782). as Walpole put it. Jubilee Masquerade Balls. 172. “sacrificed to the idol earthquake” (Castle. 89 Laugier. 50. Masquerade and Civilization. 101 Masquerades were. 93 Ibid. Invitation to Ranelagh. 62. Masquerade and Civilization. Webb 1750). 33. 62. Castle. 9. 17. Invitation to Ranelagh. Containing the Reasons assigned by the Raneleans for abolishing Christianity. Masquerade and Civilization. Masquerade and Civilization. 3–21. 98.. 36. 90 Castle. 34. That same year a satirical pamphlet was published under the title The Ranelean Religion Displayed. 76. Essay on Architecture. 33. 82 Ibid. 83 Ibid. 86 Sands. Masquerade and Civilization. 92 Ibid. 99 Ibid. 28. or the Whole Art of Hair Dressing (London. 84 Burke. 68. Expedition of Humphrey Clinker. 34.. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe. The “Raneleans.. Popular Culture in Early Modern Europe.

The Recombinatory Utopia of Masquerade with “Pleasure.” “Riches.” and “Power” quite scandalously replacing the traditional Trinity. First they are called upon to punish anyone who might interfere with their hedonistic faith: “That it may please thee to darken and confound with Earthquakes. 1920. When the third quake did not materialize. and the Man of Pleasure forgeteth the Delight of his Soul. that Miracles are not ceas’d. In this pamphlet earthquakes are also invoked. Sands. 102 Webster’s Universities Dictionary. 55. Seven hundred and thirty coaches were counted passing Hyde Park Corner on their way out of town. people (and masquerades) returned to Ranelagh. a third was expected in April 1750. Ladies made themselves “earthquake gowns” for sitting up all night outdoors.” which was considered to be outside the range of the wrath of God.” Because the two earthquakes came exactly a month apart. even as with the Shock of an Earthquake. nor interrupt thy People with unseasonable Preaching in the Duties of this House. We beseech thee to hear us.” Elsewhere in the piece the Raneleans would have earthquakes inflicted upon themselves should they lapse in their pursuit of Pleasure: “When the wise man turneth away from his own Interest. 338 . Hundreds of people evacuated to the “innocent countryside. say unto thyself. that they may not be able to disturb thy Worship. and Deacons. Invitation to Ranelagh. and let the People fear and tremble. Priests. the Understandings of all Bishops.

About the Authors Chora .

in terms of mimesis and poiesis. Marc Glaudemans Marc Glaudemans studied at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.About the Authors Caroline Dionne At the age of six months. She cherishes her Bachelor of Architecture degree from Université Laval. From May to August 2000 he held a visiting scholarship at the Canadian Centre for Architecture in Montreal. Scrolls.1 (spring 2001): 27–51. from which he holds his doctorate. where he was working on conceptualizations of the Baroque. Michael Emerson Michael Emerson has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and has conducted his research in the History and Theory program at McGill University. Recent essays include “On the Monstrous and the Grotesque.” in Word & Image 16:3 (2000). He recently published his doctoral thesis. In the course of her graduate studies in the History and Theory of Architecture at McGill University. In general he is interested in the “broken” continuum of architecture. and “Surplus Matter: Of Scars. He is currently working on A Critical Dictionary for Architecture (forthcoming from Black Dog Press) and a study of the grotesque. Jonathan Hill (London: Routledge 2001). where he received his degree as an architect in 1994. entitled Amsterdam Arcadia: The Rediscovery of the Hinterland. She lives on Avenue de Chateaubriand. “On Some Spatial Aspects of the Colonial Discourse on Ireland” in The Journal of Architecture 6.” in Architecture: The Subject Is Matter. where he leads the final-year design studio and lectures in theory and historiography of architecture. Mark Dorrian Mark Dorrian teaches in the Department of Architecture of the University of Edinburgh. ed. His graduate studies were undertaken at iuav in Venice and at the Architectural Association in London. connections 340 . no. Caroline Dionne sailed across the Atlantic ocean twice. she has become obsessed with geometric ideas and is now working towards a phd on dimensionality in the work of Lewis Carroll. While the focus of his work is on the period of the sixteenth to eighteenth century. Skulls and Stealth. Her favourite questions are those for which there are more (or less) than one possible answer.

About the Authors to classical antiquity and to the present are investigated with a special emphasis on the relationship between city and country. Michel Moussette 341 . He is grateful for Melissa Grey’s assistance in surveying the Urbino studiolo and the Bogliasco Foundation’s support for the completion of this article through a fellowship and residency at the Liguria Study Centre. Postdoctoral research is anticipated dealing with the notion of architectural geography. the Eye. George L. He has taught design studios at the University of Pennsylvania and Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science. She has taught architectural design in both New Zealand and the United States. The present essay will appear as part of a forthcoming book. Currently a doctoral candidate at McGill University. who is now retired. Bogliasco. march 1990). Michel Moussette After realizing at a relatively young age that it would be a herculean task to isolate a simple formula explaining the entire universe. Euclidean Processions: A Look at Art. ny. Kirkbride lives in New York. Italy (fall 1999). taught the history of art and architecture at Yale University for thirty-seven years. an analysis of territory and territorial space as expression of worldview in different cultures. He is the author of thirteen books. and the Brain. among them Pythagorean Palaces: Architecture and Magic in the Italian Renaissance (1976) and The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture (1988). Kirkbride is the founder and principal of the architectural studio Elaboratory and design director for the furniture company Studiolo. Hersey George Hersey. Robert Kirkbride Robert Kirkbride was born in Philadelphia and attended the University of Pennsylvania (ba 1988. She received a Bachelor of Architecture from Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand in 1992 and a master’s degree from the History and Theory program at McGill University in 1995. Joanna Merwood Joanna Merwood is completing a doctoral dissertation entitled “Environments of Cure: Color Theory in Late Nineteenth Century American Architecture” at Princeton University.

Michel Moussette graduated from the History and Theory of Architecture graduate program at McGill and is continuing his academic work at the Université de Montréal. He has written many articles and lectured in various countries on cultural philosophy and the essence of architecture and fine arts. Since 1987 he has been the Saidye Rosner Bronfman Professor of the History of Architecture at McGill University. honorary fellow of the aia. and his design works have been published in numerous exhibition catalogues and publications in Finland and abroad. associate professor at the Haile Selassie I University (Addis Ababa) from 1972 to 1974. where the friction of the world exists in the form of certain clearly defined variables. planning. He has been the principal of Juhani Pallasmaa Architects since 1983 and professor of architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology since 1991. Houston. Although waiting on top of a mountain with an empty plastic yellow-margarine container might be a good way to achieve this lofty goal. and fine arts that have been shown in more than thirty countries. Professor Pallasmaa has designed exhibitions of Finnish architecture. Dr Alberto Pérez-Gómez Dr Alberto Pérez-Gómez was educated in Mexico and Great Britain and has taught in Europe and North America at the Architectural Association in London and at universities in Mexico.About the Authors resolved to establish with clarity the limited set of equations that govern the movement of architecture. director of the exhibitions department of the Museum of Finnish Architecture from 1968 to 1972 and from 1974 to 1983. recent efforts have been directed towards forays into the land of zero and infinity. in 1936. and Ottawa. and invited full member of the International Academy of Architecture in Moscow. invited member of the International Committee of Architectural Critics. He obtained a Master of Science degree in architecture from the Helsinki University of Technology in 1966. Juhani Pallasmaa Juhani Pallasmaa was born in Hämeenlinna. He was the Eero Saarinen Visiting Professor at Yale University in 1993. He was State Artist Professor from 1983 to 1988. Juhani Pallasmaa is member of the Finnish Architects Association. Syracuse. and rector of the College of Crafts and Design (Helsinki) from 1970 to 1972. He has also been the 342 . where he is in charge of the History and Theory of Architecture graduate program. Finland. director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture from 1978 to 1983. Toronto.

Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (mit Press 1983). In 1998 he was awarded the degree of Master of Architecture. at McGill University. He earned his Bachelor of Architecture degree at the Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art in New York City.” He lives in Montreal. He now works at an architectural restoration firm in New York City. probes. co-authored with Louise Pelletier and entitled Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge. won the Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for architectural history in 1984. an erotic narrative/theory of architecture based on a kindred text from late fifteenth-century Venice. and he has difficulty staying indoors. David Theodore David Theodore completed a thesis in the McGill History and Theory of Architecture master’s program. and reconstructs facades for a living. Dr Pérez-Gómez is coeditor of CHORA : Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture. Dorian Yurchuk Dorian Yurchuk was born in 1970 in New Jersey. Current research centres on the link between laughter and healing. while also attending classes at the New School for Social Research and at Harvard University. entitled “‘Aproued on my self’: Inigo Jones’ Magic Book of Palladio. or The Dark Forest Revisited (mit Press 1992). His first book. editing The Fifth Column: The Canadian Student Journal of Architecture. His travels have taken him from Anchorage to Kharkiw. was published by mit Press in 1997. where he beholds. as evidenced in sources such as Rabelais’s Gargantua and Pantagruel and Joubert’s Traite du Ris. Dr PérezGómez is the author of Polyphilo.About the Authors Director of the School of Architecture at Carleton University and of the Institut de recherche en histoire de l’architecture in Montreal. History and Theory option. 343 . researching the history of the modern hospital (a project of Professor Annmarie Adams) and writing articles about architecture for newspapers and popular journals. His most recent book.