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The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

With love and gratitude this work is dedicated to the memory of
Ezat and Jalal Ardeshir-Rokni.

The Architecture of the
Illusive Distance

Amir H. Ameri

Museum architecture. photocopying. Title. Designs and Patents Act. Theater architecture. Published by Ashgate Publishing Limited Ashgate Publishing Company Wey Court East 110 Cherry Street Union Road Suite 3-1 Farnham Burlington. Amir H. recording or otherwise without the prior permission of the publisher. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. No part of this publication may be reproduced. stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means. mechanical. Amir H. Ameri. 4. Ameri 2015 All rights reserved.ashgate. Ameri has asserted his right under the Copyright.© Amir H. I. 2. NA2543. electronic. to be identified as the author of this work. British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library ISBN: 978-1-4724-3318-3 (HBK) 978-1-4724-3319-0 (EBK) 978-1-4724-3320-6 (EPUB) The Library of Congress has cataloged the printed edition as follows: Ameri. VT 05401-3818 Surrey. ISBN 978-1-4724-3318-3 (hardback) -. Library architecture. 5. Space (Architecture) 3.ISBN 978-1-4724-3319-0 (ebook) -- ISBN 978-1-4724-3320-6 (epub) 1. The architecture of the illusive distance / By Amir H.S6A437 2015 727--dc23 2014037651 . GU9 7PT USA England www. Architecture and society.

In Theory   13 The Theory 13 The Beautiful 18 The Remedy 23 The Text 26 Notes29 2 On the Border of the Beautiful   31 The Transgression 31 The Assimilation 37 The Insertion 49 Notes51 Part II The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 3 The Logic of Encampment   55 The Library 55 The Pharmacy 84 The Campus 87 Notes89 .Contents List of Figures   vii Acknowledgments   xi Introduction   1 Part I The Architecture of the Illusive Presence 1 Architecture.

vi The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 4 The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity   91 The Collection 91 The Debate 98 The Dispersion 107 The Catharsis 121 Notes134 5 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance   137 The More is Less 137 The Borrowed Spaces 139 The Place Elsewhere 144 The Imaginary Places 153 The Imagined Places 163 The Unimagined Imaginary 178 Notes181 6 The Epilogue   183 Bibliography   185 Index   195 .

The Ricetto of the Laurentian Library.2 Albrecht Dürer. NY 64 Figure 3.6 Chapter Library. NY. 1523–71 Photo credit: top—Scala/Art Resource. sixteenth century Photo credit: Left to right (3. Florence. oil on panel. The Sistine Hall of the Vatican Library. 46 × 36 cm. Laurentian Library. NY 62 Figure 3. Biblioteca Ambrosiana. Library of the University of Leyden.8 Michelangelo.List of Figures Figure 3. Frontispiece to the codex Amiatinus. Milan. 1504.9 Christopher Wren.5a) Michal Osmenda. London Image source: Art Resource. NY 60 Figure 3. 1523–71 Photo credit: Alinari/Art Resource.1870.10 Lelio Buzzi. c. National Gallery. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Image source: Art Resource. c. (3. NY 56 Figure 3. New Boston Fine and Rare Books 66 Figure 3. album of 58 Cambridge University photographs. 1870 Photo credit: HIP/Art Resource.7 Michelangelo. Florence.5 Paul Lacroix. 1603–9 Photo credit: John Willis Clark 67 . The Laurentian Library.1 Antonello da Messina. sixth century. Florence Photo credit: Scala/Art Resource. London. Adam and Eve.4 Domenico Fontana.5b) John Willis Clark 61 Figure 3.1460. 25 × 20 cm. St Jerome in his Study. bottom—John Willis Clark 65 Figure 3. NY 58 Figure 3. 35 × 25 cm. engraving. Hereford Photo credit: John Willis Clark 63 Figure 3. parchment. engraving on laid paper. Vatican. Cambridge.3 Ezra writing the law. Trinity College library.

Altes Museum.viii The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Figure 3. Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art. 3. 1972 Photo credit: Clockwise from left 3.3 Jean-Nicolas-Louis Durand. Boston 69 Figure 3. Bibliothèque nationale de France 68 Figure 3.13a—Stéphanie Benjamin. Exterior Facade of Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. à l’École polytechnique. 1785. Phillips Exeter Library. LC-DIG-ppmsca-00338. Interior of a Picture Gallery with the Collection of Cardinal Silvio Valenti Gonzaga. 3032 AD 79 Figure 3. Bibliothèque Nationale de France. Heer Bokelweg 149. 3.5 Karl Friedrich Schinkel. 1989–95 Photo credit: Mirco Giglioli 75 Figure 3. Altes Museum.13b—Marie-Lan Nguyen. Bibliothèque Nationale. British Museum. Ground Floor Plan.16 Dominique Perrault.15b and 3.oma.17 Ren Koolhaas. 1855–96 Photo credit: Clockwise from top 3. 1828 Photo credit: From top. Précis des leçons d’architecture données à l’École royale polytechnique. CT Photo credit: Wadsworth Atheneum Museum of Art/Art Resource. Bibliothèque nationale de France competition entry. 1809 99 Figure 4.15 Louis I. 1828 Photo credit: bpk/Berlin/Kupferstichkabinett/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/Art Resource.12 Henri Labrouste. jasongenev) 70 Figure 3. Berlin. interior of Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève. Très Grande Bibliothèque project. University of Virginia.14 Sydney Smirke.11 Étienne-Louis Boullée.15c—Jacqueline Poggi 73 Figure 3.2 Giovanni Paolo Pannini. Design for a Museum. 4. Seattle Central Library.4a—Library of Congress. Netherlands.15a—Pablo Sanchez. Prints & Photographs Division.19 Thomas Jefferson. NY 97 Figure 4. 1856 Photo credit: British Library 71 Figure 3. Kahn.4b— Photographische Gesellschaft Berlin am Dönhoffplatz 102 Figure 4. 1740. Reading Room. 1855–96. 3. 1819 Photo credit: Karen Blaha 88 Figure 4. www. Hartford.4 Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Verona.13c—Jason Whittaker (bit. Print Department. London. 2004 Photo credit: Author 82 Figure 3.13 Henri Labrouste.18 Ren Koolhaas. New Hampshire.1 Engraving of the Francesco Calzolari’s Cabinet of Curiosities. NY 103 . Boston Public Library. 1622 94 Figure 4. Musaeum Calceolarium. oil on canvas. Charlottesville. 1989 Photo credit: Office for Metropolitan Architecture. 4. Paris: Chez l’auteur. 195 × 264 cm.

4. LC-DIG-det-4a18164. Getty Museum. Bruges Photo credit: Hugo Maertens.11d—Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz.13a—Library of Congress. Plaza Studies. Brooklyn Museum. 1894 Photo credit: US Department of the Interior. Prints & Photographs Division. 4. Guggenheim Museum. Philadelphia Museum of Art.51–PHILA. 4.11b—Rob Deutscher. National Park Service.15 Benoît Suvée Joseph.11e—Richard Meier. HAER PA. list of figures ix Figure 4. NY 106 Figure 4. Brooklyn. Guggenheim Museum. The Barnes Foundation. Invention of the Art of Drawing. Stuttgart. 1828 Photo credit: bpk/Berlin/Kupferstichkabinett/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/Art Resource.14 Frank Lloyd Wright. Mead and White. Altes Museum.11a—I.13b—Library of Congress. 4.11e—United States Geological Survey 115 Figure 4. 267 × 132 cm. NY 131 Figure 5.13 McKim. 4. Elevation Studies. Groeningemuseum.M. New York. 1911–28 Photo credit: From top. Los Angeles. The Louvre. 4. Borie.13c—Patricia Badolato 118 Figure 4. New York.8a—Library of Congress. Whitney Museum.11c—Susan Poague.16 Giuseppe Castiglione. 328–5.11d—Frank Gehry. 1997 Photo credit: From top clockwise 4. 4. Louvre Museum Photo credit: Erich Lessing. LC-DIG-det-4a23706. and Zatzinger. 1893–1907 Photo credit: 4. The Historic American Buildings Survey. Altes Museum.11c—Richard Meier. 2012 Photo credit: Robert Rife 114 Figure 4. Berlin. High Museum of Art. Neue Staatsgalerie. oil on canvas. Philadelphia.11 Clockwise from top. 4. 1959 Photo credit: Author 120 Figure 4. 4. 1984. Bilbao. 1981.6 Karl Friedrich Schinkel. 1828 Photo credit: bpk/Berlin/Kupferstichkabinett/Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/Art Resource.12 Frank Lloyd Wright.1 Holland Brothers’ Kinetoscope Parlor. View of the Grand Salon Carré in the Louvre. 69 × 103 cm.8 Traumbauer. 1989. 1959 Photo credit: Author 117 Figure 4. Art Resource.9 Marcel Breuer. Berlin. 1966 Photo credit: Author 112 Figure 4. 4. Lukas—Art in Flanders VZW 122 Figure 4. 1791.7 Karl Friedrich Schinkel. oil on canvas. 4. Atlanta.10 Tod Williams & Billie Tsien Architects. Pei. NY 105 Figure 4. 4. Prints & Photographs Division. New York.11a—Author. 4.11b—James Stirling. Guggenheim Museum. Edison National Historic Site 140 . 1997.8b— United States Geological Survey 109 Figure 4. Paris.

13 William Riseman Associates. TX. HABS KY. Bottom.16 Raymond F. Chicago. 1949 Photo credit: Architectural Record 105 178 . Prints & Photographs Division. University of Pennsylvania Library 146 Figure 5. Bottom: Avalon Theatre.4 Sheldon Theatre. Rapp.17–47. 1948 Photo credit: Architectural Record 104 176 Figure 5. 1927 Photo credit: Top. 4–24 159 Figure 5.7 Thomas W. Smith. Indianapolis. c. Lamb. OH. Prints & Photographs Division. NY.3 Theatorium postcard. Hartford. 25–COLB. Loew’s Ohio Theatre. LC-USZ62–92107 151 Figure 5. CT. Chicago. Howe’s Animotiscope exhibition poster.2 Lyman H.1912. Detroit. New York.1909 Photo credit: Library of Congress. 1928 Photo credit: Library of Congress. Cushing. Prints & Photographs Division. Chicago. Cushing. Delman Theater.15 Goodwin and Stone Architects. 1937 Photo credit: Hedrich-Blessing.6 Rubush & Hunter architects. 1948 Photo credit: George M. Fox Theatre. Modern Museum of Art Movie Theatre. San Francisco. c. Thalia Theatre. Prints & Photographs Division. 1932 Photo credit: Keystone-Underwood. Grand Riviera Theatre. Top: Loew’s Theatre. 1928. Architectural Record 71 164 Figure 5. Wareham Theatre. 1927 Photo Credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division.12 George & W. Architectural Record 84 173 Figure 5. CA 1929 Photo credit: Motion Picture News 40 157 Figure 5. Motion Picture News 36 161 Figure 5.1909 Photo Credit: Library of Congress.11 Benjamin Schlanger. 1925 Photo credit: Library of Congress. HABS IND. Dallas. Louisville.9 John Eberson.16–11 162 Figure 5. NY. 29–25 156 Figure 5. Architectural Record 104 173 Figure 5. c. Chicago. KY. Columbus. C.5 Normal Theatre. 1948 Photo credit: George M. Architectural Record 104 174 Figure 5.x The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Figure 5. 1897 Photo credit: From the collections of the Luzerne County Historical Society 141 Figure 5. 49–IND.8 Thomas W. New York. IL. LC-USZ62–92105 148 Figure 5. HABS OHIO. Lamb. MA. 82–DETRO. Rhodes Theatre. Gotham Book Mart Collection. Wareham. Prints & Photographs Division.10 John Eberson. Strand Theatre. 56–LOUVI. Library of Congress.14 William Riseman Associates. Indiana Theatre. HABS MICH.

Susan Poague. dilemmas. and the ceaseless encouragement of David Cronrath and Mehrdad Hadighi. I am grateful to the following individuals for their kind and generous permission to reproduce their photographs in this volume: Yassaman Ameri. Without her. the intellectual support. Rob Deutscher. Over the years. For the gratitude I feel. Karen Blaha. I have benefited immensely from the dedication and contribution of numerous students who affectionately shared my questions. This work could not have been if during those same years James T. Michal Osmenda. Pablo Sanchez. and concerns about architecture. . the fruit of their dedication.Acknowledgments This work would not have been if all those many years ago the late Robert D. I remain grateful for the opportunity. Jacqueline Poggi. Patricia Badolato. To him I owe an indelible intellectual debt that can only be acknowledged with much gratitude and never repaid. To his memory. I cannot imagine my academic life without their presence and contributions. and Jason Whittaker. MacDougall had not given me the chance to look at architecture through his keen and penetrating lens. Siegel had not caringly taught me to look at the world from an analytically different vantage point. Yassaman Ameri has embodied for me the creative commitment and intellectual care I have aspired to my entire life. Over the years I have benefited immensely from the friendship. Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz. in no small measure. Sussan Ameri is the reason for all that I have done my entire adult life. no word suffices. This work is. I also wish to thank Solmaz M. She has inspired and supported me emotionally and intellectually in ways I can never recount or hope to match. Kive for her invaluable help in the preparation of this manuscript. I would have not been.

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It has unique spatial requirements. a jury’s finding .3 Whereas a constative statement is meant. but as well a performative utterance in the sense first introduced by Austin and specifically as the concept is deployed in Cultural Studies (How to Do Things). represent. culture is assumed to precede the architecture that follows and re-present it. scholars of architecture have assumed the connection between architecture and culture as often as they have envisaged and presented it as a monologic relationship. In relating the advent of architecture to culture. a ritual is distinct and unidirectional. if architecture is a cultural statement or utterance. Sleeping for instance suggests little by way of an appropriate setting. Though by no means singular.4 For instance. Austin tells us.1 Broadly. In this pervasive vision. however. “as official acts. the architect has no ground for the delimitation of his or her many options to the ultimate one. the functions of an edifice suggest no one form and much less a direction. a judge’s ruling makes law. The assumed contingency of architecture on culture is at best a restrictive and partial view. architecture is an insuperable task. It demands a specific setting. Faced with multiple possibilities. If architecture represents culture. Appropriated. it is not merely a constative. or in which by saying or in saying something we are doing something” (How to Do Things 1–2). considerably more complex. as an instrument for the communication and enforcement of. and transformed into a ritual. it becomes highly prescriptive. or to ‘state some fact’. that is. In deference to biological needs. It is this and similar prescriptive cultural appropriations that make architecture possible.2 Architecture is recurrently purveyed to embody. mirror and/or reflect a culture. and ideals. for instance. we may appear to be traversing a well-trodden path. “to ‘describe’ some state of affairs.Introduction In the abstract. The relationship between culture and architecture is. its values. At least since the early 1960s. function is nebulous and multi-directional. However.” a performative statement is one “in which to say something is to do something. however. a culture’s sexual mores and taboos. function assumes a trajectory and becomes highly prescriptive once it is appropriated by culture and transformed into a ritual. which it must do either truly or falsely.

” The circle unites and confounds them into one.5 The Oglala tipi is as much an inaugural event as it is a citation. though the sky is deep like a bowl. It follows that “for these reasons the Oglala make their tipis circular. For a simple example of the “binding or conferring power” of architecture as a performative act. The sun and the sky. However. Much as the tipi is shaped in the round like the world and time. for instance. the circular tipis.” Butler tells us. If the power of discourse to produce that which it names is linked with the question of performativity. As a variation on the theme. the described condition does not precede nor does it exist independent of the utterance. the circular Oglala tipi to be a constative statement that effectively describes and/or references the presumed circularity of “all things in nature” and of all time. To the contrary.” that the tipi is round like all else in the world other than stone. the power and authority of each “symbol” is conferred by the evidential citation of the other. “the judge who authorizes and installs the situation he names invariably cites the law that he applies. are statements that. also. . that is. but confer a binding power on the action performed. inaugurations. Everything that breathes is round like the stem of a plant” (128). The Oglala don’t simply believe and say all things are round. the circular tipi. and it is the power of this citation that gives the performative its binding or conferring power” (171). following a familiar trajectory. in the uttering. The circle is “also the symbol of the year. it also confers its shape on the world and time. Therefore the circle is a symbol of these divisions of time and hence the symbol of all time” (128). One may readily assume. baptisms. For instance. their camp-circle circular. then the performative is one domain in which power acts as discourse” (171). “by saying or in saying. performatives tend to include legal sentences. “Performative acts are. the earth and the moon are round like a shield. In each of these and other performative utterances. and so on. they render their world visibly round through the agency of. “forms of authoritative speech: most performatives. and in a sense literally. declarations of ownership. we may turn to Paul Radin’s account of Oglala Indians as retold by Clifford Geertz: “The Oglala believe the circle to be sacred because the great spirit caused everything in nature to be round except stone. statements which not only perform an action. the utterance creates the very condition it depicts.2 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance makes a convicted felon. circular. set in circular camps. Implicated in a network of authorization and punishment. placed as it is in a circular camp. along with all other circular Oglala artifacts quite powerfully render the Oglala world both experientially.” and so on (154). also perform a certain action and exercise a binding power. the night. The day. Thereby. and the moon go in a circle above the sky. It may well be in tacit recognition of this link between saying and doing characteristic of performative acts that for the Oglala the circle is interchangeably the “symbol of the world and of time” and the “symbol of the tipi and of shelter. Judith Butler describes the performative with a nuance that shall prove important to our understanding of architecture as a performative act. The circle is also the symbol of the tipi and of shelter” (128). and sit in a circle at all ceremonies. by citing the presumed roundness of all things. Stone is the implement of destruction. among others.

The power and authority of culture as a “control mechanism. the “binding or conferring power” of performative acts. is tied to their constative (reiterative) aspect/function. The constative/performative distinction is entwined with the distinction between culture and architecture. the proportional . respectively.” in the sense Clifford Geertz explicates the term. culture is always inevitably and already implicated in the performative function of. in the translucent world of a Gothic Cathedral. inclusive of architecture. Insofar as culture is not reducible to a set of beliefs or ideas that come to be of their own volition. Performative Utterances. its moral and aesthetic style and mood—and their worldview— the picture they have of the way things in sheer actuality are. To better envisage the interplay between culture and architecture we may turn to Clifford Geertz’s description of “sacred symbols” which he tells us: … function to synthesize a people’s ethos—the tone. In religious belief and practices a group’s ethos is rendered intellectually reasonable by being shown to represent a way of life ideally adapted to the actual state of affairs the worldview describes. This is a link without which architecture would be hopelessly lost in having too great a choice of action and not sufficient grounds for the delimitation of its choices. the discourse of architecture has long disregarded the performative aspect of architecture in favor of its constative aspect. University without Condition). We can go on to read the evidence of the “confrontation and mutual confirmation” between the dominant worldview and ethos of. the Gothic. (89–90) Although Geertz’s description pertains to “religion as a cultural system. their most comprehensive ideas of order. it constructs and reifies culture as the unalterable shape of reality. while the worldview is rendered emotionally convincing by being presented as an image of an actual state of affairs peculiarly well-arranged to accommodate such a way of life. there is no pure constative or performative utterance as such (Austin.6 There is a performative aspect to every constative statement. which as the Oglala tipi and numerous other examples one may readily cite indicate is also complex and nuanced. neither culture nor architecture could be readily posited as a non-contingent prior term. As a performative act. for reasons that we shall discuss in the next chapter. However. To a degree. much as there is a constative aspect to every performative statement. Derrida. to the point of the former’s invisibility. apart from a collection of authoritative and exclusionary practices. for instance. In their perpetual interplay. architecture does not merely re-present culture. As Austin noted and Jacques Derrida has critically argued. is lodged in this implication (45). or the Baroque period. among others. and quality of their life. of architecture as another “cultural system. character. architecture. introduction 3 It is important to note here that the constative and the performative aspects of cultural utterances and/or acts are not mutually exclusive. the Renaissance.” we can readily read into his account a compelling description of the role of ecclesiastical buildings as “sacred symbols” within their broader cultural context and by extension.” We can remind ourselves of the pivotal role architecture plays in shaping a people’s ethos and trace an interminable link from their ethos to their worldview.

by Leone Battista Alberti (b. transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial. In other words. Italy. For an example of the invocation of deeply felt moral and aesthetic sentiments we may recall Abbot Suger’s well-known account of his experience at the remodeled Carolingian church of St. and that by the grace of God I can be transported from this inferior to that higher world in an anagogical manners. salvation. Denis’ front portal. leaving the profane world to one side and entering the sacred realm thus constituted on the other side. 1470s). it inexorably constitutes it. to arrive at the altar and the choir surrounded by the translucent stained-glass walls of the ambulatory that are brought to life by the light that passes through them—like Jesus shinning through the world as the new light (Lux Nova)—the faithful might well have come to share Suger’s exuberance in a transformative experience that reified the tenants of Christian faith in the twelfth century. It is architecture’s capacity to synthesize faith and experience. infinite universe of a Baroque Church. Denis’. that is. its aesthetic value to Suger and his contemporaries. and “in so doing sustain each with the borrowed authority of the other” (Geertz 90).” and how the experience of each building served to support “received beliefs about the world’s body by invoking deeply felt moral and aesthetic sentiments as experiential evidence for their truth” (89–90). This person too would marvel at “the beauty of the house of God” as had Suger. about to embark on a journey that though sequentially similar to St. as mere common sense given the unalterable shape of reality. St. on the diversity of the sacred virtues: then it seems to me that I see myself dwelling as it were in some strange region of the universe which neither exists entirely in the slime of the earth nor entirely in the purity of Heaven. The “beauty” of this house. (Panofsky 61) What this faith affirming anagogical transportation attests is the “binding or conferring power” of architecture as a performative act. and worthy meditation has induced me to reflect. or the unfolding. Crossing the monumental threshold of St. worldview and ethos. As such. In each instance. Denis cannot effectively be said to reflect or represent anything other than what it makes emotionally tangible and evidentially real. would have a different conclusion by design. though for reasons that hadn’t to do with light and translucency “transferring that which is material to that which is immaterial. St. Denis (1135–1144) at the onset of the Gothic period. and heavenly reward tangible and experiential. is effectively lodged in a performative synthesis that renders God. to then traverse the nave or the analogical path to Christian redemption. When out of my delight in the beauty of the house of God—the loveliness of the many-coloured gems has called me away from all external cares. Denis does not reiterate mid-twelfth-entury Christianity per se. One may also move forward to a different place and time to imagine a person of faith at the turn of the fifteenth century in front of the church of Sant’Andrea in Mantua. we can detail how the specifics of each design objectified “moral and aesthetic preferences by depicting them as the imposed conditions of life implicit in a world with a particular structure.” Rather the reasons here would have to do with an unmistakable performative testimonial to a mathematical .4 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance harmonies of a Renaissance Chapel.

It succeeds when we do not take note of the edifice as an ideological construct. Suger’s St. on the “distortion. the role of architecture as a performative act remains constant. Yet. Harmonic proportions unite nature and architecture. culture is never static. it is not likely that we will experience the culture under study assume the guise of inevitability through the agency of its architecture.” as Roland Barthes described it years ago (238–9). introduction 5 order that pervades the building’s design. The reasons here would have to do with the meticulous symmetrical correspondence of parts and the harmonic proportions that pervade the parts as it does the whole of the church in “the imitation of nature. Although it is not with great difficulty or much resistance that we may trace the “confrontation and mutual confirmation” of a culture’s worldview and ethos in the design and experience of its ecclesiastical architecture.” or the mechanics of universalizing the particular. much as the circle did in the Oglala world. and proceed as though the latter were immune to ideological conditioning. Such a confirmation. it is important to note that powerful as architecture’s performative capacity is to synthesize a people’s worldview and ethos. This is to say. impervious to ideological and metaphysical conditioning. it is never achieved. The very gap that necessitates synthesis also sees to the perpetual transformation of culture as changes in one lead to changes in the other in perpetuity. as the greatest artist at all manner of composition” (Alberti. Both readily allow us to assume the probing role of the “mythologist. the person may well be prepared to consent with Alberti that “nature is sure to act consistently. Much as total synthesis is desired and sought. Even though harmonic proportions may well supplant translucency as an evidence of God’s existence. The need for synthesis points to an inherent gap between the world as we imagine or wish it to be and the world as we experience it to be. as we may. when and if it occurs. An edifice performs its cultural role effectively. the advantage of temporal distance and a markedly different worldview. This gap may be bridged. and with a constant analogy in all her operations: from whence I conclude that the same numbers. are the very same which please our eyes and our mind” (196–7). It succeeds when we take its peculiarities either for granted. by which the agreement of sounds affects our ears with delight. and as that the most successful from a culture’s perspective. Denis or Alberti’s S. that is. past or for that . Focusing. as we did with the Oglala tipi. Ten Books 195). largely goes unnoted. as it pervades all of nature by divine ordinance. Were we to further engage the exercise of tracing the “confrontation and mutual confirmation” between worldview and ethos in ecclesiastical edifices of different ages. or else attribute them to pragmatic concerns. that those aspects of an edifice which appear to be the most objective. As such. At the conclusion of this faithful journey. when we do not see in it the passage of culture into objectivity. We will not experience the “confrontation and mutual confirmation” of the worldview and ethos that ecclesiastical edifices were erected to affect. are often the parts more thoroughly conditioned by such considerations. we would have. or the explicit embodiment of a metaphysics. Andrea. it also speaks to the volatility of culture and its inevitable susceptibility to change. but never fully closed.

safeguard. secular or ecclesiastical. Michel Foucault. this book critically examines the ideational and metaphysical imperatives that have seen to the formation. outlined the modalities of this participation long ago. to turn our assumptions about the world into an objective experience of it. practical needs and requirements. Given the inexorable link between the Oglala metaphysics and architecture. or a pervasive metaphysics is rarely. what link may we be able to trace between Western metaphysics and secular architecture? In what way does secular architecture validate. and so on. and the movie-theater. film) differs from the others by a varying/differing formal proximity to its referent (writing being the farthest and film the closest). art. the museum to the preservation and public presentation of art. If our secular institutional buildings do not appear as patent ideological constructs. Assuming that every building type. Their performativity appears as mere performance. of course. namely. proliferation. most often. however. reify. in his study of prisons. Collectively these building types have been instituted as varying domiciles to representation. schools. the metaphysics of presence as Jacques Derrida expounds the concept: . The more immediately familiar the building type. and assuming this link to be neither accidental nor unique to ecclesiastical buildings. The library as a secular building type does not readily appear to be much more than a response to the need for storage and dissemination of books. implicit) metaphysics. and in so doing sustain each with the borrowed authority of the other” (Geertz 90). and perpetuation of three institutions and their architecture across time: the library. the link between the formal and spatial properties of secular institutional buildings and a particular view of the world. and for that matter Christian metaphysics and architecture. the school to the education of the novice. Their opacity silently betrays their success. particularly the closer they are to us in cultural space and time. for want of participation in the construction and objectification of culture. explicit. If. that is. and promulgate Western metaphysics? Broad and daunting as the question may seem. and that each type serves. it is possible to begin the query by focusing on one basic and pervasive aspect of Western metaphysics. this is not. effective/pragmatic disposition. The choice of these three institutions as domiciles to representation stem from a seemingly simple question. among other cultural mechanisms.6 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance matter present. the greater is the likelihood of its appearing as no more than a pragmatic response to very real. is a purposed cultural construct. this may well be because these buildings manage all too well in formulating “a basic congruence between a particular style of life and a specific (if. and hospitals. if ever. It is not evident how the design and the experience of these buildings could lend themselves to a “confrontation and mutual confirmation” of a culture’s worldview and ethos or to what specific cultural variables they tactfully give the guise of the objectively inevitable. the same does not hold for secular buildings. or the movie-theater to the specific environmental demands and requirements of the medium. The latter are far more resistive to such explorations. Each type differs from the others to the extent that each representational medium in residence (writing. from its inception and through every stage of its permutation. the museum.

pure. and the movie- theater have been instituted. duplication. The aporia of any rigorous distinction between reality and representation always stands the chance of coming to surface by the unbridled cohabitation of the real and its contingent Other. and other related concepts are desired to be and the absence and deferral that is said to always designate the contingent Other. the original. co-presence of the other and the self. in order then to conceive of derivation. the imitated before the imitation. it is the metaphysical exigency. Limited Inc. All metaphysicians. truth. to an origin or to a “priority” seen as simple. 93) Pervasive as the metaphysics of presence has been. In its own unique way. each type has seen to the proper dispensation and consumption of representation in a uniquely segregated domain of each building’s making where the reality outside . among other measures. as safeguards. the museum. iteration. the authentic. has been a ubiquitous practice in the history of Western metaphysics. presence as substance/essence/existence [ousia]. subjectivity. most profound and most potent. temporal presence as point [stigma] of the now or the moment [nun]. Descartes to Husserl. truth. (Derrida. and so on. the condition of possibility of representation. conceiving good to be before evil. The uncanny. in words and deeds. the self- presence of the cogito. This is through adoption of distinct formal and spatial strategies that in effect constitute and characterize each type. the positive before the negative.” in idealization. from Plato to Rousseau. It is the intent of this book to point out that it is in no small measure against the dangers of unbridled cohabitation and the aporia of any rigorous distinction between reality and representation that the library. much less hierarchical distinction between the pure presence that reality. normal. originality. iteration. etc. and so on. deterioration. imitation. etc. self-identical. duplication that is perpetually demoted and segregated. authenticity. consciousness. Each has historically accomplished its performative task by uniquely domesticating and curtailing the specific deconstructive effect of the contingent representation it is given to administer. as Freud expounds the concept. is an instance in point (19–60). introduction 7 … the historical determination of the meaning of being in general as presence. authenticity. volatile and susceptible to the unsettling deconstructive effect of the very representation. with all the subdeterminations which depend on this general form and which organize within it their system and their historical sequence (presence of the thing to the sight as eidos. originality. that which has been the most constant. the simple before the complex. have proceeded in this way. imitation. nevertheless. intact. complication. the hierarchic privileging of presence and the matted concepts of reality. it is. is the impossibility of any rigorous. As Derrida has extensively demonstrated. the essential before the accidental. as the derivative contingent Other of the real. and so on. accident. And this is not just one metaphysical gesture among others. (Of Grammatology 12)7 From Plato to Husserl and beyond. Hence: … the enterprise of returning “strategically. and so forth). the pure before the impure. intersubjectivity as an intentional phenomenon of the ego.

a perpetual substitute for what is fundamentally missing and missed: authenticity and unaporetic origins. It points out that despite various manifestations and numerous stylistic discontinuities. These chapters link the historically overarching preoccupation with aesthetics as a critical tool for the delimitation of practice in architecture to the metaphysics of presence and discuss the instrumentality of theory and criticism in safeguarding this metaphysics. a humanist institutional response to the supplemental and paradoxical character of writing. Chapters 1–2 offer a close critical reading of the aesthetic theories of Leone Battista Alberti and John Ruskin respectively. spatial. The critical preoccupation with the disjoining of art and the museum from their context is. Referencing Jacques Derrida’s essays on writing. Chapter 3 provides an analytical outline of the history of the library as a building type.8 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance as self-presentation is made to retain its privilege and remain impervious to the challenges of the contingent representation. The persistent encampment of the book within the variously construed confines of the library is then linked to the historic ambivalence of Western culture toward writing. the wall system or the modern stack-system libraries. It is a performative attempt at domesticating and curtailing the aporetic effects of writing. the art museum effectively substitutes a formal. in no small measure because of these spatial constructs. this chapter argues. the spatial characteristics and processional organization within the library have remained essentially the same. The modalities of this displacement have changed overtime in direct response to the changing relationship between the real and its imaginary Other. With every technological abridgement of the . As an institution and a building type. the stall system. It expounds on the historic link between the question of authenticity in art and the question of its place and the modalities of its placement. persistent as it has been. the logic of encampment at work in the formation of the library is. in order to demonstrate how architectural theories that have historically conditioned the formal production of the building types under study were themselves constituted as a form of resistance to contingency and representation. and experiential clarity of place for the very spatial and temporal dimensions that painting and sculpture fundamentally put in question. the movie-theatre has located cinema at an imaginary elsewhere by design. To demonstrate these points. The following chapter traces the history of the place and placement of art from the cabinet of curiosities to the modern art museum. The metaphysics of presence is reified and sustained through the performative function of these building types. the museum in its various guises has persistently instituted an elaborate and deep threshold that mediates and oversees the passage to and from the seemingly infinite world that it fabricates to contain authentic art and the “real” world from which it is sequestered. Between the public and the artwork. the first part of this book provides an analysis of the role of architectural theory and criticism as instruments of cultural control in the production of architectural types. The final chapter demonstrates how from inception. Spacing is authenticity’s indispensable alibi and the museum its performative institution. These characteristics are predicated on the logic of encampment whose manifestations can be as diverse as the Medieval book-press.

introduction 9 imagined distance between reality and its imaginary double. the movie-theater. has been a constant. man. many different forms under similar constraints—be these climatic. ousia essence. 3 Judith Butler’s gender studies is a case in point. stereoscopy. has systematically fabricated an outside to the real. to the post-palace mall cinemas and multiplexes. God. Notes 1 An idea as simple as shelter can assume. the addition of sound. . economic. To safeguard the aura of the real as the self-referential. The motivation behind each change. arche. or to the center have always designated an invariable presence–eidos. This is a form of speech whose “very principle” is to “transform history into nature. energeia. and the more carefully nuanced Adam Sharr’s Reading Architecture and Culture: Researching Buildings. “a form of speech justified in excess” (Mythologies 240). to many current studies. Signature. that is. consciousness. we may also refer to the round tipi as a “myth” in Roland Barthes’ sense. as it has. including Emmons. 2 This extends from Amos Rapoport’s pioneering House Form and Culture in the 1960s to many architectural history texts and surveys in the interim. non-representational Other of cinema.” the arbitrary into the inevitable. color. substance. transcendentality. Hendrix and Lomholt’s The Cultural Role of Architecture: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives. though I believe related perspective. existence. and so forth (Derrida. and so on. there have been corresponding changes in the design of the movie-theater aimed at re-establishing the abridged distance. 6 See also Derrida. telos. 5 From a different. Spaces and Documents. to principles. Event. subject aletheia. 4 Also see Culler and Miller. as an institution and a building type. and/or ecological in nature. if only to locate and safeguard it by an imaginary distance. 7 Also: “It could be shown that all the names related to fundamentals. Context. that is. the presumed into the perceived. Writing and Difference 279–80). be it from the nickelodeon to the movie- palace.

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Part I The Architecture of the Illusive Presence .

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every attempt to locate the place of culture inside the theoretical edifices of architecture inevitably leads to the outside. has figured prominent in the history of theoretical discourse on Western architecture. The assumption that the practice of architecture may be tied to anything but eternal and immutable rules is. is to keep culture outside the realm of architectural practice. as for Alberti before him. “a common thing with the ignorant. rules. Laugier justified his theoretical endeavor as an attempt “to rise above a prejudice unfortunately so common although so pernicious and blind. then we may safely say that more often than not the justification given for theoretical edification.1 This is not an oversight. and ritual practices that are subject to variation in space and time. that “confronts all reasoning with an arrogant obstinacy that simple ignorance would not have” (107).1 Architecture. particular and to an extent mutable. However. or more appropriately fortification. The concept of culture. Alberti tells us. in a number of different guises.” he tells us. that is. In Theory The Theory If culture has a place in architecture. and that the forms of structures must vary according to every man’s particular taste and fancy. and not be tied down to any rules of art” (Ten Books 112–13). We may begin with Alberti who justified his theoretical endeavor as an attempt “to free the science of architecture” from the mistaken belief “that men are guided by a variety of opinions in their judgment of beauty and of buildings.” Although this way of thinking appears to Laugier as “a very . beliefs. If by “culture” we are to understand a set of values. We find numerous architectural theoreticians erect the figure of culture only to chastise and deprecate it as the figure of the particular and the arbitrary.” who “despise what they do not understand!” (112–13).” A “sad prejudice. At issue for Laugier. it is not readily located in the various theoretical edifices construed in the West since the Renaissance. Nearly 300 years later. is a “way of thinking which makes what is right simply dependent on custom.

What are the reasons. The latter is portrayed as powerful and persuasive. Neither considers it sufficient to merely enumerate the universal. This reasoning is similar. for this historic aversion to culture as the figure of the mutable and the particular in the theoretical discourse of architecture? Why are so many architectural theoreticians compelled to repudiate their immediate predecessors’ universals in their own ultimately illusive search for the same? At issue in these questions is not the particular nature of what is purported to be universal. it is the ways and means of universalizing the particular. because “it obstructs the progress of the arts too much to be generally adopted. if not identical. in order to its progress. It is what appears to be a singular motive for theoretical speculation on architecture. Rather. and delight— commodity pertains to provision for the particular needs and the variable requirements of buildings’ inhabitants. and inherently dangerous and destructive. the critical justification appears to remain constant. architectural theoreticians concede to culture so long as its reach is delimited to the question of “commodity” or “convenience. it is necessary to appeal to reason against custom and to sacrifice to the light of one the force and sway of the Other” (22). on the other. This aversion to the mutable and the particular is not exceptional. Ruskin.14 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance easy expedience for ignorant and lazy artists.” the “middling sort” or the . as well as the exclusionary critical methodology that is inseparable from it.” he adamantly condemns it. we may ask. For instance. The exclusion of culture pertains primarily to the question of architectural form and formation. In turn. This is to say that although specific formal preferences vary in accord with an ever-changing historic context. “If only arbitrary rules are wanted for the arts one can insist on custom. What each theoretician identifies as the universal and the immutable principles of design could not be any different from one text to the next. The particular has to be identified and condemned with equal zeal. summarized a prevalent motive for theoretical edification when he wrote that. on the one hand. “I have long felt convinced of the necessity. to the one offered not only by Alberti and Laugier before Ruskin. of some determined effort to extricate from the confused mass of partial traditions and dogmata with which it has become encumbered during imperfect or restricted practice. those large principles of right which are applicable to every stage and style of it” (Seven Lamps 10). each universal has been condemned by the proponents of the other modes of design as arbitrary and variable in contrast to the latter’s universals. On their critical path from the particular to the universal. Alberti was more than willing to provide for the varying needs of a “tyrant” or a “prince.” He insists that. The proponents of virtually every style of architecture in vogue since the Renaissance have championed theirs as the only mode of design that is based on universal and immutable rules. but if the processes of art must go back to fixed principles. The theoretical edifications of both Alberti and Laugier are as much motivated by a strong predilection for the universal. but also by Viollet-le- Duc and Le Corbusier after him—to cite two more examples among others.” Of the Vitruvian triad—better known in Henry Wotton’s paraphrase as commodity. as by a vigorous aversion to the particular. firmness. for instance.

or rather the aim that is architecture insofar as this aim. Whereas the former is. It is because beauty constitutes and separates the art of building—the proper subject of theoretical speculation in architectural discourse—from the mere building—considered a menial activity unworthy of theoretical pursuit. peculiar to Western architectural discourse. “the having satisfied necessity is a very small matter. the forms that accommodate it must always abide by universal rules. … should all tend to this. in theory 15 “meaner sort. The “aim of architecture” as Le Corbusier put it. The criteria used for restricting and regulating architectural practice in these other examples differ markedly from those in the . Le Corbusier expressed a similar. variable and particular. and needing nothing more” (The Stones of Venice 400). If historically architectural theoreticians concede the particular insofar as it pertains to the question of “commodity” or “convenience. Ruskin went so far as suggesting that “Architecture concerns itself only with those characters of an edifice which are above and beyond its common use. Alberti’s tolerance for the particular. tried to reduce commodity to a set of universals as well. above and beyond the particular (Seven Lamps 16). … Architecture has another meaning and other ends to pursue than showing construction and responding to needs” (102–3). in principle. emphasizing that the principle of delight “is by much the most noble of all and very necessary besides. “in these particulars. They are not to be found—not by the same definition. “When a thing responds to a need. we may note in passing. Alberti. architecture. Dagens. only extended to the determination of need and not to the determination of form. We are persistently told that of the Vitruvian triad the principle of beauty or delight is singularly decisive.” Therefore. that whatever you build may be not only useful and convenient. for instance. The edification of beauty as the ultimate “aim” of architecture. the customs of every country are always to be principally observed” (Ten Books 109). a state of formal and compositional saturation to which addition is superfluous and subtraction detrimental.” going so far as suggesting. it is not beautiful.” that is.” reasoned that. The desired “end” is. is an aesthetic ideal over whose definition there appears to be widespread consensus. to prevent the shock of deformity—the shock that invariably stands to reason the necessity of beauty—he concludes: “your whole care. this other “meaning” or “end” distinguishes architecture from mere building. but also … delightful to the sight” (Ten Books 112–13). John Ruskin summed up an oft-repeated sentiment in the history of theoretical discourse on Western architecture when he concluded that the “end” in every work of architecture is “a perfect creature capable of nothing less than it has. diligence and expense. at any rate—in other discursive traditions. Two prominent examples are the Indian and the Chinese traditions (Bose.” this is partly because they regard it as being essentially inconsequential to their ultimate pursuit. in principle. Skinner). and the having provided for conveniency affords no manner of pleasure. it is important to note. however. though a less radical sentiment when he wrote that. The proponents of Modernism. where you are shocked by the deformity of the work. much as the use of aesthetics as a critical tool for delimitation of practice to a specific mode of design are.

16 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

West. They appear to condone or proscribe specific modes of design not based
on aesthetic merit, that is, beautiful or ugly, perfect or imperfect, but, at the risk of
simplification, based on humane consequences, that is, auspicious or inauspicious
for the inhabitants, conducive to good fortune or bad, beneficial to health or not,
and so on. What both the Eastern and the Western traditions achieve in the end is a
restricted and regulated practice. Their approaches are, however, particular to each
and should not be confused with the other.
Although there is broad consensus among Western architectural theoretician
over the “aim” of architecture, there is, predictably, no consensus over its literal
form. The path to perfection has had virtually as many twists and turns as there
have been theoreticians of architecture. The origin of this path and the place of
its meandering, on the other hand, have not been a source of dispute: to reach
perfection one must turn to and imitate nature.
The term “nature” has had both a passive and an active sense in this discourse.
It refers both to a body of objects—be they all beautiful or not—and to an active
process of formation—the formation of beautiful bodies. It is in this latter sense
that various theoreticians have proposed the imitation of nature as the ultimate
“aim” of architecture. The imitation at issue is not, in other words, the imitation of
natural forms—this is generally considered to be a contemptible activity—but the
imitation of nature as “the greatest artist at all manner of composition” (Alberti,
Ten Books 195). This is the greatest artist whose work is, nevertheless, regulated by
self-imposed rules and principles that collectively warrant the perfection of every
composition. These are constant, though secret laws that every author seeks to
unravel and reveal.
It is perhaps needless to point out that along with beauty, the laws of nature have
had nearly as varied an interpretation in the theoretical discourse of architecture,
as there have been texts enumerating them. What the Renaissance theoreticians
proclaimed as the laws of nature differs markedly from their counterparts’
proclamations during the eighteenth, the nineteenth, or the twentieth centuries.
The ideal and the invariably natural composition to which nothing could be added
or taken away without loss could not be any different, at times from one generation
to the next. However it is precisely these overwhelming differences in both the
interpretation of the laws of nature and the way in which the ideal composition
is circumscribed that make the constancy of the proposal to imitate nature ever
more curious.
One implication of this constant proposal is that the ideal, the “aim,” or the
“end” in architecture is, by force of definition, always prefigured by nature. As
innocuous a matter as this may seem, it has far reaching consequences for the
perception of the role of theory in architecture. Since historically theory’s subject—
the immutable beauty that constitutes and separates architecture from mere
building—is presumed to always precede the discourse as a natural phenomenon,
the task of writing on architecture, as Laugier were to succinctly put it, is no more
and no less than “to tear away the veil which covers it” (2). From Laugier’s torch to
Ruskin’s lamps, light has been the prevalent metaphor for the comprehension of
the task of writing on architecture. Theory is purported to do nothing other than to

architecture, in theory 17

shed an insightful light on the eternal nature of a subject whose parameters each
generation presumes hidden from the last due to blindness, ignorance, or sheer
Although the perception of theory as an act of revelation or unmasking of
the concealed parameters of architecture may initially appear to give theory a
central role in architecture, in effect it marginalizes theory by reducing its role to
a supplemental source of light shed from without on an otherwise autonomous
subject. The prevalent perception of the relationship between architecture and
writing is that of a sovereign subject, secure inside its inherent, natural parameters,
to a subservient text that is said to contemplate, reveal, or unmask the subject from
the outside.
Also, if it is to nature and not culture that historically a majority of architectural
theoreticians have turned for guidance, if nature is the figure of the immutable and
the universal that they have sought to shelter within their theoretical edifices at the
expense of the mutable culture, it is because at stake is the exclusionary privilege
of the beautiful, or what amounts to the same, the authority of the theoretical
edifice to restrict and regulate in the name of the beautiful. At stake is the power
of exclusion that is imperative to the delimitation of practice in architecture. It is
the authority, for instance, that allows Viollet-le-Duc “to repudiate, as starting from
a false principle, every order of art which, in subservience to mere traditions, thus
allows itself to deviate from the truth in its expressions,” that is, every order of
art other than the one he advocates (451). Without the exclusionary authority of
the immutable, there can be no repudiation. The condition of the exercise of this
authority is the grounding of the beautiful in nature as opposed to culture, insofar
as the former designates the universal and the latter the particular. Once grounded
in nature, the beautiful is rendered as much an ideal to be attained as a critical tool
for the restriction and regulation of the practice of architecture.
An architecture that turns to the mutable and arbitrary rules of culture for
guidance dispossesses itself of the authority to exclude. Boullée explains this
stance best when he tells us that if “you admire” a building “that is based on pure
fantasy and owes nothing whatsoever to nature, … your admiration is therefore
the result of a particular point of view and you should not be surprised to hear it
criticized, for the so-called beauty that you find in it has no connection with nature,
which is the source of all true beauty” (84). Whereas an architecture based on a
particular point of view is subject to criticism, the architecture based on nature is
not. Whereas a cultural architecture engenders infinite critical debate, the Natural
architecture ends it. It speaks conclusively. Its proclamations are not subject to
debate or alteration.
Since the self-proclaimed point of theoretical speculation is not to engender
more speculation but to end it, since the point is a theory to end all theorizing, it
is evident why culture is not assigned an overt place inside the theoretical edifices
of architecture. Although this may, in part, explain the exclusion of culture from
the theoretical discourse of architecture, it does not explain the rampant aversion
to it. I mentioned earlier that, historically, architectural theoreticians have devoted
as much, if not more time and effort to the condemnation and deprecation of

18 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

what they consider to be mutable and arbitrary in architecture as they do to the
enumeration of what they consider to be immutable and universal.
Along with the reasons for the rampant aversion to the mutable and the
arbitrary, what is also unclear is the source of nature’s undisputed authority as the
benefactor of the universal and the immutable laws of formation in architecture.
What is the provenance of the persuasive appeal and the inhered authority of
nature to which, over time, a bewildering number of mutually exclusive modes of
design have been ascribed without hesitation or reserve?
To explore the reasons for the consistent alignment of aesthetics and nature,
much as the persistent condemnation and deprecation of the mutable and the
arbitrary, we may begin with a closer look at Alberti’s Ten Books on Architecture
in part because Alberti (re)inaugurated and canonized the alignment of beauty
and nature for generation of architects to come. What I hope to point out is that
nature in theoretical discourse on architecture is, despite its malleable and ever-
changing form/definition, not so much a thing, much less a natural thing, as it is
a strategic resistance to contingency rooted in Judeo–Christian theology and the
metaphysics of presence. The alignment of beauty and nature in architecture is not
simply one choice among others, as it has everything to do with what the beautiful,
and by extension architecture, is incessantly desired to be: an autonomous, self-
referential, non-contingent presence.

The Beautiful

Alberti’s intent in writing the Ten Books is, he tells us, to “free” the “science” of
architecture—“a difficult, knotty and commonly obscured subject”—from “its
present ruin and oppression.” The obscurity of the subject is owing to the loss of
a clarifying frame known to the “ancients” and subsequently lost to the ravages of
time. Therefore, the task of writing, as Alberti sees it, is to explicate the “obscured”
parameters of architecture by exposing the principles that inherently delimit its
concerns. To this end, Alberti begins with a seemingly innocuous observation: “an
edifice is a kind of body consisting, like all other bodies, of design and of matter”
(Ten Books XI). Design, he tells us, “is produced by the thought” and comprised of
“a firm and graceful pre-ordering of the lines and angles conceived in the mind
and contrived by an ingenious artist.” Alberti insists: “nor has this design anything
that makes it in its nature inseparable from matter; … we can in our thought and
imagination contrive perfect forms of buildings entirely separate from matter” (1).
It is design and not building per se that is the architecture’s provenance. However,
this is not any form of design. Swiftly, as Alberti declares design’s independence
from matter, he divides design into two distinct and mutually exclusive categories:
the beautiful and the ugly. The requisite instrument of their indispensable divide is,
as we may suspect in advance, nature.
Of the “three properties required in all manner of buildings, namely, that they
be accommodated to their respective purpose, stout and strong for duration,
and pleasant and delightful to the sight,” the third, Alberti insists, “is by much the

architecture, in theory 19

most noble of all and very necessary besides” (Ten Books 112). “Your whole care,
diligence and expense, therefore should all tend to this, that whatever you build
may be not only useful and convenient, but also,” he insists, “delightful to the
sight” (113). The source of delight is beauty which Alberti tells us “is a harmony of
all the parts, in whatever subject it appears, fitted together with such proportion
and connection, that nothing could be added, diminished or altered, but for the
worse” (113).
The beautiful is neither missing a part to require addition, nor has it any part of
some other to require subtraction. It simply is: a self-referential, non-contingent
presence. This broad definition would be, as noted earlier, upheld and repeated in
every canonical treatise on architecture after Alberti.
Much as beauty’s presence pleases and delights Alberti, its absence is no neutral
ground. Beauty’s absence arouses, Alberti contends, nothing but “dislike” and
“hatred.” What is not beautiful, that is, what requires addition or subtraction is at
once “shocking” and “disgusting,”“abhorring” and “offensive.” His vehement reaction
to the ugly is, Alberti insists, not arbitrary.

It is wonderful, how, by a kind of natural instinct, all of us knowing or ignorant,
immediately hit upon what is right or wrong in the contrivance or execution of
things … Whence it happens that if any thing offers itself to us that is lame or
too little, or unnecessary, or ungraceful, we presently find ourselves moved and
desirous to have it handsomer. (Ten Books 21)

The ugly is for Alberti a diseased body. It is the beautiful temporally deprived of
its health, awaiting a “remedy” that only the expert (theoretician) can provide.
Conceptualizing the ugly as a disease is a faithful strategic move that effectively
denies the ugly a right to existence. As a “lamed” or “deformed” body beautiful, the
ugly has no place or existence of its own. It merely points to a temporal lapse in the
health of the body beautiful, pending redemption.
To redeem the beautiful, Alberti inquires into “that property” which “in its nature
makes a thing beautiful?” “The most expert artists among the ancients,” he posits,
“were of opinion, that an edifice was like an animal, so that in the formation of it we
ought to imitate nature” as “the greatest artist at all manner of composition” (Ten
Books 194). It is both as a shield and a remedy against the ugly that nature enters the
discourse on architecture. Alberti’s proposition is that by imitating the formative
process and not the product, “the greatest artist at all manner of composition,” and
not the art object, one can produce beautiful buildings.
It is perhaps needless to note that what Alberti goes on to identify as nature’s
laws for beauty, merely betray a mathematical worldview specific to Renaissance
culture. In effect, the enumerated laws serve to transform an abstract mathematical
worldview into a tangible lived experience, whereby Renaissance culture’s view of
the world and its experience of the world become mirror images of each other.2
However, it is not the cultural instrumentality of the beautiful in the specific that is
so much a question, as it is the disguising of culture as nature in the name of the
beautiful? What particular authority, we may ask, does nature possess and what
authority does it confer on any cultural law that is persuasively ascribed to it?

that: If the sky. it has no need of an Other. everything that we see would in no respect appear to be diminished from what it is now. For Alberti what “may or may not be present in things. the seas. short. unlike the sensibly visible. The original appearance of design to the consciousness of a subject before expression in “cruder” terms.3 Yet. Philosophers believe. self-referential intelligible presence. Therefore. long. inclusive of the design–matter and sensible–intelligible dichotomies can escape contingency without a certain intervention. what is there. because it is incapable of presenting itself to the mind as a non-contingent. Beauty. light. The beautiful must require no Other and no addition to be its perfect self. dark.” that is. Every attribute assumes the priority of its differential other in an endless chain of deferrals. the stars. That beauty is synonymous with divinity for Alberti is not coincidental. Be this God’s design for the world or the architect’s design for the building. together with all other objects. This contingency renders pure presence and simple origin or the pure presence of a single term as origin impossible. following Alberti’s own logic. Of course. and everything of the kind. (On Painting 53) The attributes of the sensibly visible are contingent on difference with a deferred Other. gloomy. They share the same attributes. non-contingent presence against which contingency is judged to be an accident or an extra ordinary event. is always already contingent on difference with a deferred Other as its condition of identity and identification. contingency on difference with a deferred Other is only an “accident. bright. This to say that every sensibly visible presence perpetually bears the trace of a deferred and absent Other—one that has always already come and is always yet to come. Design and only design can be beautiful because. because they may or may not be present in things. which philosophers termed accidents. What is seen in a thing as sensible visibility may or may not be there. what requires addition always already cannot by definition be beautiful. narrow. what is capable of presenting itself as a non-contingent presence to the consciousness of a subject despite the instability of the vehicle of transmission is. no less than matter. is an illusion of simple origin and pure presence made possible by the contingency on the deferred Other. Design. high.” This is because the original and normal state of being for Alberti is a self-referential. The sensibly visible cannot be beautiful. no duality as such. Each is a non-contingent. wide. as the intelligibly and not sensibly visible. Alberti says. reduced to half their size. … all these are such as to be known only by comparison. Large. Alberti tells us. and all living creatures.20 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Beauty. However. much as it is the perceived and perceivable order of things. The identification or comprehension of any sensibly visible attribute always assumes the prior identification or comprehension of an Other on the bases of difference with which it can be identified or comprehended as a single term. were the gods willing. for Alberti. is “a quality so noble and divine that the whole force of wit and art has been spent to procure it” (Ten Books 113). low. in . the mountains. self-referential presence. solely designates a privileged state of design. small. the intelligible design.

The privileged status of design and of the subject. of course. Alberti posits. which Alberti tells us. Why. The assumed ideal merely points to a desire for simple presence and pure origin. If architectural theory has repeatedly turned to nature since the Renaissance. the ugly is beauty stripped of its divinity. ordained numbers and/or symmetrical disposition of parts. . what it is not. because what is stated is the natural order or the divinely ordained order of nature. The ugly is not sensible. much as the beautiful as a non-contingent presence. Alberti appeals to the authority of an established theology that has already overcome contingency. However. consist of design and of matter as well. the truth of design’s absolute priority and independence. The value of matter is solely contingent on the design that is given to or implanted in it. The only venue to the beautiful is to overcome the irresolute contingency on difference with a deferred Other by positing an origin or an original term that alone would be capable of sheltering the beautiful. In the design– matter dichotomy. The ugly is. as well as the truth of the precedence of subject over object that is always assumed in positing the priority of design are beyond question. Contingency can only be overcome by divine intervention. mathematical in nature. or what amounts to the same. namely. like natural bodies. In short. we should recall. architecture can only be a divine gift. we may ask. indeed as the very definition of being. and relegate difference with the deferred Other to the status of an accidental occurrence or a disease that has befallen health. However. like beauty. Alberti’s appeal to the metaphysics of presence broadly and to Judeo–Christian theology specifically in the form of an equation between the order of appearance of the world and in the world is as unmistakable as it is unavoidable. the ugly is not endowed with divine qualities. can only be divine gifts. It is only by terminating the contingency on difference with a deferred Other. has not been and cannot be as such. it is because as a distinct. architecture. like beauty. Matter is as incapable of being ugly as it is incapable of being beautiful. however. does the ugly disgust? To find an answer. we must ask what the ugly is. fulfilling the desire that Alberti tells us is “a kind of natural instinct” is the very point and purpose of writing ten books on architecture specifically. in theory 21 so long as architecture. In equating the two. and assigned an absolute origin to the world and to nature. intelligible. The ugly is. God. However. It is not based on harmonic proportions. in other words. is contingent on difference and deferral. that is. The impossibility of fulfillment lies in the contingent figure of the ugly. The non-contingent. its presence to the consciousness of a subject in origin before the Other and before the contingent. This is. But who bears this Other? What is its provenance? This is a question of utmost difficulty within the bounds of the Albertian frame of thought. autonomous discipline subject to authoritative theoretical inquiry. disgusts “all of us knowing or ignorant” alike. precisely what Alberti attempts to do when he equates edifices to bodies in nature. by an article of faith. it is an unintelligible intelligibility. be it subject on object or design on matter at a theological origin that Alberti can assume presence as the norm. comprised as it is of design and matter. and of architectural theory broadly. the desire for beautiful edifices cannot be met. unlike beauty. an affinity between man-made edifices and natural bodies only to conclude that edifices. whose paramount concern is the identification of provenance.

22 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

It is evident to Alberti that the ugly commonly aligns with “ignorance” or “levity
and instability of mind.” As such the ugly may well have humanity as its provenance.
The being of this ugly could—a certain onto-theological model withstanding—
be explained. It could be given a father, a birth, and a history. Yet, there is, Alberti
observes, imperfection in nature. “Let us therefore enquire,” Alberti asks, “how it
happens that in the bodies produced by nature herself some are accounted more,
others less beautiful or even deformed” (Ten Books 194). Alberti accounts for the
more or less and discounts them as having to do with opinion. The deformed is
never subjected to an inquiry. All Alberti tells us about the ugly is that “no man
beholds anything ugly or deformed, without an immediate hatred (dislike) and
abhorrence (disgust)” (194).
What is clear to Alberti is that the ugly is not a constituent part of nature and
though the ugly is in nature, that is because it has somehow, from somewhere
outside nature, insinuated itself in nature. It has forcefully invaded a body to which
it does not belong. But, from where and how? This question, which is only of
relevance within the bounds of the Albertian frame of thought, cannot be given an
answer within those boundaries, and for that matter anywhere else. This is precisely
why the ugly disgusts. This frame of thought cannot account for the ugly. Forced
to consume, it cannot digest the ugly. Unable to internalize or externalize the ugly,
this frame of thought can only find itself disgusted by what frustrates all attempts
at appropriation or expulsion—much as they amount to same. Having made every
effort possible to keep distinctly separate, without the trace of an attachment,
origin from non-origin, beauty from ugly, and so on, this frame of thought cannot
account for the ugly. Confronted with the outside that is not out and, in fact, has
never been quite out, for there has not been either a pure outside or a pure inside,
this frame of thought can only view this spillage with disgust and be filled with the
desire to efface it.

Whence it happens that if anything offers itself to us that is lame or too little, or
unnecessary, or ungraceful, we presently find ourselves moved and desirous to
have it handsomer. (Ten Books 21)

The ugly fills the onlooker with a desire to make it beautiful, that is, to efface it. It
does so because this frame of thought can only withstand the ugly by effacing it.
To this end, when confronting the ugly and all its faults:

The reason of those faults perhaps we may not all of us be acquainted with, and
yet if we were to be asked, there is none of us but would readily say, that such a
thing might be remedied and corrected. Indeed every one cannot propose the
remedy, but only such as are well practiced and experienced that way. (21–2)

To cure the “lamed” or the “deformed,” what Alberti, as the “well practiced and
experienced that way” offers is ornament, to say nothing as yet of writing ten books
on how to procure beauty or cure the ugly. What remains to determine is what
ornament is and how it may redeem the beautiful?

architecture, in theory 23

The Remedy

Alberti tells us: “we should erect our buildings naked, and let it be quite completed
before we begin to dress it with ornament” (Ten Books 203). This analogy prefigures,
for the most part, the contribution of each subject. Of the body and the dress of
architecture, it is primarily the body that is subject to the natural laws of beauty
and as such it is also the body that is chiefly responsible for “the pleasure and
delight which we feel on the view of any building” (112). Hence, the body must
be first erected nude and complete to the point of requiring neither addition nor
Once the nude body beautiful is complete, it must be dressed. Ornament, in turn,
constitutes all that is added to cover the body as dress. For instance, Alberti tells us
that the “outward coat” of the wall is an ornament in that it is not an integral part of
“the body of the wall itself,” but a dress that covers it. The ornamental outward coat,
however, can itself be adorned with figures, paintings, and other similar additions. It
too, in other words, can be considered a nude body and then dressed. The column,
Alberti tell us, is “the principal ornament in all architecture” (Ten Books 130). Yet, as a
body subject to the laws of beauty, it itself can be dressed with different ornaments,
for example, different shafts, bases, capitals, and so on. In turn, the building to the
body of which the column is added as ornament, may serve as ornament to larger
bodies. For instance: “a temple well built and handsomely adorned is the greatest
and noblest ornament a city can have” (136). In short, “ornaments are in a manner
infinite,” whereby each dress can be considered a nude body in want of a dress in
an endless chain of ornamentation (136).
Although “ornaments are in a manner infinite,” not every ornament is proper for
all parts of the building or all building types. In general, the type and the quantity
of ornaments determine the status of the body to which they are affixed as dress.
Without ornaments it would be virtually impossible to distinguish the status of one
nude body from another: “the meaner” from “the more honorable.”
It is important to note that ornament is not a specific thing. The word does not
even denote a specific class of things. Although in the abstract ornament is defined
as a dress, this definition, as Alberti aptly points out, only engenders an infinite
chain insofar as each dress consists of a body subject to further dressing. There is,
therefore, nothing in architecture that can be specifically designated an ornament.
This is in part because ornament is not so much a thing as it is a process, not so
much a distinct dress as the dressing of the body beautiful. What ornamentation
names is the act of differentiation—the becoming distinct of the body beautiful
in perpetuity. This function, however, as we shall discuss later, far exceeds the
determination of the status of the body. It is partly in recognition of this excess that
Alberti tells us: “ornaments annexed to all sorts of buildings make an essential part
of architecture” (Ten Books 162).
Setting aside, for the moment, the question of how something that is by
definition annexed or added can be an essential part or a part at all, there are certain
rules to be observed and certain precautionary steps to be taken in the application

24 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

of ornaments. This essential part can potentially be a destructive annexation.
The sensible content of ornament—its color, texture, or material—can divert
the attention of the onlooker. Instead of seeing the dressed body, the onlooker
may end up only seeing the dress. Hence, Alberti recommends the annexation of
this essential part only insofar as there is no chance of interference. A good and a
permissible ornament, he tells us, is a beautiful one. It is the one that charms not by
its sensible content, but by the beauty of its design.

… whoever considers the true nature of ornament in building will be convinced,
that it is not expense so much that is requisite, as taste and contrivance. (Ten
Books 187)

I, for my part, hate everything that favors of luxury or profusion, and am best
pleased with those ornaments which arise principally from the ingenuity and
beauty of the contrivance. (192)

Ornament must be beautiful before it can be added as a dress. However, even
though each aesthetic object is a potential ornament and though each permissible
ornament must be a pleasing and delightful object when judged on its own merits,
nevertheless once it is annexed to a body as ornament, it is no longer its beauty that
contributes to the pleasure and delight felt in view of that body but its function as
an addition to the body. Ornament must be essentially beautiful, yet what makes
ornament essential is not its formal beauty, but the role it plays in relation to the
body to which it is annexed. Of the essential role of ornamentation, Alberti writes:

How extraordinary a thing (says the person introduced in Tully) is a handsome
youth in Athens! This critic in beauty found that there was something deficient
or superfluous, in the persons he disliked, which was not compatible with the
perfection of beauty, which I imagine might have been obtained by means
of ornament, by painting and concealing anything that was deformed, and
trimming and polishing what was handsome; so that the unsightly parts might
have given less offense, and the more lovely more delight. If this be granted we
may define ornament to be a kind of an auxiliary brightness and improvement
[complement] to beauty. So that then beauty is somewhat lovely which is proper
and innate, and diffused over the whole body, and ornament somewhat added or
fastened on, rather than proper and innate. (Ten Books 113)

This critic in beauty dislikes that which is not compatible with the perfection of
beauty. The remedy is, it appears, ornament, by whose “means” the pleasing
perfection of beauty is attained. Before the advent of beauty, or else in the place of
its absence, there is either the deficient—an inner part of the body missing from
within—or else the superfluous—a foreign part joined to the body from without.
In either case, there is a disseminated totality. There is a body with indeterminate
boundaries: an unsightly ugly something which has neither a proper inside nor a
determinable outside. To this disseminated totality ornament is annexed as remedy.
The addition makes the incompatible, the deficient or the superfluous compatible
with the perfection of beauty. The task implies either the provision of the missing

architecture, in theory 25

part of the deficient or the subtraction of the extra part of the superfluous. The
added ornament, however, is neither the missing part of the deficient nor the extra
part of the superfluous. Ornament by definition provides no assimilable parts and
is never assimilated by the body beautiful. It is and remains foreign to both the
compatible and the incompatible. It is always an “added” or “fastened on” Other on
both sides of an equation that it alone makes possible. Incompatible + ornament
= compatible + ornament.
Ornament, Alberti tells us, turns dislike and disgust into pleasure and delight by
“trimming” and “polishing” the “more lovely” as it paints and hides the “unsightly.”
Ornament, in other words, is neither a simple inclusion nor a simple exclusion. If
anything it plays a double role: acting at once as light and shadow, revealing and
concealing, including and excluding by one and the same gesture. Ornament’s
insightful light reveals the “innate” and the “proper” as it casts a blinding shadow
over what lies beyond the periphery of the proper: the incompatible ugly Other.
Where, however, is this rim, this periphery, or boundary separating the beautiful
from the ugly, the compatible from the incompatible, the perfect from the
imperfect, before ornament is “added” or “fastened on?” The ramifications of this
question are grave because the parameters at issue are the very parameters that
separate architecture from mere building, the beautiful edifice from the deficient
construct, and ultimately the text from the subject it is said to contemplate and
reveal from a distance.
As “auxiliary brightness,” ornament, Alberti would have us assume, adds its light
to the light of beauty and “improves” or complements its intensity making beauty
shine ever brighter in the foreground amid a concealed and shadowy background.
What ornament is said to improve, however, does not precede it. If ornament adds
its light to the light of beauty, it adds itself to an undifferentiated, unperceived light
before the addition. It is, after all, precisely the absence of this light that mandates
addition. Also, it is only after the addition that we are able to differentiate the
undifferentiated, undifferentiable compatible and proper from the incompatible
and the improper in the same perspicuous manner that light is differentiated from
shadow. Ornament is not, in other words, so much the “auxiliary brightness” that
Alberti wishes it to be, as it is that which in the absence of any clear borders, any
pre-defined parameters, is imposed, not unlike a frame, on a disseminated totality.4
In turn, it marks the advent of differentiation and the emergence of opposition.
Ornament constitutes the very periphery, parameter or boundary that is presumed
to preexist its addition as “auxiliary brightness.”
Ornament, as Alberti contends, is an essential part of architecture, and it is so
not only as an addition to the body deficient or superfluous, but as an addition
to the body beautiful as well. In fact ornament is so essential that there can be no
“art of building,” no beautiful edifices, before ornament is added, on the one hand,
to impose and thus expose its parameters and, on the other hand, to fill and thus
fulfill the desire for beauty.

… it is undeniable that there may be in the mere form or figure of a building,
an innate excellence and beauty, which strikes and delights the mind, and is

The dress. and pursues those things which are most adorned and rejects the unadorned and neglected. that non-contingent absolute that requires neither addition nor subtraction? How are we to account for a deficiency in perfection—a certain gap or lack. is marked by a gap or lack in the body to which ornament comes as an addition. … (Ten Books 203) This innately beautiful building. however. always already dressed. completed with something other than itself—neither proper nor inner by definition—in order to be its perfect self. the beautiful is. The place of ornament. Each beautiful body as such assumes prior ornamentation while each ornament assumes prior beauty. the nude body as such. so rough or unpolished. and an indispensable contingency that mandates addition? How are we to privilege the beautiful over the ugly if the contingency and the pernicious deficiency that is said to constitute a most radical difference between the beautiful and the ugly. where are the “obscured” parameters that this text had set out to only unravel and reveal? Insofar as ornament points to a need for addition in the body that must require no addition to be itself. so Alberti contends. can only cause dislike and disgust. The deficient.” And no man can bear to see the body beautiful nude because: … there is hardly any man so melancholy or stupid. There is. (Ten Books 112) A healthy mind rejects. that is. must be. an appendage to “a difficult. in order to allow the beauty of the body shine forth must itself be beautiful. The nude body beautiful must be dressed. the parameters are nowhere to be found. and if any thing he views he perceives any ornament is wanting. or adorned before it appears as such and delights the onlooker. “no man can bear to see naked of ornament. and the nude body is nothing other. Therefore. but what is very much pleased with what is beautiful. Where are we then to locate beauty. the unadorned and neglected for what is not adorned. however. he declares that there is something deficient which would make the work more delightful and noble. the body of the dress must itself be dressed or ornamented while the ornament to the ornament must be beautiful before it can be added to complete. a certain internal indeterminacy. is deficient. insofar as the beautiful must be.26 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance immediately perceived where it is. knotty . Each leads us back to the other in an endless deferral with no beginning and no end. a paradox here. framed. as much as it is missed where it is not. is a shared characteristic? In sum. it should be remembered. There is no outside to contingency! The Text The text within whose volume Alberti appends ornamentation as a remedy to the deficient or the superfluous. Alberti concludes. completed with a dress before it can give pleasure and delight. To be beautiful. if we recall. in other words. in other words. is itself. is always.

he has already lost to decoration. This metaphor is. If Alberti undertakes the arduous task of writing on architecture. presence before absence. but an ornamented subject within the text. to reveal its perfection he must remove the dress. However. the sufficient from the deficient.” rather because from the outset the beautiful is said to be a natural. Alberti insists. It is meant. the intelligible before the sensible.”  What this text reveals. that is. The ornament that redeems the beautiful.” If this metaphor is compelling and persuasive that is not because ornament is “a kind of an auxiliary brightness. of revelation and not the textual construction of the parameters of architecture depends on it. or else architecture from mere building. is also unnecessary and inessential. if it could be said to reveal anything. If ornament contributes to pleasure and delight felt in view of the body. If it brings an insightful light to bear on the body. The perception of the task of writing as a venture of discovery and not invention. his point and purpose is not to confound but to separate the beautiful from the ugly. neither arbitrary nor accidental. it also subtracts.” It too is appended as “a kind of an auxiliary brightness” whose point and purpose is to reveal and redeem the obscured parameters of architecture in a state of “oppression and ruin. original before copy. as we have seen. be this divorced from the text or within it. If it completes. also denies the beautiful its perfection. If ornament adds. The latter only reveals a deficiency. that the ornamental appendage is nothing but a dress. Yet. short of removing the ornamentation. what is “auxiliary” and supplemental. this constitutes only half the story. This is the paradox that is ornamentation. Therefore. Hence Alberti’s recourse to the dress as a metaphor for comprehending the role of ornamentation. it is by way of a “complement:” of more light and more delight. what is simply more. however. which is tantamount to not appearing at all. if ornament is nothing but a dress or “a kind of an auxiliary brightness. specifically. the self-referential from the contingent. In turn. is not a sovereign subject outside the text. it also points to a deficiency in what it completes. and for all intents and purposes rightly so. To this “end” ornament is certainly an impediment. What is fastened on can readily be removed without a real loss. it can only claim a truth value for what it purports to only be revealing from a distance. design before matter. non-contingent absolute divorced from the text and independent of the textual and the ornamental revelations. architecture. this light is only “a kind of an auxiliary brightness”. The body beautiful never appears in this text without a dress. What Alberti gains by ornamentation. in other words. It is meant to bring to light that which in architecture is not contingent on difference with a deferred Other. It is also indispensable. to subject architecture to the laws of a metaphysics that has placed nature before culture. and so on. in theory 27 and commonly obscured subject. To reveal the body beautiful Alberti must dress it. Alberti must render it removable without having to remove it. if the text is to live up to its promise of revelation. The text can only marginalize its own role. beauty before ugly. The ornamental remedy is at once a poison. the textual appendage is meant to unravel and reveal what requires neither addition nor subtraction. However. . It is because Alberti has already dressed the subject before subjecting it to ornamentation.

even if obscured and unseen before the textual revelation. What the theoretical writing promises at the outset. The text has already become the paradox it is meant to resolve. natural margin or borderline. the natural dress places the beautiful before any and all ornamental appendages. as Alberti insists. architecture before the written revelation. appearances to the contrary not withstanding. by reducing its own operation to an act of revelation.28 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Before the ornamental appendage. however. original. the ornamental appendage can be nothing but an auxiliary brightness by virtue of its assigned place in the timely and resolute order of appearances: beauty before ornamentation. culture. or for that matter after the external supplemental addition that is theory. At once. The remedy to this deficiency—the initial dress—is the imposition of beauty as the criterion that allows Alberti to separate architecture from mere building. by a natural decree. What the theoretical text brings to light is an endless chain of ornamentation from beauty to nature to the infinity of the ornamental appendage as a dress. and nature before cultural invention and construction. It makes impossible what it makes possible. architecture’s search for an illusive non-contingent beauty that is universal. The sovereign subject as such never appears before. theory insures the truth-value of what it purports to only be revealing.” In turn. the insightful light that the theoretical writing is said to shed over its subject is accompanied by a blinding shadow cast over its own operation. that is partly because architecture’s contingency on the dress. theory. that is. The ornament. To reveal Alberti must resort to ornamentation. Each appended dress takes the place of a deficiency in an infinite chain with no beginning or end. denies what it provides. if ornament is. however. perpetually instigates and promulgates the desire. can never be undressed. This delimitational dress is further augmented by nature as “the origin of all that is beautiful and perfect. It has already become a remedy and a poison. albeit one that. By assuming an ambivalent supplemental role in relation to its subject. As an ornamental appendage. “a kind of an auxiliary brightness” that is because Alberti’s text has already assumed the paradoxical role of what it seeks to reduce to a supplemental source of light. it denies in the end. by supplying what is missing and missed in the subject from the outset—a clarifying frame or borderline. This is the want of a pre-determined. Regardless of what it may accomplish. ornament and so on. and true. The reason is also the indispensable and synergetic relationship between architectural theory and the metaphysics of presence. As the non-contingent original term. Much as theory’s authority . The endless demarcation of borderlines within the theoretical text frames and defines the subject after the fact. The dress perpetually promises the illusive presence of the nude body beautiful. Therefore. appears to indispensably and irresolutely self-perpetuate into an unremitting chain of theoretical texts. we should recall. in all its guises. at once: not only “a kind of an auxiliary brightness” but also the origin of light and the impossibility of a determinable origin. there is the theoretical text itself on the margins of architecture filling the place of a primal deficiency in its subject. immutable. an addition and a subtraction. on the other hand. If. the beautiful need no longer assume prior ornamentation as the condition of its appearance because it has already appeared in nature.

as it has. as far as. that architecture. and nature’s process clearly indicate its rules. origin and so on. the path opposite to the marginalization and exclusion of ornamentation. that if they neglected this main point they should never produce anything great or commendable. in order to transfer them to the business of architecture.. theory’s methodical and concerted resistance to contingency upholds and protects that metaphysics indispensably by way of supplementation and/or ornamentation.. in the cause of truth. Notes 1 Leone Battista Alberti 1452: The ancients knowing from the nature of things. . (An Essay on Architecture 11) Etienne-Louis Boullée 1785: . conversely. always voiced from within culture. For what are the most judicious Artisans but the Mimiques of Nature? (The Elements of Architecture 7) Marc-Antoine Laugier 1753: It is the same in architecture as in all other arts: its principles are founded on simple nature. as the greatest artist at all manner of compositions. This is the path of incorporation. Essay on Art 85) John Ruskin 1849: . whatever is in architecture fair or beautiful. being an imitatrix of nature. cannot shed its dependency on the metaphysics of presence. is a matter of course. is imitated from natural forms. and that if I succeed. (Architecture. what I understand by art is everything that aims at imitating nature. To both ends. (Seven Lamps 71) . and for this purpose they labored. the aversion to culture as the figure of the contingent and the ornamental. beauty. that no architect has attempted the task I have undertaken. The way out—inadvertently presuming there is an out—may appear to be. as well as all other arts. the metaphysics of presence cannot effectively shed its architectural dress. in proving that architecture. (Four Books 25) Henry Wotton 1624: I had noted.. can suffer nothing that either alienates or deviates from that which is agreeable to nature. architecture. as I dare hope I shall. in theory 29 to speak conclusively of the truth of architecture is vested in its appeal to the metaphysics of presence in the guise of nature. (Ten Books 195) Andrea Palladio 1570: I say therefore. that all art was then in truest perfection when it might be reduced to some natural Principle.... Whether the nude body beautiful shall await at the termination of this path is a story we shall have to follow next. which is also to say domestication of ornamentation. did in their works propose to themselves chiefly the imitation of nature. Much as architectural theory. its relations with nature are concerned. has perhaps an even greater advantage than the other arts. as far as the industry of man could reach to discover the laws upon which she herself acted in the production of her works.

(In the Cause of Architecture 63) Le Corbusier 1923: Architecture is the first manifestation of man creating his own universe. so suggestive. Of Grammatology. submitting to the laws of nature. the laws which govern our own nature. given inherent vision there is no source so fertile. . The Truth in Painting. 4 For a thorough discussion the role of ornament as a frame see Derrida. creating it in the image of nature. (Towards a New Architecture 69–70) 2 The church of Sant’Andrea discussed earlier is a case in point.. our universe. 3 For an extended discussion of the concept of trace. difference and deferral and of the metaphysics of presence please see Derrida. or helpful aesthetically for the architects as a comprehension of natural law..30 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Frank Lloyd Wright 1908: .

and justice becomes cruelty.” “Ornamentation. Seven Lamps 34) The Transgression At the outset of the book Pioneers of Modern Design. we may mark the moment of their sunset.” Pevsner quotes Ruskin saying. “It is now time. and to the proponents of the Modern Movement. wherein zeal becomes impatience. “is the principal part of architecture” (Pioneers 19). happily. that strange twilight of virtues. and temperance becomes severity. the same essential separation from their contraries—the same twilight at the meeting of the two: a something wider belt than the line where the world rolls into night. and much of what they hoped to re-form in it. To most theoreticians.2 On the Border of the Beautiful There is a marked likeness between the virtues of man and the enlightenment of the globe he inhabits—the same diminishing gradation in vigor up to the limits of their domains. the tragic consequence of the application of this “surprising” principle to architectural practice at the end of the last century. with the greater number of them. and each and all vanish into gloom. “to reevaluate the once-horrifying statement of John Ruskin that architecture is the decoration of construction. Pevsner goes on to show the comic. and faith superstition. and historians of the twentieth century the absurdity and the comedy in pronouncing ornamentation the principal part of architecture remained self-evident until Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s daring dictum in the concluding sentence to their book Learning from Las Vegas.” To this once-horrifying statement. architects. Next. the authors immediately append . This “surprising” statement has since become an emblem for all that the proponents of the Modern Movement believed to be wrong with architectural design around the turn of the century. Nevertheless. may turn the shadow back by the way by which it had gone down … (Ruskin. and.”   Venturi and Scott Brown contended. though their dimness increases gradually. that dusky debatable land. Nikolaus Pevsner sums up “the basic doctrine of nineteenth-century architectural theory” in what has since become a well-known quote from Ruskin’s “Lectures on Architecture and Painting.

” Unrau contends. Landow’s eminent study: The Aesthetic and Critical Theories of John Ruskin. Emblematically. ornament is suddenly reappearing in some of the most challenging new architecture. From a “provocative statement” as “Ornamentation is the principal part of architecture. to some of whom the renewed sentiment was the clear indicator of the dawn of a new age in architectural design. “anathema to Modernist design—is back in style. “Certainly. the five volumes of Modern Painters (1843– 1860). The sentence—“Ornamentation is the principal part of architecture”—has been made to assume the burden of more responsibility and blame than any one sentence could readily be made to assume. … which constituted his entire emphasis in architecture” and for being “so preoccupied with architectural surfaces” that he did not “concern himself with the overall plan of a building. vertically or horizontally” (Garrigan 49. if not embarrassment.1 “Ornament. through all those fat red volumes. does not dismiss his architectural theories on account of his blustery statements on ornamentation. quite the opposite of the conservative act that it has been for most of this century” (1). among a hand-full of Ruskin scholars. chastise Ruskin for his “preoccupation with detail. The permissive and celebratory sentiment toward ornament that was first (re)publicized by Venturi and Scott Brown.” Although “long banished as aesthetically retarded.” it was contended. “is a radical act.32 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Pugin’s “warning” that “it is alright to decorate construction but never construct decoration” (163). “it was silly of” Ruskin “to sum up his wide-ranging and subtle analysis of architectural ornament with a dogmatic catch- cry that has effectively repelled generations of readers from making a serious attempt to find out if there was any substance behind the bluster” (65). he did not even see structures as occupying space. where the question of ornamentation does not figure prominent. Ruskin’s “surprising” statement remains a source of discomfort.3 Even John Unrau who. Despite a changed sentiment toward ornament in the last four decades.” Unrau contends. morally reprehensible. was soon amplified by a sizable number of authors and architects.2 Other scholars. crafts and even the fine arts” (Jensen and Conway 1). A case in point is George P. in particular. . it appeared then. He chastises Ruskin as well. the views of a man who could say such apparently nonsensical things” (13). Ornamentation. interior design. to many scholars of Ruskin’s aesthetic theories. it is held accountable for the state of architectural practice at the end of the last century from one end of the spectrum. finds Ruskin’s proclamations to be at best problematic. apparently. or simply the affliction of people who don’t know better. furniture.” and did not “conceive of buildings as enclosing and molding spaces. on the other end of the spectrum. if not directly. 62). not innocent of a Modernist predisposition. though on account of making it “all too easy for subsequent writers to dismiss his architectural thought without making the strenuous effort necessary to obtain a full and balanced reading of his work on the subject” (13). to the present state of Ruskinian scholarship. “It is perhaps no wonder that potential readers of Ruskin should conclude that there is no point in pursuing. and is sharply critical of those who do. Some scholars stay clear of Ruskin’s blustering pronouncements on ornamentation by focusing on his substantial work on painting and sculpture.

but the place of architecture as distinct from the place of ornament. What fails in this sentence is not the faculty of judgment. The silliness and the absurdity of it reside in confounding the peripheral with the central. or assume a central position. and controlled. The otherwise all encompassing Modern architecture occupies a place that is made distinct by virtue of being located against and outside ornamentation and the decorative arts. on the border of the beautiful 33 Self-evident as the problem with this sentence may be. but never construct decoration. The problem has to do with the exact placement of ornament with respect to architecture: interior or anterior. The problem. and architecture—are clearly not out of place or improper in the context of any discussion on building. by carefully distinguishing and separating the essential from the inconsequential. “all right to decorate construction. the unique identity of the Modern Movement was constituted. as a simple error in judgment. The ornament in this sentence is placed out of place. central or peripheral. it is once again. what in this sentence has propelled it to a position of such prominent infamy? The words themselves—ornamentation. it is important to pursue in some detail that which is purportedly silly. the problem with the sentence is. in part. as evidenced by their reaction to Ruskin’s displacement. without as yet reading too much into it. They too define the identity of their new architecture by defining its place in relation to ornamentation. that is. The place of ornament—if it has one—is not a principal place in architecture. or generally wrong with this proclamation. a problem of place or placement. though not an ornamentation that is free to roam around.4 Though the words are not out of place in the wider context. or architecture from the ornamental. but one properly placed. administered.” as Le Corbusier put it. Should we recall Venturi and Scott Brown’s warning. at the risk of stating the obvious. is the realization of a certain dependence on place and placement. The nonsense in Ruskin’s sentence is in its “surprising” equation of the ornamental with the principal part of architecture. The nonsense in Ruskin’s sentence was self-evident to the proponents of Modernism from a vantage point that is perhaps best exaggerated by Adolf Loos’ well-known equation of ornamentation to “crime” (Conrads 19).” Brent Brolin expresses much the same sentiment in his Flight of Fancy: The Banishment and Return of Ornament when he tell us that “As ornament returns:” The most obvious pitfall … is that designers will lapse into doing ‘ornament for ornament’s sake. This much is evident to both the proponents and the opponents of Ruskin alike. the supplemental with the pivotal. We find them variously stated in many a discourse on architectural ornamentation since the Renaissance. absurd. by opposing ornamentation. and placing it firmly outside of architecture. preposterous. Exactly. Modern “Architecture. In fact. “is everything—but is not the ‘decorative arts’” (91). the principal from the peripheral. principal part. In this instance the place is one that is inclusive of ornamentation. nonsensical. Neither treats this sentence.’ That would leave us only slightly better off than when they . however. The proponents of the renewed permissive sentiment toward ornamentation have done no less than their Modernist counterparts in defining their own distinct identity. the subsidiary with the cardinal.

or for that matter not. to become just another alleged ‘style of the times. in the other. that is. Unrau contends. the architecture that grants it passage endures. there appears to be a clear agreement between Ruskin and the majority of his peers since the Renaissance on the devastating consequence of losing control over ornamentation. forcefully affirmed “the necessity of considering detail as subordinate to the visual whole. Ornament cannot be allowed. Furthermore. the consummate “ornamentalist” by some accounts. According to Ruskin. so long as ornament is not the end but the means to an end. John Unrau. To give ornament a principal position. did not fail to observe the necessity of marking the place of ornament clearly and decidedly in a subordinate position. however. at the specific distance from which one is viewing it. Leaving aside for the moment the question of an actual or assumed disagreement between Ruskin and numerous other writers on architectural ornamentation over the place of ornament in architecture. In this context. at some later date. verbal shock tactics aside. and all that has been said in Ruskin’s defense. in one instance inside architecture as opposed to outside it. is tantamount to creating an architecture that is tied to “the times” and fading away in time. we are told. in a principal. perhaps all that can be said. although it is virtually impossible . to assume a principal position. trying to point out “the serious intentions behind” Ruskin’s “verbal shock tactics. it appeared necessary to subject the passage to condition and careful supervision— less. the reason for the strong reaction to Ruskin’s pronouncement may become more evident.34 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance indulged in ‘ornament for no ornament’s sake. forsaking its place to the next in line.’ The promise of postmodernism would then fade. “depending upon the distance of the viewer from the building. lies the determination of the place of ornament within architecture. are treated in such a way that they contribute to its aesthetic articulation” (67). by the next in line. What it is that we must not lose control over. In other words. mainly because it has seldom been noticed that Ruskin usually implies a much wider definition of ‘ornament’ than the modern reader … tends to expect” (65–6). Ruskin would. of course. we are told. “regard as ornamental all elements of the building which. architecture fails the test of time. as opposed to one transcending time.” informs us that Ruskin’s “ideas have often been grossly misinterpreted. as opposed to a subordinate position with respect to architecture. So long as ornament serves something other than itself. (Brolin 282) As the gates were opened once again to allow ornament back in architecture.” and “certain that ornament lacking subordination to total design will inevitably lead to aesthetic disaster” (67). almost any major subdivision of structure might be considered ornamental” (67). Although there is no architectural element or group of elements that can be labeled an ornament. Given the purported consequence of misplacing ornament. is that he really did not mean it. to construct decoration or ornament for ornament’s sake. Ruskin. no one has as yet identified with equal force and clarity as the direness of the consequence itself. Otherwise the architecture that allows ornament in for its own sake inevitably fades away. even Ruskin. Ruskin’s assertion not withstanding. Between the enduring and the ephemeral architecture.’ to be followed.

This is surprisingly similar to Laugier’s definition of ornament as all that “one can make use of or cut out without the essence of the architectural Order being affected.5 Every architectural element can become an ornamental element so long as it is attached to an edifice and yet it appears detachable from it. “as something other than structural. My intent here is not to speak in riddles. though detachable. if we find virtually every major movement in architecture since the Renaissance define its unique identity by assuming a distinct posture on ornamentation— internal or external. as it is a certain placement of any element with respect to another element—each of which appears as what it is in reference to the other. To be ornamental an element must be attached. Alberti. The ornamental is always measured against another body as an appendage and a subordinate element. all that “may be taken away from the building. is not simply an external or a displaced element. in turn. as something applied” (Jensen and Conway 7). as an ornamental feature. it is important to note. extra. it follows. or not. the element in question is not or is no longer ornamental. and in their turn. It must be in place and yet out of place. that every architectural element could be an ornamental element depending on its place and the circumstances of its placement. as discussed before. auxiliary. However. is to an extent involuntary. other than functional. precisely as something added or fastened on that the proponents of Modern architecture deprecated ornamentation. because ornament. “somewhat added or fastened on. If.” that is. nevertheless. The difficulty in articulating what ornament is. in and of itself. defined ornament “to be a kind of an auxiliary brightness and improvement [complement] to beauty. Ornament does not have an identity or a place of its own. the place of ornament has been of considerable concern. This is because ornament is not so much an element. It was. in a sense. It is not detached. The consensus among the authors that address the subject is that ornament is something extra and detachable. because it is fundamentally a creature of placement. on the other hand. It does not designate so much a thing. so long as from its allotted place it appears as though it can be displaced. as Ruskin purportedly assumed. rather than proper and innate” (Ten Books 113). that is. It must add to the body. this is in part because it is by defining and identifying the ornamental. the post-modern opponents allowed it to return as all that is added to “decorate construction. all “that can be admitted or suppressed without changing the thing fundamentally” (152). It must be at once a part and apart. in turn. on the border of the beautiful 35 to point to any architectural feature. that is. by separating the additive from the . and not hurt it” (The Stones of Venice 400). It is. as Ruskin put it within limits that we shall have to discuss later. Given the prevalent definition of ornamentation as addition.” that is. virtually every author addressing the subject of ornamentation appears to assume that there is such a thing as ornament and that it is an addition or an appendage to the body of the edifice. but not submerge in it. has no decidable place. the ornamental element. If it is simply external or detached. locating its place and identifying its boundaries. principal or peripheral—if losing control over ornamentation is repeatedly purported to have dire consequences. as a specific relationship between two things. other. It must be both an addition and additional.” that is. The measure of ornament is never itself.

followed by the theoreticians of the enlightenment before Ruskin and the theoreticians of the Modern Movement after him. The beautiful is nothing if contingent on addition or subtraction. In addition. which is neither simply attached nor simply detached. From Le Corbusier’s text we may trace our steps through virtually every major. If the “aim. … Architecture has another meaning and other ends to pursue than showing construction and responding to needs” (102–3). the disagreements have centered on how to make buildings beautiful. and Delight. nevertheless. presents considerable difficulty. because ornament is judged against the principal.” as Le Corbusier put it. Ruskin’s elevation of ornamentation to a principal part of architecture creates a crisis of identity for the latter. what can accept neither addition nor subtraction. that constitutes and separates architecture from mere building is the non-contingent beautiful. To lose control of the ornamental is in a manner tantamount to losing sight of the essential. influential treatise on architecture back to Virtruvius’ triad “commodity. Without “delight. Architecture is synonymous with aesthetics and beauty. the question of the place and role of ornamentation. There is yet another dimension to the problem. in principle. It is also precisely in reference to this definition that Ruskin’s equation of ornamentation to a principal part of architecture has been viewed as absurdly comic and/or sadly tragic. contentious and heated as the debates often have been. Firmness. It is precisely in reference to this pervasive understanding of the beautiful that the question of ornamentation has assumed a critical dimension in theoretical discourse on architecture. If disjoined and separated. Ornament cannot be principal. we may recall Le Corbusier’s dictum “when a thing responds to a need. This is another reason why Ruskin’s proclamation has appeared so problematic. they merely substituted one set of ornaments for another. only “denying in theory what they were doing in practice” (114). Condemning and excluding ornament from architecture.” there is building. not whether or exactly why one must. presents its own distinct dilemmas and contradictions. a constant as well. it inevitably challenges the self-sufficiency of the beautiful and as such architecture itself. As discussed earlier. not only has the objective been beyond theoretical scrutiny or doubt. If allowed as addition. it appears to confound two things whose identity depends on their distinction: the architecture and the ornamentation. what transcends building. that is. At face value. Modern Architects were. the proposed ways and mean of rendering a building beautiful have been as diverse and varied over time as the cultural and paradigm shifts they reflect. Placing ornament in a marginal position as all “that . its definition.36 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance essential that the principal and the peripheral are made to appear as such. has been. Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown point out in their scathing critique of the Modern Movement. as pointed out earlier. For instance. but not architecture. Trying to set aside ornamentation. ornament. it is not beautiful. raises questions about its presence and contribution as discussed in Alberti’s case. Nevertheless. to find in each instance the same emphasis on the beautiful as the condition of the elevation of building to architecture. The path of marginalization and/or exclusion of ornamentation. Architecture is. according to a pervasive Western tradition.” or forward to Venturi and Scott Brown’s reiteration of it.

The intent would not be to argue for or against ornament. that is. It is of curtains. Why placing ornament. in order that architects may understand this: I assume that their building is to be a perfect creature capable of nothing less than it has. Ten Books 113). exactly as a woman may gracefully put a bracelet on her arms. and that no single atom of them could be removed without harm to its life. thinking little more than many women do of the other kind of ornament—the only true kind. so far sketched with broad stokes? The Assimilation The fact is.—St. that all architectural ornament is this. indeed. Whether the path of inclusion has any greater chance of curtailing ornamentation is a question that must await a critical examination. statues. Peter’s kind. on the border of the beautiful 37 can be admitted or suppressed without changing the thing fundamentally. by way of clarifying his position on ornamentation: … I never met with the architect yet who did not think ornament meant a thing to be bought in a shop and pinned on. rather than proper and innate” is neither a fundamentally different position nor does it fair better (Laugier 152. Rather. its own inherent beauty.—’Not that outward adorning. or set a flower in her hair: but that additional decoration is not the architecture. The question is why ornament. of primary interest are the reasons for the preoccupation with ornamentation.’ I do not mean that architects cannot conceive this better ornament. receive additional decoration afterwards. that all its parts are necessary to its loveliness.” or as “somewhat added or fastened on. has been of central concern within this discourse. … And I use the words ornament and beauty interchangeably. pictures. and nothing but this. It may. at architectural toilets. and needing nothing more. What has the architect to do with these? He has only to do with what is part of the building itself. that a noble building never has any extraneous or superfluous ornaments. as the fancy seized them. placing and positioning oneself with respect to it. and not hurt it. we discussed the problems and paradoxes of ornamentation’s marginalization and exclusion. However. Earlier. but they do not understand that it is the only ornament. Alberti. things that may be taken away from the building. Ruskin proposed to pursue. In contrast. which is not even a thing. in effect. I am not certain one is afforded this choice. Ruskin boldly notes. domestication of ornamentation. but a role that can be assumed by virtually anything. that is. Ruskin effectively re-positions or . but the inner—of the heart. (The Stones of Venice 400) Ruskin keeps well within the bounds of disciplinary tradition in assuming that architecture’s objective is a perfect creature that requires nothing less than it has and is able to accept nothing more without loss. a different path: the path of inclusion and. mindful of his predecessors’ difficulties. has managed to stir so much passion and controversy in theoretical discourse on architecture. that is to say. without ceasing to be autonomous and singular. or left off. even though one may readily and customarily exercise it. of what falls inside or outside it. refuting the traditional distinction between beauty and ornament as a misunderstanding of the limits of the architecture’s terrain.

” Curtains. It is of curtains. or else things that may be taken away from the building and not hurt it—things that fall outside and are as such unrelated and unnecessary to architecture’s “inner loveliness. What is different here is the radical nature of the divide between architecture and building.” or else the “technical” or the “constructive” and the “reflective” or the “imaginative. despite its internalization as another word for beauty. and held subordinate to. mysterious. Hence. “generally.38 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance re-draws these limits to incorporate ornament as an interchangeable word for beauty.” that is. as such. statues and other similar ornaments are not. placed or drawn. “unnecessary” or “useless. but otherwise unnecessary” that transform buildings into architecture. the interdependence and/or the interchangeability of the words. invaluable as the vehicle of thought. Art. . It is necessary to distinguish between the “higher”—the reflective—to be venerated and the lower—the constructive—to be held “subordinate” for the risk of “interference” or “prevalence. The name architecture must be “confined” to that “art” which has “building” as “condition of its working” and as condition of elevation to art “impresses on its form certain characters venerable or beautiful. adamant as it is. as we shall see later. and therefore what is or is not architecture (The Stones of Venice 102). inherently extraneous. as meaning. to which we recur with a sense of affectionate admiration. that which it conveys” (8). but by itself nothing” (Modern Painters 8).” and the other “by a severe.” “in the well understood and usual sense. To define these limits and clearly draw the line separating the inner from the outer.” Ruskin tells us. He divides these into two broad classes: the one “characterized by an exceeding preciousness and delicacy. and particular ends.” in “all our speculations on art”—Ruskin goes on to set the ground rule—“language is thus to be distinguished. namely. pictures. Within limits that are yet to be defined. inapplicable to the service of the Body” (The Stones of Venice 399). Ruskin’s distinction between architecture and building.” Building “merely by the stability of what it erects” or its fitness “to receive and contain with comfort a required number of people” should not be confused with architecture. paintings. difficulties. is nothing but a noble and expressive language. This implies that in the “outset of all inquiry” into the subject of architecture. what is or is not ornament” which is also to ask and determine what is or is not beauty. In other words. however. Assuming a distinct hierarchy between “language” and “thought. “with all its technicalities. has many precedents. architecture. the inside from the outside of architecture—we need first and foremost “to determine a matter of very essential importance. and in many cases. but otherwise unnecessary. statues. This unnecessary or useless addition is the ornamentation without which there is no architecture. He re-proposes the distinction between things that fall inside or outside architecture as one appropriately made between two kinds of ornament: the inner or the only true kind that is conducive to beauty and the outward or untrue kind that is extraneous and dispensable. and Ruskin’s exclusive focus on those ideas or “characters venerable or beautiful. it is “very necessary” to “distinguish carefully between architecture and building” (Seven Lamps 15). beauty and ornament. each could be an inner ornament and integral to the beauty of the building. a certain kind of ornament remains extraneous.

Boulleé. more to this story than the strong religious convictions of any one individual. of course. a certain seal.” is “universal and instinctive” (Modern Painters 27).” that is. or impress of divine work and character. and how to rule. in turn. and Le Corbusier on the other. The difference between these two impressions. However. Wright. in other words. Laugier. and the other in an understanding of the dominion over those works which has been vested in man. They are moral because. Ruskin tells us. on the border of the beautiful 39 majesty. “men. for whatever is in architecture fair or beautiful is imitated from natural forms.” are to attempt the “noble rendering of images of beauty.6 Ruskin is. Ruskin warns us: … is not merely that which there is in nature between things beautiful and sublime. that which seems in accordance with or symbolic of His laws. Theoretical speculations of Pugin. It begins well before and continues well after Ruskin. but moral” (11). like that felt at the presence and operation of some great Spiritual Power” (Seven Lamps 70). inclusive of architecture (Seven Lamps 100). upon whatever God has wrought in all the world” (Works 59). are just a few examples. Hence. “the proper material of ornament will be whatever God has created. The “feeling of mankind on this subject. and receives a sublimity high in proportion to the power expressed. These are the two great intellectual Lamps of Architecture. It is. also.” displaying the “seal” or “impress” of that “divine character” or “attribute” it is ordained to bear: “infinity” (Seven Lamps 104. quite candid on the subject. it is important to note that the fusion of aesthetics and theology in architecture has a long history. unless reminding it of God. which we remember with an undiminished sense of awe. show man either as gathering or governing: and the secrets of his success are his knowing what to gather. but depends for its dignity upon arrangement and government received from human mind. There must be. I believe. the simple contemplation of which gives us pleasure. becomes the expression of the power that mind. Therefore. the one consisting in a just and humble veneration for the works of God upon the earth. “these common and general sources of pleasure are. or impress of divine work and character. and what is not so derived. Ruskin Scholars broadly contribute this fusion to his deep-seated religious convictions. Ruskin goes on to conclude. of certain forms and colors. (70–71) The beautiful that is always gathered and imitated—we will return to the question of governance later—has to do with certain outward qualities.” Ruskin’s fusion of aesthetics and theology is both overt and forceful. all forms inwardly ornamental. “must be composed of curves” because “every curve divides itself infinitely by its change of direction.” despising “all that is not of God. the difference between what is derivative and original in man’s work. and its proper treatment.” For instance. Ruskin tells us that the “impressions of beauty” are “neither sensual nor intellectual. The ugly is. . Palladio and Alberti from one end of the spectrum to Sullivan. derived chiefly from the external appearance of organic nature” in all the visual arts. that is. ornaments. All buildings. Wotton. therefore. Works 88). simply any form that does not bear the “seal. “all perfectly beautiful forms.” by “the simple will of the Deity. Therefore.

the non-identity of every element. without considerable difficulties. They impose distinct boundaries. So long as one conceives and defines the objective of architecture as a perfect creature capable of nothing less than it has.” that is. However. to the one mode or style particularly arranged to embody and promote the worldview of the culture voicing the theory through the author and/or the architect. a particular meaning to a particular culture at a distinct point in time. nothing simply is what it is. in the name of beauty and truth. Bearing in mind that in architecture each ornament constitutes a re-writing of “the written or sealed impression” of a naturally frequent form that need first be “sought out” through “deliberate examination” and “direct intellectual exertion. given the intended purpose of the enterprise. naturally. and needing nothing more.40 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Theoretical and aesthetic speculations on architecture are. both prescriptive and proscriptive. a creature that is self-referential and autonomous has no place in language. rather than ulterior—cultural. For instance. truly. He prescribes curvilinear forms not because they had. which Ruskin proposes art and architecture to be. in each instance. placing the weight of his authority to prescribe this and proscribe other modes of design on a divine ordinance has a strategic utility in excess of his particular religious convictions. universalizing the particular with recourse to theology and thereby disguising culture as nature is not a choice that can be readily avoided. and eternally. as we discussed in the previous chapter. This delimitation is accomplished. but because they bear the seal.” The power of exclusion that is imperative to the delimitation of practice mandates this transformation of culture into nature and the variable into the invariable. The beautiful has no overt place in the vagaries of the cultural terrain for another important reason. if not per force. and perhaps it can only be accomplished. and needing nothing more—a conception always enframed by the metaphysics of presence—one has little choice but resort to and place architecture within a theological frame. as they did. In language. or impress of a divine character. no original event and no autonomous element as Saussure pointed out long ago (Course in General Linguistics). or political—motives.” that each ornament is “an expression of a beautiful thought”—the thoughts or divine attributes impressed and sealed on natural forms of frequent occurrence. and explicit hierarchies. infinity in the case of curvilinear forms—Ruskin asks us to: … consider for an instant what would be the effect of continually repeating an expression of a beautiful thought to any other of the senses at times when the . historically. This immutable creature may only emerge and find shelter on a theological terrain—the terrain of simple presences. A “perfect creature capable of nothing less than it has. or what is not absolutely different. immutable and present. They seek to delimit the practice of architecture. there is no positive term. exclusively. but following “immutable laws. however. In other words. what Ruskin propagates as an aesthetic architecture—Venetian or High Victorian Gothic—indubitably reflects the cultural and historic context within which it was formed. clear origins. social. In language. Placing and securing beauty’s place within this frame is not. It is presented to be not arbitrary. Difference with a deferred Other constitutes the identity. for example.

but also of form. for instance. and the absolute loss of value and aesthetic pleasure. you have killed or defiled it. (Ruskin. is that “the entire meaning of the passage would be dead to us” leaving behind only a sickening and wearisome form or rather “no form” because here form is to be disallowed the name without meaning or thought.” Where meaning can be perceived that is the place for ornament. so is beauty. This is not only because. “absolutely valueless—utterly without the power of giving pleasure.” Ruskin tells us. Hence then a general law. not accidentally. Remember that the eye is at your mercy more than the ear. “sharpness” and “clearness. There—all socio-political implications and all socio-political lines and limits at stake withstanding—Ruskin tells us. over and over again all day long. on the other. defiled. (Seven Lamps 113–14) The place of ornament has thus everything to do with its life or worth conceived and defined as the presence of “meaning” or “definite thought” in form. ‘The eye it cannot choose but see’ … Now if you present lovely forms to it when it cannot call the mind to help it in its work. a companion should repeat in our ears continually some favorite passage of poetry. Hence. Seven Lamps 115). on the one hand. ornaments that “adorn temples and beautify kings’ palaces” have no place on “a tradesman’s sign nor shelf nor counter in all the streets of all our cities” (Ruskin. on the border of the beautiful 41 mind could not address that sense to the understanding of it. Repetition incurs a loss. where rest is forbidden. a law of simple common sense. Contrary to common practice. they only satiate the eye. purity. Where ornament’s meaning is killed or defiled. of stern business. Seven Lamps 115) The determination of what is or what is not the place of ornament follows. you will neither please the eye nor elevate the vulgar object. the absence of “meaning” or “definite thought.” where no aid could be received from the mind. Placed in the company of vulgar objects—conceived as a violent gesture—or in places of “active and occupied life. and vulgarize their own forms” (115). misplacement here constitutes . and among objects of vulgar use and unhappy position. Suppose that in time of serious occupation. there decorate. and you will infect that form itself with the vulgarity of the thing to which you have violently attached it. its freshness and purity are gone. This is not only of meaning.” It is infected. (Seven Lamps 113–14) The effect “at the end of the day. ornament loses its freshness. Wherever you can rest. what it is not— meaningless and as such lifeless and valueless—that is not. of singular importance in the present day. It will never be of much use to you any more. we should note. But you will fill and weary the eye with the beautiful form. killed and destroyed forever. by definition. that “general law” of “singular importance” that is to end vulgarity and violence.—not to decorate things belonging to purposes of active and occupied life. the application of one and the same test determining what is or is not true ornament: the presence vs. where ornament becomes. and “it is the same with every other form of definite thought:” Apply this to expressions of thought received by the eye.

vulgarized. once it is misplaced. in consequence. always already. could only deprive the original of its value if that value was not intrinsic but construed in place. the very possibility of misplacement. its reading as form(ed). shelves or counters of tradesmen. but in so doing they also. “many of these are in themselves thoroughly good copies of fine things. that is. Of the ornaments “violently attached. which Ruskin confessedly can never re-seal. ornament fractures its own seal. Misplaced. True ornaments.” vulgarize their own forms. which things themselves we shall never. exposing a gap in its place between form and meaning. ornament is forever displaced—dispossessed of its meaning in every place. What is the condition of this possibility or impossibility? How can the good copy destroy the original? How can a form whose power to please was said from the outset to be owing to the “written or sealed impression” it bears of divine attributes be denied that power inside or outside its place? In sum. if not productive. could only be said to depend on its place—formed in one. If Ruskin finds it impossible to enjoy ornament. why the very question of place? To appear or be read as what it indeed is—a meaning-full or a formed form— ornament. any more or in any place. if he can no longer read it as the written or sealed impression of a beautiful thought in any place. at least thereafter at any time or in any place. . The meaning of ornament. Rather. must be placed—retained—in its place. enjoy any more” (Seven Lamps 115). but also because the misplaced cannot be contained within that place as a simple negation. outside the limits protective. de-formed in another—if this form did not precede its place or its reading in place as the form of a seal or an impress. that is. as a matter of place or placement and to the latter as a form. conceived and read as a seal or an impress. Ruskin tells us. if not always already.” for instance. ornament can never be enjoyed any more or in any place. which is also the very possibility of placement—the possibility of dependence of meaning on place or placement— displaces the relationship between meaning and form. if not reading in general. Placed outside its place. life and value. It is a death or an absence that is not—can no longer be conceived—the opposite of life or presence still in place but the impossibility of both in every place. misplaced. as a matter of “singular importance. of misplacement. The consequence of misplacement is not a simple inability to read a “beautiful thought” at a given time or place. It points to its reading. what ornament loses is not only its place inside but the very possibility of being placed inside (limits). it is the impossibility of reading. not only satiate the eye. The condition of this possibility is the impossibility of the form ornament is desired to be—the written or sealed impression of a beautiful thought—in its place or any place. leaving a violated. if there was no place where ornament appeared formed or. always already. This passage is the passage of limits.42 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance a negation. valueless form or “no form” inside and outside. to the signs. Misplaced. if. misplaced. where it did not appear informed by its place or placement. That ornament must forgo the possibility of bearing the form of a seal in every place in order to appear or be read as the form of a seal in its place is precisely what the misplaced ornament points to. lose their meaning. Once violently attached anywhere but its place. The good copy. for that matter. that is precisely because the misplaced. of its meaning. purity. Ruskin writes.

it denies by one and the same gesture. the work of architect would be comparatively easy. it also marks the place of its disappearance as sealed. Where then to place ornament? Where indeed is ornament’s place? Where is the place in the place of rest where the desired seal falls in place or. a living or a dead form. If it marks the place where ornament appears sealed. Sculpture and architecture would become separate arts. This place. in a manner. misplacement here is to imply a reading that is conditioned by its place or placement—a reading that marks a violence and vulgarity that must always have befallen placement already as the condition of possibility of reading form as (de)form(ed). This time at the limits of the domain of architecture. distinction. where the misplaced or rather the possibility of (mis)placement leads Ruskin is. every place is the missing/missed place of the desired seal. and opposition on two sides of a line called to place in what amounts to a perpetual placement in search of the ever missing/ missed place. It intervenes and does only to construe from outside the seal that is desired to have come from inside and the seal that then appears to have come from inside. it were only necessary to produce a perfect piece of sculpture. for that matter. on the border of the beautiful 43 of course. Therefore. on two sides of the line that was said to separate what falls inside architecture as “inner” and “true” ornamentation from what falls outside it as “outward” or “superfluous” decoration.” This is no form for which the metaphysics of presence has or could have an allotted place. and displaced. It is at once placed. It adds and fills only to expose a gap. misplaced. which is a reading. It gives to the ornamental form what the form lacks without its protective limits and it gives precisely because the form lacks. so long as the reading of form is dependent on its place. but both in one and the same place. This is no form which in order to be read. Ruskin tells us: If to produce a good or beautiful ornament. a pure or a violated form. As such. requires still further placement and/or displacement. we should note. Ruskin must again place and then insist on the placement of the ornamental form in its place—the place of rest— for fear of the misplaced. It is neither in place nor out of place. need not have been placed—as within a frame—and this is only in the absence of a place or any place for reading that does not always point to a placement already. already placed within a theological frame as the condition of its possibility. pure and simple. his point of departure and what it leaves him is what he had to start with: a displaced form or a form with “no form. however. ornament in its place—the place of rest—has. in a manner. to read the ornamental form as the written or sealed impression of a beautiful thought. provides no relief. It requires further separation. What this place provides. So long as form could be misplaced. out of place? Where to locate ornament its desired place indeterminable—here or there— in its place—the place of rest? The answer—the very possibility of providing an answer—as we may expect. It is neither protected nor exposed. Therefore. to give itself to a particular reading. It provides neither simply a background nor a protective shield against which or within which the ornamental form can give its form to reading as the form of a seal. be this as a true or a false form. and the architect would order so many pieces of such subject and size as . no place. and if a well cut group of flowers or animals were indeed an ornament wherever it might be placed.

appears. and is read as such in its place. which is the only place where it might appear beautiful. and that it aid the effect of every portion of the building over which it has influence. or. This is the only place that excludes the possibility of misplacement in being the one and only place where the imperfect appears as a good or beautiful form or what amounts to same. except in that vague sense in which any beautiful thing is said to ornament the place it is in. unless it is in the only place from where it cannot be misplaced. we should recall. there is first a condition to admission. self-perfecting chain of imperfect parts. the place of ornament in its place. the servant. to the imperfect ornament every place is a missed place. where sculpture. niched in. remains. the servant is often silent where the master would have been eloquent. Where to locate the parameters of this place or rather within what parameters to place this place: the place of deficiency and . where it does not appear as what it is outside that place—bad and ugly. is a place marked by deficiency and fault.” As to what may allow ornament in. Whereas the perfect ornament is tied to no specific place. is one and only one that in the place of rest has or could be assigned a specific place.” Where ornament that is inner and true fits in its place is at that borderline between the capacity for nothing less and the need for nothing more—the line bordering the perfect. Where ornament fits is where it adds to complete as a part to a self-enclosing. which is to say that it could always be misplaced and as such displaced.” however. Every one of its qualities has reference to its place and use: and it is fitted for its service by what would be faults and deficiencies if it had no especial duty. therefore. No perfect ornament can be allowed in as an architectural ornament. A good or a beautiful ornament. (The Stones of Venice 236) No beautiful thing. however. Admitting ornament on the condition of imperfection. that it does not. the master. is an ornament in anything but a vague sense. Ruskin makes virtue of a vice. if in its place. to create “a perfect creature capable of nothing less than it has. A “most difficult question. … But this is not so. To this place. to be complete. Perfection places ornament outside the domain of architecture as decoration “outward” or “superfluous. or encrusted on a building. by its richness. Ruskin tells us: The especial condition of true ornament is. a portion of the ornament of that building. and nowhere else. make other parts coarse. The objective of ornamentation or ornamental addition to architecture is. make other parts bald. and it is just as unreasonable to call perfect sculpture. … (The Stones of Venice 236) The place of ornament in its place. is often formal. required a Titian to be put in one corner of it. the place of rest. as it would be to hang pictures by the way of ornament on the outside of it. and needing nothing more. and a Velasquez in the Other. Thus we may say that pictures ornament a room. would have been free. which is. it is wherever that it might be placed. and there the condition of ornament’s admission is imperfection. that it be beautiful in its place.44 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance he needed. by its delicacy. but we should not thank an architect who told us that his design. No perfect piece either of painting or sculpture is an architectural ornament at all. Ornament. This then is the place of ornament inner and true in its place.

” Ruskin tells us. The general rule is to “have one large thing and several small things. as it would be to teach him to compose melodies by calculating the mathematical relations of the notes in Beethoven’s Adelaïde or Mozart’s Requiem. (Seven Lamps 120) Proportion. and into the principles of choice and of arrangement which best regulate the imitation of natural forms in which it consists” (Seven Lamps 119).” that is. Unity. or one principal thing and several inferior things.” that is. To a vested few—the “men” who have eye and intellect—the laws of proportion as of composition are known. The man who has eye and intellect will invent beautiful proportions. As to how these unequal things are to be proportioned or bound well together for the sake of “essential unity.” points the way (71). or than Scott could have told us how to plan a romance. is a question of invention and composition and as such of that “vested. the “inner” ornamentation and the “superfluous” decoration? Though these are indeed difficult questions. to others they shall remain inexplicable beyond the . on the border of the beautiful 45 fault fitted with imperfection in the place of rest? What to define as deficiency or fault and what to admit in as imperfection? Where to draw the line between the master and the servant. only “equality. inexplicable power. He begins with an inquiry “into the characters which fitted” ornament “peculiarly for architectural appliance. the “unity of membership” or “essential unity” is “the great unity of which other unities are but parts and means” (51).” For unity three members are requisite and at that three unequal members united by the proportions they bear to one another. and bind them well together” (121). And it is to this unity that proportion. we should note. “the appearance of some species of unity is in the most determined sense of the word essential” and this for no reason other than the fact that in united forms lies sealed a divine attribute: unity (Modern Painters 50).” Ruskin tells us. Of the many “species of unity. nor can they form one.” noted earlier. Therefore. “cannot exist between things similar to each other” because “two or more equal and like things cannot be members one of another. the perfect and the imperfect. Although two equal things could have symmetry defined as “the opposition of equal quantities to each other” and though symmetry bears the seal of “divine justice. To the “perfection of all things. but he can no more tell us how to do it than Wordsworth could tell us how to write a sonnet. the difficulty does not dissuade Ruskin in any way. and cannot help it. Ruskin tell us: … it is just as rational an attempt to teach a young architect how to proportion truly and well by calculating for him the proportions of fine works. a perfect whole capable of nothing less and needing nothing more. the “unity of things separately imperfect into a perfect whole. Though the “full answering of these questions. that defies explanation. “would be a treatise on the art of design”—not to mention the difficulty contingent on the task—Ruskin chooses to address two characteristics that are essentially architectural: “Proportion and Abstraction” (119). proportion may be summed up as a question of connection between “three terms at least” and of those at least one member unequal to the Others (Seven Lamps 124). Ruskin tells us.” in symmetry there is no unity.” Ruskin tells us. or a whole thing” (51).” “awful. defined as “the connection of unequal quantities with each other.

(130) Although a perfect ornament—perfect insofar as the realization of the imitated form is concerned—may be related proportionally to other ornaments around it as a part to a perfect whole. in the highest degree. at the line separating architecture as a work of art from architecture as a mere frame. Seven Lamps 127). His architecture has become a mere framework for the setting of delicate sculpture. Before ornamentation or ornamental addition. it is a very difficult question: where to locate and how to fit ornament in the only place where it is good or beautiful. the secret of constituting such a place is known only to a vested few. The perfect form may step out of its place or appear to step into it as a work of art into a frame. by definition. However. Against this danger. then the first office of that sculpture is not to represent the things it imitates. Ruskin tells us. and upon other various circumstances (Ruskin. To others. Architecture.” but because “this perfection” is “dangerous” (130). And then he is lost. This is a determination. there must be a clear determination of what architecture is or what it ought to be: a work of art or a mere frame. for the sake of ornament’s fit in its place. of its business as a part of the composition. but to gather out of them those arrangement of form which shall be pleasing to the eye in their intended places. In the presence of the perfectly imitated form. The question is first to be clearly determined whether the architecture is a frame for the sculpture. or the sculpture an ornament of the architecture. proportion cannot guard and abstraction is. and how far it shall be wrought toward completeness or not. here. and sacrificing its points of shade and effect to the delight of delicate carving. It is so in the highest degree. however. “delights in abstraction and fears to complete her forms” (Seven Lamps 120). Architecture fears completion. not because completion or full realization of the imitated form is always “wrong” or that perfect sculpture may not “be made a part of severest architecture. or to the lights which were unrelieved. for the moment the architect allows himself to dwell on the imitated portions. which at once . These are the forms architecture borrows or imitates from natural forms of frequent occurrence. the architectural work of the imitation is accomplished. its individual perfection can detach it from its place. which had better be all taken down and put into cabinets. If the latter. that second characteristic of architectural ornaments. Hence. So soon as agreeable lines and points of shade have been added to the mouldings which were meager. if not by a divine intervention as a vested power to secretly constitute and fit ornament in its place? Although proportion is meant to tie ornament to its place as a part to a perfect whole. and let it become a mere frame. the master or the servant. we should note.46 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance general rules noted. will depend upon its place. the fit. in the cause of unity and perfection. This is the danger. each inner and true architectural ornament must be fitted to its place in a proportional relationship to the forms bordering and defining its place. there is a chance of his losing sight of the duty of ornament. remains incomplete. nevertheless. without abstraction. one may readily lose sight of architecture as a work of art. if not the desire for a place or the only place where ornament may be good or beautiful within architecture.

It can just as well free or enslave the building as a work of art or a mere frame. How are we to exclude the chance of mutiny from within the parameters that define architecture as a work of art? How are we to guard against the ever-present possibility of losing authority. an encumbrance.” It is a place that is neither clear nor distinct. wild to get the bit in its teeth. Hence: Lose your authority over it. to the authority and clarity of those parameters. and rush forth on its own device. It is a place where. The possibility of commanding and leading ornament to its place—the place of servitude—the possibility. on the border of the beautiful 47 presupposes and seeks to maintain a clear distinction between the work of art and the mere frame. and no distinction. but be assured that all are heartily in the cause. or lead you. command or lead over the imitated form always ready to rush forth on its own devices from its place within architecture as a servant? This is the chance or danger of mutiny that architecture always faces from within its parameters. however. no line. on what is or is not. could we have ever left it. What is neither a master nor a servant emerges here as one or the other only after ornamentation. or whose service you could spare. there is no opposition. and it is an offence. that is. depending on the ornamentation. battalion to battalion. Measure. Where are we to find or locate this distinction and once there what are we to mark as the work of art and what to leave out as a mere frame? If anywhere. This latter is itself neither a master nor a servant. let it command you. as the master to the servant. the authority of Ruskin’s entire discourse on architecture. beauty. And it is always ready to do this. as Ruskin points the way. (The Stones of Venice 256–7) Soldier to soldier and battalion to battalion we must add in the cause of architecture. because it confounds in itself the very distinction and opposition it is meant to affect. the ability to reduce it to a servant inside or a master outside. it is. dangerous. and perfection. This is the place where the work of art and the mere frame become one and the same and “each and all vanish into gloom” for want of a clear line or limit. and as long as there is no chance of mutiny. to make certain there is no chance of mutiny—no chance of the servant becoming the master and architecture a mere frame. that is. and indeterminate as this addition may be. We must be certain of our strength and control over the ornamental insertion in order not to let it lead us to that “dusky debatable land” which this dangerous insertion is always ready to take us. clearly and simply. The place we must turn to. to the place of ornament in its place that we must turn in search of an answer and there we must make the determination. what falls within or outside architecture as a work of art depends on the authority over this imitated form. or dictate to you in any wise. and not from outside where the imitated form may be allowed the position of the master—as in a cabinet or a frame—so long as the work of art and the frame appear clearly distinct and easily detachable. before ornamentation or ornamental insertion. neither free nor enslaved before insertion. therefore. of reducing ornament to . your strength. is the place of danger. and that there is not one of whose position you are ignorant. Unruly. in “the highest degree. and a dishonor. add soldier to soldier.

present or exclude the chance of mutiny. These are the limits of architecture itself. in and by themselves. depending “upon its place. and by what means the subordination is best to be expressed when it is required. between what falls inside it as ornament inner and true and what falls outside it as ornament outward and superfluous. only in so long as the desired answer is a precise line. Therefore. … (Ruskin.” This is a most difficult question. inside or outside of architecture and this is in spite of Ruskin’s best constructive efforts. be permitted to have independent will. that is “by far the most difficult question I have ever tried to work out respecting any branch of art. and there only in a specific place as a part in proportion to a perfect whole. we should note. but of the place and the circumstances within which the imitated form may express its subordination simply and clearly. These are the limits that may limit the movement of the ornamental form. having made every effort to determine the place of ornament and the circumstances surrounding its addition to architecture. What has been and remains clear to Ruskin is that for buildings to become architecture. The limits indistinct before ornamentation and limits over which command and control remain the most difficult questions after ornamentation. at the border of architecture and there or rather somewhere between the inside and the outside of the work of art. The question. may be confined and controlled. neither the two extremes nor the various degrees of realization between. The only thing that is not clear or is the most difficult question in this successive placement of limits within limits around the ornamental form is the ways and means of determining the place. confronted not with the clear line or limit . and upon other various circumstances” is. and ornament. as such only in the place of rest. as many of his predecessors did before him. Ruskin finds himself in the end. giving it no chance or possibility of crossing beyond and as such to that dusky debatable land from which Ruskin has sought architecture refuge through ornamentation or ornamental addition for the clarity of distinction between architecture as a work of art and the mere frame. but between the presence and the absence of a clear expression of servitude or subordination of which a fully realized form is not capable. Ruskin tells us. which is synonymous with architecture. However. in so far as the line between what is and what is not architecture. The line separating ornamentation “inner” and “true” from decoration “outward” and “superfluous. A question of: How far this subordination is in different situations to be expressed.” resides not between complete abstraction and full realization. a distinct place and a clear expression of subordination from a form that does not easily submit itself to the determination of its being and place as what is or is not. in other words. there is a need for ornamentation or ornamental addition of forms expressive of divine attributes impressed and sealed on natural forms of frequent occurrence. or how far it may be surrendered. the servant. and in that specific place only in a clearly subordinate position.48 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance a servant within architecture. The Stones of Venice 236–7) A question. between the work and the mere frame. while anything less. the circumstances or the limits within which the ornamental form. lies somewhere between complete abstraction and full realization of the imitated form. is a question not of abstraction or full realization per se.

The difficulties Ruskin and Alberti. concerned as theoretical speculations on architecture are with the place and the placing of architecture’s borderlines. as it is a difficulty encountered in every search for a place with defined or definable limits within which beauty may appear as an autonomous. however. the difficulty encountered in achieving the desired effect is not so much one inherent to ornamentation. rather one named by ornamentation. irremovable there to the sides. there is no architecture before theoretical addition. To the contrary. among virtually all others. and/or ornamentation. It is that “perfect creature capable of nothing less than it has. . a notable difference between Ruskin and his predecessors. but instead with a most difficult question. Ruskin. speculation over their place would be at best redundant. This is. from a certain vantage point. I do not presume that a stouter critic may somehow overcome the obstacles they faced and succeed in curbing and placing ornament in its place. Ruskin’s and Alberti’s are merely cases in point. I have tried to point out how thorough and systematic both Ruskin’s and Alberti’s argumentations are and why the problems they faced is endemic to the theoretical enterprise and not merely a reflection of personal failings or inconsistencies. but at the border. much as Alberti before him. self-referential. the question of the place of ornament inside or outside architecture as a work of art. having made every effort to find ornament a specific place inside the place of beauty and perfection in architecture. finds it very difficult to keep ornament from protruding on the border from its assigned place inside. supplementation. face are endemic because. however. the borderlines themselves are presumed to precede speculation over their place. on the border of the beautiful 49 which he. much less attribute these to his deeply felt religious convictions. If architecture’s borders were a given. conceived and placed differently in each instance. only to find it intrude on the border from its assigned place out. There is in this predicament. in other words. had assumed to find there. pending the distinction and to that end the location of the missing borderline. as his predecessors before. irreducible there to a line. I do not see Ruskin. my intent has not been to point out inconsistencies or contradictions in Ruskin’s aesthetic theory per se. Though architecture is presumed to precede theory. as the border. at the risk of repetition. The problem is the ever-elusive architecture itself. non-contingent entity in need of neither addition nor subtraction. each of which is put in place to overcome the perpetual dependence of the beautiful on place and placement. we should note. is not ornamentation. Whereas the theoreticians of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment made every effort to place and keep ornament outside the place of beauty and perfection as a mere frame. In either case. The Insertion In the preceding discussions. the condition of the possibility of which is itself ornamentation. having somehow failed to effectively address and resolve the problem of ornamentation. however. The difficulty. and needing nothing more” which only appears placed within successive frames. in a dusky debatable land from where ornament at once is the condition of the possibility of departure and the impossibility of exit. The question of the place of ornament found not on the sides.

this other domestication and exile. The only. There is no place where the beautiful does not appear without ornamentation. a ground. Each of these constructs. The border of the beautiful is never there. There is no ornament. can only be a theoretical construct. on the place and the placing of parameters around architecture. It is only by identifying the ornamental. The story of this latter ornamentation or ornamental insertion. authenticity. with its marginalization or domestication. theory’s power to delimit. This is the problem and the paradox of ornamentation that neither inclusion nor exclusion of the ornamental can overcome. the preoccupation with the place and placing of ornamentation. un-supplemented. much as it’s authority to exclude. unframed. by separating the additional from the essential that the principal and the peripheral are both made to appear as such. that is. the original and the copy. origin. There is no outside to contingency that is not always already contingent on ornamentation. and so on. this other resistance to contingency. The measure of the beautiful is the ornamental and visa versa. evidence and validate the ideals subsumed under the aesthetic label. Hence. that is. This is. the power and the authority to control architecture. In turn. is that the autonomy. if only to sustain the pervasive and persuasive illusion of an outside to contingency. It is also not a thing. and at that the all-consuming problem. The persistently stated desire for beauty in architecture is a double take.7 What is at stake in appropriating. There is only ornamentation perpetually construing the border of the beautiful. and controlling architecture is a culture’s power and authority to fabricate a world that persuasively bears witness to assumptions about it. Focused as theory is. It frames. per force. It can neither be subsumed within it nor detached from it. delimiting. the authentic and the replica. is founded on a metaphysics that presumes the ideals that it sums up in the word beauty—full-presence. singularity. This is an outside to contingency that is perpetually contingent on theoretical supplementation—be the theoretical supplement a text or a library. textual or literal. the exclusionary power and authority of the beautiful. the primary medium of cultural appropriation and delimitation of architecture in all its various guises.50 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance The latter is. a foundation. shapes. without the introduction and construction of a borderline that separates and delimits the beautiful. truth. in whose name Western culture has variously shaped and controlled Western architecture for much of its history. however. autonomy. at the risk of repetition. a problem and a paradox only insofar as one wishes to sustain the power and the authority to exclude and delimit in the name of the beautiful. This borderline is neither internal nor external to the body beautiful. the real and the imaginary. . and controls architecture and it uses architecture to effectively realize. a cinema. before their negation and complication in the figure of the Other. and so on—as a given. we shall follow next. is vested in aesthetics. and originality on which the exclusionary power and the authority of the beautiful depend never appear un-appended. a museum. and for that matter any architectural construct that fabricates and imposes limits between the self-referential and the representational.

Clark. Pugin. and it ‘ornaments’ the space” (Flight of Fancy: The Banishment and Return of Ornament 229). Venturi and Scott Brown. Viollet-le-Duc. 2 Also see Casteras. Ten Books on Architecture. K. Landow. Le Corbusier. 135–7. Landow. 7 A building used as a model or precedent is as much a theoretical construct as any text labeled theoretical. 40. Ruskin 10. Phelps Gordon and Lacy Gully. Laugier. The Aesthetic 81–4. 243–65. 4 See Alberti. Wright. 3 See also Bell. Emerson. Frankl. Helsinger. 48. 6 Also see Kirchhoff 41–60. “is not an ornament. 147–50.” Brolin tells us. Sawyer. 162–3. . Hewison. Wihl 168–82. on the border of the beautiful 51 Notes 1 See Jensen and Conway. Sawyer 84–5. Garrigan 137–210. Sullivan. 5 A “statue in a museum. but place it in a plaza. Unrau 50. Evans.

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Part II
The Architecture of the
Illusive Distance

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The Logic of Encampment

The Library

“There is a small painting by Antonello da Messina which,” Michael Brawne in
introduction to Libraries, Architecture and Equipment, tells us: “shows St. Jerome in
his study; the Saint is sitting in an armchair in front of a sloping desk surrounded
on two sides by book shelves” (9). The desk and the shelves are part of a wooden
structure raised three steps off the floor of a vaulted Gothic hall that overlooks an
anonymous Italian landscape of hills and buildings (Figure 3.1). In this picture, the
author writes, “we have an accurate and brilliant portrayal of the characteristics
most needed if there is to be a successful communication between the accumulated
store of knowledge and the reader” (9). Here, condensed into a single picture, we
have a summation of “the problems and the solutions” that are unique to the library
as a building type (9).
A primary purpose of the library is, Brawne contends, “to aid the communication
between the book and its reader,”that is, to give the reader access to the accumulated
store of knowledge, expressed in written form, placed within the protective cover
of the book, held well within the bounds of the library (Libraries, Architecture and
Equipment 9). To create a library, Brawne argues, it is necessary to manipulate, as the
painter has done, “the furniture, enclosure, space, light, and outlook,” to create “an
individual and particular space delineated and in some measure separated from
the greater space beyond” (9). A successful library allows the reader to make not
only “a place for himself,” but at the same time “detach himself,” as Saint Jerome has
done, from an inhospitable ground that is in turn clearly delineated and separated
from the greater landscape in the background.
This prerequisite detachment, it is important to note, is augmented in this
picture by a heightened sense of transition from the anonymous landscape in the
background, past a set of doors whose absence from the picture heightens both
the perception of separation and processional transition, through a vaulted arcade
to the right, up a flight of steps, from a patterned mosaic floor onto a plain wooden

56 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

Fig. 3.1  Antonello
da Messina, St
Jerome in his
Study, 46 × 36
cm, oil on panel,
c.1460, National
Gallery, London
Image source: Art
Resource, NY

platform, into an enclosing chair, within reach of the books, kept well within the
delineated boundaries of this individual and particular space, on shelves.
Therefore, what is required of a library, the constitutional formal gesture, as well
as the primary condition of the library’s success is, as the author aptly points out, a
clear processional organization and transition to “an individual and particular space”
delineated and detached from its place, in that perspicuous manner center stands
detached from the periphery, foreground from the background, inside from outside,
wood from stone, open from closed, light from dark, upper from lower, and so on.
The library, we may conclude from this account, is analogous to a protective
frame that one must traverse from its fortified outer edges through the sanctified
inner borders that define and protect “an individual and particular space.” What is

the logic of encampment 57 framed. Inscriptions in churches. none. therefore. he can suffer their presence. but assuming aesthetic appeal and merging with its background as a form of decoration at the expense of its sense. the danger of losing the primacy of the sense or the signified to the form of the signifier. (106–7) As frightful as letters may appear to Ruskin. bereft of any aesthetic appeal. in a place where the sense of the inscription is of greater importance than external ornament. are often desirable. than with hope of inducing any serious convictions to their prejudice” (112). This danger against which Ruskin so emphatically warns is. Place them. in places where the sense of the inscription is of more importance than external ornament. The danger is the letter not standing apart and being transparent and subservient to its sense. it becomes at once frightful and dangerous (Seven Lamps 107). It is the danger of becoming conscious of the materiality of the signifier and of reading the form and not the sense. Ruskin argues that there are certain “false forms of decoration which are most dangerous in our modern architecture as being legal and accepted” (112). of course. It is an ill sacrifice to beauty to make that illegible whose only merit is in its sense. in a manner. and on pictures. the forms of letters are. if not peculiar. Ruskin writes: If any one part of heraldic decoration be worse than another. where they will be read. when with a “dash” or a “tail. not to be suffered except when their intellectual office introduces them. The difference between the library and the book is. and there only. and not turned upside down. and to be endured only upon occasion. Letters become frightful and dangerous. should these particular. . nor wrong end first. when they are not in place. it is the motto. perhaps. He feels compelled to warn against these dangerous and false forms of decoration “rather for the barren satisfaction of bearing witness against them. of all things unlike nature.” turned “upside down or wrong end first. is the book or rather what the book itself keeps well within its own protective frame: Writing. since. therefore. introduced solely for the sake of their sense. for the sake of their sense. One such hopelessly dangerous form of decoration is the motto. one might ask. in rooms. the most so. that is. When the material form of the inscription is allowed to assume any role other than the transparent conveyer of sense. it is important to keep in mind. to be considered as frightful things. processional and formal characteristics be required of a building whose primary purpose is to hold books? Why must this elaborate ritual of detachment and separation be put in place “to aid the communication between the book and its reader?” We find a potential answer in Ruskin’s discussion of ornamentation in the Seven Lamps of Architecture. but they are not to be considered as architectural or pictorial ornaments: they are on the contrary. so long as they are placed and in that place. Why. and let them be plainly written. In an attempt to distinguish between proper and improper ornamentation for architecture. … All letters are.” the inscription is allowed to assume a decorative role. on the other hand. obstinate offenses to the eye. the object of this ritual frame-up. they are clearly seen as obstinate offenses to the eye. that is to say. One repeats the other as a delineated and detached space keeping the written word in place.

or plain roll of paper” (Seven Lamps 108). or the flying scroll” is that neither of the former three is “considered as an ornament. Ruskin tells us. Adam and Eve. NY .” but “a tablet or book.” This singular place. but a form of decoration that readily merges into its background (Figure 3.2). or flying scroll is” (108). Ruskin asks us to always place writing in a place where. What Ruskin hopes to prevent by the placement of the inscription on a tablet or a book is the loss of its detachment from its ground or background. Whereas “the tablet. and the riband.7 × 19. 58 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance To obviate this frightful danger.1 cm. 3. is introduced for the sake of the writing. understood and allowed as an ugly but necessary interruption. is not on a “scroll” or a “riband. plainly written. it “will be read. The proper Fig. 24. 1504. The difference between an “honest and rational” tablet or book or plain roll of paper and “the riband. The Metropolitan Museum of Art Image source: Art Resource.2  Albrecht Dürer.” the riband. or the flying scroll is not an interruption. engraving on laid paper. as in Albert Durer’s Adam and Eve. and there only.

an extension of the logic that informs the Medieval book-press. though effective ritual of retrieval and return—of locks and doors that need be opened and closed. the inscription is acceptable. Else.” So long as inscription is placed where its “only merit is in its sense. Transition and access to this particular place are subject to a simple. Michael Brawne’s emphasis on delineation and separation as the inaugural formal gestures in every successful library does as well. . clearly meets it. This is in part because the same logic is at work in each of these formulations. insofar as Ruskin is concerned. the inscriber of law. retains the book in place. in the least. is not given to any place. It too is a delineated and defined place which. the two processional and spatial characteristics of the library as a type aforementioned. In its press. “an individual and particular space delineated and in some measure separated from the greater space beyond. the logic of encampment 59 place for writing is a place marked by an “interruption”—in Michael Brawne’s term. Else. example of the logic of encampment at work in the formation of the library as a type. as well as in the formation of the library as a building-type. beyond (Figure 3. for example. For now we should note that although Messina’s picture was not construed in response to Ruskin’s demand. writing is given to be endured only on occasions of reaching its sense or endowing it with sense. and control within. and controlled interiority as distinguished and opposed to what lies beyond the demarcated boundary. and defined place. The Medieval book-cupboard or press is a simple. The practice of keeping books in locked cupboards or presses was to continue. hidden from the gaze that may otherwise be subject to. I mean the imposition of a protective boundary—literal or conceptual— on an otherwise undifferentiated ground with the intent to put in place of this non-place. so long as it is placed on a ground that Ruskin can readily detach from the background. to those particularly concerned with the aesthetic performance of forms. order. well into the sixteenth century. I mean the demarcation of a place on a ground that defies a sense of place. writing remains in place. that is. depicted in the frontispiece to the Codex Amiatinus. in a manner. its fright and danger. by affording it a particular place. it can remain. whose manifestations can be as diverse as the Medieval book-press and the modern stack-system library. as in the case of Ezra. as we know it. going back to the military root of the word camp and campus. when it clearly appears as an “interruption” and an addition.” so long as we do not focus on its materiality or see any merit in it other than its sense. Crucial to this placement is a heightened sense of transition from the exterior to the interior and a clear perception of confinement. and to an extent. separated. a confined. Here the book. Ruskin. ordered. though not a simplistic. The bookshelf. but confined to a well delineated. Why writing should be a frightful and dangerous form outside its particular place is a question that we shall have to address later. as evidenced by Domenico Fontana’s Vatican Library. When it is not part of the architecture. as we know it. By the logic of encampment. leading to a well delineated and detached center where the book is safely kept in place. This logic is what I propose to call the logic of encampment. it is a frightful and dangerous form. is. the inward layering of space. dating back to the sixth century AD (Figure 3.4).3). though open to the gaze. nevertheless.

3. concerned with the surplus value of the shelter and the protection afforded to the book. my intent is not to diminish the value of shelter and protection that are clearly the overt reasons for the formation of the library as a type.3  Ezra writing the law. . Laurentian Library. in other words. “to aid the communication between the reader and the book. Florence Photo credit: Scala/ Art Resource. sixth century. 35 × 25 cm.” I am. parchment. as well as. NY In the above example as well as in the following genealogical overview of the library as a type. but to focus on the consequences of each particular solution adopted to shelter and protect. in Michael Brawne’s words. 60 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. with the communication between the reader and the book in mind. Frontispiece to the codex Amiatinus.

less. as the shelves of the old press take on the form of lecterns arranged right (3.4  Domenico literal.8). The chain not only kept the book in place. lectern and later stall-system library is a Fig. In this particular example. but being exposed to the gaze. The perceived value of the chain. Vatican. 1523–71). (3. best represented by Library. may well have exceeded the protection it afforded the book against theft. and for that matter greater economy of space and form. The Sistine Hall of the Vatican formation of the library as a type. though equally “delineated” and “particular” place. and processional transition can hardly be given to greater exaggeration. sixteenth century) and Michelangelo’s Laurentian sixteenth century Library (Florence. Entering below what appears to be the floor line. reflecting the high material value of the book at the time. Should these chains appear to be a simple safeguard against theft. They give way to a new heightened sense of procession and transition to the world of books. they venture out of their new delineated and detached place (Figure 3. The sole purpose of this tense and complex space is to detach the particular place of the books behind from its greater monastic context. but it also literally tied the book to its new. Leiden University Library (Lieden. the doors and the locks of the old press also assume a new spatial dimension.5). The drama of delineation. A telling example is the Ricetto of the Laurentian Library (Figure 3. 3. if not an exaggerated example.4b) John Willis Clark away. of the logic of encampment at work in the Fontana. articulated by string courses and recessed columns. As the shell of the Medieval book-press assume human proportion in the post- Medieval library. The books are no longer locked Osmenda. they are now chained in place. one is confronted with a monumental staircase whose highly articulated form offers as much resistance to transition as it gives access to the reading room from which it cascades down into the vestibule.6). the logic of encampment 61 The post-Medieval chained book.4a) Michal in rows on two sides of a central aisle (Figure 3. in other words. separation. it is important to keep in mind that this admittedly cumbersome and to an extent self-defeating practice continued well into the eighteenth century (Figure 3. the shell of the Medieval book-press assumes human Photo credit: left to proportion.7). The processional experience from the monastic context to the .1 This is nearly 300 years after the invention of the printing press that radically diminished the material value of the book. it appears. than it is here.

engraving. was to remain a requisite part of the library as a type in each of its future modifications. leads to the upper level also leads out of the vestibule to a space that cannot London. Both are.3 The bureaucratic and technological apparatus overseeing access to the stacks of the modern library is. if not overwhelming proximity.9).2 The staircase that Leyden. with an emphasis on a clear perceptual and experiential separation. 62 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. The reader is now literally surrounded by walls of books. however. if not anticlimactic. the reading room of the post-Medieval library became the subject of greater subdivision as the lecterns of the early phase were replaced by book-stalls (Figure 3. 3. often in close. in place of the literal separation of the Medieval press. As compared to Michelangelo’s library. well within a highly articulated frame. the greater interior space of the reading room was divided into smaller. As opposed to the preceding contradictory movements of the receding columns and the projecting aediculea. are now not only in place. in competition with the overlapping upper thrust of the vestibule and the lateral movement of the staircase. Adding another layer of definition.8). Library of mutually exclusive worlds. Messina’s delineation and articulation of Saint Jerome’s reading room may well appear subdued. in a manner. delineation. here all is resolved and in place. NY had to earn the privilege of access—order and clarity prevail in glaring contrast to the slithery vestibule behind (Figure 3.5 Paul reading room is analogous to an apprehensive leap over a void separating two Lacroix. still in chains. The heightened sense of transition to the world of books. equally effective. In the next phase of its development. Here. 1870 Photo credit: HIP/ be any different in articulation. but they also . a modern supplement to this experiential separation. and separation to the existing layers. more individualized spaces. The books. in the resting place of the book—having Art Resource. One enters this tense and contradictory space only the University of to depart without ever having had a chance to occupy it.

all with the greater good of communication between the reader and the book in mind. the informing logic remains fundamentally the same. the books. In the “Saal-System” library. Hereford Photo credit: John Willis Clark constitute the boundaries that define their individualized and particular place. We have here. with their impregnated walls of books en masse. the logic of encampment 63 Fig. a cross between Messina’s reading room and Michelangelo’s library. withdrawn from the middle to the inner edges of the reading . we witness at once a simple extension and a major transformation of the post-Medieval book-stall library. Although from the stall-system to the “Saal-System” libraries of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. in a manner. 3.6  Chapter Library.

NY room. become an integral part of the frame that delineates and defines their place (Figure 3. 3. Whereas the focus of the Medieval and the post-Medieval libraries was on the book. to an extent. the books assume the position of the spectator . The chains are. as Boullée referred to his own proposal for a library. Florence. in the “Saal-system” library. no longer necessary. In this “superb amphitheater” of books. 1523–71 Photo credit: Alinari/Art Resource. and in the process having shed the chains that literally tied them to their place in the previous example. to the gaze of the spectator. 64 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. not individually but collectively.7  Michelangelo. The Ricetto of the Laurentian Library. as the books are now well entombed within their own protective boundary and subject. the book is as much the subject of spatial manipulation as the reader (105).10).

1523–71 Photo credit: top— Scala/Art Resource. As opposed to the Medieval book-press that hid the book from the gaze and the post-Medieval library that exposed it. NY. The Laurentian Library. the logic of encampment 65 Fig.” is given to the performance of reading. bottom—John Willis Clark and the reader is left to assume the role of an actor who.11).8  Michelangelo. in place (Figure 3. the “Saal-system” library celebrates and opens the materiality of the book to public spectacle as a sublime self-enclosing frame. at the open expanse of the center stage of this “superb amphitheater. Florence. Superimposing the logic of sublimity on the logic of encampment. 3. the “Saal-system” library sacrifices the individuality of the book to . chained in place.

66 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. Along with the chains of the old library. this may be in part University because. of the “Saal” or “wall-system” library is Henri Labrouste’s Bibliothèque Ste. The placement of these panels within the arcade of the upper level is reminiscent of the flank of Alberti’s Tempio Malatestiano (Rimini c. 1870. self-enclosing inner edges of the new library present the viewer with an image that Trinity College is at once impenetrable and incomprehensible. 3. album to the center stage.9  the sublimity of a collective expression. though late example. Consciously modeled after a book. whose identity is now indiscernible from the library’s. with greater economy. less one withdraws from the edge library. what is now held inescapably in place within the renewed bounds of the photographs. library is. A telling.12).-Geneviève (Paris. c. like a book. the building presents itself to the viewer from the outside as a freestanding. what has also disappeared and Rare Books from the new is any literal or presumed line separating the book from the library. as opposed to its individual New Boston Fine expressions. the identity of the book. The content of this space. where the ritual of reading is given to performance. The title of this edificial book is inscribed on a series of panels bearing the names of the authors whose books are kept safe within the masonry cover.1450). is announced on the cover. The sheer number of books amassed at the Christopher Wren. the book. of 58 Cambridge If the chains of the old library are superfluous to the new. inwardly layered. where the sarcophagi of . 1842–50). As an integral part of the frame that delineates and defines its particular place. masonry shell that wraps around a well delineated interior space (Figure 3. Cambridge. in part because it is now chained to itself. no longer requires a chain.

Biblioteca Ambrosiana. the ritual procession to the world of books in this particular expression of the logic of encampment takes the form of a relatively dark corridor that takes the participant. through another set of doors.4 Had it been implemented. from the front entry. through the entire width of the building. though not as dramatic as Michelangelo’s. As we shall see later. the processional arrangement of the building’s interior more than compensates for the garden’s absence. This processional arrangement.10 Lelio here is not accidental. Milan. 1603–9 Labrouste had initially intended “a large space planted with big trees and Photo credit: John decorated with statues were laid out in front of the building to shield it from the Willis Clark noise of the street outside and prepare those who come there for meditation” (Van Zanten 238). The reference Fig. into the reading room on the second level. Past the masonry frame of the building. . intimately connected. the logic of encampment 67 Malatesta’s courtiers are held within a similar arch on pier structure. before leading up to a vestibule filled with light and a characteristic monumental staircase (Figure 3.13). the themes of writing and death are Buzzi. before leading the participant up and around. The processional move up into the place of writing is a gesture of delineation for which precedent is found not only in Messina’s picture or Michelangelo’s library. it would have added greater intensity to the separation and the transition to the building’s interior. 3. Nevertheless. is equally effective in divorcing the participant from the world behind.

nationale de Entering the reading room. but in numerous other examples as well. book from the ground. I presume. as the corridor. in anticipation. divorces it from the greater Bibliothèque space in the background. 1854–6). 3. As reinforcement and a variation to the above theme. at the center stage of this superb amphitheater. pending the ritual performance of the act of reading. now de-emphasized. pending the performance of reading at the center stage of this well delineated and sealed space. The entombment of the book at the edge is now subject to the . the gaze of the guardians of the gate to the place of writing. In effect. with rows upon rows of books on shelves. 1785. one is surrounded. The books here form a sublime cover to the light that readily gives one the assurance of a greater presence beyond the solid materiality of books en masse. past the watchful gaze of the librarian at the France circulation desk. that is. the sense awaiting its return to light. the circulation desk was to find its way from the gates. whose outward layering from the first through the massive piers of the second level is counteracted by the light penetrating through the shell from above and an unseen beyond.11  Étienne. 68 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. Ruskin. the stairs detach the place of the Louis Boullée. where any presumed line between aiding and dictating communication between the reader and the book becomes at best thin. or the nineteenth century equivalent of the key to the Medieval press. Bibliothèque re-places the participant in the delineated and detached place of writing. This double gesture of exclusion displaces and then Nationale. one may venture to guess. This is best seen in Sydney Smirke’s radial reading room of the British Museum (London. in this instance. In this place. to the center of the reading room. would have no difficulty seeing that the only merit of this frightful mass is in the sense it hides behind its cover.

in most later examples. but by separating and enveloping itself around the books. Labrouste. now multiplied and stacked one on top of the other. further delineates the three operational parts of the “Wall-system” library: the 1855–96. as yet another Public Library. the modern Stack-system library Print Department. 3. with its clear divorce between the books and the library’s enveloping frame. in a manner reminiscent of the post-Medieval library. Asplund’s Public Library (Stockholm. for example. Exterior Facade The modern stack-system library is both an extension of the “Wall-system” of Bibliothèque library and a reversion to the lectern and stall-system libraries. manifestation of the logic of encampment. the logic of encampment 69 watchful gaze of its guardian. 1920–28) and Alto’s Municipal Library (Viipuri. Boston achieves its predecessor’s end. given to fragmented and individualized reading spaces or carrels that together form a chain around . in turn. Although the reading room retains its central position in most early examples of the type.12  Henri which it radiates back to its resting place at the boundary (Figure 3. 1930–35). the reading space and the resting place of the books exchange position.14). Boston circulation space. The outer edges are. However. In a variation on the theme of center and edge that are the building blocks of a well delineated and detached place. placed at a center to which it must return and from Fig. the books move away from the edge to the center stage of the old amphitheater. and the stack space. the reading space. including most modern university libraries. not by integrating the books within its protective frame. It assumes and Sainte-Geneviève.

3.13c—Jason Whittaker . interior of Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève.13a—Stéphanie Benjamin.13  Henri Labrouste. 3.13b— Marie-Lan Nguyen. 1855–96 Photo credit: Clockwise from top 3. 70 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. 3.

Although the books may readily Library leave their sanctified and entombed place within the modern library. Kahn’s Exeter Academy Library (Exeter. remain divorced from the ground.15). if not the Fig. London.14  Sydney literal center of the modern library. The stacks. placed characteristically above. pending the elaborate ritual of circulation and discharge. substitutes the decimal system in place of the post. their identity never does. on axis. In a manner reminiscent of the Ricceto of the Laurentian Library. New Hampshire. the logic of encampment 71 the new resting place of the book: the modern stacks at the conceptual. the modern library. Here. employing the supplemental aid of all the bureaucratic and technological apparatuses presently afforded it. It remains in place within the protective cover of the stack space. Reading Room. 3. 1965–72). the modern library inscribes the Photo credit: British identity of each book within a figural chain. A telling example of this reformulation is Louis I. Along with the reading space and the stack space.5 As opposed to a literal chain. British Having returned the books to the center-stage. the circulation desk also assumes a more autonomous and detached position within the modern library. 1856 Medieval chain. in turn. one enters a second vestibule with the requisite monumental staircase that leads. Museum. though exposed to the librarian’s gaze from its new mediating position between . the circulation space takes on the form of an additional layer of physical and ritual separation that sees to the detachment of the book from both the library’s ground and background. past the doors and a low vestibule. Smirke. in the post-Medieval fashion. through a central atrium to an equally monumental circulation space (Figure 3.

the view in is an unfathomable representation dominated by “the straight lines of the rows of books” that “repeat themselves regardless of the particular books they stand for” (40).” that is. it readily penetrates the opened frame of the library to illuminate the enveloping outer boundary of the stacks. coupled with a view out. as James Siegel explains in “Academic Work: The View from Cornell. there is. whose lines and curves in written form are not linked to the features of the landscape of sense they are meant to summon. and place. Rather.” of “books that have lost their identity because of their great numbers. in proximity to the view out which “offers the reassurance of an outside to which one can always turn for escape” (Siegel 41).” and “chaos. Here. within the open concrete frame of the inner atrium and the punctured masonry frame of the library.” “inaccessibility. either to confront this frightful and dangerous mass of books as form or to assume that there is a hidden merit to it—its sense—which one must yet decipher. distant and different landscape whose forms readily coincide with the features of the sense they summon without delay or deferral— . In the above. caught between the sublime spectacle of the books piled in repetitive rows of stacks to one side and the enveloping frame of the library with a view out. the exposure of the materiality of the book to public spectacle in the stacks of the modern library.” as indicated by virtually every one interviewed. in a manner. one may safely seek authorial intentions in a landscape of letters whose lines and curves are not linked to the features of the landscape of sense they summon in absence.” From the vantage point of the reading space. A language. is not to escape.” coupled as they are with a sense of being “trapped” or “caged in” by the books (41). In contrast. “This sense of being in forced proximity to the books. The choice here is “either to be controlled by repetition or to sense that something is hidden” and “the urge to figure out the ‘mysteries’ of what is felt to be obscured. The view out from the library. as Ruskin would have it. “is an expression of being in the grip of language over which one has no hold” (41). all the while assured of the presence of another. as it was in the previous model. given to the performance of reading (Figure 3. opposite). In this delineated and illuminated place of reading. is conjoined to a view out.6 Surrounded by a ring of light. by reading the books.15b.72 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance the world outside and the stacks delineated and held above. to the other. “It would be by interpretation.” James Siegel explains. “a feeling of incomprehension. but to “remain turned toward the books. “The condition of academic work. one might add. the books en masse appear in the center stage of this delineated and detached place as the holders of a hidden secret that one must decipher at its illuminated edges. assured of the distance and the difference between the surrounding two images: the comprehensible image of a landscape on the outside and the incomprehensible material mass of the books on the inside. as well as numerous other examples. locate. a delineated room with a view. one may safely turn to the books. no longer shines from a presumed and mysterious beyond through a self-enclosing frame amassed with books.” offers a “stable” image whose lines and curves “seem to be linked to the features of the landscape they designate” (40).” that one is freed of the sense of being “trapped” by form. The modern library is. In the face of this “profusion of impressions. light.” however.

15a—Pablo Else. 1972 author.”7 Exeter Library. New In the space of reading. 3. or presumed as it is the case in the wall-system library is. Phillips is an exclusive space by an “ancient rule. whether literal as it is the case in the modern library.15 Louis the transparent and immediate landscape of speech. at a distance. one may have no place to locate the deferred presence of what the letters Sanchez. in other words. of which the place of reading I. the logic of encampment 73 Fig. . The perception of an exterior presence.8 Clockwise from left 3. crucial to the communication between the book and its reader. which after all. and reality from representation.15c—Jacqueline in the form of the letters that are not detached and well placed—the fright and Poggi danger of losing the line that safely separates presence from absence.15b and summon in absence. is a primary purpose of the library as a building type. as Michael Brawne put it. one may safely summon the absent intentions of the Hampshire. 3. Whether or not the library’s primary purpose and along with it the library’s design will have to be modified or changed in response to the advance of the digital information technologies are questions to which the answers will have to await time. Kahn. This may well be the fright and the danger Ruskin foresaw 3. outside the opaque Photo credit: materiality of the book that is kept safe within the confines of the modern library. having the means to locate their presence.

the shift from the wall-system to the modern stack-system library. for instance. the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) and the Seattle Public library. literally caged. In turn. Jacques and Lauriot 8). the former for its alleged failings. Two examples should suffice to demonstrate this trajectory. and the latter for its purported successes in upholding and furthering the library’s unwavering aim in the digital. Four proportionally thin. a ring of open stairs and tightly spaced. From the start-up screen to all the intermediary steps and processes. is predicated on and readily supports the rituals of access and retrieval for which the library has been legend. but the books themselves and at that as an illegible and incomprehensible mass from below. this is because the digital apparatus. almost from the moment the competition winner was announced in 1989. However. In contrast to Labrouste’s Bibliothéque Ste. tall. the library may well have read as a conceptual reversion to the wall-system library of a bygone era. the analogous operations of the digital apparatus also allow it to be. analogous to.-Geneviéve that was also modeled after a book. A ring of long rectangular moats that are burrowed into the raised platform links the widely spaced corner glass towers.”10 Had the book collection been left visible through the towers’ transparent glass curtain wall. rectangular planters frame the outer boundaries of the platform. “upon three of the basic elements of the design scheme: the towers. and the subterranean readers’ quarters” (202). The criticisms have centered.9 Although BNF was to be the forerunner of “an entirely new type” of library. access and retrieval of writing in the digital apparatus follows a trajectory that closely parallels the library’s. as Jack Kessler summarizes. in its various guises. Understandably.74 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance What is evident so far is that. large or small.-Geneviéve. incorporating cutting edge technologies to make every form of knowledge accessible to researchers in the twenty-first century and beyond (Perrault. The glass towers. early predictions to the contrary notwithstanding.11 The towers would have assumed both texture and depth and bore an experiential . Nor have they led to a diminished demand for new libraries. the analogous operations of the library and the digital apparatus have and continue to instigate trepidation and fear of displacement and substitution. The library is built above and below a raised rectangular platform. being the most visible and prominent feature of the BNF’s design. as it has been. The BNF was intended to be one of the largest and most modern libraries in the world. This latter is the path new and old libraries alike have followed in the past three decades. the digital information technologies have not led to a fundamental change in modern library design. with a large sunken garden at its center. the BNF’s design has been the subject of often-severe criticism for its failings as a library. were intended to house the majority of the library’s book collection and read as “four open books” framing a “void. at the BNF one would have seen. appropriated and subsumed within the library as a complementary apparatus furthering the library’s age-old institutional agenda. not the name of the authors inscribed on the library’s external frame as it is in Bibliothéque Ste. L-shaped glass towers rise over the four corners of the raised platform to frame an open “void” over the platform and the sunken garden (Figure 3. the garden. separating the central “void” from the outer parameters of the platform. In part.16). much as the analogue age.

and thereafter the gaze of the spectator from the outside. However. from the outside. Bibliothèque Nationale de France. the logic of encampment 75 Fig. wooden shutters were incorporated into the tower design and located at a distance behind the glass curtain wall to save the book collection from exposure to sunlight. 3. 1989–95 Photo credit: Mirco Giglioli analogy to a book.16  Dominique Perrault. in response to the immediate outcry of critics. .

the problem exceeds the unintended open book without content metaphor. monumental as it is. What awaits beyond this monumental gate. are blank sheets that “offer no friction or detail to arrest attention” in the way a book does and Labrouste’s Bibliothéque Ste. and perhaps also to convey some civitas” (66).” according to one reviewer. one glimpses into more empty space reaching up to the other two glass towers.76 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance The unintended opacity of the glass towers has rendered them mere markers to an encampment that seemingly holds and protects nothing. Beyond the formidable depth of this empty field. what awaits is yet another and far more monumental gateway articulated by two flanking glass towers and the deep moat that connects them. has been predicated on the logic of encampment. on a transverse axis to the path of movement. and allow the towers to “form a single whole. in the typological sense. this reviewer wishes Perrault had placed “covers” around the towers to clarify the “open book” metaphor. Though one can clearly see through the glass façades. the BNF has all the trappings of that logic. nor a . at the apparent end of this elaborate journey. only to find oneself not inside the reading room. It is not clear the design of this library would have appeared any less enigmatic had the towers had covers. Entering from either of the two streets flanking the short side of the library’s raised rectangular platform.” front or back. 63). to define a central location. as one prominent reviewer decries. Yet. The towers’ “glass façades. Variation on the theme would be a depiction of St. there is nothing there for one to see! The metaphoric pages of these “open books. To go past the gate.-Geneviéve did. To rectify this fault. The experience here is akin to entering the Ricetto of the Laurentian Library. “behind which the entire knowledge of a nation is preserved. bordered by a partition wall to one side. forceful. The ritual of entry and access at BNF is as elaborate. palpably senseless. is a large empty space flanked by the two glass towers and a long blank parapet at some distance in front. are too flat” (Cowan. Beyond the parapet. “directly contradicts the typological care and contextual premises taught by respected architectural ideologues” (Vidler 117). Part I. To cross. searching for the missing reading room. “too insubstantial to anchor themselves or their surroundings in place. The basic premise of BNF’s design. not a library. The four “open books. and dramatic as any critically lauded library. to reach a long and narrow rectangular space flanked by the stairs to one side and a dramatic gateway defined by a solid volume perforated by tall and deep. Jerome having entered the Gothic hall and ascended the platform only to find neither an armchair. The camp reached is empty and the encampment is. The absence in this well-defined “void” is as profound as the journey’s end is anticlimactic. but outside on the roof.” with or without cover. another reviewer clarifies. without the requisite effect. one must cross the moat on a nefariously balanced narrow bridge. appear to the viewer to be bereft of content. ascending the stair.” Their “smooth facades offer no friction or detail to arrest attention and the flow of space” (Buchanan 66). They are. caged planters. This library is. one must traverse between the tightly spaced caged planters only to enter a long rectangular empty space extending in both directions to nowhere. If typologically the library. the visitor has to climb a chorus of steps. in its various historic manifestations.

and processional transition leaves “the overall impression. Here. In the BNF interior. However. Yet another reviewer tells us: “the heart of the library.12 The BNF journey has. the escalator delivers one at long last to the doors of the library a level below. fully available to the reader” (Perrault. it will be an intermediary for a part of our heritage. like the taperecorder and the video machine. in other words. similar to its exterior. it too does not fail to raise typological trepidations. with the reading rooms surrounding a courtyard/garden at the very center of the library edifice” (Bottomore 92). a tool which will be. in sum. Extending from the top of the raised platform down the short edge of the enormous tree-lined hole at the center of the platform. the BNF similarly presents a blank screen that provides access to an otherwise invisible content through the multistep rituals of transition and access that are experientially akin to operating system and application boot-ups. According to another reviewer “with its gigantic book-sculptures dominating a vast wooden plaza. the library takes on a different aspect and is rather pleasant. unlike other . both forbidding and exhilarating in its enormous scale and Cartesian austerity. the spaces of reading are conjoined to a view out onto a tree-lined exterior. Despite this reserved and measured appeal to the digital technologies. where the reading rooms flank the tree-lined courtyard on multiple levels. all the requisite parts without the typologically requisite effect.13 Having finally reached the library’s interior. The library’s “external form. the BNF is remarkably similar in both design and experience to the quintessential digital apparatus: the personal computer. The only concession to the digital age in this surprisingly conventional library interior is the omnipresent computer terminals that “will naturally be an indispensable instrument for our management of men. What these analogies have in common is. only to give access to the books it holds for the duration of reading—keeping them otherwise out of sight in hidden storage.” one must as yet diagonally cross the void one had entered to discover a walled-in escalator behind one side of the bordering parapet. Although the BNF’s interior is “surprisingly” rich and colorful and to a large extent conventional. But. Jacques and Lauriot 14). once reached. both the mood and the reviewers tone change considerably. much of the drama of a typologically correct library without the requisite ending. like the book itself. the whole complex resembles a mausoleum commemorating the passing of print’s hegemony” (Buchanan 66). of course. a missing and missed presence that all the reviewers assume ought to have been there in a library. while the stacks.” it turns out.” An interior.” an “interior rich in colour. a typologically correct stack-system library. The palpable and lingering absence at the climax of BNF’s dramatic delineation. and oppressive” (Bottomore 92). The BNF’s interior has. we are told. this heart is revealed not to be there” (Vidler 122).” and “an enormous animal lying on its back. “shields a rich and surprising interior. “surprisingly. It will be the tool for the public’s access to our treasures. to a measure. Other reviewers liken the complex to a “gigantic carcass. with its four legs pointing heavenward” (Dawson 65). bereft of a soul. devoid of any reading space. To the viewer. similar to any typologically correct stack-system library. that is. To find the library’s missing “heart” or “soul. “of something soulless. nor for that matter any books. the logic of encampment 77 sloping desk. separation.” according to one reviewer. ghastly. books and movements. hover above the periphery.

“The result is. instead of surrounding the building. the BNF garden is surrounded by the building. On this outside surface. However. without rendering them transparent. Offering the reader “no view of the city from the reading rooms or even of the river” (Dawson 83) the BNF reading rooms effectively offer no “reassurance of an outside to which one can always turn for escape. Similar to the caged plants encountered outside. much as Perrault’s warehouse appears empty to the onlooker. (131) It was not the internal content. “to have the reading rooms and so on in the center and the garden extended around them” (Dawson 83). another prominent reviewer laments.” that is.” we are told. “a solid block of information. this garden. as remote as a mirage” (Buchanan 66). walking through the old areas of Paris (and even some of the new) comes as an incredible relief—to be once again among people in everyday surroundings.” that distinguished Koolhaas’ proposal as a “library for the electronic present.17). as many critics of BNF wished Perrault had done. the literal or even the figural “warehouse of all forms of memory.” . Koolhaas’ entry was conceived not as a computer.” as any typologically correct reading room would (Siegel 41). “is gratuitously introduced without reference to its typological place within the system of the library per se” (Vidler 126). this is not an out where one has been and will be. In other words. buildings on a human scale.” Nor was it the external metaphor per se—the open-book versus the three-dimensional information chip. one reviewer reminds us that “the pine forest in the courtyard is sealed off.14 “The obvious solution would have been. leaving a void in the center. could be.78 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance libraries. a warehouse of all forms of memory: books. that is. and trees that are not locked in cages” (Bottomore 94). In addition to being the mirage of an outside. Rem Koolhaas’ competition entry. the shadows of the public spaces within are projected like ghostly manifestations. the extent to which “the exterior” attested to and revealed “the secrets of its interior” (Figure 3. luminous. microfiches. that is. Anthony Vidler tells us. “a brilliant and architecturally original evocation of the poetics and pragmatics of information technology. but “conceived like some vast three-dimensional information chip. Whereas Perrault hid “all forms of memory” underneath and around the periphery. Koolhaas’ warehouse appeared otherwise by virtue of making its contents thematically visible on the exterior. or else the internal to the external. In addition to lingering and unabated impressions of being caged-in. or for that matter. and the view out is a view in. This would have been the typologically correct place for the garden. computer” (131). In contrast to Dominique Perrault’s winning entry for the BNF design competition.” another reviewer notes. But the solid block of information is in fact conceived as a translucent cube. Koolhaas also gave that memory a protective cover—the translucent cube—whose outside surface bore the “secrets of its interior” as cast “shadows” that vividly and directly attest to an internal presence. The difference was crucially and essentially lodged in the relationship of the contained to the container. “took seriously the mandate to produce a library for the electronic present” (130). Koolhaas not only located that “memory” in the center. disks. and radiating the secrets of its interior to the exterior. optical instruments. “after a visit to the BNF. and by far the most successful of all the competition entries.

This is a content whose presence the outer surface of the book Photo credit: Office perpetually summons by title. chip. offered a direct correlation between its physical outward form and its content (writing). Yet. from inception.” what is requisite is. on that score. in the same volume as Vidler’s account above. This is to say that the library for the “electronic present” is not one that is per se digitally savvy or technologically up-to-date. Koolhaas’ play on the thematic of enclosure and disclosure has nationale its parallel in traditional book design. Rather. it is the inscription. it opens at the beginning of the text. for Metropolitan To be a library for the “electronic present. the Koolhaas. where the cover envelops and hides a content de France competition that remains. tells us: A book doesn’t simply contain the inscription of a text. and if we break off our reading. the logic of encampment 79 This is apparently by mere virtue of that one all-important difference in the relationship Fig. Très Grande rhetoric of the “poetics and pragmatics” of information technology notwithstanding. it appears. Nunberg. visibly present within its volumetric thickness as the sum entry. the container to the contained. in much the same way Perrault’s design had much greater affinity to a computer Bibliothèque than to an open book.17 Rem of the interior to the exterior. This property is crucial to the way we read any book whose content is essentially linear or narrative. as we . 3. It is as fat as the text is long. we are left literally in media res. 1989 total of all the pages.” The mechanically (re)produced book has. and claims it in the name of the author. it is a library that ameliorates the consternations that are omnipresent in the “electronic present. the Architecture conjoining of the traditional enclosure of content to the testimonial disclosure of its presence. nevertheless. Bibliothèque Koolhaas’ design had much greater affinity to a traditional book than a computer project.

In other words. the digital media does the opposite. This is what Koolhass’ proposal does and Perrault’s does not—even though to a measure Perrault’s initial competition entry did. It is incapable of offering a direct correlation between the appearance of the text and its literal presence. to enclose and disclose its content at the same time. mutable. However. It is there only in proxy. in both cases. between its temporal appearance (the screen) and its spatial presence (the disk) as indiscernible digits. But for just this reason. Be this encampment that of “a tablet or a book” or an encampment whose outer limits are as directly correlated with its content as a book. Its physicality is dissociated and displaced. that is. In the latter case. if not dispensed with. the “electronic text” is spatially beyond grasp. Not only is the computer screen not correlated with one content. whereas its sense was de facto displaced. they are nowhere. The “electronic text” does not forego its physicality as writing. between where the text is seen (read) and where it is. Whereas Perrault’s final design amplifies all the consternations digital . what the “electronic text” cannot: a “perceptible correlation between the boundaries of the texts” and “the physical properties of the artifact. it is de facto partial and transitory. What the placeless “electronic text” offers in place of the correlation that the book has perpetually offered is spatial and temporal challenges akin to those Ruskin foresaw in ornamental inscriptions. by way of substitution and supplementation. though the text actually and durably is not. the library has been a supplementary encampment to the mechanical text from inception. There is. and seemingly limitless. Unlike the book. the text was physically present as ornamental form. the more the “library for the electronic present” is wished to be like a book.80 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance subconsciously register the external boundaries of the volume in terms of the space between our thumb and forefinger. much as the book gives its written content the appearance of permanence and immutability. Its bounds are not elsewhere. the “electronic text” acts like writing. within the physical bounds of the screen. So there is inevitably a sense of disconnection between the text that is immediately present to the senses and the text that stretches out indefinitely and invisibly on either side of it … You literally cannot grasp an electronic text in its entirety. Of course. to incorporate and encamp the “electronic text” as well. that is the source of all its informational capacity. The problem with the electronic text is the inverse—the sense is present. (18) In contrast. and reckon our place in the text accordingly.” It is asked to provide. but it is not like writing. there is no perceptible correlation between the boundaries of the texts we read on a computer and the physical properties of the artifact or the display itself. (Nunberg 18) Wherever and whenever the “electronic text” appears. every content becomes temporal. A computer doesn’t have to store texts in a form that corresponds to the space they occupy when they are displayed. a spatial and temporal dislocation and dispersion that a supplementary encampment is hoped to recompense. the “library for the electronic present” is additionally asked to compensate for what is missing and missed in the “electronic present.” The less the “electronic text” is like writing. that is.

or sections. completed in 2004 to critical applaud. transparency and openness. Vidler speculates. Koolhass was to establish a direct correlation between the container and the contained (Figure 3. The headquarters on top was pushed east to look down Fifth Avenue toward Mount Rainier. Moving those upper floors also let more light into the lower floors. “it is easy to miss the logic” of the building’s exterior form. the logic of encampment 81 technologies raise regarding spatial and temporal bounds for writing. the “irregular form” of the building we are assured by another reviewer “arises from an almost slavish devotion to a detailed program developed by the library board and staff” (Olson 88). The relationship of the building’s . Although. It was intended to “redefine the library as an institution no longer exclusively dedicated to the book. five broad categories emerged: administration and staff. even startling” as it may seem is merely the correlated outward expression of what is inside (Kubo and Prat 66). and still insist. “striking. Nevertheless.’ (131–2) In time. and not be censured as was the BNF—the “stack of shifting. permeability and social democracy are not only symbolized but also effected by glass. Koolhass would have a chance to correct the asserted mistake of the BNF entry in the competition entry for another “library for the electronic present:” the winning entry for the Seattle Central Library. The architects visualized the space as five stacked boxes and used that as starting point for the building’s design. “at first glance. on the illusion that light and enlightenment. under the banner of transparency. and reassures. in the Seattle Central Library. (66) Having pushed and pulled the programmatic platforms in deference to the view out—a feature no stack-system library can be without. Koolhaas’ mistake was to configure information under the sign of translucency and shadowy obscurity. The Seattle Central Library (SCL) was intended to “honor books and prepare for ambitious technology” (Kubo and Prat 66). The boxes. Koolhaas’ design was not selected as the winning entry! The reason this typologically correct library “for the electronic present” did not win the competition was. effective enough in the rhetoric of ideology. it does not look like a building” (Mattern 10). precariously balanced volumes” on the inside were “shrink-wrapped” in a “taut skin of steel and glass” that “captures the five floating boxes like a butterfly net” (Kubo and Prat 66). and the area holding the main book stacks was nudged north to offer reading-room views of Eliot Bay. because of one mistake. is well served by an architect who asserts: ‘I dislike walls. I like transparencies. the politics of the moment insisted. were repositioned to allow better views and light. consisting of shadows cast on the autonomous form of a translucent cube. After analyzing functions and space requirements. but as an information store where all potent forms of media—new and old—are presented equally and legibly” (11). Whereas in Koolhass’ BNF proposal the requisite enclosure and disclosure of content were tenuous and tangential. leading some critics to conclude that “not only does it not look like a library. compensates.” we are told. public space and parking. The exterior form. Koolhaas’ design correlates. collections.18). Such simple wisdom. information.

Seattle Central Library. 2004 Photo credit: Author . 82 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig.18 Rem Koolhaas. 3.

whose cage-like transparency locates the view out at an imposing distance from the viewer. If SCL does not look to some like a library. This is not to decry the significance of the differences and the important transformations in the history of the library as a building type. the project manager notes. diamond patterned frame. it glows like a giant X-ray. In daylight. the same seemingly thin enveloping skin reads as a thick and forceful divider as one’s gaze is arrested by and led through the considerable depth of the aluminum clad. as Andreas Zoch. articulated with a steel and glass curtain wall that much as it reveals the form of the interior as a whole. literally conceived. in the Laurentian Library. One may readily trace the specifics of these differences and transformations. and most conventional buildings. Rather. to. For instance. to the book-stacks that are separated and enclosed in a spiral and lifted well above the lower floors. transparent. exposing its vital organs through its exoskeleton” (Olson 88). Aside from the shift in the relationship of the container and the contained. having climbed one’s way up the taxing stairs of the slithery vestibule into the calm of the reading room. in contrast to the Medieval book-press that was predicated on the idea of knowledge as a locked and hidden secret awaiting revelation. all arrived at not by the familiar monumental staircases of prior libraries. the literal nighttime transparency is supplanted by the formal transparency of the building’s interior outline. if only to underscore its enveloping function.15 In the preceding discussions. it is not the external envelop that gives the interior its outline. one may be well inclined to agree with Alberti that the path to knowledge is fraught with difficulties and it is on “industry and diligence no less . Although the glass panes of the building’s diamond patterned skin are. I have tried to point out that despite various manifestations and numerous stylistic discontinuities. From the interior. The outer skin. shifts. or even a building. An equally apt analogy would be the book whose outer form directly correlates with the content it envelops. it is because. the processional organization and the spatial characteristics of the library as a building type have remained essentially the same from the Medieval book-press to the modern stack- system library and beyond. unlike the libraries of the mechanical age. “like the relationship of skin to body” (quoted in Swimmer 44). toped and sided by reading spaces with obligatory views out through the deep cage-like frame. it is the interior outline that dictates the external form. it is dispersed across the building’s uniform outer surface. the specific modalities. for the most part. and in what relationship it is placed with respect to its manifestation(s) and/or representation(s). on the other hand. SCL is experientially as familiar a library as any preceding it. is so closely fused to the irregular outline of the internal body—shaped in deference to the requisite views out—that “illuminated at night. it forcefully envelopes and separates that interior from all that is beyond it. The logic of encampment informs every facet of the design. as I have tried to do with SCL and BNF. the logic of encampment 83 exterior form to its interior is. but brightly colored escalators that play much the same role in a different form. how and where it is located (localized). one’s gaze is not led through the skin from the outside. and changes in the cultural perception and definition of what constitutes knowledge. from the carefully layered entry sequences. among other factors.

Writing has been. as Boullée’s siting already indicates. To discover the truth. confronted with sublime spectacle of rows upon rows of books on shelves in the stack-system library. somewhere between the two. one must “tear away the veil which covers it.” It is. The Pharmacy Inscribed between reflections on the Coliseum—the locus of the ephemeral body and the “celebration of life”—and the Cenotaph—the locus of the immortal soul and the consecration of death—we find Boullée’s reflections on the library (103–5). As a device. In a similar vein. control. including the reassuringly transparent libraries of the digital information age.” is “hidden” behind the “outer cover” that hides it from view. a reflection of the ambivalence of Western culture toward what the library seeks to place and keep in place: the written word. that is. one may be well inclined to agree with Ruskin that the “only merit” of this “frightful” mass is “in its sense” (Seven Lamps 107). in no small measure. these diverse manifestations. that sublime impetus that seem to draw forth soul from body. surround by walls of books en masse from behind which light penetrates and pervades the space. in other words. Each. writing allows the living thought to leave of itself a material trace that though .16 Yet. Nevertheless.84 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance than in the favours of Nature and of times” that “the ability to achieve the highest distinction in any meritorious activity” relies (On Painting 33). one may be readily inclined to agree with Marc-Antoine Laugier among other proponents of the enlightenment. This seemingly innocuous siting is neither accidental nor altogether arbitrary. the place of a forced displacement. we find reflections on the library intertwined with questions of mortality and immortality. and order. share a common logic. 7). the subject of simultaneous condemnation and praise throughout the history of Western culture for being the purveyor of life and the agent of death at the same time. the library is the locus of neither of the polar opposites it appears to evoke in reflection. and relatedly. at a certain level. of body and soul enjoined and dis-joined at once—the place of writing. It marks their meeting place where Boullée tells us: “one experiences … those noble transports. life and death.” if only to see the “light” that awaits only those who make the effort to “penetrate the outer cover” (2. body and soul. It falls.17 It has been commended and censured for immortalizing and supplanting the author by preserving and dispensing with living thought at once. deemed external to the normal functions of language and thought. It marks a step on a much-traversed historic path and ascribes to the pervasive logic of a powerful myth that the library as a cultural institution and a building type at once embodies and promotes. Time and again. Imagining oneself arriving in the reading room of a “Saal-System” library. is a different expression of the logic of encampment and as such an attempt to purvey to the viewer a sense of confinement. that “truth.” “indelible as it is. This latter is. Jacques Derrida points out. order and chaos. to assure the participant that the books are in place and under control.

a bastardized form of speech. an interior and an exterior. the disappearance of a decidable place within whose demarcated boundaries writing may be put to rest as a substitute representation. or represented by writing. a “dangerous supplement. language had never existed. subservient role with respect to speech and condemned for being. that undifferentiated ground that precedes the act of encampment. The “alleged derivativeness of writing. then the living thought itself must forego its privilege as a simple presence in order to appear in representation as a deferred presence. if it has a repeatable. “what opens meaning and language is writing as the disappearance of natural presence” (159). imitated. Of Grammatology 56). if speech itself functions by virtue of the same difference and deferral that is presumed to be peculiar to writing. a clear boundary separating two opposite terms. but both at once (Derrida. is “possible only on one condition: that the ‘original. Writing has no decidable place. because what we shall find outside every assigned place is only more writing—an “arche-writing” always older than the speech of which writing is said to be a poor and dangerous imitation (Derrida. predicated on. In short. in the simplest terms. If it is deemed to be a dangerous substitute for speech. imitated. The writing that “opens language and meaning. and socio-political . in a manner. that is. or determined by what it signifies. theological. the landscape of thought can only be located in the space of representation. though devoid of the immediacy and the pliancy that are its distinguished marks. unattended and intractable. if speech itself must necessarily defer the presence that it can only represent. that it had itself always been a writing” (Of Grammatology 56). for instance. Should one wish. however. real and massive. If writing is deemed to be a precarious and pernicious drug. or rather because of it. on the other hand. It makes the absent present. or represented. to retain the privilege of speech as the locus of a living. nevertheless immortalizes the life it supplants and/or substitutes. a Pharmakon: neither simply a remedy nor simply a poison. Regardless of its immortalizing virtue. writing entombs and defers thought. that is. if speech itself is a form of writing. Speech can only be substituted. If. among others. it is in part because writing does not simply insinuate itself in the place of speech from outside.” or in Plato’s term. it could never be substituted. It cannot be readily placed. to appear at all. writing has been consistently assigned a secondary. it is in part because its effect cannot be delimited in space and to its assigned place and role as the dead imitation of a living speech.” Derrida notes. present thought—all the metaphysical. the logic of encampment 85 inanimate and dead. Dissemination). Writing is.’ ‘natural. however.’ etc. imitable or re-presentable form whose signifying function is not governed. never been intact and untouched by writing. Whereas speech functions in the immediacy of thought as a transparent and seemingly immaterial realization of its presence. If the seemingly transparent face of speech was indeed linked to the features of the landscape of thought it designates. one might add. Writing can take the place of speech as a poor substitute and a dead imitation of it.” at once exceeds and defies any sense of place or any act of placement. along with. It also permanently dis-places living thought and the speech that is presumed to be the privileged locus of its presence.

“is profoundly alien to the sense of writing. It differentiates an otherwise undifferentiated ground into two distinct and separate realms: the realm of writing and a realm for all that one may wish to safely withdraw and oppose to writing. It assumes an outside. and experiential clarity of place for what writing fundamentally lacks and denies: a decidable place. It offers the participant—by design—a spatial experience that is profoundly alien to writing as the space of a non-place. writing assumes a spatial dimension. Mindful of the pernicious nature of the drug it is given to administer. for the presence it defers. distinguished. against its aphoristic energy. order. to a measure. one such place. a defensive measure against the “disruption” and “aphoristic energy” of writing: a defensive measure that sees to the encampment of the book in a “heterotopic space. encompassing and placing the written word in place. This is not only a place for itself. Within the delineated. that is. … against difference in general” (Of Grammatology 18). immobile. In the space of a non-place—the undifferentiated space of representation— the library insinuates a defensive outpost. As the library localizes and brackets the book.86 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance implications of this assumption withstanding—then one must indeed make every effort to delimit the dangerous effect of this paradoxical drug to a decidable place. It is. One must substitute a clear sense of place for the missing place of this dangerous pharmakon: a place from which speech can be withdrawn to the outside. As much as writing confounds and defies a sense of place. life and death.” Derrida notes. of course. it also renders what lies outside its assigned spatial limits. and so on. speech and writing. as much external as they are internal. held well within the bounds of the library. the library—the institution and the building type—systematically seeks to delineate. This is to say that the logic of encampment at work in the formation of the library is. in a manner. and generalized doubling of the book. It is the encyclopedic protection of theology and of logocentrism against the disruption of writing. safe and untouched by its effects. or what amounts to the same. and. One must make every effort to place writing: be this in a subservient supplemental position with respect to speech or within the protective cover of the book. . by various shades of gray. the library provides the participants a conceptual vehicle for thinking the resolution of the paradox of writing in binary terms. a realm for the presence. The library is another place: a supplemental. immune to the disruptive energies of writing. The concerns of the library are. then there is little choice but to resort to the logic of encampment. to be mutually exclusive terms. substitutes a formal. an ideological response and an institutional solution to the enigmatic place of writing. or the living thought that writing defers. the library.”18 that is construed to keep in place that which has no decidable place. as a cultural institution. in other words. the sense. informed by the cultural/ideological agenda of the institution it serves. As a building type. reality and representation. The book is. separated by a line. and highly elaborated confines of the library. spatial. The “idea of the book which always refers to a natural totality. but also and of greater concern. and place. Should one wish to heed the imperative call of a world view that assumes presence and absence.

deep within the cover of the book. If writing is a pharmakon. but education. in the proper cultural perspective. it is a figure in transition and/or circulation by virtue of that “individual and particular” place to which its identity is irrevocably tied: the library. Following a totemic logic. frequently found at the conceptual center of the modern university campus. in search of a decidable verity. and processional transition that are the hallmarks of a successful library. path to place. and through each modification. to the point of invisibility. we may conclude. If. in any terms other than in binary terms. what has remained virtually constant in the design of the campus is the assumption that the pursuit of higher education is best confined to a well-defined and distinct camp whose clarity of outline is best summed up by analogies that bring to mind . the logic of this encampment is not fundamentally different from the logic that has seen to the encampment of the book within the library at the conceptual center of the campus (Figure 3. in turn. writing is given to assume a spatial dimension. foreground to background. we find ourselves. as inside stands to outside. upper to lower. center to periphery.19 within the confines of the library as a requisite “individual and particular space. kept in proxy.” Paul Turner points out.” Turner argues. the consumer of the myth of writing as a pure remedy. The production and consumption of this pernicious drug outside the bounds of the library has the assurance of a destination that keeps its malevolent and disruptive energies in check and under control. well within the bounds of the library.19). outside the delineated boundaries of this cultural and institutional construct. the logic of encampment 87 The careful delineation. The Campus Turning away from the center to the boundaries of the modern campus itself. “While designing the University of Virginia. once again. writing assumes a temporal dimension. There. and all other binary spatial and formal terms that are called on to create “an individual and particular space.” writing is given to stand in the same relationship to the presence it defers. put the relationship between writing and all that one may wish to escape its grip. Since the inception of the modern campus. light to dark. “it also summarized a basic trait of American higher education from the colonial period to the twentieth century: the conception of colleges and universities as communities in themselves—in effect cities in microcosm” (69). the library is a pharmacy and the institution the pharmacist who sees to the proper dispensation of the drug. Should one even wish to conceive of the relationship between writing and the presence it defers.” delineated and detached from its greater place. The cultural participant is. “Thomas Jefferson described his goal as the creation of an ‘academical village’” (69). Although the subject of this particular encampment is not writing. As much as writing resists a sense of place. separation. Although “this term expressed Jefferson’s own views on education and planning. within the bounds of a well-defined camp. the library successfully resists its defiance of a sense of place. within the confines of the library. open to closed. one must confront and contradict the immediate experience of the library.

” a microcosmic city. a community in itself. If the modern university seeks to .19  Thomas distinct boundaries and a clear sense of place—a “village. It is in place of this dis-placement that the logic of encampment substitutes a clear sense of place in the form of a campus. Even though. cultural supplement to human nature. as compared to the library at the center of the campus. assumed and implied by the word 1819 campus that “sums up. commonly viewed as an external. that is. but also its integrity as a self-contained community” (4). If education as a supplement adds to and completes human nature. it also dis- places it. Blaha The desire and the attempt to give education a distinct place. Derrida points out. Charlottesville. The supplemental education makes it impossible to identify an internal human nature that is not burdened by the weight of things external to it. the of Virginia. over time. or Jefferson. that is. the supplementation denies the nature it completes a location or place within or without. yet another cultural and institutional response to the dilemmas and the paradoxes of the subject of the encampment: in this instance. not only “the distinctive physical qualities Photo credit: Karen of the American college. inside or outside the human subject. presence of these boundaries remain.” Turner tells us. 88 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. University of Virginia being a case in point. the dilemma of education. Education as a supplement. to localize it within the spatial bounds of a “self-contained” camp is. 3. If education supplements and completes human nature. in part. most campuses lose the clarity of University their original boundaries to growth. is neither a pure addition nor a simple accretion (Of Grammatology). it also speaks of a fundamental gap and an internal deficiency in that nature.

Clark 160). but outside the boundaries of the university as the place of supplementation.’ or being able. but that the system is an effective aid to the modern library. If the library tries to withhold its subject within. books and movements. in J. not within. like the taperecorder and the video machine. we found the books had suffered—a damage which was increasing daily—partly from the sloping form of the desks. to see trees through a window as they read.” Claude Héméré. the logic of encampment 89 encompass education as supplementation to nature within the bounds of a well- defined place. Bressani and Grignon. to our great sorrow. is as attractive to the French as it is to Americans who know Joyce Kilmer’s poem” (Kessler 200). Clark 160) 2 For a comprehensive discussion of the unique formal characteristics and insolubly contradictory readings of this space see Wittkower.” one library architect tells us. 8 One library expert tells us: “Trees also go well with books. the librarian at the Library of Sorbonne from 1638–43 tells us: “that reading. The computer will naturally be an indispensable instrument for our management of men. Notes 1 The following is a telling case in point: ‘I would have you know that in the year 1617 the library was completely altered and made to assume an entirely new appearance. “we not only increase the utilization of the building and improve efficiency. the campus tries to keep it without. The campus is the formal and spatial vehicle that allows us to conceive the deficiency to which education points as having temporal and spatial boundaries— not endemic but specific to time and place. partly from the inconvenient weight of the chains. by the ancient rules of the library. W. at least. it will be an intermediary .” that is. 9 Jean Favier notes: Hence the new library had to supply not only a new dimension to our original Bibliotheque Nationale.’ (J. 6 “By finding space for carrels under the eaves of a building. It will be the tool for the public’s access to our treasures. but create a memorable space to which people are attracted and want to return” (Freeman 173). 7 “It was required. we may conclude. and handling of books should go forward in complete silence” (qtd. This alteration was rendered necessary by the serious damage which. “the sense of penetrating out of the everyday hustle and into the shadowy preserve of learning” (249). 3 Henry James had a specific term for this requisite experiential separation (242): “penetralia. but also a whole new concept of our contribution to the civilization of the Third Millennium. But. 5 This is not to imply that the invention of the decimal system coincides with the formation of the modern library. only to have an ideal to reflect back on from within. writing. It allows us to conceive of a complete nature residing. 4 Also see Levine. The idea of readers being able to ‘take a good book out to read it beneath a tree. W. the motivating concerns are as much practical as they are ideological.

where the themes of life and death are intimately connected to a labyrinthine library and the book posed as the literal agent of death (Eco). 17 Please see Derrida. which states that the entrance to a building should be on the outside. up the stairs. (qtd. … The public will not be entitled to the view over the garden. 12 A similar experience would be to cross the masonry shell of Bibliothéque Ste. Also a poignant case in point is Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose. like the book itself.90 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance for apart of our heritage. less immediate. but they will not be able to stroll round it. it supplies a mnemotechnical means of identifying and locating the library within the city. except by going to a walk-cum-resting-place. . and in effect prohibiting the concurrence of work and contemplation of nature. (14) 10 Perrault notes: The ‘four open book’ evince a concept with absolute clarity and conciseness. 19 Please see Lévi-Strauss. courtyard side. you must first climb over them. separated from the reading rooms by a partition. “Of Other Spaces” 22–7. etched- glass-clad Cottbus Technical University Library by Herzog & de Meuron. Afterwards. 16 For an insightful discussion of this subject please see Siegel. through the doors. 18 Please see Foucault. This absurd journey exposes the sheer stupidity and full ugliness of the building. a quintessential Fontainebleau which will nevertheless be inaccessible. Instead. the entrance being on the inner.-Geneviéve. The entrances for the general public are on the upper floors only. in order to enter these reading rooms. Of Grammatology. For many of those people their first act of reading in association with the library will be done in those four open books. 13 One reviewer notes: The architect shunned conventional wisdom. Dissemination. It’s part of the new library’s dialogue with people. amoeba-shaped. go through the corridor. fully available to the reader. These favored researchers will thus have a view over this garden. This relationship between the architectural ensemble and the language is necessary if we are to initiate communication. a tool which will be. save in the unexpected event of a disaster. only to find oneself outdoors. (Edelmann 22) 15 Much of what was said about SCL applies to other aspiring libraries of the “digital present. in Favier 48) 11 This latter would have been conceptually similar to the imprinted glass skin of the Herzog & De Meuron’s Cottbus Library (2001–4). more contradictory and complex perceptions will lead to other levels of reading.” Prominent among these is the SCL’s contemporary. (Bottomore 92) 14 Also: The area reserved for researchers will have a view over a patch of forest.

… There are regulations regarding their use.” both see the museum as a solution. What both accounts assume. Our civilization has come up with no better solution than to pigeonhole artworks and lock them safely away” (287). Presuming that those works of art that fall outside “everyday secular or religious activity” or “their original homes” present a “problem. “must surely be set apart in the sense of being a special place. the time. to arts’ want of a place. “really as desperate as that. it speaks to the same logic as the following account ascribing the inception of the museum to two causes. both accounts assume. re-placed and at that not in any place but in a place that. The New Museum 8). according to another account. “a level of physical wealth which allows an abundant production of art. “a form of culture in which this art is seen as a kind of surplus not immediately wanted in any everyday secular or religious activity” (Brawne. where life takes on a different dimension and there is time and space to think and feel.4 The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity The use of objects which have properties is usually prescribed by ritual.” and two. of having to have a designated place. Curious as this determination may be. without going into the sometimes vast array of accessory rites which accompany them and which allow the utilization of their properties and the application of their sympathetic mechanisms. and theirs is a pervasive assumption. we are told. as one contemporary account has it. place. quantities involved. one. Bossaglia. (Mauss 102) The Collection Museums are. works of art have to be. There are rules about the way they should be collected. and Irace 287). desperate or otherwise. Once displaced. and room for … silence” . “really last-ditch solutions to the problem of knowing what to do with artworks when they have been moved from their original homes for any number of reasons” (Bertelli. It is. is that the museum is a response to a spatial displacement. that is.

” The designation of art objects as collectibles did not exclusively depend. preservation.” as the museum at the Louvre palace was renamed in 1796. the art museum’s history dates back to the July 27. This is to say that the history of the museum is thoroughly implicated in the history of the public and its self-constitution as a sovereign entity. Elsewhere. and public display of art. 1793—the date of the Decree issued by the Revolutionary Convention in Paris for the creation of the “Museum of the Republic” at the Louvre which subsequently opened on November 9. presupposes. The transformation of the cult referent . The public assumed.1 Unlike the library and the theater with their long history of development. on their newly acquired aesthetic value. in the decades of 1810s to 1830s. the spatial and formal development of the museum as a building type had to await the heated debates and final codification of the type in Germany and to a lesser extent England. What we understand by “art” was the invention of the Renaissance. Taking charge and exercising control over art as a body of objects delegated to a “special” place was assumed and continues to be one expression of this sovereignty. then re-defined. New Museums x). however. The constitution of the “Musée Central des Arts. of course. the art museum is barely over 200 years old. As a public institution. that the art museum is a building type serving a public institution that sees to the collection. and we will have to return to this subject later.92 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance (Powell. recent as it is. The spatial and formal consequences of this act were not to be fully realized at the Louvre palace for another 190 years. is significant insofar as it marks a first in the appropriation of art by a then newly construed entity—the “public. their “cult value” to assume in its place “exhibition value” (“The Work of Art” 224).” other than re-locating them to “a special place” is a concept that is peculiarly Western and not very old. their designation as collectibles. 1793. over time. The practice of collecting art objects. public or private. To be (re)classified as art. The “Middle Ages. and thoroughly re-organized a private practice that traces its history back to the onset of the Renaissance. of course. Not knowing what to do with two and three-dimensional graphic representations that fall outside “everyday secular or religious activity” or “their original homes. The history of this classification. “were as unaware of what we mean by the word “art” as were Greece and Egypt. is not patently different in duration from the history of art itself and it is not all too clear which classification came first. began to see in the “Virgin” a statue and in the “classical statue” not a “heathen idol or a mere puppet. Significant and peculiar as the public’s initial and continuing preoccupation with gathering and administering art is. This is assuming. or rather of a people who. in Benjamin’s terms. it is important to note that the practice of collecting art was well precedented in Europe. paintings and statues had to eschew their cult referents in favor of a subject and submit themselves as objects to an aesthetic test for a measure of their “exhibition value. The invention and the ensuing re-classification of paintings and statues as art required them to relinquish.” but the embodiment of a universal ideal: the beautiful (53). who had no word for it” (53).” In its sphere the museum would remain heretofore.” Malraux reminded us long ago.

and re-located to a new and specific place: the “repositories” that in various forms were popular among European ruling elite in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. the church. paintings and statues were meant to establish a visual link between the viewer and the cult referent. on the other hand. Taking note of the object and not the referent entailed taking note of the distance and the space between the observer and the observed. on the other hand. These works were often tightly integrated with the decoration of the room. The gallery. in other words. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 93 into a subject had distinct spatial ramifications and these as well bore directly on the classification of art objects as collectibles. was a designated place wherein. As works of art.2 This is the loss Valéry was to deplore at the end of his essay “the problem with museums” to which we will turn later. served as a repository for paintings and statues gathered there for their aesthetic and iconographic value. whatsoever nature has wrought in things that want life and may be kept. and so on. whatsoever singularity. over the course of the succeeding two centuries. Beginning in the sixteenth century. The price of autonomy was the loss of place. would develop into two distinct realms: the “cabinet” and the “gallery. only insofar as it serves to distinguish not two specific repositories. They were meant to be seen. “whatsoever the hand of man by exquisite art or engine has made rare in stuff. The distinction between the “cabinet” and the “gallery” is useful. paintings and statues held their newly acquired status so long as they retained a distance from both the viewer and the place they happened to occupy. we should note that the autonomy that set paintings and statues adrift as autarchic self-referential objects transposed them into collectibles at the same time. shall be sorted and included” (quoted in IImpey and MacGregor 1). Deciphering it will be our focus for the remainder of this chapter. As cult objects. For now. form or motion. The first spatial ramification had to do with the recognition of two and three-dimensional graphic representations as autonomous objects. as its distinct collection practice. re-classified. As cult objects paintings and statues collapsed space. in effect. Once without a place and subject to collection. but two distinct practices that were often accompanied by two correspondingly distinct spatial formulations. displaced paintings and statues from their allocated place at home. The spacing that constituted an insular frame all around the art object. They functioned as intended—making the absent referent present—so long as they remained invisible as objects. chance. as art objects they imposed it. as Francis Bacon put it. in the palace. paintings and statues were collected. we find dislodged paintings and statues reposited in places that.” or else the Wunderkammer and the Kunstkammer. and the shuffle of things hath produced.3 The logic that saw to the re-classification and re-placement of these placeless representations in various repositories is fundamentally the same logic that had seen to their initial placement as cult objects and in time would see to their re-placement in the museum. often a long rectangular room.4 The collections’ titles vary overtime and there were considerable overlaps in the holdings. The cabinet. What distinguished one collection from another was not so much its label. forming a path with a multiplicity of views along the way. not looked at.5 .

Rare. and singularities visible. Musaeum Calceolarium. The impetus behind the collection was not to make oddities. more oddities. not necessarily in origin. the objects of the cabinet eschewed reproduction.1 Engraving of the Francesco Calzolari’s Cabinet of Curiosities. and singularities than “a man … should see if hee spent all his life in Travel. a horn of a unicorn. by nature or design. rarities.” as Peter Munday noted in 1634. the objects in the continental cabinet were unique productions. For the most part. The objects in the cabinet were not meant to be seen. Divided. out of place in the domain of the ordinary. the cabinet was a secluded. or oriental calligraphy. rarities. however.” the cabinet was not meant as a place of exhibition or public display (qtd. cameos and intaglios. The goal was to gather and hold them in one . the collectibles in the cabinet were. American featherworks. Museographia. They fell outside the normal cycle of (re)production where they were deemed collectible. On occasion foreign dignitaries may have been taken there to impress upon them the sovereign reach of the ruler. a nautilus shell. but where they were collected in the one place outside of which they had no immediate place. Whether. an inaccessible place. Most had their origin in other times and other places. as Caspar Neickel suggests in his 1727 treatise. and to the public. into the two categories naturalia and curiosa artificialia. 1622 For all its ambition to “behold and collect into one place. 94 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance The bafflingly heterogeneous body of objects encountered in these cabinets appears to have one thing in common (Figure 4.6 The cognoscenti were also given permission to examine and study the cabinet’s content. singular. or wanting of life. Egyptian and Roman antiquities. but to render them invisible. in IImpey and MacGregor 150). Verona. Fig 4.1).

it was more likely to be placed in the treasury than the cabinet of curiosities. Objects in the cabinet had additional properties: their singularity where they happened to be. the objects in the cabinet were to be variously kept on the periphery of the cabinet and moved to a table placed in the center of the room for examination. rarities. and singularities. An entire industry was formed in Italy and elsewhere to feed with fake reproductions and forged singularities the appetite of the European ruling elite for rare and singular collectibles. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 95 place and. A branch of this industry would be consolidated in time into the field of art history. It had the task of identifying. in effect. Even if it meant having to search. paintings and statues were included in the cabinets of curiosities on account of neither their aesthetic value nor monetary value. no seat of power in Europe during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries.8 What was valued above else for resisting reproduction fast became the subject of it. it seems. As Caspar Neickel suggests. Had the monetary value outweighed an object’s value as a unique and rare object. but also the institution of a distinct domain that kept the rare and the singular out of circulation and the places to which it did not belong. Although the authortic and auratic objects collected in the cabinet eschewed reproduction. and singularities was their authenticity and historicity—what Walter Benjamin was to term their “aura” or that which “even the most perfect reproduction of a work of art is lacking … its unique existence at the place where it happens to be” (220). could be without a cabinet and no claim to power could go without instigating a realm . in effect. neither was placed in the cabinet on account of price. The requisite spatial ritual of retrieval and return from periphery to center and back.7 However. and import authentic and singular objects. that both industries owe their development to the European ruling elite’s search for the singular and the authentic. The desire to open-up and set aside a space for authenticity and singularity appears to be independent of the presence of collectibles as evidenced by the active search for collectibles. exert spatial control over these otherwise placeless objects. and certifying the collectibles as such. What the cabinet accomplished was not only the preservation of the rare and the singular. authenticating. It is important to note. however. as the spatial control exerted over them—the collection. What made paintings and statues fit for inclusion in the cabinet and the company of other oddities. this is not to say that they were not reproduced. Among other oddities. Paintings and statues accounted for little as compared to such prized collectibles as the horn of a unicorn. rarities. What was put on display was not so much the objects in the cabinet. The occasional contact with the objects in the cabinet was often subject to a divisive spatial dialogue between the center and the edges of what was generally a simple rectangular room. further distanced the resting place of the curious and its point of contact with the outside world on the examination table. The spatial control exerted over these authortic objects may well be what made the cabinet suitable for the occasional display of sovereignty to foreign dignitaries. instigated by the desire to collect them in one place. locate. In response another industry was formed to safeguard against the first. There was a further distinction between collecting and viewing within the cabinet.

conceived as a place predicated on the spatial dialectics of center and edge. it is important to note that the emphasis on the authentic in the cabinet is. as a salient feature of its collection practice. the latter’s preoccupation with authenticity was irreverent to the gallery (Figure 4. though the logic of the cabinet would prevail over the gallery. and the fashioning of a new social identity for state citizens. housed aesthetics. The space of the gallery was. An entire industry dedicated to the commissioned replication of famous works of art. The idiosyncrasy of the desire to collect curiosities in one place raises. Charles de Brosses. what sets this practice apart from the prevalent collection practice in the gallery. produced endless copies of old masters for the galleries of the European elite throughout the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Inasmuch as the aesthetic and iconographic concerns of the gallery were impertinent to the cabinet. The transformation of the cabinet and the gallery into the art museum were to go by way of the gradual division of the cabinet of curiosities into specialized cabinets in the eighteenth century. Germain Bazin recounts. and on the other. Why this preoccupation with the spatial control of the singular and the authentic and why is it linked to questions of sovereignty and power? Why were the European ruling elite interested in collecting these peculiar objects with such diligence and concern for authenticity and passing this concern on to the public when it declared its own sovereignty? To postulate an answer we need to follow the development of the cabinet into the museum. It went in tandem with the development of nation-states. two distinct purposes. including the formation of cabinets devoted exclusively to art. housed authenticity.” to “having originals by minor masters” (116). President de Brosses’ preference was not the exception. with the . The institution of cabinets devoted exclusively to works of art (Kunstkammer) was. though not mutually exclusive. an initial step toward consolidating the cabinet and the gallery into one homogeneous and exclusive space for art. on the one hand. in a manner. The gallery and the cabinet had. The transformation of the place of art from the exclusive cabinets and the galleries of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries to the public museums of nineteenth and twentieth centuries was to closely follow the trajectory of the two major parallel political developments of the late eighteenth century. unlike the cabinet.2). the Cabinet. of course. the two practices would coalesce into the museum. conceived more or less as a path for viewing. Confessedly. the question of authenticity did not. in keeping with the greater divisional and organizational tendencies of the enlightenment and its distinct worldview. In time. as they did in the gallery. For the time being. the question of authenticity was to remain a divisive criterion in keeping separate the two modes of collecting and administering art for a time to come. This was. reflecting two different. in other words. inclusive of the copy and the reproduction. criteria for valuating art. However. did not “fret over acquiring originals by the great masters” (116). of course. The gallery. he preferred “beautiful copies of famous paintings. Where and when aesthetic and iconographical concerns figured paramount.96 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance from which the inauthentic and the ordinary were to be carefully and meticulously excluded. the question of motive.

identifies education of the public as a primary mission. NY the art museum itself have been tangential to these studies. given the focus on the museum’s subject. Valenti Gonzaga. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 97 gradual emergence of a new mode of organizing and exercising power centered Fig. the exposure and public visibility afforded art in the museums of nineteenth and twentieth centuries is an indispensable part of its instrumentality to the state and can readily be taken for granted.10 Works of art did and 195 × 264 cm. However. In this respect. oil on canvas. 4. this exposure took place in a new space and a distinct place whose development . in terms Atheneum discussed earlier. The concerns here are thematic and focused on works of art and Museum of Art. their instrumental exhibition. the modalities of which Paolo Pannini.11 The architecture and the distinct spatial experience of Resource. The Cardinal Silvio charter of virtually every major art museum. to synthesize aspects of its worldview and ethos. Photo credit: The evolving exhibition practices in museums and the motivations behind these Wadsworth Atheneum practices over time have been the subject of a number of studies on museums Museum of Art/Art in the past two decades. Wadsworth of the new state. continue to validate and substantiate the historical claims and the distinct mythos 1740. CT the gallery and continued its thematic and aesthetic concerns with a new agenda.9 Gallery with the Art was to the emerging nation-states an effective instrument for public Collection of education and the forging of a new national identity and state citizenry. since the museum’s inception.2  Giovanni on exposure and visibility as a new strategy of control. Interior of a Picture Michel Foucault has extensively traced in various contexts. that is. the state took over the function of Hartford. Admittedly.

that is.” he wrote. the design of the museum would follow a different trajectory. both affiliated with the Académie. Durand. the library appears to be what the designers of these early prototypes had in mind as the generative model for the museum—a place to gather.12 Boullée and later his student Durand. determined the ground rules for the design of the art museum as a building type. who was put in charge of re-arranging and cataloguing the Imperial collection in Vienna in 1779. The initial modeling of the museum on the library stems in part from a valuation of art that was deeply rooted in the cabinet. is like a rich library in which those eager to learn are glad to find works of all kinds and all periods” (quoted in Pevsner. The outcome of these debates. to which the heads of the respective states and a host of other concerned officials were party. Conceptually and experientially. if not new. In the final count. for instance. distinguished it from the latter only on account of having a number of different works to display as compared to only one in the library (215). These and related proposals offer elaborate concentric plans that ritualistically proceed from a distinct outer enveloping frame. . public collection. viewing art as a rare and unique document and not necessarily or primarily as an aesthetic object. summed up this sentiment well in his introduction to the collection’s catalogue: “Such a large. to a ceremonial space at the central core of the building (Figure 4. The Debate The questions of how to house art and how to shape its place once it entered the public realm were first addressed in France in the last quarter of the eighteenth century. organize.98 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance was as instrumental and influential in the public reception of art as the exhibition practices within. “intended for instruction more than for fleeting pleasure. The decisive period was the second decade of the nineteenth century. The debates were over the conception of the art museum as an experiential variation on the theme of the library or as something entirely different. however. Christian von Mechel.3). offered designs for an ideal museum in their influential theoretical works of the period. Building Types 121). in comparing the museum to a library. Mechel’s distinction between “instruction” and “fleeting pleasure” was to form the bases of the heated debates between the artist/archeologist Johan Martin Wagner and the architect Leo von Klenz in Munich and latter between Alois Hirt on one side and the architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel and the art historian Gustav Friedrich Waagen. The inquiries coincided with Comte d’Angiviller’s plans for a public art museum at the Louvre and led to the assignment of the museum as a speculative design problem for the Prix de Rome competition in the Académie d’Architecture on a number of occasions between 1778 and 1810. The antiquarian Alois Hirt was to echo Mechel’s sentiment in his appeal to Friedrich Wilhelm II in 1797 for a public art museum attached to the academy of art as a research and instructional resource. along penetrative bisecting cross-arms. on the other. and study art with all that this act spatially and ritualistically entails (as discussed in the previous chapter).

The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 99 Fig. concerning individual classes of the population. Précis des leçons d’architecture données à l’École royale polytechnique.3  Jean- Nicolas-Louis Durand. Among these the first is to give an opportunity to artists to manifold study.’ but a place in which to show a number of treasures of art to all kinds of visitors in a manner to be worthy of the objects and to create pleasure in them” (126). Klenz’s sentiment and guiding principle in art museum design was later echoed in the catch phrase of Schinkel and Waagen. then instruct. 4. only after that comes the interest of the scholar.” This was formulated in response to objections raised by Hirt to Schinkel’s design for the Berlin museum. and finally and lastly the museum will facilitate the acquisition of information on the history of art among all and sundry” (128). “is not a place for artists’ training. “The principal and essential purpose” of the museum in the opinions of Schinkel and Waagen was “to awaken in the public the sense of fine art as one of the most important branches of human civilization … All other purposes. was summarized by Leo von Klenz in a 1816 memo written in response to Wagner’s objections to his proposed design for a sculpture museum in Munich: the Glyptothek. must be subdued to this. Design for a Museum. . A “museum. an ‘akademisher Kunstzwinger. “first delight. 1809 The counter argument to the conception of the art museum as a “public collection intended for instruction” and the point of view that was to ultimately shape the art museum.” he wrote.

The disagreement between the two camps was not. may appear to have its emphasis on aesthetics in common with the perception of art prevalent in the galleries of the previous generation. along with Waagen and Schinkel. the debate was over experiential differences between the place meant primarily for aesthetic appreciation of art as opposed to one meant for its study. there are fundamental differences between the two points of view. the art historian who was. the latter. the “true and significant gaps” of any collection inevitably detract it from fully accomplishing its mission. All parties presumed that the space where delight comes first has to be different from the space where instruction comes first. what all parties realized was that any given perception of art is. The question at the outset was which should be the spatial and architectural experience of the museum: enclosure and penetration. Every chronologically organized collection is bound to have “true and significant gaps” as Wilhelm von Humboldt. The perception of art that found its spatial realization in Altes Museum. distance and reflection. one was not to take note of the subject that was “outside” it. Whether the purpose of an art collection is defined as the elevation of national character through exposure to high art as Schinkel and Waagen did or the education of artists who contributed to the elevation of national manufacture and industrial products. an emphasis on arrival or an emphasis on departure. he asserted. It was a debate over how the spatial and architectural experience of the museum as a building should prepare the viewer for a particular reception of art. is “to seek art outside the field of art” (128). spatially construed. the differences between the parties to the debate over the purpose of the museum are over-stated by the parties. as Hirt did. agreed upon as it was. The chronological organization. as we shall see. Frieherr von Rumohr. chair of the court- appointed museum commission in Berlin. over functional requirements per se. Both parties. Rather. as the arguments were centered on what should come first and where the accent was to be placed. It was a debate over how to spatially construe and render art an object of study or an aesthetic object primarily. Iconography. The gaps are counter-productive to the instrumentality of the work of art. or separation and distance. it is also important to note. among others then and since. Hirt had hoped to use casts to complete the historic sequence in the Berlin collection and later Humboldt suggested the purchase of copies to . for instance. However. To alleviate the problem and enhance the museum’s efficacy. presented a unique dilemma to both parties. In the same vein. but of what was inherent and internal to the object and what gained it a unique place in the historic chronology of art. it is important to note. assumed that the place of art is instrumental in its appreciation as an aesthetic object or an object of study. a prevalent organizational principle in the gallery. noted with regret in 1829. Nonetheless. rejected iconography in favor of chronology for the organization of the works of art in their proposed museums. to a good measure. was unacceptable to the new generation in part because its external focus on the subject degraded the autonomy of the art object. Looking at art. responsible for the arrangement of art works in Altes Museum condemned the practice because to organize art iconographically.100 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance All parties to these early debates over the museum’s purpose. The former presumes penetration and analysis.

having the advantage of hindsight. In the subsequent three years. We should briefly follow its development. if it is not authentic. an object that has been systematically striped of external reference: be this reference to a subject or to an original. which is why they were altogether excluded from the Glyptothek at Klenz’s behest. as it would hitherto set the criteria by which the success of an art museum design is judged. Ever since. and the unique around which idea purportedly turns “all the value of a painting. along with seats. like the cabinet before it. Klenz’s Glyptothek or sculpture museum in Munich of 1815–30 and Schinkel’s Altes Museum in Berlin of 1823–30. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 101 fill the gaps in the painting collection. the latter. The copy that had a place in the gallery and even the museum that aimed to educate.4a). a number of significant changes to the initial plan were to radically alter the shape of the museum and along with it the experience of art in the public realm. The trajectory of this interfusion is the constitution of the aesthetic object as a self-referential entity. regardless of its aesthetic value. and latter Karl Friedrich Schinkel were asked to submit designs for an art museum attached to the Berlin Academy. The first departure occurred on January 7. Of the two initial executed designs for the museum. with their respective emphasis on authenticity and aesthetics. The art museum was not conceived.” No painting. To the list of potential external references we may add the problem of labels. The two different collection practices of the cabinet and the gallery. This was the first of a series of spatial and formal manipulations that were to create a highly ritualized path to the resting place of art (Figure 4. a place adamantly exclusive of the copy. played the more decisive role in shaping the space that was to render authentic art the object of aesthetic appreciation. are interfused into one practice in the new art museum. as a place to rest or linger. This is to say that to the hierarchy of missions outlined by Schinkel and Waagen. Rumohr was quick to remind Humboldt. however. can be assigned a domicile in the art museum. raised on a high podium above . 1823 when Schinkel made the unsolicited proposal to separate the museum from the Academy building and move it away from Unter den Linden in the center of town to a new site opposite the royal palace on an island in the Spree river (Spreeinsel). we must add one that superseded all others and was so obvious as to require no elaboration: a sanctuary to the original.” The purchase of copies was out of the question and Hirt’s casts were exiled from the collection (Bergdoll 86). Alois Hirt’s initial appeal for a public museum in 1797 was unheeded until 1822 when. They too speak to external dependence in the art object. first Friedrich Rabe.” This is a fundamental difference. the art museum has been. the singular. from the outset. Schinkel’s initial design of four enveloping arms around a central courtyard was in the spirit of Hirt’s vision and earlier French speculative museum designs. The new freestanding building was to occupy the site of an existing canal at the end of the Lustgarten opposite the palace and away from the urban fabric. Schinkel’s vision for the place where delight was to come before instruction consisted of a free-standing rectangular building. that is. that “all the value of a painting turns around the idea of originality. has had no place in the museum that has aimed to “delight.

but largely impenetrative. here assumes spatial depth and visual distance. Prints & Photographs Division. Together. What would otherwise have been the solid line of a facade. Berlin. LC-DIG- ppmsca-00338. 4. 4.4a—Library of Congress. The colonnade institutes two separate domains in its front and back. Mediating the garden and the space atop the podium was a central. 4. facing the garden and the palace.4b— Photographische Gesellschaft Berlin am Dönhoffplatz the Lustgarten. the columnar screen in front and the mural wall behind it form a transparent.4  Karl Friedrich Schinkel. 1828 Photo credit: From top. transverse corridor in front of the building. Altes Museum. monumental staircase above which. 102 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. much as the podium does with the levels above . Schinkel raised a two storey Ionic colonnade that spans the entire length of the building.

Kupferstichkabinett/ Having reached the island and entered the plaza in front of the palace. one had to Staatliche Museen zu then turn left and on transverse axis cross the immense void of the plaza. one was led past this monumental threshold and through the depth of the colonnade to the central recessed vestibule and from there. followed by a large rotunda. Reaching the art works put on display for public “enjoyment and appreciation” Fig. to enter the large open plaza of the island bordered by a church bpk/Berlin/ opposite the bridge and to the sides by the palace and the museum (Figure 4. Altes Museum. 1828 required one to leave the dense city fabric behind. cross the Spree river on a bridge Photo credit: near the palace. Berlin. NY by the ceremonial staircase and the long monumental colonnade behind which the main body of the museum was carefully withdrawn. if not Friedrich Schinkel. meticulously elaborate. The ritual procession out to the Ground Floor Plan. leading through the width of the building to the back where entries to the lower and upper gallery spaces are located. Schinkel located the C-shaped galleries in two floors. approached from the initial proposed site on Unter den Linden. deliberately arduous. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 103 and below.13 Connecting them is an open recessed staired vestibule in the center of the colonnade.4b). Ascending the staircase in front of the columnar screen. new place for art. the galleries are not directly accessible from the colonnade (Figure 4. terminated Berlin/Art Resource.5). 4. disjoined from the plaza both horizontally and vertically. through a constricted passageway under the pyramidal mass of the . Despite their physical proximity. on axis.5  Karl (Genuß und die Erkenntnis) thus required venture on a journey that was. In the space behind the colonnade.

The indivisible boundary that he conceived and executed as a journey out through a succession of thresholds to another realm or space for art. in a manner. This was to be the legacy of Altes Museum. the gateway to this other world. that is. duplication. as the place of habitation. separated from the city by a deliberate journey. the galleries branching out in transverse and opposite directions. The carefully orchestrated experience of disjoining from the city. To see it. This outside. It too is placed at the nexus of two paths. It transformed the conceptual distinction between art and non-art on the one hand and the authentic and the inauthentic on the other. but construed and fabricated by the journey and the experience of disjointing that would become the distinguishing marks of the art museum as a building type. it is important to note. was neither literal nor a given. The art that was withdrawn from circulation and made invisible inside the city before. would heretofore separate those works of art that owed the sum of their value to originality from those that were bereft of value by virtue of simulation.6). having now traversed the width of the building. Schinkel divided the plaza in two and turned the area bordered by the palace and the bridge into an open space whose experiential role is similar to the rotunda of the museum.104 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance vestibule staircase to the expansive space of the rotunda that put a dramatic end to the first leg of the journey. What Schinkel in effect instituted in the name of “enjoyment and appreciation” (Genuß und die Erkenntnis) of art is a distinct and separate domain for art that is disjoined from the city by a deep and elaborate borderline. one had to journey out. It created a place for and located the aesthetic and the authentic on the outside. The rotunda dome that was visible in the initial proposal acted as a central visual terminus to the path that leads through . The last and the most elaborate modification was to the design of the plaza bordered by the palace and the museum (Figure 4. the church and the museum. now became visible outside the fabric that characterized the city. To reach it from the rotunda. for it to become visible. It was brought to sight on the outside. and/or imitation. As the modifications to the plaza further disjoined the museum from its broader context. into a spatial experience of separation and disjointing played out at the conceptual edge of the city. the other three modifications further disjoined the place of “enjoyment and appreciation” from its immediate context. one in turn had to continue on axis past another constricted passageway to enter. Much as the colonnade marks the beginning of a new territory. Schinkel had initially conceived of the plaza as a unified space connecting the palace. Crossing the bridge from the city. the rotunda is. one would have had the distinct impression of entering a different realm encompassing in its totality the palace. Wilhelm III rejected the proposal in favor of a scheme that disjoined the museum from the palace and turned the plaza that was initially conceived as a distinct place into a ceremonial path across layers of space to the museum. here at the terminus of the access line from the city across the bridge and the point of initiation for the path that journeys to the museum through cross-axial layers of space. to the museum. and the museum together into one integrated composition or what he called a “regulated whole” (regelmässiges Ganes) (Pundt 152). was significantly enhanced by four major modifications to the initial design proposal between 1825 and 1828. the church. Following Wilhelm’s instruction. as the place of visitation.

6  Karl Friedrich Schinkel. Altes Museum. Berlin. 1828 Photo credit: bpk/Berlin/ Kupferstichkabinett/ Staatliche Museen zu Berlin/Art Resource.The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 105 Fig. Plaza Studies. NY . 4.

vertically and horizontally. 4. became a massive and deep bpk/Berlin/ threshold to be traversed unidirectionaly. through the imposing mass of the staircase. Fig. perception of the vestibule from a multidirectional space to a unidirectional path Altes Museum. 106 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance the center of the building to the gallery spaces (Figure 4.7  Karl In the same vein. Kupferstichkabinett/ The changes to the ceremonial staircase in front of the Colonnade had much the Staatliche Museen zu same impact on the colonnade as the changes to the staircase in the vestibule had Berlin/Art Resource. to no advantage other than its visual impact. on the latter. degrees. The visitor in the plaza no longer had a destination in sight.7). The museum and palace thus assume their disjoined and divided positions in a space whose boundaries do not relate and connect to define its outer edges. It’s visible presence placed greater emphasis on the destiny of the path than the journey along the way. 1828 Photo credit: point of connection. radically changed the Elevation Studies. The latter sit independently as objects within the space. turning the vestibule staircase behind the colonnade 180 Friedrich Schinkel. The vestibule that was a bi-directional Berlin. but was focused instead on the spatial layers and the thresholds that had to be crossed along the way. Schinkel had initially conceived of the staircase in front of the museum NY as a multidirectional pyramidal mass gathering up to a landing that lined up with . The suppression of the dome in the final proposal shifted the visual focus of the visitor in the plaza from a focal point in the background to the foreground colonnade and the backward layering of the compositional elements along the path.

minute as some may be. and reinforced the latter’s depth as the imposing threshold that it was meant to be. Hirt objected to the new site for the art museum. it is important to note that the logic of the spacing that saw its first expression in Altes Museum has since informed and characterized the art museum as a new and unique building . to the monumental colonnade in front. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 107 the recessed vestibule behind the colonnade. he did not elaborate on this essential link as though it was patently apparent to anyone who saw the museum as an instrument for the “enjoyment and appreciation” of authentic art. Hirt’s objections to Schinkel’s design are telling and predictable given their differences over the purpose of the art museum. he had a different form and experience of separation in mind—one internally focused on the experience of penetration and arrival as opposed to Schinkel’s external focus on the experience of departure and disjointing. to the staircase and the podium over which the museum was raised. Hirt objected. However. It was also a collective consideration that had its opponents along the way. Schinkel. along with the other elements. Subsequently. This is not to say that Hirt objected to the delegation of art to a distinct and separate domain. Hirt resigned from the commission whose members were by and large in agreement with Schinkel. Alois Hirt who submitted a lengthy dissenting opinion to the museum commission. of course. severed the visual tie between them. of course. For Schinkel the spacing that sums up the experience of the art museum was directly linked to the “enjoyment and appreciation” of authentic works of art. as unnecessary luxuries (pracht). that is. It had the staircase confront the colonnade directly. Changing the staircase to a unidirectional path that forcefully cuts through a mass projected from the podium and extending the stairs in both directions past the vestibule space behind. and to the rotunda that he regarded. What these changes. The most vocal opponent was. clearly indicate is that the disjointing journey past the multiplicity of thresholds imposed in front of the galleries that were to house authentic works of art was carefully contemplated and deliberate in the minute. The Dispersion Deferring for the moment the question of why the enjoyment and appreciation of authentic art should have the ritual of spacing as a precondition. Rather. in other words. dismissed Hirt’s criticism and emphatically defended the elements in question and the rotunda in particular as being essential to preparing the visitor for the proper “enjoyment and appreciation” (Genuß und die Erkenntnis) of art. to every major element in Schinkel’s proposal that served to locate and place art at a distance in a distinct and disjoined domain. The strong and funneled visual connection between the two stairs had a negative impact on the perception of the colonnade’s depth. The consensus has since been that the art museum is the place proper to the “enjoyment and appreciation” of authentic art. for which the ritual of spacing is an indispensable requisite. every element that distinguished the art museum from a library.

The connection. on top of a hill (a former reservoir). the Philadelphia Museum of Art was given its place. one must leave the axis of the parkway. one must cross a succession of carefully orchestrated thresholds that begin with an open plaza at the base of the stairs and reach up through a wide and segmented staircase to a landing on top that is.108 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance type. of which Guggenheim Museum in New York is a notorious example. To reach the museum. and careful examination. separated and distanced from the forecourt in front of the museum by a vehicular passageway that encircles the building. before addressing the failures. along a ceremonial parkway that was dramatically and forcefully cut through the city’s grid to reach the park at its edge (Figure 4. 1966). From the back one has to go underneath a monumental portal. after much deliberation. one can enter the museum on foot from either the back or the front. 1911–28) or as minimal and subtle as the Whitney Museum (Marcel Breuer.8a). if only to heed the termination of the axis and further acknowledge the detachment of the museum’s immediate surrounding from the city and the axis that could otherwise read as a line of connection. Borie. . They have been as dramatic and elaborate as the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Traumbauer. in turn. multi-storey vestibule. and Zatzinger. The parkway that leads out from the city center terminates in an oval at the foot of the hill that forcefully lifts the museum above its immediate context. In Zantzinger’s words. traverse its length to reach the staircase in the back and from there lead up on transverse axis to the stair hall that connects to the galleries in front. trace the edge of the oval and approach the museum diagonally. From there. is the least of the many similarities between Altes Museum and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. New York. at the borderline of the city and the Fairmont Park. less one twice dares a six lane thoroughfare with no pedestrian crossing. It too marks the termination of the line of access from one domain and the beginning of the other. the modalities of the implementation and the realization of the requisite spacing have been the measure of each museum’s success or failure. Trumbauer. his partner. dramatic as it is in Philadelphia. Rarely has the connection between the seat of state and the seat of art in an urban context been as overtly stated as they are in Philadelphia. Approaching the museum by car is no less dramatic.14 The disjointing and the spacing of the Philadelphia Museum of Art begins at City Hall in the center of the city and traces a path that leads out to the city’s edge on a diagonal axis. To reach the museum from the foot of the hill. enter a large. Nevertheless. at the same time serve as a physical terminus for the Parkway and other radiating avenues” (quoted in Brownlee 24). One must cross the oval and from the side of the museum drive up the hill to the back of the museum. outside the city fabric. We may begin with the success stories. More substantial are the experiential similarities between the two. The role of the oval in this drama is similar to that played by the plaza in front of the palace in the Spreeinsel. The manifestations of this logic have been diverse and particular to each context. One cannot approach the museum on the axis of the parkway. imagined that the plaza which would eventually take the form of the oval would “while creating a proper foreground for the museum on the height. As one of the last in a line of monumental art museums that stylistically trace their roots to the Altes Museum.

4. Here too. 4.8  Traumbauer. on top of the hill. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 109 Fig. 51– PHILA. Philadelphia Museum of Art. placed perpendicular to the axes of the parkway. Borie. the design of the Philadelphia Museum of Art underwent numerous modifications between 1911 and 1915. with every modification the designers experimented and in the end further consolidated the disjointing and the perceptual spacing of the museum before settling on the final solution. HAER PA.8b—United States Geological Survey Like Altes Museum.8a—Library of Congress. The stairs led directly . 328–5. horizontal block. 4. 1911–28 Photo credit: From top. The Museum was initially conceived as a rectangular. and Zatzinger. The Historic American Buildings Survey.

Much as the sequence of thresholds in front of the Philadelphia Museum of Art is a dramatic expression of the logic of spacing at work in front of the Altes Museum. The staircase was. Here as well. decidedly separated from the forecourt and located at a distance in front of the terminal bounding line of the museum defined by the end pavilions (Figure 4. but securing worthwhile collections becomes ever more difficult as the . and then transforming this spatial layer into a forecourt in front of the museum by 1914. The windows in the outer wall of the end pavilions were removed in subsequent studies. Also. cross the columnar screen of the portico and go past two tall vestibules. Regardless. one must traverse the depth of yet another threshold: a well-sequestered passageway on either side of the hall. the city had no money to purchase art. was to be housed in it. In this format. “were a bit handicapped in their works as we had but little idea as to the use to which the building would be put—after all the City owned damned little art” (quoted in Brownlee 48). the museum read more as a termination to the axis of the parkway than a distinct and separate realm. to reach the galleries. Alexander reminds us that. to their dissatisfaction. first a wide landing in the middle of the hill. the architects experimented. Charles Borie noted sometime after the completion of the design. its own unique interpretation of the key sequestering components in the Altes Museum. The latter were deliberately tuned 180 degrees to face one another and thereby establish a visual terminal line in front of the forecourt. The role of the colonnade of the Berlin museum is played in the Philadelphia Museum of Art by the end pavilions and the forecourt that institute a deep. the museum building offers. In the ensuing studies. in turn. with the form and the direction of the staircase and the shape of the central and end pavilions. as if to properly distance the museum from the city. but also the fact that the institution of this place took precedent over what. in turn.110 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance up to a podium in the center of the block. the actual “use” of the building was clearly secondary to instituting and having it as an Other place. What is particularly instructive about the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The faithful and radical turn came in the summer of 1914 when the building was pushed back and the gallery wings were turned to surround the forecourt and together form a self-enclosing U-shape building block organized around three points: a central pedimented portico and two end pavilions. The architects of the museum. to arrive at the central staired hall or the Philadelphia equivalent of the nexus point in the Altes Museum: the rotunda. past the landing of the front stairs and the encircling passageway. layered. after the completion of the museum and for quite sometime to come. is not only the exaggerated expression it gives the logic of spacing in the forging of a distinct and separate place for art in Philadelphia. “Usually communities and patrons have been more than willing to raise funds for impressive buildings. all of which has to be ceremoniously crossed before reaching the base of the staircase in front of the central pedimented portico of the back wing. only in due time. translucent threshold. thereby reinforcing their role as the outer boundary of the place fitted to house authentic art.8b). leading to the galleries on each floor. before introducing. This was not unique to Philadelphia. One must then continue the ascent.

has a use-value all its own. the smart new gallery shops. for example. (Alexander 5) Just as Medieval France has gone down in history as the Age of Cathedrals. and the excavated fortress now revealed. A similar sequence of frames. where the building would have had to confront the city fabric. and to a measure independent of its overt value as display space. There is the new eye-catching pyramid. . Behind it is the canopied gateway that is carefully divorced and slightly set back from the retaining wall. (Clifford 20) Museums in the United States are growing at an almost frightening rate. Indeed. Whitney Museum offers an abridged. The divorce is essential to the sequential layering of thresholds on what is meant to be perceived as a journey out to an Other place. more museum space has been designed and built throughout North America during the late 1970s and 1980s than ever before in the continent’s history. which are. If we count the smallest ones with only one person on the staff and he or she without professional training. and recently a new one has appeared every 3. instituted as such. the disjointing journey begins at the low retaining wall that literally holds the sidewalk back to form the first threshold. has museums springing up everywhere with very little in them. the disjointing frames are a low retaining wall and a deep moat. about five thousand of them exist today. The impression is echoed in the following observations: Every town today seems to need its own museum and Japan. all the more remarkable for its effectiveness. while most of the permanent collection galleries look as dejected as they have since any of us can remember.3 days. divorces the building from the sidewalk. over which hovers the cascading and recessing facade of the museum. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 111 price of old masters and modern art zoom upward” (37). In contrast to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. At Whitney. the building forcefully disjoins itself from its context with an economy of expression. The gateway. this past decade in America may someday be known as the Age of Museums. Having a corner site within the dense urban fabric of New York city. in turn. though equally effective expression of the logic of spacing (Figure 4. The moat whose perceptual depth is made manifold by the weight of the cascading facade on top is as effective in disjointing and placing the museum at a distance from its context as the monumental sequence of the island and the plazas in Berlin or the prolonged sequence of the parkway and the hill in Philadelphia. Here. To its right. in its literality. (Dornberg 26) Like the cabinet of curiosities before. (Reichardt 35) It is distressing how little money has yet been spent on displaying the historic collections. the spacing and the space of the authentic. Pulling the cubical core of the building away from this wall and leaving a visible void to frame and separate the building from the wall relieves the core of visual attachment to the city fabric. the raison d’être of the museum.9). after all. the introjection of a tall concrete retaining wall effectively frames and separates the site from its immediate context.

4. Whitney Museum. 1966 Photo credit: Author . 112 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig.9  Marcel Breuer. New York.

Another vivid and far more monumental example of the logic of spacing at work in the fabrication of the art museum is the corrective renovations and additions to the Louvre palace (I. To enter this museum one must arrive at a path running parallel to the building’s long façade. urging one’s movement forward. traverse over a bridge spanning the reflective pool. delineated and separated from it by a row of trees and a long reflective pool adjoining the building. open plazas and parking spaces (Figure 4. a counterpart in the reflective pool of the Barnes Foundation building (Tod Williams & Billie Tsien Architects. belatedly turned the Louvre that was not designed as a museum into a proper museum.15 The changes have.M. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 113 merely underscores the message.10). of which telling examples are the framed view of the city from the second floor of the staired vestibule of Altes Museum. because they have been sealed off and turned into an impenetrable limit. the Louvre was a palatial realm to be penetrated rather than journeyed to. the transformation stabilizes and finalizes the distance. The least conspicuous change. one can no longer enter the palace. on the whole. Among others. and the much noted distance view of the city from the portico of the Philadelphia Museum of Art through the framing outline of the end pavilions. Bazin 261). from where a circuitous path leads to the requisite central court of a museum building that is. Pei. now worlds apart from the point of departure. in effect. there are seven windows that cut through the outer frame of the building from the various galleries and offer views that are meant to transform. the journey past the gate continues precariously over the moat on the ensuing drawbridge and across the translucent glass curtain wall in front—the Whitney Museum’s equivalent of the columnar screen in Altes Museum. Should there be any doubt about the distance and the alterity of the world outside. The alterations that remedied the problem are as telling as they are compelling (Figure 4. 1989) where our museum history begun. The drawbridge eventually lands at some distance past the glass wall at the lobby platform and from there one must cross the vertical threshold of the elevators that lead to the gallery floors. I’ll return to this crucial transformation latter. one must turn and cross the row of trees.11a). in Marcel Breuer’s words. Lacking at the Louvre were the requisite spacing and the ensuing journey out. It is a well precedented gesture. Through its exterior walls and monumental doorways and portals. With the weight of the building cascading down overhead. to enter a recessed vestibule. while the canopy’s shape and weight add to the momentum of the movement through the gate. 2012). we may note in passing. well isolated from its context by landscaped gardens. well documented by the architect. is the alteration to the exterior walls of the palace. Although clearly defined and well-marked off from the city. that is all the more effective for it. “the vitality of the street into the sincerity and profundity of art” (quoted in G. located not far from the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Whitney’s condensed disjointing strategy has. Transforming the world into a picture of itself from within the museum looking back is not unique to the Whitney. Having followed the path for half the building’s length. The facade has become a tableau to .

should the north wing not be procured and sealed off (Biasini. to reach the world within the impenetrable shell of the old palace. 114 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig.10  Tod Williams & Billie Tsien Architects. marking the nexus point of the world below the ground plane and the one above. Pei went so far as comparing the museum to a man without an arm. 4. Philadelphia. the facade has assumed the role of an imposing and monumental limit that inconsolably separates the worlds instituted on its sides.M. The protracted discussions over the removal of the Ministry of Finance from the north wing (Rue do Rivoli) are indicative of the importance of the total delimitation of the realm. cite numerous other examples in which the logic of spacing finds a new and different expression pending the unique circumstances . to the pyramidal glass entry in the middle. of course. I. past the imposing threshold of the ground plane. one must now make one’s way to and through the forecourt. Having restored the arm. The disjointing ritual and the journey out continue through the pyramidal glass. Devoid of its function as the point of entry and exit. The Barnes Foundation. no matter how close one gets to it. One could. 2012 Photo credit: Robert Rife be contemplatively looked at from a distance. Lebrat and Bezombes 31). down twisting stairs beneath the court to the Louvre’s equivalent of the rotunda at Altes Museum and from there through a sequence of mediating thresholds up into the meandering maze of the gallery spaces.

4. 4.11d— Frank Gehry. Among the more celebrated examples from the past few decades one that readily comes to mind is Neue Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart. 1997 Photo credit: From top clockwise 4.M. Los Angeles. High Museum of Art.11a—I. Stuttgart. Neue Staatsgalerie. Germany (James Stirling. 1981. 1984) with its elaborate entry sequence of stairs and ramps that lead up the slopes over which the museum is carefully lifted.11 Clockwise from top. Paris. 4. 4.11c—Richard Meier. 4. and connect on an oblique path .11d—Mario Roberto Duran Ortiz. 1997. Getty Museum. 4. 4. 4.11b—Rob Deutscher.11a—Author.11b— James Stirling. 1984. 4.11e— Richard Meier. 1989. Guggenheim Museum. Bilbao.11e— United States Geological Survey of the context. Pei.11c— Susan Poague. The Louvre. Atlanta. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 115 Fig. 4.

11d). instead the Guggenheim cheerfully dominates their discreetness … In a civic sense.16 Another example is the High Museum of Art in Atlanta (Richard Meier. In compensation for the missing distance. Guggenheim’s critics wished it had been . so different from every other one in Fifth Avenue” (110). The building is so definitely a thing apart. We find. and a bridge. why the preparation is necessary or desired. enter and traverse through an open plaza. on top of a hill. The unceremonious entry sequence is abrupt and fails to simulate the requisite departure across sequentially layered thresholds to an Other place. one has to leave the city fabric behind. The novelty of Guggenheim’s form effectively divorces it from its context and it has been commended for it. a river. however. And there is the much-celebrated Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao (Frank Gehry.11c). To reach the museum. what Guggenheim lacks as an art museum is the requisite distance and the ritual disjointing from that context. deviations from the norm are severely criticized and condemned. In words that readily bring Schinkel to mind the architect tells us: “the entry ramp reaches out to the city so that initiation into the realm of art begins at the street. “are not big enough to be overbearing. to arrive at the equivalent of the Berlin rotunda from where the galleries extend in various directions (Figure 4. It becomes a low. anonymous apartment houses in the neighborhood. 1997) where to reach the museum that is located far away from the city. and separate world for art behind its façade (Figure 4. it dramatically withdraws from the city fabric.12). in this respect. The failures are.11e). 1981) where the disjointing journey follows the literal path of a long. journey down a monumental staircase. Guggenheim fails on crucial counts. Much as compliance with the museum’s ground rules is expected. 1959) is a case in point.116 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance through a terrace plaza to and eventually through the entry hall of the museum to the galleries on top (Figure 4.17 Criticized from inception as an unsuitable place for art. as instructive as the success stories. Although successful in divorcing itself from its context. both formally and literally. the positiveness of the form offsetting the all too congenial mediocrity of tone. almost ceremonial promenade in preparation for the experience of viewing the art within” (Searing 110–11). the visitor must traverse the distance from the bottom to the top of the hill on a monorail train (Figure 4. It is not explained.” Ada Louis Huxtable noted at the time. The “buildings around it. it is a brilliant success” (336). Guggenheim’s is a journey in as distinct from the requisite journey out. 1997) that despite its formal differences is remarkably similar to Altes Museum in the manner. distinct. to occupy its own version of the Spreeinsel flanked by roads. It fails to distance itself from the fabric of the city and thereafter it fails to simulate the experience of an Other. an even more exaggerated expression of the Atlanta journey in the later Getty Museum in Los Angeles (Richard Meier. ceremonial ramp that leads up on a diagonal axis to a terrace on the second floor of the building and from there on a twisting and meandering path through the entrance lobby to the Atlanta’s equivalent of the Berlin rotunda (Figure 4.11b). among others. Frank Lloyd Wright’s Guggenheim museum (New York. of course. Lewis Mumford writes “Despite its dull color … this great monolith stands out boldly from the flat.

12 Frank Metropolitan museum is located at a visible distance from the city fabric (Huxtable Lloyd Wright. Guggenheim 16). rather than connect the museum to its context in similar museums did not raise concerns or trepidations about the mode of entry. . the Philadelphia counterpart. did so unceremoniously and devoid of the transitional complexities of. The official explanation for the staircase’s removal was to create “a more direct and ‘democratic’ entrance” to the museum (Brooklyn Museum). Without the intermediate voids and spatial thresholds found. among others. the perceived problem was the mode of entry and not the staircase per se. 4. 1893–1907) that was partially rectified in the mid-1930s and Photo credit: again in 2004 (Figure 4. in passing. now visually appearing in the background. the pavilion that is formally reminiscent of the lost staircase. Staircases that disjoined. much less lead to the dramatic removal of any staircase. In other words. a related problem at Brooklyn Museum (McKim. it was initially linked to the avenue in front by a grand staircase that led directly from the sidewalk to the main entrance on the third level. This latter problem was rectified in 2004 with the addition of the Rubin Pavilion and a public plaza (Polshek Partnership Architects and WET Design) together occupying the site of the razed staircase. Museum. to leave in its place a void that though patently more effective in separating the museum from its context. in conjunction with the multilayered plaza in the foreground act effectively to divide and disjoin the museum from its context. the staircase here appeared to link rather than disjoin the world inside from the world outside the museum. it was removed at considerable expense in 1934. The problem with the staircase was its appearance as a connector rather than a separator. Between the city fabric and the museum building. New We may note here. York. 1959 Mead and White.” or “relocated” across the street in central park where the Fig. for instance in the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 117 moved “out of the city.13). Although Brooklyn Museum is located away from author the city fabric in Prospect Park. At Brooklyn.

4. LC-DIG- det-4a18164. Prints & Photographs Division. Mead and White.13c—Patricia Badolato . Prints & Photographs Division. 4. 1893–1907 Photo credit: 4.13b—Library of Congress. LC-DIG- det-4a23706.13a—Library of Congress. Brooklyn Museum. 118 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. 4.13  McKim. Brooklyn.

Once the pictures face us in a line on the wall we can convert rooms to paths by moving sideways from the entrance around the room. The merchandising analogy that is all too prevalent in critiques of Guggenheim has a temporal implication.” The sequential continuity of the space along the path is essential. the schools. only a “comprehensible” space that one can never leave behind to enter a world proper to art. “Once inside. flattened out.” Guggenheim is not “really a museum” because in it there is no Other place. but at the nexus point (Figure 4. (Fisher 9) In what is “really a museum. and converted into a “pure path. and it oversells” (336). The entire area has a single. that is. This is not because one can see everything in a glance. rooms and paths. What is in perpetual sight in this space is not the artworks per se.” Art here is placed not past the nexus point. The interior is not really a museum. “you understand an art critic’s anger.14). that is. Their juxtaposition is not. a commodity for external consumption rather than internal preservation. but crossed. the centuries. of course. In praise of the Walker . In so far as the museum becomes pure path. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 119 Although the appearance of connection at the Brooklyn Museum proved redeemable. One cannot. … it becomes a more perfect image of history. Unlike the labyrinth common to many temporary shows. but where one has been and where one is going: the one and the same space.” according to another critic. the path (ramp) exists in a comprehensible total space. past the requisite nexus point. flattening it out. Although the spectator continually moves he is never lost and can see where he has been and where he is going. we follow the room numbers. It speaks to the transitory nature of the merchandise as such. comprehensible space. a commodity in transit rather than at home. Viewing the pictures sequentially as we move from room to room. where movement produces no alterity. they form a single or “total space. The measure of home is.” there are. (Lee 50) From the “story told in the spiral. what is “really a museum” which as Fisher observes: … is made up of rooms and paths. but a place for merchandising art. unifying character that is never lost sight of.” Huxtable tells us. “Spreading all the merchandise before the eye. a sequential unfolding of discrete spaces through which one travels as though on a journey through a seemingly infinite land. the lack of sufficient separation that translates in compensation into a wish for Guggenheim’s relocation has had no simple solution and it bears on the interior. In this space art cannot be at home. or rather of the single linear motion of history preferred since Winckelman. The elements here are familiar. onto the wall. “is a ruinous one for a museum” (115).” Mumford tells us. As opposed to being sequentially layered into a chain of discreet experiences. in effect. The rooms are not there to be occupied. there is “virtually no escape. Present as the familiar elements are. The circular glass entrance vestibule of the museum opens onto the familiar and here aggrandized rotunda space circumscribed by an outwardly cascading spiral ramp that marches past the gallery alcoves on a downward spiral. they do not produce the desired effect. Rather the ruin is brought about by everything being in an inescapable.

the visitor should never pass the same way twice” (Lehmbruck 63). Guggenheim museum. 120 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. Also. The circuit should never appear closed.’ It should also be emphasized that for reasons of psychological economy. the amount of effort needed is unknown. “has the following advantages: entrance and exit do not coincide. there is a crisis and the space ceases to be “really a museum. rather than detracting from the experience of viewing art.” we are told. one-third level up or one-third level down.” for example. when the space is comprehensible and total. When there is no sense of continuity. To close it is . enhances it” (34). New York. The experience of viewing art is enhanced when there is no sense of termination to the space. when one has in view its continuation. and the goal may be unconsciously considered as genuine ‘progress. that is. 1959 Photo credit: Author galleries.14 Frank Lloyd Wright. Guggenheim Museum. providing a degree of spatial interest that. Goldberger notes “most galleries offer a view of the neighboring rooms. the “linear pattern” of movement found in most museums as opposed to the “circular pattern. 4.

by design. why the persistent spacing and the disjointing of art over the course of the art museum’s short history.19 the site of painting from its presumed inception has been the site of a desired presence that it cannot judiciously fill (Figure 4. Then. a tourist away from home in search of the authentic in an Other place. The Catharsis Thus far I have tried to point out that between the public and the artwork. It is a space that leaves something to incomprehension. ulterior space to the extent that in it one stands the chance of getting lost. constitutes the criterion by which the successes and the failures are persistently measured in the critical dialogues that have played an indispensable role in the perpetuation of the type. Overtly. that is. This takes us back. It is a place where everyone is. an unfamiliar. it seems. It is. in the least. to the debate waged and settled at the museum’s inception as to whether to contain art or to distance it. the art museum has insinuated. Conceived at the advent of an unwanted absence. entirely remote from the building” (337). to divorce the work from this place in compensation. an elaborate and deep threshold that mediates and oversees the passage to and from the seemingly infinite world that it fabricates to contain art and the “real” world from which it is sequestered.18 Guggenheim does not and is not.” To compensate for Wright’s glaring blunders. . of course. What then sees to this fabrication? What exactly is at stake in the spacing of art? What logic sees to the persistent spacing and the exclusive space of the authentic? Over the course of its history. alongside writing and other forms of graphic representation. Much less is there anything about the enjoyment and the appreciation of art that mandates a disjointing journey. an ambivalent relationship. “Sweeney poured torrents of light … both in front of and behind the paintings. Since the museum does not divorce itself from its wider context as it should. deliberate as it has been. the only corrective course of action is. “pulled the canvases from the shell of the building by suspending them inward from the walls on horizontal rods. from inception and by design. the relationship of Western culture to painting. Much of our contact with art is in fact delimited to replicas and copies that are adamantly excluded from the space made proper to art. according to a pervasive myth that ascribes the invention of painting to the Corinthian youth. of course. has been. to a measure. It is. The ideal art museum unfolds as a path through a seemingly infinite world. we are told. The ideal art museum is a space whose boundaries escape comprehension.15). making it just a vessel” (337). Huxtable tells us. This spacing. The decision was made long ago. “not really a museum. the museum director. The lingering question is. To contain art is to deny its space its requisite alterity. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 121 to create a comprehensible container for art. further nullifying the structure. Art is not to be contained within but spaced out. a seemingly boundless space of intertwining rooms ad infinitum—a limitless resource. They now seem to float in free space like sculpture. in Huxtable’s words. there is nothing about paintings and statues that would remotely suggest the elaborate ritual of visitation that is the art museum. Butades.

15  Benoît Suvée Joseph. . Plato. Jacques Derrida reminds us. oil on canvas.5 cm. Groeningemuseum. Bruges Photo credit: Hugo Maertens. 267 × 131. Lukas— Art in Flanders VZW As such. 4. for instance. condemned painting as a mimetic art. painting has been the subject of simultaneous condemnation and praise for its ability to duplicate and perpetually conjure an absent or else invisible referent. 1791. much as Aristotle interrogated it in the name of mimesis. Invention of the Art of Drawing. 122 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. It has been at once prescribed and proscribed as a mimetic device that substitutes memory for perception.

” Plato purported. The referent merely gave way to a subject that retained all the privileges of the former in relation to the painted image. the priority and radical alterity of what is painted as compared to the painted image has not been a question (Modern Painters 8. Thought 37). in flesh and blood as the phenomenologist say. the phenomenon. of reality. It can displace and collapse space.” up to and including the conception of painting as the “revelation” of the “concealed truth” of the subject or the “reproduction of a thing’s general essence” as Heidegger.) is distinguished from the appearance. The double comes after the simple. mimesis is lined up alongside truth: either it hinders the unveiling of the thing itself by substituting a copy or double for what is. neither simply living. but by itself nothing. doubles it. the portrait. The lining up of painting alongside truth was not to change with the transformation of painting into art. whatever its model might be. or else it works in the service of truth through the double’s resemblance” (Dissemination 187). First there is what is ‘reality. Discernability. the painting. etc. Its space is neither the immediate space of the present nor the distant space of the absent. … The image supervenes upon reality. “is obliged sometimes to condemn mimesis in itself as a process of duplication. re-presents it. The ambivalence toward painting has as much to do with its irreducibility to either presence or absence. or even advisable.” That which is. “nothing but a noble and expressive language. the image. fits into no space and belongs to no one place. invaluable as the vehicle of thought. essence and existence. Derrida tells us. life or death. and sometimes to disqualify mimesis only in function of the model that is ‘imitated. but if you question them. in other words. has “decided and maintained” in the face of the confoundment and the displacement that is painting. it multiplies it as a follow-up. including the anti-Platonisms that regularly feed into it. as it does to the cause of the confoundment: mimesis. Poetry. defined it.” Derrida notes. The painted images are. Painting. the being-present (the matrix-form of substance. and can therefore replace and de-present it. “stand before us as though they were alive. the simple and the double. of the opposition between matter and form. the imitator upon the imitated. What “Platonism” which stands “more or less immediately for the whole history of Western philosophy. then there is. they maintain a most majestic silence” (quoted in Derrida. the representation upon the present in presentation. Whether painting is seen as the representation of an absolute ideal. between the imitator . Plato.’ the mimetic operation in itself remaining neutral. at least numerical discernability. Dissemination 136). nor simply dead. the inscription or transcription of the thing itself. or as a mode of expression that renders painting in particular and art in general. as Ruskin put it. But in both cases. in a sense. etc. objectivity and subjectivity. They have the appearance of the living and speak with the voice of death: silence. as it was by the theoreticians of the Renaissance. is “the presumed possibility of a discourse about what is. that is from anything that.. There is thus the 1 and the 2.’ the thing itself. the imitation upon the thing. presenting it as being-present. Language. the zographeme. imitating these. for instance. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 123 “The painter’s products. Painting can bring merely to sight what is rightfully out of sight.

124 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance and the imitated is what constitutes order. invented as it was at a particular point in time. according to ‘logic’ itself. been displaced by any metaphysical system” (Dissemination 192). But never have the absolute distinguishability between imitated and imitator. and the anteriority of the first over the second. a fragile and volatile determination. or the real. that is. more true. etc. John Ruskin offers us a pertinent example. it has maintained with a host of distinct ritual practices and institutions. to express also my regret that the noble granite foundation of the staircase should be mocked at its landing by an imitation. than what imitates. what is imitated is more real. the more blameable because tolerably successful. interestingly enough. along with the institutions and practices it supplanted. even inverted. Its greatest challenge does not come. It is anterior and superior to it. are indispensable to “Platonism” and its “logocentric” determination. Construed as it is in the West to appear as the non-contingent other of representation. among other modes of representation. And obviously. The intermingling of reality and representation in the West is a fatal affair. but to its authority and its ability to assume the guise of inevitability. however.” Ruskin writes: I have made it a rule in the present work not to blame specifically. The greatest challenge comes from that which is placed in a secondary. as any. The challenge where it is faced is to the reality of the real. and on several occasions. but for being “tolerably successful. The art museum as an institution and a building type.. “this order will appear to be contested. perhaps. on the steps of the old British Museum. The greatest challenge that this reality faces is not. more essential. Discussing the “utterly base and inadmissible” practice of “painting of surfaces to represent some other material. from other worldviews or competing determinations.” He condemns it not because it deceives or hides anything from him.20 Ruskin’s encounter with the fatal co-habitation of the real and the copy takes place. painting itself. the art museum. this virtual or cultural reality faces a constant challenge to its authority as a self-referential or non-representational inevitability from its representational other. in other words. while I express my sincere admiration of the very noble entrance and general architecture of the British Museum. but because it reveals too much of . in the course of history. or the self-referential and the representational in the same space. The only effect of it is to cast suspicion upon the true stones below. (Seven Lamps 51) What forces Ruskin to voice an uncharacteristic blame is the undemarcated presence of the real and the copy. (Dissemination 191) “Doubtless. according to a profound synonymy. He directs his blame at the imitative representation not for being a bad representation. because the determination is. but I may. be permitted.” Derrida continues. and upon every bit of granite afterwards encountered. His is particularly noteworthy in this context as his views on art belong to the first museum age. Of these. to its shape or content. What “Platonism” has decided about the order of appearance in the world. subservient position with respect to the present. is an indispensable element.

“though the size of life. between. constitutes our only hold over these appearances. if its stone appearance could be taken for an imitation in this company. Ruskin tells us.” Ruskin tells us. literal or conceptual. and spatially segregated. Ruskin’s recommended spacing is not. that only as a representation can “real presence” ever be subject to suspicion. play a vital role in rendering the modalities of our assumptions about the nature of the relationship . Reality offers no greater hold on its appearance and no greater link to its substance than the mock. The specifics of the design and the particular experience of this building-type. What it indicates is that “real presence” is itself a representation. Considering that it is the cohabitation of the real and the mock and not the individual appearance of either that loosens our grip over appearance. for example. What the “effect” of the successful mock indicates. Of these. carefully controlled. “glitter” and “gold. These encounters are equally mediated.” Having “secured” the “certainty of flat surface” with a border. what in effect is the condition of its possibility and at that the possibility of repetition. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 125 itself and in effect too much about its Other. the art museum is one example. Ruskin writes. and placed within a secured domain. He recommends that we contain the “effect” of the mock by framing and separating it from the real. representation ceases to “effect” our hold on the appearance of the real and the mock as two diametrically opposed appearances. imitation. The framing can be either conceptual or literal. is to either conceptually distance the copy by making its appearance fall noticeably short of the real and as such inexchangeable with it or else to literally distance the copy by framing it. In the Campo Santo at Pisa. Our encounters with graphic representation in the wider cultural realm are left no more to chance than they are at Campo Santo in Pisa.” What Ruskin loses in the company of the mock is this link. The successful mock loosens Ruskin’s grip on the reality of the real. Ruskin suggests that we take recourse to spacing to (re)establish control. unique. then this appearance must necessarily have nothing to do with the “real presence” of stone or else suspicion as much as imitation would not be possible. It follows a widespread and time-honored practice. What is imperative. We find the logic of spacing and a multilayered demarcation of the place of representation not only in the picture frames and book covers that mediate our experience and condition our access to their representational content. but of greater supplemental force in institutional building-types that serve as exclusive domiciles to various forms of representation. the spacing. the framed “figures. If the “real” stone could become suspect in the company of its mock. “each fresco is surrounded with a border composed of flat colored patterns of great elegance—no part of it in attempted relief. It casts suspicion on the authenticity of the original. What distinguishes for Ruskin the reality of the real from its mere representation is an original and causal link between the appearance and the substance of the real. is the independence of representation from the presence or absence of the signified referent in “reality” as it is in representation. or representation. In fact. as he puts it. from inception and through every stage of its permutation. What he loses is the presumed dependence in “real presence” of appearance on being. do not deceive” (Seven Lamps 49). of course. Segregated.

“our sense of its richness. This is “the worth of the thing. of its delicacy.126 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance between reality and art into an objective experience of it. “nature herself does not dispense with such resemblances” and he is left having to confront and do his best to overcome its “effect. despite what he sometimes wishes.” he contends. The “true delightfulness” of the carved work. or rather that nothing should glitter that was not gold” (Seven Lamps 53). toilsome man” (56). the impossibility of a gap between being and appearing that marks for him. “Nevertheless. what Ruskin assumes and what “Platonism” has consistently assumed is that there is an outside to representation or conversely that representation falls outside of a norm that is characterized by the presumed attributes of the real. “depends on our discovery in it the record of thoughts. just as the worth of anything else we call precious” (56). “I sometimes wish. the great advocate of art. Ruskin asserts. in that nature is. What he at times wishes is not simply for things to show themselves for what they are.” that is. this building-type sees to the proper dispensation and consumption of art as representation in a world of its own making where the reality outside as self-presentation retains its privileges and remains impervious to the challenge of representation. “real” or “apparent” but for a literal link between what is and what appears. by bearing the direct “seal” or “impress” . in some. “that truth should so far literally prevail as that all should be gold that glittered. Ruskin asks us to consider how “there is not a cluster of weeds growing in any cranny of ruin which has not a beauty in all respect nearly equal. to that of the most elaborate sculpture of its stones” (Seven Lamps 56). though consistently both conceptually and literally. though it is a thousandfold less delicate. What Ruskin sometimes wishes for is no less than the impossibility of representation. results from our consciousness of its being the work of poor. As a vital cultural mechanism. tells us. Yet we take interest in the carved work and “all our interest in this carved work. as Ruskin believes it to be. the origin of all “conceivable” forms and as such superior to any reproduction. and heart-breakings—of recoveries and joyfulness of success” (56). The “worth” of art has not to do with the forms that it inevitably re-produces. there would be no representation to “effect” our hold over the reality of the real and the truth of the true. This outside is construed variously. in no small measure because of this spatial construct.” Ruskin professes. and intents. the beginning and the end of two opposite domains: the domain of the “real” and the domain of the “apparent. clumsy. Ruskin first demotes representation as compared to the “real. Conceptually. though a millionfold less admirable. and.” Ruskin.” only then to elevate and idealize a version of it as a second order reality. though it is tenfold less rich than the knots of grass beside it. always. and trials.” What Ruskin sometimes wishes is for truth to prevail over all that appear what they are not. to harness the benefits of art and avoid its destructive or deconstructive “effect.” that is. Ideally. of its admirableness.” Faced with the inevitability of representation. that is. between glitter and gold. on the trail of a much-traversed path. of course.21 Rather art assumes a “worth” and becomes delightful in the same manner that “sea sands are made beautiful by their bearing the seal of the motion of the waters. immeasurably superior.

“the essence of all that is transmissible from its beginning. would have had no difficulty with von Rumohr’s assertion that “all the value of a painting turns around the idea of originality. The sealed and impressed original plays the same role with respect to painting as speech has traditionally played with respect to writing. Much as the “successful” imitation of the real threatens its reality. It is precisely in the name of this irreproducible seal that an outside to the sphere of reproduction and/or representation is presumed and in turn fabricated. Both designate a logocentric appropriation of representation in the name of a seemingly unmediated. on the other.” Regardless of the scope of the definition. fragile and tenuous. the irreproducibility. The threat of the “successful” mock lies in its ability to take the place of the original and supplant it. The certainty of . the latter takes away the privileges of the original as it grounds them.” this original and causal “seal” or “impress” of mind by hand turn the inevitable re-production of form into an original production. that is. for instance put it in broader temporal terms. “The authenticity of a thing is. much as the “real” with which it has much in common. Both designate an outside to the absence and delay that is presumed to characterize writing on the one hand and the reproduction on the other. in as much it re-produces the seal without the engraving thoughts or. or the authentic and the duplicate. the sea sands without the motion of the waters. that is.” Only the original bears the decisive seal or impress. The privileging of the original in the name of an irreproducible seal is. The original painting is no more immune to the “effect” of the reproduction than the real stones of the British museum. of course. however. The “successful” reproduction as Ruskin would have it—the one that does not fall “noticeably” short of the original—fractures the seal of the original always already. Benjamin. of course. Even though originality is a concept that inevitably presumes the possibility of reproduction. a form of resistance to representation over which there is no hold.” through the agency of the creator’s hands. What threatens it with collapse. of the testimonial impress left by hand. what fractures the seal that gives the original all its accorded privileges is the possibility of production in the absence of engraving thoughts and intents. This presumably irreproducible seal may be variously conceived. “in proportion to the amount of the energy of that mind which has visibly been employed upon them” (Seven Lamps 142). ranging from its substantive duration to its testimony to the history which it has experienced” (“The Work of Art” 221). Works of art assume their “worth. This “all that is transmissible” is inclusive. of a direct and causal link between thoughts and forms on the one hand and the subjection of the latter to the presence of the former. The absence that is exorcised from the original in the name of an irreproducible seal incessantly returns.” he noted. as it were. The condition of this possibility is the impossibility of an impressed and sealed original. as well. the “successful” duplication of the original threatens its originality. as it were. in the “beginning. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 127 of the creator’s “thoughts” and “intents. Ruskin. to haunt it. This visible “record.” in other words. This construct is. direct translation of thought into form. and the causality that the seal stands for is the constant decisive criteria in the incessant distinction between the original and the reproduction.

that is. inside and outside. on the other hand. for example. and a sin” not on account of form. as Benjamin was to point out later. that is. persistent. a domain adamantly exclusive of the “successful” reproduction from inception. the aura of the work of art. one finds only more representation. The only “effect” of “cast or machine works” is. a cultural substitute for what is missing and missed: an outside to representation. not only renders the question of originality impertinent to its production. The logic of spacing at work in the making of the museum puts the relationship between art and all that is to escape its grip in the proper cultural perspective. a clear boundary separating two opposite terms.128 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance the original. The museum is merely one historic response to the question that has loomed large since the inception of painting and sculpture as art. Art has no outside.” as an “imposition. From the ever-present picture frame to the cabinet and the museum. since outside every presumed or presumable place for representation. in no small measure. in the simplest terms. as Ruskin suggests. it also and critically challenges the viability and consequently the authority of the original as a sealed production. It is not coincidental. therefore. its authenticity and historicity. here and there. but on account of reproducing the seal without the engraving thought. has not withered in the age of mechanical and no less digital reproduction. but in the process. this is in part because the “effect” of the latter is successfully curtailed by the museum (“The Work of Art” 221). If. The history of our preoccupation with painting and sculpture as art is. a vulgarity. an impertinence. This preoccupation is. Art at once exceeds and defies any sense of place or any act of placement. as it has been. This is precisely why the art museum has been. The fabrication of the museum as an Other place is. contrary to Benjamin’s prediction. that the proliferation of the museum has gone in tandem with the proliferation of mechanical and now digital reproduction. and the certainty that is desired in the name of the original are lost to the “successful” reproduction. Art has no decidable place in as much as every place assumes boundaries and outer limits. Ruskin vehemently condemned the “substitution of cast or machine work for that of hand. he noted. Both add a critical dimension to the preservation of the sanctity and the authority of the original. “to cast shame and suspicion” over every “work of hand” in their company (Seven Lamps 58). to put in place. inseparable from the history of our preoccupation with the question of art’s place and placement. a reflection of the undifferentiated and undifferentiable space of graphic representation. to mechanical reproduction in the broader sense of the term. because what would be irretrievably lost in the transaction is the original. it is important to note. The myth of the original is particularly vulnerable. Within the confines of the picture frame provisionally and within the confines of the museum permanently. it is essential. art assumes an outside. of course. an outside. the preoccupation with a place for art is primarily a preoccupation with a place from . predicated upon. institutionally and literally. There can be no substitute for the original. Mechanical reproduction. what art defies and denies conceptually: a sense of place. I tried to point out earlier. This is precisely what the successful mock forcefully and problematically brings to surface. like the cabinet before it. To curtail the ever-looming danger of exposure and displacement in the company of art.

because its face is turned toward the authentic in that other place where the copy has no place by design. If our construed cultural reality is to assume the authoritative guise of inevitability and truth. In the world outside the museum. in other words. Writing. No claim to power can go without evidential control over the alterity of representation as measured against the real. it is precisely because of what is at stake. problematic as it is from a certain vantage point. the art museum fabricates an outside and offers us an outbound journey to an Other. the imitated over the imitator. in other words. of leaving one world behind and entering another. the presumed order of appearance in the world. parallel space or universe to which art is exiled on the condition of authenticity. Opening up a place for art is tantamount to opening up a place for its presumed Other and for otherness as such to representation. On the one hand. at the denotative level. the copy may thereby proliferate without undermining the alterity of the real. but on the experience of disjointing and distance. In art. This space or rather this spacing of art is predicated. The materiality of the work of art cannot be readily idealized as a mere means to an end in the way that writing is. At stake is authoritative control over the determined superiority and anteriority of reality over representation. The copy poses no apparent threat so long as it is in reference to another reality. then the decisive exorcise of representation is not a choice that can be readily avoided. the original over the copy. Unlike the library that forms a defensive outpost and offers us an inward journey to a clear and secure inside. without having to attribute the same to the real. The customary and celebrated view out from the museum—the one that transforms the world outside into a picture—is the consummation of this withdrawal. which is. it curtails the inherent reproducibility that is art in the name of authenticity through the exclusion of the mock. In turn. at the end of a journey. The institution of the museum is an instituted resistance to representation. . If.22 The museum is. At stake in placing art is. the indispensable reserve to the economy that regulates the widespread and free circulation of images outside the museum. from the princely and monarchial courts to the public realm authoritative control over representation and its potentially destructive effect is entrusted to the state and delegated to specific institutions. it is not. in an Other place. To control representation is to control not necessarily what is real. exiles the inherent representational characteristic of the real in the name of mimesis and art to the museum. The segregation and containment of this other mode of representation requires a different strategy. The relationship between the signifier and the signified in writing is. not on the experience of penetration as the library is. What makes room for the docile cohabitation of the real and the reproduction is the designated and exclusive place for the authentic on the outside. The exorcise the art museum implements architecturally is a two-fold practice. retains a polite formal distance from the speech it is said to duplicate. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 129 which all that is to escape its “effect” can be safely withdrawn. so long as its origin is on the outside. What is at stake is the preservation of the presumed alterity of art as measured against the real. that is. order itself. but the possibility of its authoritative being and presence as a non-representational. blatantly conventional. self-referential entity. the art museum. as an institution and a building type. in a manner.

with each thing jealously competing for the glance that will give it life” (203). Presently I lose all sense of why I have intruded into this wax-floored solitude. What Valéry is made to confront at the Louvre is what late nineteenth century museum visitors were designed to confront: a profusion of art works and walls covered with paintings en tappiserie (Figure 4. in this context. a practice that is unique to the art museum. The virtual debate over the rite of visitation to the museum between Adorno and Valéry is a case in point. As “a strangely organized disorder opens up before” him “in silence. The entire tourist industry with which the museum has a historic affinity is predicated on the assumption.23 An extent of tourism is the rite of locating the authentic on the outside.” Valéry begins his reflections on the museum by characteristically marking the point of transition from the world outside into the world inside. It is. and placement of the authentic in an Other world is not.130 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance The sequestering. everything that is inside from the vantage point of the tourist visiting from the outside. “Chilled at once by this act of authority and by the sense of constraint. to a tone rather less strong than that of every day. intimately tied to distance. . The authentic mandates a journey. in a sense. Whereas from the outside the museum as a site for tourism provides the assurance of a place and a receptacle into which we may. to an extent. of course. the total impression simply exceeds comprehension.16). He marks the borderline by making note of the hand that relieves him of his stick and the notice that forbids him to smoke at the entrance. “cold confusion reigns” and the “total impression is something quite intolerable. My pace grows reverent. By sheer force of number. as he puts it. “Only an irrational civilization. from the inside it is the place where we face them only to locate representation within the bounds of its culturally designated place. or simply as a duty and out of convention? Or is it perhaps some exercise peculiar to itself.” Valéry protests. that the authentic is outside the sphere of everyday life. Authenticity is. inside a place to which the visitor does not belong by design and by force of label: a visitor. in a manner. This juxtaposition of dead visions has something insane about it. My voice alters. for my own beguilement. project our trepidations about language and representations. The place varies. “could devise such a domain of incoherence. The authentic is. but the placement does not. … (203) The rite of visitation is indeed an exercise peculiar to itself in as much as it puts the visitor in the grip of language over which he or she has no hold. savoring of temple and drawing room.” he nevertheless makes his way toward “things of beauty” only to enter a place where. be this measured in spatial or temporal terms. MacCannell points out. of cemetery and school … did I come for instruction. to a pitch slightly higher than in church.” Valéry tells us: I am smitten with a sacred horror.” Moving from the sculpture gallery to the painting gallery changes nothing. Confessing to be “not over fond of museums. The memory of the former would remain with him throughout the visit as a point of contrast and a place of conceptual refuge.

writing into speech. NY The works of art call from all directions for Valéry’s attention. 69 × 103 cm. images in excess of what is consumable. “nothing but a noble and expressive language. that is. that is. to use Ruskin’s words. but by itself nothing” (Seven Lamps 208). form into thought. The uniqueness that he feels lost inside the museum. Louvre Museum Photo credit: Erich Lessing. The voices that call from all directions cannot be turned into thoughts in this “domain of incoherence. Art Resource. Greece. in a manner. “The mind. The slippage between image and thought and the inability of images to do what they are meant to do. invaluable as the vehicle of thought. Valéry conceptualizes the loss itself as an attribute of modernity and its characteristic accumulation of “a necessarily unusable excess of capital.” on the other hand. as “rarities whose creators wanted each one to be unique” (204). are thus conceptualized as not endemic to language and the . The “Modern man. Valéry’s thoughts take refuge outside the museum in other places and distant civilizations. “I feel sure.” Valéry finds himself incapable of conceiving each work as an individual expression.16  Giuseppe Castiglione. View of the Grand Salon Carré in the Louvre. The uniqueness of each expression is lost to the repetition that purportedly “kills” all. he re-locates outside it through an act of virtual tourism. oil on canvas. is “impoverished by the sheer excess of his riches” (Valéry 204). For the generation that conceived Valéry’s museum. In defense.” The art works in the museum are conceptualized as excess riches. that is. on the steps of the British Museum. Having located what is lost inside the museum at a safe distance. repetition proves fatal. China. as it did. Valéry presently finds the mind inadequate to the demands of this language. “that Egypt. art was. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 131 Fig. that is.” he tells us. 4. “can neither follow nor perform several distinct operations at once” (204). in their wisdom and refinement.” Once again. merely and readily transport thought. The art works are “most inimical to each other when they are most alike. never dreamed of this system of putting together works which simply destroy each other” (204).” “All alone against so much art.” he tells us. for the glance that transforms dead vision into living idea.

their function and discipline. acts upon our senses and minds in a few minutes! … We cannot stand up to it. The product of thousands of hours’ work consumed in painting and drawing by so many masters. Valéry’s reflections on the museum become at this point both comforting and stupefying. Since “our capacity to use” the “ever-increasing resources” of the Modern age is “far from growing with them. are both foundlings. Painting and sculpture. The museum. says my Demon of Analysis.” and “encyclopedic memory” for “marvelous actuality. and within the bounds of the museum also spatial. each hour charged with years of research. “and blends with the living activities of the street. a little desolate in its galleries. also “stupefying. but temporal. essential as it is. separating out from my feelings. The slippage is conceptualized as being not permanent. she gave them their place. … All things end up on the wall or in a glass case” (204–5). but in excess of it.” However vast the palace.” or we play the language game and substitute for what is not adequately and authoritatively expressed. we are told. Once safely outside the museum: Suddenly I glimpse a vague ray of light.” In either case. they knew their function … (206) What is not had in confrontation with art inside the museum is thus merely the loss of what was readily had in another time and another place.” It threatens to infect the outside. They had no freedom to stray. Their mother. as Valéry sees it. “exerts a constant pull on everything that men can make. So long as she lived. which he does. less Valéry’s “uneasiness. experiment. and “grow superficial. So what do we do? (205) Not being able to stand up to the task. insisting on expression. is dead. resign ourselves to not getting beyond form. In its place art speaks . We substitute “theories” for “direct feeling. to stagger out of the museum. What remains is to explain the cause of the slippage and the “obsessive feeling of confusion” within the bounds of the museum. but peculiar to the museum and as such safely contained within its bounds. What remains is to explain away the slippage as being not endemic to language and art. An answer begins to form itself. out. concentration. all alone against so much art.” the museum’s constant pull on all that cannot be consumed is comforting. What remains is to close the doors behind. The “glorious chaos of the museum” follows him out. genius. groping for its cause” is put to rest. taking refuge and solace in the domain of the direct and the actual. The solution to being in the grip of language is. we always feel a little lost. not being able to exert a clear hold over language and bridge the gap between form and content. It responds to “the need to concentrate it all in one place” (205). Architecture.132 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance consumption of images.” We either acquiesce our inability to control language. their subjects and their relationship … While Architecture was alive. however suitable and well-arranged. They had their exact allotted space and given light. Having collected the excess outside the place of consumption. however. the collection is. we “grow superficial” or else we “grow erudite. the direct and the actual slip away or rather.

” is even more distressing than leaving them within the confines of the museum (175). Theirs is a museum. It is symptomatic of that place and of being out of place.” however. pressures. to exhibit paintings in “their original surroundings or in ones similar. It had its sights on the past. museums where the works of art were hung “in discrete separation. and not the future. however. if they are to appear as self-referential representations. All external references.” For both. in order to return to “life” by the attentive glance of the visitor “who leaves his naïveté outside along with his cane and his umbrella” (185). There were only some in which the rite of resurrection could be performed effectively. This is a visitor who does not “stroll through museums letting” him or herself “be delighted here and there” (185). in their sober abstinence from all decorative detail. One locates the life of the artwork in the past. to an extent. The hold that is never had over language is thus localized safely within the bounds of the museum at a distance. there. and concentrates on them as fixedly as if they really were idols” (185). engrossed by a precarious present. Both museums are. Both. common as they are now. symbolize the inner spaces into which the artist withdraws to create the work” (179). “even in the very moment of its conception the work confronts its author and its audience as something objective. Theirs is a display practice that is far more familiar to the twentieth-century visitor than Valéry’s Louvre. To appear as “a ‘force field’ between subject and object. These were. and this is precisely what Adorno accuses Valéry of not seeing. Rather. It is not. If Proust’s and in turn Adorno’s reactions are any indication. They have to be estranged from “human ends.” allowed to die in the museum. For Adorno. However. however. the museum marks off and removes from within the order of the living what has to be removed by a fatal necessity. but further back to the space of creation. in fact. This is “a museum. Despite their considerable differences. Valéry likens it to a “cemetery. works of art have to be “uprooted from their native soil and have been set out along the path to their own destruction” (185). for example.” (184). returning art works to their presumed place. only some museums at the time were “helpful in this respect” (185). represent. nor was it meant to be. advocate leaving art works in the museum. and. This much is voicefully pronounced by both. the work of art is “neither a reflection of the soul nor the embodiment of a Platonic Idea” (184). this is a visitor who “picks out two or three paintings. They part ways locating the life that is presumed absent in the museum. that returns the art works not to the space of consumption. a “vehicle of thought. For both the museum withholds death. the other in the future.” completing their cycle of isolation and decontextualization (185). Both practices. Valéry’s museum was neither conducive to the rite of resurrection. in baroque or rococo castles. all traces of prior consumption must be stripped from them. impose a particular interpretation of art and language in response to one and the same dilemma. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 133 vividly. . legitimize. The work of art is a representation that refers only to itself.” Adorno to a “mausoleum. where the rooms. albeit a reformed museum. Valéry and Adorno agree on one thing. speaking also on Proust’s behalf. in other words. as Ruskin had it. and potential distortions. something which makes demands in terms of its own inner structure and its own logic.” Rather.

The confined defies life. If. Each responds to a display practice that turns his assumptions about the work into an evidential experience of it. what had thus far given paintings and statues a place in the world of things. at a safe distance. Once they eschewed their referent. Elsner and Cardinal. Madness and Civilization. Bazin. 9 See Foucault. Also the Kunstkammer is not. in turn. IImpey and MacGregor 3. both Valéry and Adorno take recourse to supplemental spatial and temporal boundaries. 3 For a discussion of subject see Pomian. and Sherman and Rogoff. the exact equivalent of the gallery as it was often used to designate a specialized version of the Wunderkammer. In the meantime. 2 Whether they served a religious cult or the cult of remembrance. 11 See Bennett. For this confoundment neither worldview has or could have a place. 8 See Jones for a detailed discussion of the subject. 6 See Kaufmann 145. a collector at the time was likely to pay 30 florins for a van Eyck or 3 florins for a work by the sculptor Desiderio da Settignano against 6. . 1594. at the risk of repetition. 10 For a detailed discussion of the subject see Lee 106–7 and Alexander 31–6. 4 See G. Luke. there are the spatial boundaries imposed by the museum to incise the confoundment. What neither worldview can consume and digest. 7 According to Germain Bazin. the other of one perpetually commencing. they surrendered their place. much as it defies death conceived as its absolute Other. it is only to overcome the confoundment and re-establish order. it is important to note. and Weil. Notes 1 For a discussion of the Western roots of the museum see Malraux and G. Discipline and Punish. the other celebrates its passing in the hope of resurrecting it. First. in a reality that is thus untouched by the confounding effect of representation. neither life nor death. IImpey and MacGregor. however.” the art museum is a revolt against reality’s fate in the company of art. and what had also kept them in that place was their specific cult referent. One practice induces and reinforces the dream of a consumption that has been. What both worldviews confine to the museum and what each confronts at the museum is. is what both confront presently. It erases the very sense of place. 5 Quotation from Francis Bacon’s Gesta Grayorum. as Malraux notes. the life that is exorcised from the museum is given to reside safely outside it. then there are the temporal boundaries that serve to deny the confoundment by its conceptual transformation into a life that has been or one that will be. “all art is a revolt against man’s fate. Both operate with assurance of life’s safety on the outside from the vantage point of the museum as a mausoleum: the place that keeps death in place.134 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance One laments its passing and mourns away its felt absence from within the museum.000 florins for the horn of a unicorn. If. Bazin 129.

Lebrat and Bezombes. Building Types 118. 21 “I suppose. the copy is an import. and the gems found at the top are small. 13 There are doors on each floor and each side connecting the gallery spaces to the central vestibule. it is out of place: an outsider. 22 The allocation of an exclusive place to the authentic. In the company of the real. however. 121–58 and Urry 11–13. see Brownlee. Seven Lamps 102). designed and used for transportation of art to and from the galleries and not for public access. in effect displaces the copy from every place. He reasoned: “the Climb to knowledge and truth is ever steep. “there is no conceivable form or grouping of forms but in some part of the universe an example of it may not be found” (Ruskin. 20 Ruskin’s own art museum. 16 For a detailed description of the museum see Davey. They were. that is. 23 See Culler. Walkely. 15 For a complete description of the project see Biasini. 18 See MacCannell. but precious and beautiful” (xlii). It dispossesses the copy of a place because inside the museum it has no place and outside it. The Spatial Dialectics of Authenticity 135 12 See Mcclellan 8–9 and Pevsner. and in command of a fine view” (The Guild xlii). 19 See Rosenblum. 17 See Huxtable. 14 For complete account of the museum’s design history. was located on “a hill. in the midst of green fields. MacCannell 3–14. . a substitute for what is at a safe distance elsewhere.” Ruskin wrote.

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which becomes identified in the mind of the spectator with its cinematographic representation. At the conclusion of this inevitable and necessary ‘chemical’ action. Mitry. and of authentic reality. . It is a necessary illusion but it quickly induces a loss of awareness of the reality itself. of conventions (the rules of montage. including Bazin. despite Cinema’s incessant technological drive toward greater approximation.2 Each not only assumes a priori that cinema is essentially an illusion. Yet. only to locate cinema at a measurable distance from it. for example). He is its dupe. the moment he has secured this unwitting complicity of the public. and hence he is held back from any further conquest of reality. plane surface). reality has remained a constant measure of cinema’s decided and decisive alterity. for didactic or aesthetic reasons. but finds it necessary to emphasize the imaginary nature of cinema—its unreality—as its salient characteristic and incontestable ground for theoretical speculation. As for the film maker. among others. to sound. abstractions that operate more or less corrosively and thus do not permit the original to subsist in its entirety. From habit and laziness he reaches the point when he himself is no longer able to tell where lies begin or end. share in common.1 This may well be the only measure the various theoreticians of cinema. for the initial reality there has been substituted an illusion of reality composed of a complex of abstraction (black and white. Each introduces. Metz. He is just no longer in control of his art. he is increasingly tempted to ignore reality. from enhancements to image.5 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Each representation discards or retains various of the qualities that permit us to recognize the object on the screen. Bazin 27) The More is Less The immediate success and lasting appeal of cinema over the course of its short history have had much to do with its persuasive and ever-increasing approximation of reality. There could never be any question of calling him a liar because his art consists in lying. and Boudry. Each evokes reality. to color. to stereoscopy. and so on. (A.

which becomes identified in the mind of the spectator with its cinematographic representation” (27). it is attributing less to reality than is prudent. Bazin 48) It is the “air of truth.” thereby becoming the “dupe” of his or her art. emphatic and incontestable as it has been. The depreciation Bazin ascribes to the identification of “authentic reality” with the cinematic illusion has at least one thing in common with the “decay of aura” Benjamin attributed to “the desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly.” according to Bazin that enables film as an “illusion of reality. (221) I’ll return to this curious consequence and what is. he tells us. Rather. It is not cinema that may be confused with reality. the substitution of a mechanical reproduction for “the uniqueness of every reality” leads to the depreciation of the latter. In both cases. has not to do with any probability of confusing film with reality. Once this happens. the price of this transgression is the inability “to tell where lies begin or end. This holds not only for the art work but also. which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction” (“The Work of Art” 223). The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not touch the actual work of art. For Baudry it is the Platonic Cave syndrome (“The Apparatus”). Admittedly. as we shall see later. So the screen reflects the ebb and flow of our imagination which feeds on a reality for which it plans to substitute. Bazin 27). rather it is reality that may be confused with cinema to the former’s detriment. yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. in effect. (A.” to act as a substitute for “authentic reality” (27).138 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance The insistence on the illusory nature of cinema. for a landscape which passes in review before the spectator in a movie. reality’s vulnerability to film. partly because of what Metz calls “the problem of verisimilitude” (72) and what Bazin attributes to the possibility of substitution (A. there can be no “further conquest of reality” for want of clear boundaries (27). for instance. “it is of vital importance for the correct unfolding of the spectacle that this make-believe be scrupulously respected … that every thing is set to work to make the deception effective and to give it an air of truth” (72). For now it is important to note that both Benjamin and Bazin gauge the “authentic reality” and its mechanical reproduction in spatial terms and in relation . no one assumes the images on the cinematic screen to be real. it ‘knows’ that the screen presents no more than a fiction” (72). This substitution has distinct and potentially dire consequences. Metz tells us. More may appear to be less. As for the filmmaker. This is Bazin’s version of the same: If the film is to fulfill itself aesthetically we need to believe in the reality of what is happening while knowing it to be tricked. What concerns Bazin is not attributing more to cinema than it is due. “is not duped by the diegetic illusion. However. The substitution “quickly induces a loss of awareness of the reality itself. spatially kept apart. The audience. … All that matters is that the spectator can say at one and the same time that the basic material of the film is authentic while the film is also truly cinema. the two have to be conceptually and for that matter.

though it happens in reality. The placement has not. Locating and placing film is a formidable challenge confounded by the fact that film overlaps and condenses time and space. past and present. In effect. at an irreconcilable distance by design. I will trace the modalities of film’s placement from the Kinetoscope to the multiplex through the course of the twentieth century. I will come back to address the peculiar logic of this spacing and the ideological consternations it is meant to circumscribe. it is also implemented and imposed by the designed experiential peculiarities of the historic places that have circumscribed the filmic event. This is why the place and the conditions under which this identification could happen. Also. virtual and actual. The ambivalence that persistently overshadows any question of a place for film is compounded by cinema’s constant technological strives toward ever-greater approximation of reality. A reverse spatial logic has seen to the formation of the place of film from inception.” Though generally presumed. The modalities of this placement have changed drastically overtime. The Borrowed Spaces In a sense. the spacing is vulnerable. This is something that does not happen in reality. It.” Conversely. It produces a strange cohabitation between heterogeneous spaces. that is. the implement of this spacing is not necessarily a given. Benjamin defines the “aura” of the real as “the unique phenomenon of a distance. for example. cinema has never been here. “however close it may be. as Bazin and many other theoreticians of cinema do. a direct response to “the desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly. have been a matter of considerable concern and careful consideration since the inception of cinema. In the coming pages. Despite the constant strive toward greater technological approximation. In its earliest incarnation. In the least. It fails when and where “authentic reality” is identified with illusion of reality. or rather because of it. in a sense. one had to . as Benjamin contends. If cinema is. on the illusory nature of film in relation to reality. is to insist on the spacing of reality and illusion to the two sides of a line that readily allows one “to tell where lies begin or end. the moving picture was confined within the well- defined box of the Kinetoscope (1891). to insist. it has increased with every technological abridgement of the distance between film and reality. the cinema. This is a distance measured in experiential rather than literal terms. film from inception has been persistently placed at a marked experiential distance from reality. That film is not reality is not only a persistent theoretical note. the destruction of “aura” has to do with attempts to overcome this distance through the agency of mechanical reproduction. It has always been there. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 139 to distance. which is wherever film takes place.” the history of cinema’s place and placement has followed the opposite trajectory. To see the moving picture. real and illusory. where the I as a measure of reality subsists. however close it may be” (“The Work of Art” 222). displaces every place it happens to be.

seemed to exist as realities on the big white screen which had been Historic Site built at one end of the experimenting rooms” (quoted in Musser 14). vitascope.3 And there. Cinémaographe. However. Kinetoscope constituted an entirely different type of viewing experience. and presented an Parlor. in part. parlors. Edison National all of life size. material. The effect is best Department of the Interior. however close s/he may be. and so on. The projection brought the moving picture Photo credit: US out of the box and into the same space as the viewing subject. the projected film. despite all the variations on form. What “seemed to exist” as reality comes to inhabit the same space as what exist as reality. National described in an April 4. The novelty and wonder of the new machine is. and ornamental detail. it could be placed at any place. 1896 New York Journal article enumerating the wonders of Park Service. 140 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance look inside the box from the outside through a peephole. both of size and space—the size of “life” and in its space. Since the Kinetoscope was self-contained and mobile. Even though the solid has given way to a void. in any of its many Brothers’ designations. arcades. the new machine (vitascope): “For two hours dancing girls and groups of figures.1). at a perceived distance from the viewer. The box. it was always in borrowed space. the emplacement . The novel displacement of time and space that happened within it remained within it wherever it happened to be. The space that intervenes as a divider between what is and what seems to be what it is not and where it is not. 1894 entirely different set of challenges. as the author is quick to locate and localize the event. and so on. this novel displacement of space and time happens on the “white screen” and “at one end” of the room. retained the moving picture within its limits at a clear distance from the viewing subject who initiated and terminated the viewing (Figure 5.1  Holland As compared to the Kinetoscope. a function of approximation. department stores. Fig. bioscope. eidoloscope. as it was at fairgrounds. there. that is. 5. acts in ways that are similar to the bounding box of the Kinetoscope.

Its absence may well have exacerbated the audience’s reaction. often a stretched muslin sheet. Early films often addressed themselves specifically to this space/distance for the thrill and amusement of the viewing spectators.5 Having delineated the spectacle within a frame and located the spectators outside it—in the least in the idealized depictions—what followed in these early . and so on. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 141 of an experiential divide between reality and illusion is fundamentally the same. waves breaking at the shore. rather than narratives to poster. 1897 be engrossed in (114–33). It requires the subject to look at the spectacle in of the Luzerne County Historical recognition of the space that is transformed into distance between the spectator Society and the spectacle. the frame is a prevalent feature of idealized depictions of the exhibit. The picture frame is a recurring theme in depictions of early film exhibits. Howe’s Animotiscope exhibition (Figure 5. It is not certain how prevalent the use of a picture frame around the movie screen. The audience and the train locomotive are depicted in a head to head confrontation on two sides of a gigantic picture frame that reassuringly separates and locates the moving picture within a well-delineated and laterally contained space opposite the spectators’ gaze. Howe’s Animotiscope well as the subject matter of early films or what Tom Gunning calls the “cinema exhibition of attractions”—a cinema that offers scenes to look at. 5. Cases in point are the ubiquitous and all too popular films of on-rushing trains and other moving vehicles. One such scene is well depicted in an 1897 advertising poster for the Lyman H. may have been in the early exhibits. Nevertheless. Fig. The spectatorial role fixes the subject’s the collections place outside the spectacle.2).4 Both the novelty and the attraction encouraged the Photo credit: From viewer to assume the role of a spectator.2 Lyman The functioning of this void has everything to do with the novelty of the event as H.

is a question we’ll have to answer later. and crushing into dust and into broken fragments this hall and this building. In the end. It is bodies and buildings transformed into flesh and bone. Suddenly something clicks.142 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance exhibits. in his review of the Lumières Cinématographe exhibition at the Nizhny–Novgorod Fair of 1896. despite the thrill of defying death and disfigurement. but their imaginary death prior to. as these shorts did in most early film exhibitions. music and vice. dust and broken fragments—deprived not only of life.” The distance between the spectators and the spectacle is experientially and forcefully re-established.” because of the graphic images that the contemplation of an abridged distance brings to mind. Gorky cannot. What he imagines is not merely death. their silent shadowy presence on the . in the “kingdom of shadows. Other and perhaps well-exaggerated accounts have the audience rushing out of the theater in panic. if not as the condition of. The physical reaction. whether slight or severe. does not come from any confusion of a dim grey illusion on the screen with reality. is perhaps best described by Maxim Gorky. that is. wine. it is an improper involvement with the image. Having defied death. everything vanishes and a train appears on the screen. “Noiselessly. However. the experience of this illusory breach is only reassuring. but disfigurement. but also of form! Why the contemplation of shadowy illusions crossing into reality should evoke such graphic images of disfiguration. Thoughts of death linger on and torment him through the remainder of the short-films to follow. these shadows are “terrifying to see. The card players in an ensuing film appear full of life and “laugh until their sides split but not a sound is heard. The uncanny is transformed into the sublime. (408) Gorky is well aware of his place in the darkness opposite the “train of shadows” on the screen. The edges of the screen hold the threat of death and disfigurement at bay by keeping the train where it belongs: there. as he well and accurately might have. the tampering with the line separating reality from illusion exacts a price.” the locomotive “upon approaching the edge of the screen. knowing the images to be mere shadows. The immediate reaction to the scene unfolding on the screen was perhaps closer to this account: “involuntarily you scramble to get out of the way of the train” (Musser and Nelson 66). so full of women. Instead. It is the fear of proximity to something that should remain at a distance that would have the audience re-establish the distance by physically distancing themselves from the image. He knows that it only “seems as though” the train will cross the line of the screen into the domain of the living. locate and localize it in the “kingdom of shadows” and outside the darkness in which the audience persists. vanishes somewhere beyond it” (Gorky 407).” “It seems as if these people have died and their shadows have been condemned to play cards in silence unto eternity” (Gorky 407). nevertheless. Nevertheless. being dialogically involved instead of looking at the image that has the audience react. The presence/absence of the players on the screen has Gorky imagine not their present lives elsewhere. It speeds straight at you—watch out! It seems as though it will plunge into the darkness in which you sit turning you into a ripped sack full of lacerated flesh and splintered bones.

with sovereign boundaries—this place is anything but clear and distinct. Gorky’s fears were. The logic of his imaginary placement of film at a distance elsewhere was. but sinister meaning” of this experience he tries to distance himself by locating and placing cinema elsewhere. It disturbs and depresses him. In his place he imagines cinema to be “out of place. of all places. “to disturb and depress you” (408). There. Suddenly “a gay chatter and a provoking laughter of a woman” in the audience returns him to his place outside the kingdom of shadows.” “Why here. “are they showing this latest achievement of science?” Though he is not certain of the exact scientific value of this invention. by then. Strange imaginings invade your mind and your consciousness begins to wane and grow dim … (408) Although Gorky does not specify what the warning of the mute grey life on the screen is. The addition of a narrator and/or musical accompaniments to early silent film screenings would soon go some distance toward remediation of the type of dialogical involvement with silent films that purportedly disturbed and depressed Gorky. as an imaginary death. in any one place. It makes the separate inseparable. as his consciousness wanes and dims. Much as Gorky tries. Unable to separate and localize the absence he senses on the screen. however. “this mute. by all appearances. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 143 screen. he concludes with the uneasy knowledge that the entertainment value of this peculiar invention will outweigh its scientific value. he is quite clear on the consequence. fraught with a vague but sinister meaning that makes your heart grow faint. This kingdom forcefully evokes and inexorably confounds presence and/as absence. Nevertheless. His thoughts too become displaced. from the outset. it cannot be reduced to any one thing. amidst the audience. he loses his sense of place and forgets where he is—in the darkness. from “the vague. Falling. thus placing it where it should have no place. to shape the place of film for the remainder of its history. Gorky temporalizes it by locating it in the past. strange imaginings invade his mind. the problem persists. By 1914. he is certain it safely and usefully belongs in the realm of science and in the hands of scientists within the confines of the laboratory. life and/as death. It seems as though it carries a warning. grey life finally begins. fraught as he imagines it to be with a vague but sinister meaning. it is displaced and displacing. but certainly the introduction of the organ in connection with the picture program has done much to arouse a universal .” he asks repeatedly. at once. of course. to imagine film as a distinct place—a kingdom no less. In its company. Any place else. This is perhaps the problem with verisimilitude. well founded. into the grip of language over which one has no hold.” Gorky tells us. narrative cinema to the introduction of the organ: It is difficult to say what new features may be added to the development of the motion picture in the next few years. since it is the film itself. Affording no clear hold on presence or absence. The dissolution of his sense of place is coupled with a loss of control over his thoughts. Nevertheless. Charles Wittemore would go so far as to attribute the broad appeal of. You are forgetting where you are.

narrative cinema willfully collapsed the space the former confronted and effectively constituted as distance between the screen and the audience. With it waned the appeal of the cinema of attractions that celebrated and in turn sublimated the uncanny effect of film. It absorbed and integrated the audience into the type of immersive experience that was both the source of this cinema’s persuasive appeal and what both Bazin and Metz warned us against as a problem . narrative cinema cast the audience in a voyeuristic role. Pending the transformation of the cinema of attractions into narrative cinema. as compared to both theater and cinema of attractions. The Moving Picture Theater 43) The organ music and the narrator’s voice acted in ways that were similar to the “gay chatter” and “provoking laughter” that extracted and retuned Gorky to his place.’ and to raise the tone of the programs by this very fact. the narrator and/or the music helped stabilize and localize the audience in their place in relation to the screen located now behind the source of sound directed at the audience. vaudeville theaters. as the lasting appeal and entertainment value of narrative film became clear. in what has become a time-honored tradition. such as Lyman H. Howe noted earlier. Interjected between the audience and the screen. in each of which film was. narrative cinema required a distinctly different mode of reception from the audience. Else. from locality to locality and a heterogeneous body of borrowed spaces. However. if not the place of the real. (C. The Place Elsewhere The technological novelty of the moving image inevitably dissipated in a relatively short time. city halls. film was placed in the company of other oddities. All these were carefully demarcated and segregated spaces at a measurable experiential and literal distance from the course of daily life. including churches. no less. and other traveling entertainments. The cohabitation offered distinct challenges. vacant stores. film’s place was to remain no place for a time. of space and time? The affinity between narrative cinema and theater made the latter a logical precedent for the constitution of a place for film. Whittemore. Avoiding any recognition of the audience in their spectatorial role. A. film would be confined to temporal and borrowed spaces.144 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance interest among the class of people who are not fascinated by the ‘thrillers. It would be kept on the move by traveling showmen. a novelty out of place. Meanwhile. and as such a different type of space/place. Where to place a displacement. in a sense. and so on. it was circumscribed a permanent place of its own in the space. circuses. Irrespective of this stabilizing addition. In contrast to the cinema of attractions. This difference rendered the spatial solutions associated with prior venues not fully suited to the task at hand. wonders and curiosities—things that had no place inside the place of everyday life. schools. and were placed in the borrowed and temporal spaces of fairgrounds. This was particularly true of vaudeville theaters that had hosted the film as a novel supplementary sideshow from early on.

It would not be before silence gave way to sound in what by then would be a very different movie-theater that Kracauer’s call could and would be heeded. It is always circumscribed to a carefully sequestered and segregated stage where actors may readily and safely assume identities other than what is presumably and properly their own. accompanied as they were by live music for the duration. and the illusory nature of the characters staged. Until the advent of feature-length movies. In contrast. the music and captions during and the live entertainment at the intervals was sufficient. Rather. This is the only place where identities become interchangeable without causing consternation or having the legal consequences they would have any place outside this place. and Benjamin placed at the root of the decay of aura in the age of mechanical reproduction. Both effectively kept the illusion at bay in early narrative cinema as it was in the cinema of attractions. By its very existence film demands that the world it reflects be the only one. nonetheless. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 145 with verisimilitude. the principal preoccupation was situating the narrative cinema in relation to reality. “If scenes of real physicality are … displayed alongside the movie” Kracauer noted in 1926.6 This presence invariably underscores the absence. Therefore. the live performances that preceded and followed the filmic illusion. on the virtual stage of the narrative cinema there are no actors. the imaginary is always there. The proscenium arch that locates the audience and the staged fiction in opposition. There are only characters. in addition to their entertainment value. it should be wrested from every three-dimensional surrounding lest it fail as an illusion” (91–6). “the latter recedes into the flat surface and the deception is exposed. Siegfried Kracauer delineated the role of this auxiliary entertainment long ago. The immersive voyeuristic experience of narrative cinema sets it apart from not only the cinema of attractions. to depreciate and distance itself as illusion by receding into the background. in a voyeuristic role and immersed in the action for the duration of the film. In addition. The audience is the only presence in the cinema that is cast. but also legally and as such atemporally. allowed the illusion to strategically and effectively “fail. In the latter. However. the principal challenge for the designers of first movie-theaters was not keeping the film at bay in the space of the auditorium. the duration of early narrative films was short (10 to 15 minutes on average by 1905) and the captions pulled the audience out of the action at regular intervals and located them opposite the flat screen.” that is. were often seamlessly integrated with live performances of popular songs and music between reels. The challenge was to contextualize and explain how the displacement of time and space that didn’t happen in reality. This dividing line is not only constituted formally and experientially. The proximity of action which has spatial depth destroys the spatiality of what is shown on the screen. at a marked distance from the audience. The distance between the real and the imaginary in theatre is additionally augmented and controlled by the literal presence of the actors on stage. In the early decades of film. the narrative short films. elaborately and clearly articulates the line where the imaginary meets but never touches reality. but the “legitimate” theater as well. happened .

146 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. 5.1912. Gotham Book Mart Collection.3  Theatorium postcard. c. University of Pennsylvania Library .

the nickelodeon’s audience was made to go not so much to look at the world of illusion from the other side of the proscenium arch. as they were made to cross it into an elsewhere constituted on the other side of this instituted and elaborate borderline.4). The analogy was underscored by the omnipresent electric lights that lit up the nickelodeon entrance like a stage. A vacant store became a movie-theater. A vacant business house having been selected both for its location and for size.3). and offered for sale by various vendors (Figure 5. At the far end of the room a muslin screen about three by four yards is stretched. as the expense justified by the location will permit. and a piano is placed near the picture screen. The gateway theme for the movie-theater façade became prevalent in short order. This setback instituted a void that intervened as an unabridged divider between the inside and the world outside. the nickelodeon did not erect its proscenium arch at the edge of the stage and the auditorium. the process of converting it into a motion picture theatre is to remove the glass front and framing for the door and window. David Hulfish provided a vivid description in 1911 of a process that dated from the first years of the new century. but on the sidewalk. The reading of this separation was augmented on the street façade with a superimposed gateway imagery whose ubiquity made it in short order synonymous with the nickelodeon. The process often began with the conversion of a vacant store (Figure 5.9 The “regular” is the arch in frame format serving as a forceful dividing line. by withdrawing and distancing itself from its context.7 This challenge was met at a gate erected formally and augmented experientially in between the real and the imaginary. The room is filled with rows of chairs. As such. often employing the classical orders in various degrees of abstraction. to the point of being prefabricated. In time. Strategically. the thematic of elsewhere would be fully explored in the exotic interiors . An articulated frame. to replace it with a closed front a few feet back from the sidewalk line and into which are built the ticket seller’s booth and the entrance and exit doors and on the inside of which is built a projection operator’s booth.8 The Sears & Roebuck company’s 1908 catalogue claimed “the 5-cent theater is here to stay” and “almost any vacant storeroom can be made into a five- cent theater by removing the glass front and replacing it with a regular Theater front similar to the illustration shown” on the catalogue page (quoted in Schroeder 535). (13) A vacant store began its transformation into a movie-theater when the visual continuity of its transparent façade was supplanted by a requisite opacity. The nickelodeon’s arch in frame facade also bore more than a passing resemblance to the legitimate theater’s proscenium arch. The inscription of an arch within this frame completed a gateway imagery that more often than not evoked a Roman Triumphal Arch and the city-gate it symbolically embodied. however. was typically superimposed on the physical borderlines of the nickelodeon’s street façade. either kitchen chairs or opera chairs. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 147 in reality. The implied distance of this opaque facade was in turn amplified by placing it at a measured distance from the sidewalk. in other words.

the related production of an elsewhere.1909 from the place of the real to the (dis)place(ment) of the imaginary. Besides more advertising space. placed in the centre thereof. and when the prospective patron steps off the sidewalk he feels he is already within the theatre. and a pretentious ticket booth.” he noted. and the subsequent transition c. Although “the front partition of a typical theatre is placed six feet back from the USZ62-92105 sidewalk. the anonymous author of a 1911 article on the subject tells us: “A spacious lobby has always been an important consideration with the owners in the planning of a moving picture theatre.4  Sheldon of movie palaces. of a divide. considered of the utmost importance” (“The Moving Picture Theatre”). & Photographs David Hulfish explained the intent of this otherwise nebulous void clearly. his reasoning had to do with the fact that the void “suggests retirement in the theatre. was entirely on the fabrication Theatre. 148 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. Placing the ticket booth as a freestanding entity in the center of the outdoor lobby was to leave no room to ambiguity. The nickelodeon’s focus. It transformed what otherwise would . the void as a third transitional space was meant to denote departure and prolonged passage. even before he has purchased his admission ticket” (178). to the thematic of elsewhere than the triumphal arch iconography. Division. Prints significant. however. LC. It had one step off and depart from the place of the real before traversing its depth to enter the consequently imagined and the imaginary world/place beyond. Photo credit: Library of The requisite depth of the nickelodeon’s “regular façade” was equally. To underscore the importance of the outdoor lobby and ticket booth in motion picture theater design. if not more Congress. In other words. 5. “a still deeper front is desirable if the floor space can be spared” (177). Chicago.

across the entry door. could secure one’s entry. There is only one significant exception. proved indispensible. within the bounds of the movie-theater. Once the requisite currency exchange is complete. this logic is suspended. both validates and invalidates it as currency. then and since. and surrender it to an authority figure whose recognition and subsequent destruction of this money. its proxy—the ticket—assumes currency only in being destroyed. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 149 have been a static space into a bi-directional space on two sides of a well-defined center. any other item. was the elaborate ritual of passage to which the ticket booth along with the outdoor lobby and the front gate was the setting. If the logic of money is logged in exchange of value. Lee proposed to forego the ticketing process and have the audience enter the theater through a turnstile upon cash payment. One may readily exchange real money for food. In form and detail. The movie-theater does not. The right of passage to the other side here required the rite of a peculiar and elaborate exchange. one has had to first exchange currency at the border. without the requisite ritual of exchange prior and as the condition of crossing the inner borderline. and even there. The ritual. Beyond the ticket booth. only the ticket. one has to consent to the destruction of the ticket’s exchange value and carry forward a torn stub that retains the memory of the destruction/loss at its edge and as such sanctions one’s presence for the duration of stay. before and as the condition of entry. as substitute money. In principle. The condition of admission into the movie-theater has been a ritual renunciation of equivalency/exchange between the imaginary and the real. To enter the movie-theater. it is important to note. where tickets were commonly vended on the interior lobby of the theater instead of the exterior.10 Whereas the destruction of real money causes considerable consternation outside the movie-theater. What the movie-theater solely and adamantly excludes from within its . at the point of entry into the movie-theater. The displacement meant having to purchase tickets at the gate (border). it didn’t go past a prototype. it had the trappings of a guardhouse at the borderline. Charles S. This is because what this ritual of transformation and destruction institutes at the border. The tearing of the ticket locates the imaginary outside the circuit of restricted economy and renders the divide between the real and the imaginary ritually absolute. this substitute money is not a medium of free exchange. is their irreducibility. exclude real money from its bounds. one has to carry the movie currency only a few feet from the ticket booth. it is not exchangeable or exchanged with any commodity. Unlike real money. To gain entry into the movie-theater. precisely because the exchange value is lost. Prudent as the proposal may have been at the time. no amount of real money could do so. What it disavows is any intermediary or exchangeable value between the real and the imaginary. and controlled access. Its currency is delimited to the borderline. and in principle. however. as the border between the real and the imaginary. relative transparency. in a sense. expensive as it was for the theater owner. however. As part of a broader cost-cutting plan for an “automatic theater” in the early 1930s. The placement of the ticket booth in the outdoor lobby was a significant departure from an analogous practice in legitimate and vaudeville theaters. More significant.

covering the screen with a curtain was a practice that would persist for over 70 years. the literal place of the imaginary: the screen. Besides the side walls.11 Also. Fire was an ever-present threat in early cinema due to highly flammable nature of nitrate film. A case in point is the difference between the ticketing rituals of legitimate theater and cinema. the only option. As the focal point of this directional space. However. it is difficult to imagine what would be unsightly about a blank white surface. It is used for every occasion where an activity has to be sequestered and set apart. in proximity to the screen to allow it to remain in its desired location at the “far end” of the auditorium. as with the strategic location of the screen at the “far end” of the room (Figure 5. though never arriving at. it seems. in part. a prerequisite. at some expense. the ticketing ritual is not unique to the movie-theater. through the ticketing ritual. Consequently.5). Once admitted. the relocation would have drastically altered the experience and with it the intended relationship between the real and the imaginary. one speaks to transition. despite considerable transformations and endless contextual variations from time to time and place to place. The extraordinary nature of the event is construed in each instance by the suspension and exclusion of the ordinary through. however. In context. It would only be displaced by a virtual curtain of advertisements and other projected images at the advent of the multiplex. one is never given to leave the real. Fires often started in the projection booth. fire exits were placed. since the audience face toward the principal exits. It had to do with its absence as Hulfish explains: The picture screen is an unsightly object in the theater when there is no projected picture upon it. whose proximity to the entrance and exit doors created a very volatile condition. (61) At face value. where the drawing of the curtain between performances served both a . In the movie- theater departure is. however. In legitimate theater. this arrangement placed the audience and the screen in the same space. its message could vary considerably. John Klaber noted in 1915. In contrast to the legitimate theater. one’s movement in the auditorium was progressively toward. and need not pass the operating room to reach them” (550). the ticketing ritual. Yet. Klaber’s suggested relocation of the screen was quite practical. is any intermediary or exchangeable value between the real and the imaginary. The screen has since been at the “far end” of the auditorium. The appearance of the room is improved greatly during the intermission by lowering an ornamental drop curtain over the picture screen. The cohabitation presented a distinct challenge.150 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance bounds. Depending on how the ritual is contextualized. the other separation. “The type of hall where the screen is at the same end as the main doors has been advocated by some authorities as lessening the fire risk. nonetheless. Placing the screen at the “far end” of the auditorium was not. Though the placement of the screen at the “far end” of the auditorium kept it at an unabridged distance from the audience. the experiential journey that had started on the sidewalk would be merely prolonged by the directional space of the nickelodeon’s auditorium. The directionality of this space had as much to do with the literal dimensions of the often narrow and long auditoria. This had not to do with the projection of moving images on the screen.

Barry went on to note: “the blank screen at any time makes it so much harder to create that illusion.” by which he meant before and after the screening (12).” He reasoned the screening of a movie “cannot be satisfactory if something happens to spoil the illusion—something that reminds the patron that he or she is sitting in a theatre chair looking at a two-dimensional surface covered with light and shadow. in the movie-theater the curtain served no purpose Fig. While the screen is in sight. “that the audience never see a blank screen.1909 The live performances that preceded and followed the screening of movies at the Photo credit: nickelodeon took place. It localizes the audience . It allocates it an “unsightly” place that perpetually speaks to past and anticipates future displacements. c. LC- USZ62-92107 Echoing Hulfish’s sentiment nearly two decades later. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 151 ritual and a practical purpose. Division. The curtain not only hides this trace from sight. precisely what caused Gorky much consternation and anguish. at its conclusion. the persistent wish to spare the audience the sight of Congress. However. 5. unlike legitimate theater. Theatre.” that is. As a displacement of time and space. What was unsightly about the & Photographs blank screen was what it represented and kept in sight. the displacement does not disappear without a trace. In other words.5  Normal other than to hide the “unsightly” screen when there was no image projected on it. it also divides the auditorium in two. leaving behind no trace of the displacement. inasmuch as the screen bounds and localizes the displacement. at the closing of the curtain and Library of in front of it. it memorializes it. Barry advised. the movie is ideally transformed. Prints the blank screen was primarily ritual and ideational. into the memory of another time and place. Chicago.

in the form of elaborate frames and arches at the “far end” of the auditorium in the waning years of nickelodeon’s near decade long popularity. continuous admission. nonfilmic activities like illustrated songs. and variety format. principally because of the realism of moving pictures. the nickelodeon had a profound influence on the history of movie-theaters in the century to come. women. Whereas literally.” that is. as Mary Heaton Vorse noted in 1911. It was merely localized there. In classic cinema. live acts. Whence. and that in anticipation of the elaborate proscenium arches of the movie palaces to come. The middle-class consternation about the imaginary’s adverse effect on the real led to a concerted effort at censoring and policing cinema in the decade that followed the advent of the nickelodeon. “the door of escape.” this escape—no less from reality—was not merely imaginary (442). in the imagination of the emergent middle-class the nickelodeon not only attracted the “vulnerable and dangerous. The distance the curtain effectively emplaced between the audience and the screen would be the subject of greater articulation. As Lee Grieveson points out. Despite its relatively short history. sociable if not boisterous. It was also a literal experience that was enacted architecturally and ritually to the estrangement of narrative cinema from every place it happened to be. in a place that seemingly recedes infinitely behind the curtain. “children. Hansen argues. In contrast. If the movie-theater is. and federal levels. self-regulatory practices by the movie industry.” also “experiences at moving pictures in nickelodeons were regarded as particularly dangerous. as it would at the end of a journey. if not in effect. “the neighborhood character of many nickelodeons—the egalitarian seating. cinema would always happen elsewhere. because images were seen to be linked closely to imitative responses from ‘suggestible’ audiences and because the ill-lit space of the nickelodeon provided what the Juvenile Protective Association of Chicago described as ‘a cover for familiarity and sometimes even for immorality’” (13). focusing on the experience of the immigrant and women audiences at the nickelodeon. for a few cents. conceptualizing it as a journey out to an Other place. from the realities of life. cinema brings other spaces and times to our space and time and as such creates a potentially uncanny cohabitation—raising questions of place and placement as it did Gorky—the nickelodeon effectively side stepped this challenge by turning the experience on its head. as well as.152 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance to one side and locates the imaginary outside this place. “the absorption of the viewer into narrative space on a stylistic level corresponded to an increased derealization of the theater space—the physical and social space of the spectator” (83). These included legislative measures at the municipal. out of sight. state. consternation about the adverse effect of the imaginary on the real did not dissipate with the advent of the nickelodeon. and lower-classes and immigrant audiences. Of course. This was the nickelodeon’s contribution and lasting legacy. It made moviegoing an . Miriam Hansen makes a sharp distinction between their experiences and the audience experience of “classic cinema” as it would emerge in the second decade of the twentieth century. atmosphere. On the other hand. and occasional amateur nights— fostered a casual.

Also.” it was by virtue of leaving one’s “familiar surroundings. This was the primary focus of the nickelodeon designers. an outsider by design (108). into which the audience were given short glimpses. Hansen argues. Any shift in gender and social roles within the bounds of the nickelodeon merely underscored the alterity of the movie-theatre as the fantastic and other worldly—indeed a place apart where real norms did not apply. The nickelodeon. the movie-theater opened up an arena in which a new discourse on femininity could be articulated and the norms and codes of sexual conduct could be redefined” (118). as well as the live entertainment on occasion would continue to play much the same role in the movie palaces as they did at the nickelodeon. The disjunctive program of the nickelodeon did not entirely cease with the demise of the nickelodeon. the captions during.” on a journey to an Other world. Hansen’s acute observations are based on an exclusive focus on the auditorium space. contested and inverted’ the gendered demarcations of private and public spheres … Bounded by familiar surroundings and culturally accepted. If the nickelodeon was indeed “an objective correlative of the immigrant experience. within the working-class community at least. The Imaginary Places As one of a handful of prominent architecture firms specializing in the emerging field of movie-theater design in the early nineteen teens. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 153 interactive rather than merely passive experience” (61). “this aesthetics of disjunction not only contested the presumed homogeneity of dominant culture and society in the name of which immigrants were marginalized and alienated. that is. Though indeed “bounded by familiar surroundings. the audience remained conscious of “the actual theater space” and their collective place within it (84). it lent the experience of disorientation and displacement the objectivity of collective expression” (108). The disjunctive exhibition program of the nickelodeon had two distinct consequences for Hansen.” the nickelodeon was effectively separated and segregated from those surroundings both visually and ritually.” Throughout. The difference between the nickelodeon experience and the “classic movie” experience at the movie-palaces of the late teens and twenties may not have been as pronounced as Hansen portrays it. Taking into account the entire experience may well lead to a more nuanced interpretation. The live music at a grander scale. if not segregated. more important. everyone at the nickelodeon was an immigrant. the work of the architecture firm Rapp and Rapp for Balaban and Katz (later Paramount) played a seminal role in the transformation of nickelodeon into the movie palaces of the late teens . played much the same role for female audiences in so far as “it ‘simultaneously represented. and from which they remained effectively distanced. In a sense. It did not allow the audience to get fully submerged into “the illusory space on screen. given that the music and the captions during and live entertainment at the intervals effectively kept the imaginary at a pronounced distance in the auditorium.

for any functional or practical reasons. narrative plot. Pereira some 16 years earlier. Aside from ongoing improvements to projection equipment leading to relatively brighter images on the screen. in particular. nevertheless. which in the words of P. To successfully exhibit the rapidly improving film productions. as I have tried to argue so far. these “wonderful advances” immersed the audience in an imaginary reality to far greater degree and for far greater duration than the ubiquitous short duration films of the nickelodeon. (59) Of course. ideas and problems were presented which rendered the earlier picture theaters and even legitimate houses inefficient and obsolete and altogether unsuited to the presentation of this modern form of entertainment. This change required. could account for the shape of things to come. Looking back in 1930. Although. and that this could be arrived at by gorgeous stage settings. by deliberate choice.R. (58–9) The changes that made the nickelodeon obsolete were not technological per se. Rapp attributed the development of the movie palace to “tremendous development in the production end of the motion picture industry” in the early nineteen teens (56). “helped to a great extent to raise the standard of this form of amusement from that of the lower to the higher branches of dramatic art” (178). Rapp was to echo the sentiment: Logically the tremendous development in the production end of the motion picture industry was reflected in demands for a similar development in the exhibition of the pictures. acting and the relative realism and polish of the production. that the atmosphere of a palace should prevail in a theater. none of these advances mandated. a new type of movie-theater to which both Pereira and Rapp allude (Pereira 178). Rapp was merely paraphrasing what had been previously expressed by many authors/architects. this new vision was not entirely new. a new form of movie-theater. Rapp aptly attributed the shape of things that became to a new vision for what the movie-theater ought to be in face of rapidly improving film productions: A second period in the history of the motion picture theater began—with the advent in the field of a different type of showman—one who believed that people go to the theater to live an hour or two in a different world. to locate and localize the imaginary in relation to the real. the primary purpose of the movie-theater is.154 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance and twenties.12 If. to fewer and much larger movie-theaters as opposed to more numerous smaller theaters. His reference was specifically the development and ensuing popularity of feature-length movies in the early teens. what made the nickelodeon “inefficient” and “altogether unsuited” to the exhibition of feature-length movies was the obsolescence of its localization in face of greater intensity and duration of involvement with the imaginary. George L. aside from providing a controlled environment for exhibition of film. he went on to note. For instance: . luxurious drapes and enchanting music. the main developments in the movie industry had to do with the movie’s duration and content. at the development of movie-theaters over the preceding three decades. Even the ever-increasing popularity of the movies that led.

They seek escape from the hum-drum existence of daily life. but also dramatic and literal.13 Assuming the nickelodeon’s lessons. whose work for Marcus Loew also played a seminal role in shaping the history of the movie palace. deeper and more directional threshold.A. erected as it was as a pronounced threshold over the outdoor lobby. we must cut them off from the rest of the city life and take them into a rich and self-contained auditorium.” E. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 155 The people of today’s hurly-hurly. provides a pleasing contrast to the cold.” by which he meant “an exterior design in which the curves of graceful arches predominate. The atmosphere of a king’s palace must prevail to stimulate the imagination of those who come within its doors. Bullock summed up the overall objective of the façade as creating “an attractive theatrical appearance.”—the journey to elsewhere (Barry and Sargent 12). but are not overdone. commercialized world go to the theater to live an hour or two in the land of romance. (14) Cutting off the audience from the rest of the city life begun.C. as it did. Nonetheless. what it had in common with the old is rendering the movie-going experience a journey out to an Other place. it is necessary to present to their eyes a general scheme quite different from their daily environment. . succinctly articulated the strategy for this “new” motion picture theater in 1928: To make our audience receptive and interested.6). So it is that the sophisticated playgoer must be taken up on the architect’s magic carpet. Film was now to happen in a world apart. Extending a marquee over the sidewalk in front of the outdoor lobby enabled the designers of the “new” motion picture theater to add much greater directional depth to the front lobby than their predecessors had in the nickelodeon (Figure 5. luxurious hangings and enchanting music. where pleasure hides in every shadow. Whereas the nickelodeon’s primary focus was the institution and elaboration of a threshold in between the real and the imaginary. … People realize that for a small charge they can be lifted up on a magic carpet and set down in dream city amidst palatial surroundings where worry and care can never enter. on the sidewalk. literally. the street facade was transformed into a more pronounced. (Bullock 370) Also: People come to the motion picture theatre to live an hour or two in the land of romance. Thomas Lamb. and in short order. where exoticism. In order to do this. The design of the movie palace façade. quite different in color scheme. in a 1925 article devoted to “Theater Entrances and Lobbies. and set down suddenly in a celestial city of gorgeous stage settings. Orientalism were to underscore an alterity that was not only visceral. (Barry and Sargent 12) Grand as the new vision was. the movie palaces of the silent era focused on fabricating a “different world” beyond the nickelodeon’s threshold. where their minds are freed from their usual occupations and freed from their customary thoughts. and a great deal more elaborate. if only to enhance “the patrons’ spirit of adventure. followed no one style.

In other words.” was sat down “in a celestial city of gorgeous stage settings. luxurious hangings and enchanting music” (Bullock 71). “on the architect’s magic carpet. the nickelodeon’s façade may well appear static and subdued. having been constituted as such by being “taken up. dramatically emphasizing division and passage. “should be made up of large and broad unobstructed openings. the moviegoer.” or “temple of day-dreams” the movie palace was meant to be. among others. ticket in hand.” the new façade had to be selectively transparent to provide glimpses of a “different world” beyond the threshold to underscore passage through the divide. The distinction also meant greater ornamental embellishment for the movie-theater façade than was customary in the surrounding commercial buildings. the ticket booth. 49–IND. Indianapolis. the moviegoer was delivered to the attendant in the grand lobby where “the atmosphere of a king’s palace” had to “prevail to stimulate the imagination of those who come within its doors” (71). “the entrance motifs above and below the canopy. HABS IND.” and “inviting.7). 1927 Photo credit: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division. by appearance and by experience (Figure 5. Indiana Theatre.6 Rubush & Hunter architects. or else. In contrast to the deep. The same exact phrase would be used by. Barry (12) in 1927 and Rapp (62) in 1930.” Bullock tells us. they were to be reconstituted as spectator/audience in the “dream city. In addition to having to differentiate itself from its context through overt formal contrasts. 156 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig.” Past the marquee.” as an oft repeated metaphor at the time had it.” To be “compelling. directional and strategically transparent façade of the movie palace. providing generous and alluring glimpses of the interior. 29–25 straight and commercial lines of the usual surrounding buildings” (370). Here.” the “land of Romance. . and through the depth of the outdoor lobby. as Rapp had it “unsuited” and “obsolete. 5.

The construed grand spectacle of a palace. 5. the urge was to transform the incomprehensive strangeness of the sight into tangible information: “In the lobby. by design. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 157 The palatial lobby was often the first in a series of sequentially layered spaces Fig. The lobby. CA 1929 perceptual. the movie palace transformed moviegoers into visiting tourists in a displaced and displacing land. transformed everyone entering into a spectator. The journey was meant Photo credit: to be transformative. if not literal distance. but also overwhelmingly ornate and complex in appearance. out of place by rite of visitation to a place that was not only out of the ordinary. Overwhelmed by the sublime spectacle. In presenting “to their eyes a general scheme quite different from their daily environment. often stopping. and mezzanine promenades. the palatial setting. had to be “a place of real interest. Fox Theatre. The instrument of this transformation was. Bullock tells us. W.” as Lamb called for. Lamb. foyers. patrons asked us myriad questions: ‘What is the seating capacity? Are those marble columns real? How high is the lobby? Is that piano on the loge floor really gold? How many bulbs are . complaining News 40 mob into a throng of joyous and contented people” (71). vestibules. looking upward and uttering words of amazement at the splendor about them” (20). everyone was. from the point of entry.” Motion Picture where “the waiting throng may be transformed from the usual pushing. that wasn’t. San These had to be sequentially traversed to reach the auditorium at considerable Francisco. Ben Rosenberg’s remembrance of the encounter is telling: “I think my most memorable impressions of working in the lobby came from the expressions on the faces of patrons as they walked in. Here. of course.7  Thomas that included a grand staircase.

The lobby and the ensuing spaces. for instance. stimulation. In the spur to substitute information for the incomprehensive sublimity of the sight. The palatial theme introduced in the lobby and extended to the succeeding mezzanines and foyers reached its climax in the monumental auditorium of the movie palace (Figure 5. “as open in treatment as possible.” the imaginary as representation supplanted the “real. marble or gold. one had access only to impenetrable appearances in disarming multitude.” as marble or gold. a decidedly centralized space that located and localized the audience in Lamb’s requisite “rich and self-contained” place. the audience and the screen in the movie palace auditorium were carefully segregated. Though the latter may not have been the most effective means of illuminating a large interior. in this “different world. as they did then. it was a reception the place imposed on the movie in advance.” In the “land of romance.” In the “celestial city. speak to both a compulsory involvement with appearances and a disjuncture between substance and appearance in the mind of those who entered the palace. The overarching assumption in this strategy was that the public’s encounter with feature-length narrative film in that early stage could not or rather should not happen without proper preparation. questions of authenticity. also had to be. in order to “stimulate the imagination” and make the “audience receptive and interested. raised as they were about. permitting the moviegoer to get one vista after another. These variously held from 2. Although the style and the details varied. as appearance relieved of purported substance in a world apart. in conjunction with concentric ornamental patterns of the ceiling and the wall articulations. that is. This was what was to be “different. appeared to the spectator as appearance with indeterminable substance. Here. Lewis 176). and of substance behind appearance.” by design. was located at some distance behind the . In contrast to the nickelodeon. carefully framed.158 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance there in each chandelier? How do they clean the chandeliers?’” (20). that wasn’t. it should not happen outside the land of sublime appearances.000 to over 5.” one was not to linger or contemplate. The imaginary wasn’t per se what the movie brought to its place. what movie palace auditoria shared in common was richly articulated wall surfaces that decisively enveloped the auditorium space and led up to an imposing ceiling whose monumental concentric patterns culminated at the center in a grand chandelier. Each was designated a place of its own on the opposite sides of an elaborate proscenium arch erected at the “far end” of the auditorium opposite the entry doors.” what they demanded was the forced suspension of the real and acquiescence to the imaginary. it was a very effective way of creating. Led on by succeeding vistas through successive spaces that according to another author “open into one another like chambers in a maze” the sightseeing “adventure” of the audience/tourist was to continue and culminate in the auditorium (L.000 seats. An additional measure of the auditorium’s requisite self-containment was the location of the audience in relation to the screen. If various authors and architects insisted.8). for instance. The screen. Bullock tells us. which will produce a decided spirit of adventure and a desire to gain admittance to the other parts of the house. and mediation. on the other worldly character of the movie palace. as sites of visitations rather than habitation.

they created both a permanent multilayered spatial barrier and a temporal sound barrier between the audience and the monumental opening of the proscenium arch. by the orchestral and/or organ music at the curtains’ opening. two further developments beyond the palatial theme would allow the objective to reach a logical conclusion in short order. the designers of the movie palace soon looked.8  Thomas W. to more . in the cause of alterity. OH. followed by a demarcated and segregated layer of space inside the auditorium devoted to the orchestra and/or the ubiquitous Wurlitzer organ between the audience and the proscenium arch. 25–COLB. 1928 Photo credit: Library of Congress. bordered by intricate cloth frames at the outer edge of the proscenium arch. in other words. and exotic world. When there was no image projected on the screen. a raised shallow stage in front of the curtains articulated the spatial depth of the proscenium arch. Whereas the palatial atmosphere of the first movie palaces was derived from the European baroque architecture and its nineteenth century second empire variant. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 159 Fig. Prints & Photographs Division. Columbus. The curtains’ role in keeping the audience inside the “self- contained” auditorium was assumed. 4–24 ornate proscenium arch and away from the audience. to localize the movie event in a “different. In turn. HABS OHIO. 5. Loew’s Ohio Theatre. it and the space in front of it were covered by layers of elaborate and ornamental curtains. from the outset.” distant. Together. In as much as the objective in the movie palace was. Lamb.

As the audience/tourists assumed their designated spectatorial role on seats surrounded by the thin veneer of any one distant and exotic outdoor place. These exotic ornaments. The grand foyer … represents a festive procession all in Oriental splendor … It is pageantry in its most elaborate form. However novel. one continues in the same lndo-Persian style with elaborate ornamentation both in relief and in painting. In this Oriental imaginary. by design (Figure 5. one inevitably found oneself at a distance from both the event and the illusory . the curtain would open. colors and scenes are particularly effective in creating an atmosphere in which the mind is free to frolic and becomes receptive to entertainment. and any doubt about the suspension of the real at the gates of the “celestial city” all but dissipated in the thin matter of interior surfaces. Passing on into the inner foyers and the mezzanine promenade. emotional. but are all permeated with a touch of the Orient. at every draw of the curtain. the mid-day sun would set in minutes. all conspiring to create an effect thoroughly foreign to our Western minds. perhaps all that remained was to subvert space and condense time in pursuit of the “mysterious” and the “exceptional” as the site of the filmic event. and the movie would appear behind the proscenium arch. Eberson and his followers conceived the movie palace auditorium as a stage “set in an Italian garden. “moving clouds” would roll overhead. which has always been brightly colorful. to Chinese. and immediately casts a spell of the mysterious and to the Occidental mind exceptional. to fabricate a world for the filmic event far more distant and exotic than the first movie palaces ever were. all “canopied by a soft moonlit sky” taking the place of the centralized ceilings of earlier palaces (373). “twinkling stars” would fill the evening sky above. and seductive surface effect.160 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance distant and exotic imagery from a vast and diverse repertoire subsumed under the label “Orient. and Indian. emotional and almost seductive in its wealth of color and detail. quite succinct in describing the outcome. Having reached unqualified formal and stylistic alterity. and/or engrossing the displacement of time and space behind the proscenium arch may have been. The styles of architecture vary. strange.9).” They borrowed and combined freely from Egyptian. the Occidental mind was de facto on tour in a “foreign” land where film was made to stand in the same relationship to the real as Orient did to Occident. time became elastic. All that mattered was the exoticism and other-worldliness of the end result. In his “atmospheric” theaters. who played a decisive role in the adoption of the Oriental theme was. the music would begin. (14) Much as the overt Orientalism of the second-generation movie palaces. This would be John Eberson’s contribution to the genre. conceived and presented as sensual. Persian. once again. in a Persian court. Thomas Lamb. it also placed and kept the “Occidental” mind at an unabridged distance. in a Spanish patio. in un-real time.” or any multitude of other distant and exotic outdoor places. and every other source in between. aided the self- fabrication of the “Occidental” mind in opposition to it. interiors became exteriors. What mattered to the designers of these movie palaces was neither orthodoxy nor fidelity to any of the numerous and diverse sources that constituted the “Orient” in the public imagination.

Louisville. bottom. Motion Picture News 36 . HABS KY. 56–LOUVI. 17–47.9  John Eberson. bottom: Avalon Theatre. Chicago. Library of Congress. 5. KY. 1927 Photo credit: top. top: Loew’s Theatre. 1928. Prints & Photographs Division.The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 161 Fig.

and thus the movies are perhaps a symbol of democracy. though all the while inside. The celestial city’s army not only aided and controlled the movement of the visiting audience/tourist for the duration of the visit. All men enter these portals equal. in an Other world designed to be look at and at that from the outside. This too.” Lloyd Lewis’ account is telling. 1925 Photo credit: Library of Congress. the moonlight sky would turn to dusk. Prints & Photographs Division. the media coverage of the movie palaces in the 1920s is replete with reference to the democratic nature of the movie palace as an institution. charm. complemented by the disciplined mannerism of an army corps and an exclusive silent sign language. are forgotten. Fig. that wasn’t. merely underscored the alterity of “dream city. and the audience would trace its steps back from the exotic land of un-real time and distance to the land of the real. that determine our lives outside. one was never let in. was an army of ushers in imaginary military uniforms.10). 162 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance enveloping veneer of an outdoor. Here.10  John Eberson. HABS MICH. The message was unequivocal. however. Aiding the audience out. the rich man stands in line with the poor. and get it. 16–11 Despite the ever-presence of the palace guard. Let us take heart from this. Most of these cinema palaces sell all their seats at the same price. Different as “celestial city” was meant to be. and not . Detroit. and usually tipping is forbidden. In this suave atmosphere. 82–DETRO. it was nevertheless effectively guarded under the watchful eyes of the palace guard (Figure 5. this army also effectively underscored both the alterity of this world and authoritative control over it. and wealth. the sun would virtually rise. the differences of cunning. much as they had been on the way in. At the conclusion of the movie. Grand Riviera Theatre. 5.

Additionally. The question that we will have to allow to linger for now is the essential assumption behind all the spatial and experiential drama. (59) It was not until the early 1930s. Seymour Stern. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 163 be downcast because our democratic nation prudently reserves its democracy for the temple of day-dreams. Although introduced to a wider audience in 1927. the noted film critic. among others. but in the field—that is. it was not until the early 1930s that the initial technological challenges were overcome. one also had to leave behind much that socially and economically characterized “lives outside.14 The initial Vitaphone or sound-on-disk technology proved notoriously unreliable for keeping image and sound in sync. The call for change had come at least as early as 1927 from. It is that unwavering assumption in the filmic encounter mandating the proper mediation. which would become Vitaphone. it was not until the early 1930s that the movie palaces of the preceding decade were supplanted by a new movie-theater design. However. it was so by way of being/construed as the radical other of the real. movie-theater design in the United States underwent a profound transformation. and preparation of a place that appears as anything and everything other than the real! The Imagined Places From the early to mid 1930s.15 It took equally long to achieve realistic reproduction . when Vitaphone was abandoned in favor of sound- on-film technology that the synchronization problems besieging the early “talkies” were finally overcome. By the end of the decade.” ticket in hand. owing to the inevitable slippage in the mechanical link between turntable and projector head. the telltale needle-scratching in the background was always audible and must have reminded viewers that Vitaphonic recording was a product of the phonograph industry. the novelty dissipated. This small lapse between the ‘flapping’ of the lips and the hearing of the voice militated against the illusion of naturalism. may have achieved perfect synchrony in the laboratory.11). contextualization. one not only had to ritually disavow any intermediary or exchangeable value between the real and the imaginary as condition of entry. (176) At the gates of “celestial city. in the nation’s theaters—the picture-sound match was frequently off a bit. and the “talkies” became merely movies. of which Benjamin Schlanger’s Thalia Theater of 1932 was a pioneering example (Figure 5. Donald Crafton notes: The Western Electric sound-on-disc system. The call for change in movie-theater design and its eventual realization coincide all too conspicuously with the introduction and eventual widespread adoption of sound in movies.” If the “temple of day-dreams” was democratic. new movie-theaters bore little resemblance to the movie-theaters of the preceding decade. the exoticism and the overt Orientalism of the place designed for and dedicated to the encounter with the filmic event.

apparent connection. in other words. 5. Alexander Bakshy’s complaint about Schlanger. New York. 164 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. 1932 synchronization” remained commonplace (773). movie-theater historians have found no Underwood. Photo credit: Significant as the introduction of sound was and closely as it was followed by Keystone. a technological mandate.” the RCA engineer Harry Braun noted in a 1932 issue of Architectural Forum. the movie palaces of the 1920s were retrofitted for mechanical sound in short order. The link is indeed difficult to establish insofar as it is posited as a technological and/or acoustic question. besides their temporal coincidence. “Equipping an auditorium for ‘sound movies’ is. NY. movie palaces of the . and many remained in operation for many decades to come. It is approximately at this latter date that a new movie-theater Benjamin design comes into vogue. The change was not. between the widespread Architectural adoption of sound and the advent of a new movie-theater design. In the meantime. Record 71 “the rise of the talkies and the simultaneous demise of the Atmospheric Theater. “a simple procedure. For instance.11  of human voice.” Richard Stapleford notes. “seem too coincidental to be unrelated. This procedure was the same for movie- theaters designed before or after the introduction of sound. Also. Yet a clear causal link between the two phenomena is difficult to establish” (12). whereas the movie-theaters of the 1930s could rely on mechanical amplification of sound in the auditorium from the outset. being merely a matter of selecting the necessary equipment and making provision for proper installation in conformation with applicable laws or ordinances and in accordance with manufacturers’ specifications” (381). and even to imperfect Theatre. calls for change in movie-theater design. Thalia being “treated to hollow and squawking and lisping voices. Along with the new theaters.

and stereoscopy to film.” the longer. the advent of talking image in motion. I can recall standing in center balcony tunnel entrances. “corresponding changes in the character of the theaters themselves” (“The Motion Picture Theater” 171). nor was it meant to affect better acoustics. by and large. profound as they were. though it has become obscure since. In other words. he anticipated a third phase in response to another major change in the nature of the filmic experience. These changes were slow in coming. so wonderful were the acoustics. In this respect. Whittemore had made a similar prediction as far back as 1917. American Theatres of Today 41). The technological drive toward greater realism in movies. excelled. and smaller auditoria introduced in the 1930s taxed the audio technology of the day (Sexton. if the movie-theater design changed in the 1930s. Although the American movie-theater’s transformation in the 1930s did not. the architects of the movie palaces. Ben Rosenberg’s recollection of movie palaces of Rapp & Rapp in particular is telling: The thing which impressed me most was the marvelous acoustical treatment associated with their work. narrower. Both were conceived in response to a major transformation in the prevailing mode of film reception. It presented a distinct challenge to the even distribution of sound throughout the auditorium.” as Edwin Newcomb noted in 1930. it was not to achieve better acoustics.16 (22) Aside from placing sound horns behind the movie screen and related mechanical equipment in the projection room.” he wrote in 1930. they had little to do with technology per se. The proponents of both also offered remarkably . the auditoria in movie palaces required little to no modification. color. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 165 1920s had to rely solely on the auditorium’s design to ensure ample and even distribution of sound throughout their very large auditoria (upwards of 5.000 seats). “the volume of sound sufficient to reach distant seats is generally too great for seats near the screen” (439). and when the changes came. the transformation had much to do with sound. acoustically regressive. As Fredric Pawley noted in a 1932 issue of Architectural Record. The sounds from the stage had to project into every nook and cranny of those huge auditoriums. Remember that in those days no amplification of any kind was used. rather than deep. would in time lead to. where I could almost hear the performers take a breath. In fact. the redesigned auditoria of the new movie-theaters were. “will result in a new third period in cinema architecture” (56). focused as it was on bringing sound. in the opinion of many. to a degree. as Whittemore predicated. Whereas an auditorium that is “high. as were the technological advances. “The universal popularity of sound pictures and the prospect of wide dimension film. allows “the preponderance of melody from a multitude of voices and musical instruments to rise and blend into a pleasing consistency before reaching the listener. Much as George Rapp attributed the second phase in the history of the movie- theater to the advent of feature-length movie. The link appeared evident at the time. Charles A. The advent of the movie palace in the early nineteen teens and the very different sound/image movie-theater of less than two decades later had at least one thing in common. or more to the point.

or in some modernistic ornamental mode” (“Motion Picture Theatres” 13). but made the audience “more receptive” to the unfolding imaginary events on the screen. conditioned as that experience is by the spatial characteristics of the auditorium in particular and the movie-theater in general. A new style. it is important to note that of the various changes in the movie- theater design of the 1930s. what Schlanger and the other proponents of change had foremost in mind was to transform the audience’s relationship to the filmic event. The ensuing transformation . in the context of the Great Depression. The plea to alter the customary separation of the auditorium and the stage.” Schlanger demanded. “what is now known blindly (both to the public and the theatre industry as the modern theatre structure” (13).18 Had the design transformations of the early 30s been primarily stylistic. and along with it. into an auditorium and a stage” (“Motion Picture Theatres” 13). besides its wider cultural implications. as it indeed was in the late 1920s.17 The stylistic change. The “modernistic ornamental mode” is. At the outset. has been the aspect of transformation that has received the greatest attention from movie-theater historians. saw little difference between “expressing” oneself “on the side walls of the auditorium in some Spanish or French historical palatial style of architecture. It has been attributed to broader formal and stylistic trends in architecture. the most explicit was stylistic.” and/or the expression of “a utopian ideal of a classless machine world. as it is now. “more a part of the art which it is serving. had much to do with changes in the relationship of the audience to the filmic event. What covert connection there may have been between a transformed architectural setting and the silent or the vocal moving images it enveloped will be the focus of the ensuing discussions. Both were intended to envelop the filmic event in an environment that not only better prepared the audience for the filmic event. it would have been.166 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance similar justifications in defence of their two mutually exclusive solutions. Art deco would have been a mere addition to a rich repertoire. stemming. “The theatre structure of tomorrow must become. Schlanger concludes. the established relationship between the audience and the filmic event. and not be separated. affected by the introduction of sound. Rather. variously termed art deco and/or streamline moderne widely supplanted others. Benjamin Schlanger. Significant and instrumental as the dynamic formal characteristics of art deco may have been to the broader objectives of the movie-theater reformers. The movie-theater designers of the silent era experimented with virtually every known stylistic idiom. The only contextual difference was the imaginary being silent in one instance and vocal in the other. what is evident from Schlanger’s statement above is that a stylistic shift in movie-theater design was not the principal objective. from “a shift in public taste” and “changes in aesthetic ideas. of little note or significance in the context of the stylistic eclecticism of the preceding decade—the golden age of silent movies. coordinated and rooted in egalitarian symbols” or an expression of hope and dynamism in an age of despair and stagnation (May 213). a leading proponent of change in movie-theater design of the 1930s. followed as it was by a shift to modern architecture in the following decade.

It too threatened the space and the distance between the audience and the filmic event. a different picture may well emerge. at a marked distance from the audience. were it not for an imaginary journey through a place that was designed to be no place. to link silence in motion pictures to a baroque palatial style. lacking in substance. sound overcomes and collapses distance. (773) As this quote illustrates. sound for Bakshy was not so much an addition as a subtraction. as he saw it. Crossing through and filling the audience’s space. As such. but in effect here. the talking picture radically altered the relationship between the audience and the filmic event. However. much as you may be moved by the drama. from where it emanates. where the listener happens to be. from the outset the talking picture challenged the audience in ways that exceeded the technology’s initial deficiencies. Although the technology that brought sound to film stood considerable improvement from the late 1920s to the early 1930s. one would be hard-pressed to see any connection between sound on the one hand and art deco or streamline moderne on the other. two and three dimensional. were one to focus on the broader institutional and ideational agenda of the movie- theater and see the choice of any one style and/or formal arrangement in relation to that agenda. Perhaps. close and far. This is the distance that is perpetually lost to the uncanniness of the talking images on the screen for the duration. Restoring the imaginary to its desired place there. it was both here and there. Of course. were one to look at architecture in formal and stylistic terms. The defences built to date against the uncanny effect of film were no defence against sound. It would be equally difficult. . More to the point. raising questions of substance. the total effect of the talking picture is generally thin. It is heard and felt here. and resurrecting the very “world of ghosts” that unsettled Gorky many years before. and even to imperfect synchronization” two years after the introduction of sound. a greater problem with the talking picture (773). there was. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 167 of the auditorium from a place to an experiential path placed between the real world to one end and the imaginary world of the screen to the other served to re-establish the ideational distance between the real and the imaginary before and after the filmic event.19 Complain as Alexander Bakshy did about being “treated to hollow and squawking and lisping voices. Much as sight takes cognizance of distance. rather than there. you feel it is a drama in a world of ghosts. Reaching the audience from across the multiple thresholds erected to keep the filmic event at a safe distance in a place of its own. if not absurd. the sound film was no longer merely there as silent movies had been by design. For reasons which it is difficult to discern. sound had the same novel and thrilling effect on the audience as did Gorky’s onrushing train. Here too the problem was essentially spatial. … In the talkies. the introduction of stereoscopic projection coupled with color will solve this problem. would require significant modifications and a very different strategy. living and dead.

The same disturbing juxtaposition is the bases for Pirandello’s third objection. expressed considerable concern over the imminent arrival of sound. for the obvious reason that images are images. like an unnatural thing unmasking its mechanism” (71). the other here. Stern imagined a new movie-theater where “the aesthetic appreciation of the work of art of the future will be determined by the extent to which it permits the projection of the ego of the spectator into its form. To combine them is to leave one nowhere or in no one place that is not disturbing. in no one place (7–8). He imagined. should remain at a distance. As with Gorky. no one thing. at a safe distance. viewed in two dimensions. he noted. frizzling noises of phonographs” (71). like many film critics of his generation. and conventional reality. Two years before Bakshy and Pirandello’s comments. He believed that these additions were detrimental to an art that was quintessentially a two-dimensional interplay of “silence” and “shadow. “is the greatest of bastardizations. they can only be seen. This is “because the voice is of a living body” and “there are no bodies” in film (71). and images cannot talk” (71). There are only “images photographed in motion. like Bakshy. in other words.’ of spectatorship”—the movie palace (19). “disturbs. and have obtained a perfect reproduction of the human voice. and stereoscopy to film. arguing that in the talking picture.” Furthermore. Conscious. the main ailment will still be there.” that is. Given that “the setting represented by the film … is outside the hall where the film is being projected … the voices ring inside the hall with a most disagreeable effect of unreality” (71).” Each of the innovations. “all illusion of reality is lost. the vulgar muttering of ventriloquists accompanied by the buzzing.” because each threatened to turn film’s distinct identity into “a hodge-podge of the stage. Nevertheless.168 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance The “world of ghosts” perception of early talking pictures that Bakshy presumed stereoscopic or three-dimensional color film would in time overcome had everything to do with the coupling of the two-dimensional image with the three-dimensional sound. Should images be made to talk “their living voice is in striking contrast with their quality of ghosts” (71). Mindful of the impending displacement. the eradication of that carefully instilled distance in the movie palace that proved all too vulnerable to sound. which unmask and expose something disturbing. Luigi Pirandello articulated its effect in greater detail. Stern focused his entire attention on altering the auditorium of “the house of spatially discontinuous perception. Pirandello tells us. resulting in a complete excitation of the emotional system” (7–8). Seymore Stern. Pirandello. if not preoccupied with the dimensional and spatial discrepancy between sound and image. color.” Pirandello noted. The irreconciled juxtaposition of the “living voice” with the “illusion of reality. the displacement and juxtaposition of heterogeneous elements. The one is there. We’ll return to this disagreeable effect and the unmasking that disturbs later. of ‘disinterested contemplation. the most intolerable of abomination.” that it ceases to be merely and clearly an “illusion” (71). complained of poor sound quality—“a machine-made voice far from human. painting. he too attested that “even when technical improvements have eliminated this frizzling nuisance. “the quick succession of talking images tires the eyes” and “the dialogue loses all forcefulness” (71). Leaving the journey to the auditorium intact. “In the film- .” that is. “images do not talk.

the walls of the auditorium were to be plain and “painted in tones of grey. and the “screen.” he imagined. The spacing of the screen placed it. Stern noted. Stern imagined it occupying the entire far end of the auditorium. his points of attack were consistent and telling.” nor “any note suggestive of the three-dimensional forms belonging to standardized reality. in the orchestra’s presence.” This “spatial ‘break’ between audience and silversheet” was to be “a thing of darkness. visually.” Stern noted. to complete the illusion of a path to an imagined destination. In the film-house of the future. “is more disconcerting in the contemporary movie house than the presence of a body of musicians between the spectators and the screen” (27). To this end. and focalization will be complete” (27). As in the past. “All architectural lines must. but in a sense.” meant to “set off the screen as a clearer. passing uncannily before our eyes” (27). of course. that is. however. its destiny (27). the screen was to read “like the vision of another world” (10). To enhance the screen’s otherworldliness.” Stern imagined. though a wide uptake of the new . into a place for seeing and a place for being seen” (27). Frederick Kiesler’s Film Arts Guild Cinema of 1929 was a close approximation of Stern’s vision for the film-house of the future. “the whole interior will be emphatically triangular. To further stress the horizontal directionality of the auditorium as a path. as we noted earlier. deliberately affected in the movie palace. if not entirely surreal. “the ‘role’ of spectator will be unknown” (19). at an emphatic distance that could only be breached virtually. At issue was not the music. Stern demanded the insertion of a “void” between “the final portion of the visual path”— the last row of seats. was not any one place as such. For the rest of the auditorium “the general direction will be one of converging graduation.” Stern demanded. in the screen” (27). The stage was also to disappear for the same reason and the orchestra should be removed because “nothing. ending. He imagined the auditorium of the future to be an emphatic path to an illusive/imaginary destination. Though not in the visual path of the audience. but the location. and his place in the auditorium in relation to the screen. Finally. apart from the path and as such. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 169 house of the future.” that is. and the screen will be the apex of the triangle … even the ceiling will slope till it meets the screen-top. it was to be “pronouncedly phantasmagoric.” nothing “borrowed from the architecture of the past periods. The alternative to two places for “seeing” and “being seen. of absolute emptiness. including “all forms and varieties of present-day theatrical architecture which in any way divide the house into two parts. It began with “abolishing” the proscenium arch. more emphatic entity than it could otherwise hope to be. no place at all. “lead to and meet in the screen. in effect. This consciousness was.” There was to be no “decoration.” The latter were to be left entirely behind—stylistically. and tonally—on the journey through a path that. dimensionally. two-dimensional and cinematic” (27).” Whereas the architectural envelope of the movie palace auditoria was decidedly vertical in emphasis—affecting its reading as a place—the film-house of the future was to be decidedly horizontal in emphasis—affecting its reading as a path (27). Furthermore. “the spectator is made annoyingly conscious of his spectatorial role” (27). the screen was to be evermore “like some hallucinatory sphere. architecturally and psychologically.

170 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance vision had to await technological advances in synchronization and natural sound reproduction. In the prophetically entitled “Motion Picture Theatres of Tomorrow. the squeezed-in mezzanine and the deep-sloping balcony. if not requiring. to erase the distance that sound had breached. As the initial resistance to sound proved all too futile. without any captions or live music to keep them at bay—that the call for re-contextualizing the encounter with film became emphatic and widespread. Stern’s vision for the “film-house of the future” would be largely realized. a type of immersive experience in the movies that. Schlanger wrote that the “theatre structure of tomorrow must become more a part of the art which it is serving. the objective of Schlanger and the other proponents of the new movie-theater design was not to alter the stylistic features of the movie-theater. The solution was. as it is now. To it. the objective was to fundamentally alter the relationship of the audience to the filmic event from a spectatorial to an immersive voyeuristic experience. was not voiced. talking pictures in motion would eventually affect. he would devote his professional career as an architect. when the talkies had become merely movies. the solution to the spatial displacement that it created was to dislocate the audience from its established spectatorial place at a distance in the “place for seeing. as noted earlier. contrary to his assumption. the noted theater architect R. and not be separated. in advance and for different reasons. in tacit recognition of the talkies’ inherent spatial displacement. film stood to engross spectators in its reality effect. The early proponents of a new movie- theater design were careful to make and insist on this point.” Schlanger articulated a vision that closely paralleled Stern’s in its immersive experience and would soon become the blueprint for the motion picture theater of the sound era (“Motion Picture Theatres” 13).” and thereby allowing. In a 1931 article for the Motion Picture Herald. widespread as it became in both the movie industry and the architecture trade journals starting in 1931. W. critic. This is the instituted . Schlanger would play a leading role in the articulation and realization of the various facets of this new vision. It was at that point in the early 1930s—when the novelty of sound had worn off and with it much of the initial objection and fear. Rather. Sexton wrote: Of late there has been a tendency to design so-called ‘modern theatres. every audience member to “completely envelop himself in that which he is viewing. (25) Sexton’s remarks closely echoed Ben Schlanger’s remarks of a month earlier in the same journal (quoted earlier).” though only for the temporal duration of the filmic event (13).’ And yet we find on analysis that most of the modern theatres today are based on the same plan and section—that has been adhered to so closely for the last 50 years. and instead of being trapped in the discrepancy between sound and image. But we still find the elaborate proscenium arch. Echoing Stern. because he envisioned. much less justified in stylistic terms. the huge orchestra. The call for a different movie-theater design. From the outset. in other words. In the years to come. These theatres are modern in their decorative treatments because the design of their decorations does not suggest the influence at any one of the old styles and periods. and theater consultant in the three decades that followed. In time. into an auditorium and a stage” (“Motion Picture Theatres” 13).

the focal point. the “ornamental side walls.” and all other centralizing motifs. and arches was not stylistic. the sidewalls of the auditorium “should have a gradual simplification and omission of forms as they recede to the rear of the auditorium. to the architectural motifs that imparted a distinct sense of place to the auditorium and reinforced the dissociation between “a place for seeing” and “a place for being seen. dominate the whole forward portion of . Schlanger focused almost entirely on altering the auditorium’s design. Schlanger’s objection to columns. into an infinite distance. It should.” In addition. The erasure of the breached distance in the movie palace auditoria meant systematically dispensing with all the architectural implements that constituted the auditorium as a destination. pilasters. reaching up to meet the screen. arches. The Parabolic Reverse Floor introduced a pronounced curvature to the auditorium floor that made the floor dip and flare upwards in the front portion of the seating area. Schlanger was the inventor of the “Parabolic Reverse Floor” that was intended to improve sightlines in the auditorium. to assume the type of voyeuristic posture that the realistic reproduction of sound would allow in the 30s. The screen was next on Schlanger’s transformation agenda—as it had been on Stern’s and for similar reasons: The screen as it is presented in today’s cinema is still an obviously framed picture instead of a space into which we peer. “the forms used should have strong horizontal direction. The “slaughtering. Next to the “slaughtering” of the proscenium arch and with it the auditorium as a “place for seeing” came the “usual treatment of the rest of the auditorium. even more so than the sidewalls. at the front of the auditorium. suspended from above and resting on air. It meant never being able to locate the imaginary in a finite place as such and at a distance susceptible to breach. it was to their verticality and the “symmetrical repetition of motifs from the proscenium to the rear of the auditorium. He objected. it effectively enhanced the directional momentum of the auditorium.” that is. etc” (13). pilasters. “should begin and concentrate itself” on the “proscenium frame. seeing the projected other world of the cinema. without also allowing either.” To reinforce the envisioned emphatic horizontal directionality of the new auditorium “the ceiling.” Instead. should be left as simple as possible” (13). The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 171 distance in the movie palace whose breach disallowed both Bakshy and Pirandello from assuming the familiar spectatorial position in relation to the moving picture. a place.” It also meant re-contextualizing the new immersive experience in a new auditorium that would transform and reconstitute the finite distance erected between the audience and the screen in the movie palace. As Stern had done. fastening the eye to the screen. including the ubiquitous chandeliers were to disappear from the new auditorium. if possible.” he wrote. which causes a disturbing pull of the eye away from what should be the main focal point” (13). The “usual domes. in those early days. in other words. instead of vertical emphasis. which are always treated vertically with columns.” since “it is here where the mood is determined” (“Motion Picture Theatres” 13). In addition to improved sight lines. and at that a “different world.

“A florid architectural style. For Schlanger that opportunity came with the Thalia Theater commission of 1932 in New York City (Ben Schlanger and R. “We have all but eliminated. as well as Thomas W. 1932 issue of Architectural Forum.13). Most notably. and the Strand Theater. therefore. It is important to note. Although far fewer movie-theaters were to be built during the Depression and the ensuing World War. already there. “the ‘atmospheric’ treatment of the auditorium and its indefensible competition with the exhibition” (“Theaters. as it were. “only competes with the illusion on the screen” (122). In sharp contrast. Community. including the June. it was not the screen. Architects). Having removed “the distracting wall decorations” of the old . Massachusetts (Figures 5. it was adopted by the very architects who were responsible for the rise and development of movie palaces of the silent era. the intentions behind each. Irrera. (“New Theaters” 257–8) This meant that not only would the screen get larger—as it would—the forward portion of the auditorium side-walls would curve or angle toward the screen—as they would—to make the screen appear as the sole destination of the path the new auditorium was meant to become. however. Cinema. such as that in November 1948 of the Wareham Theater in Wareham. when Schlanger declared the war on movie palaces to be all but over in the July 1938 issue of Architectural Record devoted to movie-theaters. but the filmic event that was in view and one was. as were. These projects could not have been more different from to the works of the very same architects of only a few years prior. L. Broadcasting” 96). by then. The spectator can thereby be made to feel that he is actually encompassed in the action which he views.14). Thalia Theater’s emphatic horizontal directionality and abstract formal vocabulary were as glaringly different from the prevailing practice in movie-theater design. the Thalia Theater dropped all the trappings of exoticism and Orientalism to be transformed from an exotic destination into a path to an imaginary destination. When the curtains parted. Noteworthy examples are C. Different as the Thalia Theater was. DC. of course. Lamb’s 1936 New Rialto Theatre in New York and John Eberson’s 1936 Penn Theatre in Washington. it was widely acclaimed in various architectural and trade journals. Schlanger’s justification for the elimination of the silent era decorations because of competition and distraction was reiterated by many in various trade publications throughout the late 1930s and well into the late 1940s. These statements often accompanied the published reviews of recently renovated “atmospheric” movie-theaters. Connecticut (Figure 5. what remained was the opportunity to realize it. 1932 issue of Architectural Record and the September. both renovated by the William Riseman Associates (“A New Architecture for The Movie-Theater” 122). Schlanger’s vision was soon embraced by most architects of his generation. W. but hidden behind a curtain that exponentially added to its mystery and distance. & G. that this focal point was never quite in sight. It was no mere boast.” he declared.12).” we are told. Rapp’s 1937 Rhodes Theater in Chicago (Figure 5. in Hartford.20 Having articulated a clear vision for the new movie-theater.172 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance the auditorium.

The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 173 Fig. C. 5. 5.12  George & W. IL. Rhodes Theatre.13  William Riseman Associates. 1937 Photo credit: Hedrich-Blessing. Architectural Record 84 Fig. Rapp. 1948 Photo credit: George M. Cushing. Wareham Theatre. Wareham. Architectural Record 104 . Chicago. MA.

1948 much as others. from illumination. what of the old has been renovated is not so much the event as it Photo credit: is the message. The formal and spatial characteristics of the auditorium. old or new. “plain wall surfaces now direct the eye toward the screen” as they Riseman must in the post-silent movie era. not out of deference to Associates. from a certain perspective. how the filmic event is contextualized and framed. that is. to sight lines. neglecting the fact that the light in the auditorium of a theatre must be kept quite dim during most of a performance. Hartford. If they contributed or distracted. competed or promoted. and that. George M. Theatre. every detail. The comfort of the patron also requires more careful attention in the cinema than in the legitimate theater. The spectator in the cinema must be at ease and must . like his contemporaries. The oft repeated assertion that “distracting wall decorations interfere with Cushing. it was not to the filmic event per se. where the audience found itself and how it localized itself in relation to the imaginary. the illusion” or “compete with the presentation” are. Schlanger Record 104 himself who in his 1931 critique of movie palaces noted (“Motion Picture Theatres” 13): The walls and ceiling are usually designed as if they were going to be seen in broad daylight. (56) Schlanger. coming repeatedly from.14  William movie-theater. Architectural perplexing justifications. 174 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. among others. In either example. but to its contextualization and localization before and after the fact. that is. purportedly. For the duration of the event. were only visible and consequential before and after the filmic event. was well aware that revisions to the old auditoria were of little or no consequence for the duration of the filmic event. CT. 5. Thus the architectural forms employed are blotted out and have little or no effect on the viewer during the performance. Strand any stylistic conviction or a desire to be formally up to date. chair comfort or air conditioning to make the audience “unconscious of surrounding temperature conditions or even odors” was attended to within the dark confines of the auditorium in order to create the perfect “illusion” (“A New Architecture for The Movie-Theater”).

Ideally. other than where one actually was. Looking back in 1961. and with it. only an elsewhere. This is to say that so long as the illusion of not being where one happens to be is sustained. In place of formal horizontality there was to be “a completely neutral enclosure” with a strong spatial direction toward the screen. In the post-silent era. In the movie palace auditoria. Where one actually was had to all but disappear for the duration. It too was abandoned as a “futile effort to create screen importance. sound had the exact opposite effect.21 Having affected the imaginary erasure of here for the duration. virtually. the illusory was not to be the filmic event per se. There was to be no here. The Modern Museum of Art’s movie-theater in New York City by Goodwin and Stone. despite the fact that the images on the screen have technically only two dimensions. It stood the chance of suspending the audience between where it was actually and where it was virtually. all that remained was to localize and explain where one found oneself before and after the filmic event. the path that got one there. In the post-silent era auditorium. or as Stern put it. lose himself in it completely.15). “How Function Dictates” 7). Architects. the music that filled the auditorium kept the audience at a safe spectatorial distance.” In time. no longer a here. in other words. sound’s uncanny spatial displacement remains curtailed since sound no longer comes to one from elsewhere. in the place that one wasn’t to be for the duration. Hence the far more acute and urgent need to erase any and all sense of a here in the new auditorium. and the elsewhere is nowhere real—nowhere that is not an imagined destination or “a different world.” whereas its “omission would better serve this purpose” (Schlanger. Schlanger eloquently reflected on the objectives of the postwar movie-theater: The desire in the designing was to permit the viewer to the fullest possible extent to be able to transport himself in imagination to a different time and space by . made the spectator “annoyingly conscious of his spectatorial role” (10). even the emphatic formal horizontality of the 1930s auditoria appeared to the movie-theater architects of the postwar years as giving too much character and identity to the auditorium. and have no reminder of the fact that he is in an enclosure and looking at a picture” (Cutter 21). in the post-silent era. “New Theaters” 255) In the sound-era auditorium. It stood the chance. One is already elsewhere and there is. This is essential to help complete the illusion of realism desired. by design. published in the November 1948 issue of Architectural Record is an early example of the type (Figure 5. It was also not being where one was. one had “to be able to look at that picture. of affecting the type of dialogical involvement with the imaginary that unsettled Gorkey and in time Bakshy and Pirandello. the “illusion” was being anywhere and everywhere.” This is one reason why the mandate and the measure of success for the post-silent era movie-theater has always hinged on affecting and maintaining the illusion of the erasure of being where one is. It was precisely in this context that the movie palace auditoria’s intended sense of place as a “different world” was purported to be distracting and “indefensible. (Schlanger. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 175 feel neither bodily nor ocular discomfort.

much less . The Transcenium as such would be a journey without end. The placeless “optical vacuum” of the “Transcenium” Architectural would hereafter keep the audience in “transport.” as it were. The name Stone Architects. eschewed any and all sense of place. The movie palace auditoria. On the way to and from.” designated the silent imaginary a definite place beyond the threshold of the proscenium arch. Transcenium suggests itself … (“Motion-Picture System” 685) Modern Museum of Art Movie Theatre.15  furnishing a floating void or optical vacuum to provide the transition to the new Goodwin and time and space and to hold him there by eliminating all distractions. The Transcenium. having to confine a vocal imaginary that would not be limited or bordered by any threshold. To be in transit is to be not there. to and from an Record 104 imagined and imaginary destination. 5. predicated as they were on a journey to and an unmistakable arrival at a “different world. Understanding it as the floating. NY. the audience would remain in transit through a “floating void” on the path to everywhere and therefore nowhere. by contrast. 1948 Photo credit: much less literally exotic place. This would be the decisive solution. The audience would thus never arrive in a literal. optically vacuous void that it was designed to be would entail anticipation of going/being elsewhere. 176 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. New York.

together emphasizing both separation and passage (Figure 5. in effect.. frontal surface that forcefully announced the line where reality ended and the journey to the imaginary began. Also. Architect. not localized by the movie-theater. the auditorium was driven to silence. This time the logic of the movie palace was conjoined to the logic of the “Transcenium” theater as the movie-theater was (re)moved to a new profoundly segregated world dedicated to spectatorship: the mall. Here. much less real. The formal vocabulary and spatial characteristics of the auditorium were extended to the preceding sequence of foyer. From here on. or optical vacuum to nowhere identifiable as such. no place that was not imagined and imaginary and as such infinitely postponed/distanced. As images spoke. inner lobby and outer lobby. Associate) published in an Architectural Record issue of 1949 is a telling example of the type (“Where Parking Is No Problem” 84). everyone was transformed into a spectator/tourist away from home in an exaggerated version of the movie palace’s exotic alterity.16). In turn. relieving the façade from having to differentiate and separate itself from its context through overt formal contrasts. Swank. from its surrounding environment. The Delman Theater in Dallas. the Transceniums’ façade became a monumental opaque. Much as the movie palace’s strategy was to contain and confine. Although much of the critical reform in the 1930s and 1940s was focused on the auditorium. it would fabricate its own mall in front of the “Transcenium” theater. along with the population. Smith. where the passage of time and the vagaries of weather and seasons were suspended in a theatrical space dedicated to exhibition and spectatorship. To reach the new “Transcenium” theater. across a sea of parking segregating it. as multiplexes have and continue to do. were the movie-theater not to depend on a mall. the Transcenium’s strategy was to postpone and delay. that is. one now had to travel to a new and “different world” through roads. as there was to be no movie-theater for the duration and otherwise merely a path. a floating void. that is. The imaginary was no longer located in the movie-theater. Jr. freestanding movie-theaters became the norm. as movie-theaters migrated. only to arrive at an indoor outdoor space. The place of the vocal imaginary in the Transcenium became no place at all. if only to “induce a mood of pleasurable anticipation” in each and thereby extend and link the path through the auditorium to its conceptual start at the outer façade and the ticket booth beneath the marquee (Clute 11). A. (Raymond F. exiled the imaginary from the movie-theater. . The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 177 an arrival at anywhere but an ever-illusive destination. Texas. like a moat. aided as this demarcation was by attached or free-standing pylons whose verticality sat in sharp contrast to the horizontality of the new façade. to the suburbs. long before embarking on a temporal journey through the “floating void” of the auditorium to an imaginary destination. the movie-theater was transformed yet again to re-establish the abridged distance between the real and the imaginary. The Transcenium. As color film overcame yet another divide between the real and the imaginary and went from being an exception to becoming norm in the 1950s and early 1960s. the rest of the movie-theater kept pace. E.

the opposite . Smith. TX. 178 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Fig. Dallas. 5. Delman Theater. as we have seen. 1949 Photo credit: Architectural Record 105 The Unimagined Imaginary If cinema is indeed a response to what Benjamin referred to in 1936 as “the desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly.16  Raymond F.” the history of cinema’s place and placement has followed.

The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 179 trajectory (“The Work of Art” 222). The lingering question is why this particular and persistent spatial strategy? What is the logic. nevertheless. . variations on a theme introduced in the nickelodeon: a journey to an Other space/ place. and so on” (50). fraught with a vague but sinister meaning” (408). along with his footing in the real. Freud noted. That experience not only disturbed and depressed Gorky. This reference to the factor of repression enables us. A case in point. Much as ambivalence persistently overshadows any question of a decidable place for film. as “strange imaginings” invaded his mind.” Freud noted in 1919. Gorky forcefully reminded us long ago how even the contemplation of an imaginary collapse of the distance between the imaginary and the real leads to consuming anxiety. despite significant changes in form and experience. is confusing one’s own reflection for someone real and other than oneself. (47) What in the uncanny is familiar and repressed. it caused him to lose his sense of place. … or when a symbol takes over the full functions and significance of the thing it symbolizes. to understand Schelling’s definition of the uncanny as something which ought to have been kept concealed but which has nevertheless come to light. While the modalities of the spacing have changed drastically over time. “is often and easily produced by effacing the distinction between imagination and reality. or being extrinsic rather than intrinsic to the real and the imaginary alike. It is the repressed recognition that what is imagined and imaginary is the line separating the real and the imaginary. “An uncanny effect. is not the substitution. as the condition of the possibility of substitution and/or confusion. Regarding the cause of the sensation. Movie-theaters over the course of the last century have been. This has not been for fear of unbridled cohabitation. of two decades later. and ought to have been kept concealed. This uncanny sensation has not to do with the confusion so much as the sensation associated with the recognition of the confusion after the fact—the recognition of having momentarily and involuntarily taken the imaginary for the real. a persistent spacing has kept film at bay from inception. but something familiar and old- established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repression. or else the illogic of this persistent (dis)placement? At face value. along with “a warning. but rather it is the condition of its possibility. It is the possibility of the distinction between the real and the imaginary being the function and the effect of spacing. Freud notes: This uncanny is in reality nothing new or foreign. Although Gorky did not explain what the “vague but sinister meaning” of his experience was. the objective has been to keep the real and the imaginary at a distinct distance from each other. certain as he was of its menacing nature. Rather at issue in the exclusion of each from the construed place of the other has been the clarity of the line separating the real from the imaginary—their radical alterity. And this was all because he could not localize the imaginary at a controlled distance. the actual spacing has not. furthermore. we find one explanation in Freud’s essay on the uncanny. or any possible confusion between the real and the imaginary per se.

in origin. much as it references and remains bound to the referent.180 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance André Bazin provided a cogent account of both what gives the imaginary its power of substitution. or image and identity. life. However. has to do with the recognition of an inexplicable divide within the self as the condition of possibility of duplication. This gap between form and substance. With a vague sense of discomfort he feels inexplicable emptiness: his body loses its corporeality. cinema dispenses with the possibility of idealizing the image as a mere reflection. the depreciation Bazin ascribes to the identification of “authentic reality” with the cinematic illusion has at least one thing in common with the “decay of aura” Benjamin attributed to “the desire of contemporary masses to bring things ‘closer’ spatially and humanly.22 Benjamin recounts an instance of this uncanny effect as relayed by Pirandello.” and much of everything else that may constitute a radical difference between the real and the imaginary. For the image to be separable and transportable. it deprives the referent of its “corporeality. Whereas one’s image in the mirror remains at a fixed distance. “now the reflected image has become separable. it evaporates. Pirandello noted: … feels as if in exile—exiled not only from the stage but also from himself. or image and identity. As discussed earlier. Before the camera. it is deprived of reality. This is not to say the image that is “separable” and “transportable” dispenses with the referent. The exposure of this gap offers a serious challenge to the privileged antecedence and alterity of reality as measured against representation. but a conventional relationship in the real.”“reality. to the point of involuntary substitution. and at that subject to involuntary substitution. the substitution of a mechanical reproduction for “the uniqueness of every reality” leads to the depreciation of the latter. On the contrary. transportable” (231). The sensation of exile from the self in front of the camera.”“life. accompanied as it is with a vague sense of discomfort. Cinema’s dispensation with the presence of the referent as the point of origin—without the loss of pretense to objective representation—brings to surface a gap between the visual and the substantive contents of reality. and can be animated at will to simulate possession and control. The visual content of the real can only be made to precede and be independent of its actual substantive content in the imaginary world if the two had not a causal. In both cases. the film actor. Cinema can only give visual content spatial and temporal mobility if reality that is always rigorously distinguished from representation is itself already a form of representation. and the potential dire consequence of it in the opening passage of this chapter. it must be always separable and transportable already. may be covered but never bridged. Cinema subjects the aura of humanist reality to radical query insofar as the possibility of its fabrications and the proximity of its representations strip reality of its endowed authority as the site of a causal link between form and substance. as it is in every repetition. Subject as it is to cinema’s manipulative interventions . which is just as ardent as their bent toward overcoming the uniqueness of every reality by accepting its reproduction” (“The Work of Art” 223). … (229) Benjamin compares the “feeling of strangeness that overcomes the actor before the camera” to the “estrangement felt before one’s own image in the mirror” (230).

that is a distance never given yet a distance perpetually in place. as Freud says. is. 7 This is a question that to legitimate theater had neither the urgency nor the immediate pertinence it had for movie-theaters. 2 See Metz. . were it not for the spatial supplements that seek to mitigate its “warning. The self has never been but in exile from the “reality. Opening a place elsewhere for film is tantamount to performatively opening a place for its presumed other and for otherness as such to the imaginary.” which is never given though always desired. fraught with a vague but sinister meaning. In “authentic reality. subject to the viewer’s control. Hence. always already an “illusion of reality”— divided and deferred and as such a substitute for a desired reality that is undivided and fully present unto itself. This is. That “authentic reality” is. Much as the uncanny marks the site of a collapsed distance between the real and the imaginary always already.” That the difference between “authentic reality” and “illusion of reality” is also an indifference is what ought to “have been kept concealed but which has nevertheless come to light” in the figure of the uncanny. Notes 1 To the list one may add such short-lived technological curiosities as Smell-O-Vision and Odorama. Mitry. that “warning. 3 The television sets in decades to come would have much in common with the Kinetoscope. in a sense. 4 See also Strauven. 8 See Bowers 17–18. “nothing new or foreign. would remain with cinema for the remainder of its history. The television set too contains the moving image within a well- articulated frame. Cinema always stands to be uncanny. in a sense. The Architecture of the Illusive Distance 181 and imaginary doubling that forgo the possibility of a site for causality.” This brings us full circle to the site of our encounter with cinema: the movie-theater. only to surface as a suppressed imaginary and a purposed construction. 5 Whether actual or imaginary. the preoccupation with an Other place for film is primarily a preoccupation with preserving the presumed/desired alterity of the imaginary as measured against the real. if not its form. the logic of this frame.” that accompanies any “illusion of reality” that encroaches on the space and place of “authentic reality” by way of substitution. there could be no signification without a present referent. always already. 6 For a detailed discussion of this subject please see A.” as in the “illusion of reality” the referent is perpetually deferred. but familiar and old-established in the mind that has been estranged only by the process of repression. its aversion is perpetually pending the institution of that distance. From the nickelodeon through every mutation and modification of the movie-theater. the architecture of an illusive distance. Otherwise. humanist reality stands to disappear as a selfsame entity. Bazin 76–124.

182 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

9 Also reprinted in Bowers 17.
10 The implement of exchange was a gendered role from the outset and for many
years to come. So was the authority that validated and consecrated the exchange
at the inner borderline—the ticket-taker. The former, all gender role stereotypes
withstanding, was female and the later male.
11 Although food was not initially offered for purchase inside the nickelodeon, what food
was popularly associated with the movies and offered for sale outside and later inside
the movie-theater was and remains frivolous food that bear the same conceptual
relationship to real or substantive food as film is assumed to bear to reality. Be this
frivolous candy and soda, or what denotes deflated value—peanuts—or food that is
all form and little substance—popped corn. In time, the latter supplanted the former
to become virtually synonymous with the movie going experience.
12 Whereas the average nickelodeon had 300 seats and up to 1,200 by the early teens,
the average movie palace had over 3,000 seats and upwards of 5,000 seats in some
13 Hence, Charles S. Lee’s famous dictum, “the show starts on the sidewalk.” For an
in-depth discussion of Charles S. Lee’s work see Valentine.
14 By 1929 only 37 percent of all movie-theaters in the United States were wired for
sound. By 1931 62 percent of all movie-theaters had converted to sound (Crafton 155).
15 Qualitatively, the sound-on-film system was not superior. As Barney Balaban explained
in 1929: “While at the present time it is our experience that sound-on-disc gives better
tonal results, we find sound-on-film to be so much more simple and convenient to
handle that we feel it is much to be preferred” (qtd. in Crafton 147).
16 Also,
The advent of talking films has entailed very little reconstruction in German cinemas, as
nearly all of them were originally planned with due regard to acoustic properties owing to
the fact that variety turns are often sandwiched in between the films. (Shand 23)
17 For instance, Valentine notes:
Through the 1930s, owing to changes in aesthetic ideas as well as budgetary
considerations, theatre design became increasingly restrained and simpler, drawing
closer to commercial Art Deco and the strand of Modernism that challenged historical
principles. Streamlined design reached its peak during the middle and late 1930s, by which
time the movie palace had been replaced by the next phase of movie theatre design, the
neighborhood house. (88)
18 Also see Basque; Gomery; Hall; Stapleford; Valentine.
19 For detailed discussion of audiences’ reaction to early sound films see Spadoni.
20 For a broad discussion of the cinematic screen see Friedberg, The Virtual Window.
21 Illumination levels in the auditorium during the movie screening were carefully
studied with the stated intent of reducing “screen consciousness.” The adopted
recommendation was to avoid total darkness and screen reflection from surrounding
surfaces, if only to avoid spectatorial consciousness.
22 Benjamin notes:
The situations into which the product of mechanical reproduction can be brought may not
touch the actual work of art, yet the quality of its presence is always depreciated. This holds
not only for the art work but also, for instance, for a landscape which passes in review
before the spectator in a movie. (“The Work of Art” 221)

The Epilogue

In much of the preceding discussions my intent has not been to infer any inevitability
either to the theoretical postures and strategies discussed in the first two chapters
or to the spatial postures and strategies discussed in the last three chapters. My
intention has been to point out that the perseverance of these strategies points
to an enduring desire for an alterity to representation that is never given. Much as
the metaphysics of presence instigates the desired alterity, the performative acts
that comprise architecture—acts that produce the very condition they purport to
represent—perpetuate the desire.
Space, of which architecture is a vehicle of articulation, is intimately implicated in
the constitution of the Other as such. The Other is, by definition, spatially distanced.
Alterity is, in other words, a spatial performative whose modalities strategically
differ in deference to the perceived proximity of the Other. The greater, for instance,
the proximity of a mode of representation is to its referent, the more emphatic is
the spacing. To space, it is important to note, is also to sublate contingency, since
contingency is, in effect, a distortion of space and a collapse of distance.
It is this indispensable dependency of the otherness of the Other on spacing
that perpetuates the desire for the alterity of the Other. This spacing, whose other
designate is ornamentation, at once defers what it offers. It thereby sees only to
the perpetuation of the desire. If on the construed line between the self-referential
reality and the contingent representation, there is the architecture of libraries, art
museums, and movie-theatres, among others, seeking to systematically remove
the trace of their indifference, this is not because they inevitably must for any
reason other than a supplemental/ornamental response to the desired alterity of
the real, the original, the authentic, the present, and so on. This is the alterity that
their supplemental/ornamental introjection can only offer and defer indefinitely.
What I have also tried to point out thus far is that the virtual or cultural reality
that architecture helps fabricate as inevitable and natural is both powerful and
persuasive. It is also a fragile and volatile representation. Its greatest challenge does
not come, however, from other worldviews or competing realities. Although these

184 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance

challenges can affect profound changes in the worldview and ethos of a culture,
they only amplify the call for architecture, among other tools and technologies, to
forge a new synthesis and constitute a new reality, where our assumptions about
the world, changed as they may be, are again transposed into our experience of it.
The reality that a culture forges can successfully undergo radical change, so long
as all traces of fabrication can be perpetually erased from it. The greatest challenge
that this reality faces is not, in other words, to its shape or content, but to its authority
and its ability to assume the guise of inevitability. The challenge where it is faced
is to the reality of the real. Construed, as it is in the West, to appear as the non-
contingent Other of representation, the virtual or cultural reality that architecture
helps fabricate faces a constant challenge to its authority as a self-referential or
non-representational inevitability from its contingent representational Other. No
degree of control can overcome this challenge in any other than a temporal form.
There is also, no outside to this metaphysics. To dream the dream of an outside
is to concede the first and most fundamental assumption of this metaphysics—
the outside. Nevertheless, the choice is not to either facilitate—without any ethical
burden—the dominion of this metaphysics or seek to supplant it by what can only
amount to an inevitable recourse to its strategies of delimitation, and exclusion.
The first implied choice is merely a call for consequential complacency; the second
a call to ideological warfare that at best merely supplants the players, leaving the
game intact. The very conception of a choice here is and can only be formulated
from within the bounds of the same metaphysics. However, rather than facilitate
through complacency or opposition, one can offer resistance to, not the tenants
of this metaphysics, but to the authority and the ability of this metaphysics to
disguise itself as physics.
One may readily imagine, even if only in principle, an architecture that resists
rather than enables the facile formal and spatial dichotomies that supplement the
authority of this metaphysics. One may readily imagine an architecture that does
not confirm or offer answers, but only questions. An architecture that does not
arm, but disarms. An architecture that is neither and both as measured against the
sides of any formal and spatial dichotomy. Imagining an architecture of resistance
is not difficult. Architecture is, after all, merely a construct. It is not difficult to
think or think through an architecture that contextually resists facile dichotomies.
Committing to this architecture palpably is. The architecture that offers resistance
will not be aesthetic. It may well be uncanny. However, the uncanny is, as Freud
reminded us long ago, as homely as it is unhomely and one can never know which.
The inherent dilemmas of this architecture are not metaphysical or ideological.
They are indelibly ethical.


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119 view out from 113. 180–81 actors 145 authenticity 96. British Museum reading room 68–9. 79–80. Chicago 161 Adorno. Michael 55. 68. 70 art deco 166 binding power 2. 71 125–6. 121. 4 art history 95 BNF (Bibliothèque Nationale de France) art museums 91–134 68. 155–6. 69. 118. 133 Biblioteca Ambrosiana 67 as self-referential representation 133 Bibliothèque Nationale de France (BNF) worth of 126–7 68. 157. Jean-Louis 138 103. 171. 158. 96. 160–62. 83–4 Barry. 110–11. John F. 164. 113–19. 151 Altes Museum. Walter 95. abstraction 46. 86 design of 98–9. 92–3. 102. 17. E. 158. 133–4 aesthetic sentiments 4 Bacon. 50. Geneviève 66–8. Barnes Foundation building 113. 84. 101 bookshelves 59 display practices 134 book-stalls 62 external references 101 Boullée. 72. 129–30 Adam and Eve (Albrecht Dürer) 58 Avalon Theatre. 100 Bakshy. 59 rite of visitation 130–33 Breuer. Charles de 96 atmospheric movie-theaters 160. 61 boundaries 134 books 57. 50 architectural writing 27–9 Benjamin. 139. Theodor W. 151. 113 spacing 107–8. 47. 36. 74–81. 166–7. 129 Brosses.A. Marcel 112. 79 art chronology 100 Bibliothèque Ste. 161. 101. 158 .C. 40. Berlin 100. 105. 164. 66–7. 180 placement of 128–9. 106 Bazin. 74–81. 139. 95 see also painting 178–9. Francis 93 aesthetics 39–40. 138. 18–29. Harry 164 purpose of 99–100 Brawne. 58. art 38. 35. 129 book-presses 59. Baudry. 128–9 Brolin. Brent 33–4 spatial realization 100 Brooklyn Museum 117. 169. 128. 128. Étienne-Louis 17. 138. 75. 28–9 beauty 15. 99. 167–8 Alberti. 48 177 acoustics 165 authentic reality 138–9. 98 and Platonism 124 Braun. André 137. Leon Battista 13–15. building 38 172 Bullock. 141 Bazin. Germain 96 architectural theory 13–18. Alexander 164.Index Locators given in italics refer to figures auditoria 150–52. 79 as an Other place 128. 127. 39. 114 49. 180 Animotiscope 141. 18–21. 101–7. 75.

Bilbao 115. 66 Derrida. 119–21. 99 in borrowed spaces 144 Dürer. 153 galleries 93. 179 copies 42. 4 Glyptothek. Jean 89n9 picture frames 141 film see cinema placement of 139. Hereford 63 design 18. 13. Giuseppe 131 decoration 43. Maxim 142–4. 101 as immersive experience 144–5. Domenico 59. 145. 175 exhibition practices 97–8. 177 narrators 143–4 Favier. 61 175 form 40–41. 161. 87–9 experiential divide 140–41 Exeter Academy Library 71–2. Dallas 178 chained books 61. 73 and illusion 137–9. 143. 157 encampment 59. 168 Fisher. 3. 89. 116 89n15 Guggenheim Museum. 60 musical accompaniments 143–4 narrative 143–5. 61. Fontana. 48 casts 100–101 delight 15 censorship 152 Delman Theater. 152 façades 147–8. 120 . 94. 80 churches 3–5 dressing 23 see also ornamentation cinema see also movie-theaters Durand. 17. Lee 152 Cottbus Technical University Library Guggenheim Museum. 160. 172 Campo Santo. 155–6. 86. 20–21 Chinese architecture 15–16 detachment 55–6. exhibition value 92 170–71 experiential separation 62. John 160–62. 96 curtains 150–52. 71–2 Freud. 66 chronology of art 100 digital information technologies 73–4. 43 and theater 144–5 Foucault. Pisa 125 curves 39. 117. 96 color cinema 177 Gehry. Munich 101 constative statements 1. 59. 100–101. 159. 135n22 see also Grand Riviera Theatre. 167. 96. 3 Goldberger. San Francisco 156 “world of ghosts” perception 167–8 framing 125 cinema organs 143–4 Francesco Calzolari’s Cabinet of circles 2 Curiosities 94 circulation desks 68–9. Paul 120 contingency on difference 20–21 Gorky. 89n3 immigrants 152–3 Ezra (codex Amiatinus) 59. 5–6. Sigmund 179 collectibles 92–4 function 1 collecting art 92 collective expression 66. 142. 122–4 Chapter Library. 40 cabinets of curiosities 93–5. 89n5 Castiglione. Detroit 162 reproductions Grieveson. 84. Donald 163 116–17. 144. Philip 119 spectatorial role 141–2. Lelio 67 cult referents 134n1 culture 1. C. Rapp 173 commodity 15 Getty Museum. Michel 97 women 153 Fox Theatre. Frank 115 columns 23 George & W. Los Angeles 115. 116 conferring power 2. 14. Albrecht 58 censorship 152 color 177 Eberson. 168. Jacques-Nicolas-Louis 98. 162 and displacement 151–2. 62–3. 178–9 Film Arts Guild Cinema 169–70 sound 163–5. New York Crafton. 169. 40 campuses 87–9 card players 142–3 decimal system 71. 156. Jacques 84–5.196 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance Buzzi.

134n4 movies see cinema movie-theaters see also cinema Labrouste. 157. 71–2. 148 stack-system 69. 172 . 82 mortality 84–5 Kracauer. 33. 164. 99. 172 language 40 auditoria 150–52. 166–7. 62 conversions 147 letters 57–9. Martin 123 as pharmacies 84–7 Hereford Chapter Library 63 processional transition 55–6. Indianapolis 156 Lumières Cinématographe 142 inscriptions 57–9 Interior of a Picture Gallery with the MacCannell. John 150 New York 175. Rem 78–9. 86. 59. Klaber. Marc-Antoine 13–14. 169. 36 capacity 182n12 lecterns 61 comfort 174–5 Leiden University Library 61. 70 acoustics 165 Lacroix. 59 metaphysics 6–7 James. 158. 71–3 Humboldt. 84 160–62. index 197 Gunning. 88 Michelangelo 64. 69. Alois 98. 98. 151. 107 purpose of 55–7 Holland Brothers’ Kinetoscope Parlor 140 Saal-System 63–7. Ada Louise 121 wall-system 63–7. 73–4 Library of the University of Leyden (Paul iconography 100 Lacroix) 62 identity 40. Lyman H. Christian 138 Jefferson. 159 atmospheric 160. 115 Indiana Theatre. David 147. 164. 66 lobbies 148–9. 65 mimesis 122–3 Kahn. Henri 66–8. Lloyd 162–3 libraries 6. 55–84 Hansen. Louisville 161 imperfection 44–5 Loos. Adolf 33 Indian architecture 15–16 Louvre 92. 176 Klenz. 113–14. 158. 161. 159. 61–2. Dean 130 Collection of Cardinal Silvio Valenti Malraux. 181n3 Modern Museum of Art Movie Theatre. 87 Hirt. 101. 141 shelter and protection 60 Hulfish. High Museum of Art. 65 177 Le Corbusier 15. 101 moral sentiments 4 Koolhaas. Richard 115. Tom 141 Lewis. Wilhelm von 100–101 view out from 72 Huxtable. 64. 73–4 Howe. 61. 35. Mechel. Atlanta 115. Christian von 98 Benoît Suvée) 122 Meier. Louis I. 7–8. Frederick 169–70 Modern Movement 31–3 Kinetoscope 139–40. 84. 157–8 imitative representation 124–5 Loew’s Ohio Theatre. 100. 73 misplacement 41–4 Kiesler. 171. Henry 89n3 Metz. 69. 69. Siegfried 145 mottos 57 Kunstkammer 93. Columbus 159 immigrants 152–3 Loew’s Theatre. 156. 116 67–8. 140. Leo von 98. Thomas 155. Paul 62 art deco 166 Lamb. Miriam 152–3 encampment 59. 138–9. Laurentian Library 61–2. 87–9 harmonic proportions 5 and mortality 84 Heidegger. Laugier. 97 180 see also reproductions Invention of the Art of Drawing (Joseph. 99. 81. 116 involuntary substitution 180 Messina. Antonello da 55–6. 96. 73 curtains 150–52. Thomas 87. Andre 134 Gonzaga (Giovanni Paolo Pannini) mechanical reproduction 128.

169. 169. 115–16 Rhodes Theatre. 19. 127 orchestras 169 Ruskin. 174 processional transition 55–6. 165 Munday. Peter 94 reading rooms 68–9 Musée Central des Arts 92 reality 137–9 museums see art museums reality of the real 124–5. Fredric 165 Saussure. 46 Schlanger. 169. 171. 180 see also mechanical Neickel. P.198 The Architecture of the Illusive Distance democratic nature 162–3 performative acts 2. 100–101. George L. 59. 169. 31–9. Ben 157. 152 repositories 93 narrators 143–4 representation 124–6. 182 proscenium arches 158–9. Pereira. 61–2. 40–50. organs 143–4 123. 157–8 Platonism 123–4 orchestras 169 power 97 Orientalism 160 presses 59. 61 ornamentation 166. Augustus 32 multiplexes 177 Mumford. Chicago 173 Newcomb. 135n20. 182n10 Rosenberg. 73–4 ornamentation 23–9. 150–55 see also rite of resurrection 133 cinema. Denis (church) 4 painting 121–4 see also art St. 165 Oglala Indians 2 Rubush & Hunter 156 on-rushing trains 141–2 Rumohr. 166. 124–8. 155–6. 57–9. 127–8. 171. Giovanni Paolo 97 St. 154 101–7. perfection 16 172. 135n21 Orientalism 160 originality 127–8 Saal-System libraries 63–7. Dominique 75. 95 reproduction Neue Staatsgalerie. Marcel 133 ushers 162. Frieherr von 100. Edwin 165 ribands 58 nickelodeons 147–8. 182n10 projection 140 screens 150–51. Jerome 55 Pannini. 170–71. 87 ritual of exchange 149–50. Karl Friedrich 98. Chicago 151 ritual of exchange 149–50. nature 16. Lewis 119 Rapp. sacred symbols 3–4 166. 171–2. 127. 84. 147–8. Benjamin 164. 100. 169. 156. 106 perfect ornaments 44. 171–2 proportion 45–6 sound 163–5. Pevsner. 174 Sant’Andrea (church) 4–5 St. 40 138. 175–6 . 171 67–8. Caspar 94. 103. Nikolaus 31 177 pharmakon 85 fire exits 150 Philadelphia Museum of Art 108–11. proscenium arches 158–9. 153–5. 102. John 14. 15. 3 163–7. 167. 31–49.R. 57. 170–74 Perrault. 129–30 nation-states 96–7 reproductions 95. 175 Plato 122–3 lobbies 148–9. 126. 171 ticket booths 148–9 Proust. Stuttgart 115. 69. 73. 174. 148. 162 Pugin. 184 repetition 40–41 narrative cinema 143–5. 109 food 182n11 Pirandello. 18. 105. 154. Luigi 168 horizontality 169. 159–60. 3 design 145–7. Ferdinand de 40 penetralia 89n3 Schinkel. movie-theaters ritual 1 Normal Theatre. 89n10 façades 146. 96. Jerome in his Study (Antonello da Parabolic Reverse Floor 171 Messina) 55–6. 99. 17. 156. performative statements 1–2. 59 Pawley.

172 Wareham Theatre. New York 111–13. 110–11. 167. New York 164. John 32. 178 University of Virginia 87. 88 social identity 96–7 Unrau. 125–6. Denise 31–2. Robert 31–2. 162 spacing 107–8. Hartford 174 Vitascope 140 streamline moderne 166 Vitruvian triad 14. index 199 SCL (Seattle Central Library) 81–3. 33. 28–9 Wren. 96 Vatican Library 59. 113–19. Gustav Friedrich 98. 121. 150 women 153 Theatorium postcard 146 “world of ghosts” perception 167–8 theology 21. 170 Trinity College library 66 Sheldon Theatre. Frank Lloyd 116. Wareham 173 Ricetto of the Laurentian Library Whitney Museum. 33. 129 tipis 2. 40 worth of art 126–7 theory 13–18. 69. Eugène 17 Stern. 182 ushers 162. 167 Wagner. 117. 61–2 sensible visibility 20 trees 89n8 Sexton. 15 Suvée. 174 theaters 144–5. 61 spatial displacement of art 91–2 Venturi. Seymore 168–70 Virginia. 57–9. 39. James 115 Vitaphone 163 Strand Theatre. 120 ticketing rituals 149–50 writing 27–9. 126 shelter 9 short films 145 ugliness 19. University of 87. Richard 164 view out from libraries 72 state citizenry 96–7 Viollet-le-Duc. 71–3 Castiglione) 131 Stapleford. 112 (Michelangelo) 64 Whittemore. 99. 88 Stirling. 73–4 Thalia Theatre. Chicago 148 truth 84. 71 universities 87–9 Smith. 180 Smirke. 9 Wunderkammer 93–5 . 36–7 tradesmen’s signs 41–2 scrolls 58 trains 141–2 Seattle Central Library (SCL) 81–3. Raymond F. 168. Joseph-Benoît 122 Vorse. 100 talkies 163–5. R. 82 tourism 130 Scott Brown. 34 sound movies 163–5. 89n16 uncanny effect 179. 82 Transcenium theaters 176–7 secular buildings 6 transition 55–6. Johan Martin 98 television 181n3 Walkely 135n20 Tempio Malatestiano 66–7 wall-system libraries 63–7. Paul 93. 39 Siegel. 21–2. W. Charles A. 130–34 spatial control 95. 165 theater curtains 150–51 William Riseman Associates 173. Mary Heaton 152 synthesis 5 vulgarity 41–2 tablets 58 Waagen. Sydney 68–9. 59. Christopher 66 ticket booths 148–9 Wright. 84–7. 36–7 speech 85–6 View of the Grand Salon Carré (Giuseppe stack-system libraries 69. 128–9 Valéry. James 72.