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Chora, Volume Six

Chora, Volume Six: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture

Alberto Pérez-Gómez
Stephen Parcell
Copyright Date: 2011
Pages: 328
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  • Book Info
    Chora, Volume Six
    Book Description:

    Different concepts of the machine are pursued in essays on Fritz Lang's Metropolis, Alfred Jarry's pataphysical machines, and cosmological and political orders in sixteenth-century utopias. Cross-cultural tensions are examined in essays on the Christian appropriation of Aztec symbolism, and on Jesuit perspectives in an imperial Chinese garden in Beijing. Architectural origins and education are revisited in essays on fire and language in Vitruvius, on storytelling by Spanish theorist Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz, and on the role of history in the design of the Prato della Valle, a public square in Padua. Phenomenal experience is the focus of essays on light and stone in the Gothic church of Saint-Denis, and on bodily movement through the ancient Palace of Minos at Knossos in Crete. Tensions in architectural representation are investigated in essays on the influence of Villard de Honnecourt on drawings by William Burges in Victorian England, and on Stendhal's curious narrative drawings in his book Vie de Henry Brulard. Contemporary beliefs are scrutinized in an essay that uses psychoanalytic theory to examine the modern concept of sustainability.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-8569-0
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Lumen opacatum: Flesh in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
    (pp. 1-24)
    Lawrence Bird

    LUIS BUÑUEL’S ELOQUENT words represent the critical response to Fritz Lang’sMetropolisupon its first release in 1926, a response that derided the film’s plot and characterization while acknowledging its visual power. Despite its indulgence in melodrama, spectacle, and a trite resolution, the film was, as Siegfried Kracauer put it, “rich in subterranean content that, like contraband, had crossed the borders of consciousness without being questioned.” For Kracauer, that content was political: it referred to Germany’s condition between the wars. But the film’s explicit concern is more general: the subjection of citizens to a mechanized and totalizing modernity. These tensions...

  5. On Fire and the Origins of Architecture
    (pp. 25-54)
    Lian Chang

    ONCE UPON A TIME, so Vitruvius tells us, men lived like animals, taking shelter in woods and caves, and foraging in the fields. One day, in a certain place where the trees were densely crowded, stormy winds caused the branches to rub together, kindling a fire. The people fled in terror, but as the flames subsided they came back and – discovering the advantage of its warmth – threw logs onto the fire to preserve it. They then brought other people, through gestures showing them the benefits of the fire. Although each person at first spoke in his or her own voice,...

  6. The Sacred Stones of Saint-Denis
    (pp. 55-74)
    Jason Crow

    IN THE MIDDLE OF THE twelfth century, Abbot Suger (1081–1151 CE) renovated the abbey church at Saint-Denis, located just north of Paris. His renovations recreated the church as a hierurgic equivalent to the physical and theological properties of his precious stones (see fig. 3.1). Today we perceive the church as a light-filled form representing the sacred. This modern understanding of the abbey church is indebted to the writings of Otto von Simson.¹ However, through von Simson’s overemphasis on form, we have lost the material understanding that enabled a twelfth-century visitor to experience the immaterial nature of God within the...

  7. (Why No One Can Be) Against Sustainability: Traversing the Fantasy of Sustenance and the Topology of Desire
    (pp. 75-90)
    Donald Kunze

    IT’S OFTEN THE CASE that a good idea is not an idea at all but simply a way of seeing the world that excludes others by appearing to have an unquestionable rational basis. In a sense, it is more accurate to say that reasons emanate from conclusions rather than the other way around. For this reason, sustainability – arguably architecture’s most compelling contemporary aspect and a central component in nearly every educational program – should be regarded technically as a fantasy.² This is not intended to diminish sustainability as a topic or, even less, to detract from the compelling environmental, social, political,...

  8. Writing a Life from the Inside of a Drawing: Stendhal’s Vie de Henry Brulard
    (pp. 91-112)
    Mari Lending

    “WHEN I ARRIVE IN a city, I climb the highest steeple or tower to have a view of the whole before seeing the individual parts, and when I leave I do the same in order to fix my ideas,” Montesquieu confides to his readers in hisVoyage en Italie, from the late 1720s.¹ A perfect hermeneutic formula is thus captured in the travelling French philosopher’s bodily and conceptual movement between the presumed whole and the experienced detail. The Olympic panorama, the unlimited outlook from above that proliferated in eighteenth- and nineteenth-century aesthetic culture, is a familiar literary topos. It occurs...

  9. Perceptual Unfolding in the Palace of Minos
    (pp. 113-142)
    Rachel McCann

    THROUGH A PROGRESSION of thought that began in ancient Greece and reached a watershed with Descartes, Western culture came to conceive the world as divided into mutually exclusive categories of mind and matter, subject and object. These dualities still configure the way we conceive and act in relation to the world around us, including architecture. We gain intellectual clarity about our natural and built surroundings by reducing the aspects under consideration, and nothing more completely escapes the confines of the Cartesian mind than its purported antithesis, dumb matter. To grasp the material world, we commonly attempt to circumscribe it in...

  10. History as Storytelling in the Account of the Eleven Orders of Architecture According to Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz
    (pp. 143-158)
    Maria Elisa Navarro Morales

    MOST PEOPLE TODAY ASSOCIATE architectural treatises with the orders of classical columns; however, the term “order” appears relatively late in the history of architectural theory. Premodern writers thought about classical elements not as a canonic set of rules for proportioning but as a manifestation of symbolic meaning. It was not until Vignola published hisRegola delli cinque ordini d’architetturain 1596 that the orders were conceived as pre-established rules to follow. Despite the acceptance and unprecedented translation and publication of Vignola’s booklet, most writers continued to regard classical columns as a correspondence between part and whole that symbolized God’s perfection...

  11. Prato della Valle, Reconsidered
    (pp. 159-180)
    Marc J. Neveu

    THOUGH THE PRATO DELLA VALLE in Padua is one of the largest public squares in Europe, only a handful of articles regarding the piazza have been written in English.¹ Typically, authors have focused on the political manoeuvring to complete the work, the imaginative funding scheme devised by architect-politician Andrea Memmo, the physical nature of the site, or the nineteenth- and twentieth-century reception of the project.

    A continuous thread through existing scholarship is the belief that the work was influenced by the architectural theories of Carlo Lodoli relating to function, representation, and/or the truth of materials. I would agree that Lodoli’s...

  12. Situating Pataphysical Machines: A History of Architectural Machinations
    (pp. 181-210)
    Peter Olshavsky

    POPULATING THE MAJOR WORKS of Alfred Jarry (1873–1907) (see fig. 9.1) are mechanical contrivances in variegated garb. We may know them better by their Duchampian moniker “bachelor machines” (les machines célibataires), but “every bachelor machine,” observes Michel Carrouges, “is first of all a pataphysical machine.”¹ Jarry explains that pataphysics is a “science of these present and future beings and contrivances [engins] and the Power their Use confers.”² This may seem like a normative statement on the agency and influence of technology, but appearances are not what they seem. As a result we must examine pataphysical machinations within a larger...

  13. The Tree, the Cross, and the Umbrella: Architecture and the Poetics of Sacrifice
    (pp. 211-228)
    Santiago de Orduña

    ACCORDING TO AZTEC MYTHOLOGY, the world fell into darkness with the end of the Fourth Sun. The gods gathered at Teotihuacan to discuss who would be sacrificed to put the universe into motion again (see fig. 10.1). Tecciztecatl (“the old man-on-the-moon”) came forward and offered himself for immolation. The gods made a fire at the centre of a square platform, amomoxtli,but when Tecciztecatl was about to jump into the fire, he stepped back. Nanahuatzin (“the blistered one”) immediately threw himself into the fire instead. The other gods then gathered on the platform to look towards the place on...

  14. Utopian Knowledge: Eidetics, Education, and the Machine
    (pp. 229-248)
    Jonathan Powers

    SINCE THE APPEARANCE ofUtopiain 1516, readers have speculated on what Thomas More might have meant in composing and publishing it. Is it a scathing social and political satire, a radical proposal for new laws and social forms, or a trap designed to embarrass those who accept its “suggestions”? More feints in each of these directions but never fully commits to any of them. The delicious and irrefragable polyvalence ofUtopiaproves that More cultivated an intense authorial self-consciousness as he wrote the work; it has also so charmed and fascinated readers that we have come to think of...

  15. Second Life: Identification, Parody, Persona in William Burges’s “Vellum Sketchbook”
    (pp. 249-274)
    Nicholas Roquet

    THIS CHAPTER EXAMINES THE fascination exerted on nineteenth-century British architect William Burges by a rare surviving set of thirteenth-century drawings and inscriptions: the manuscript of Villard de Honnecourt. At the time of his death, William Burges (1827–81) was widely recognized by his peers as one the great medieval scholars of his generation. However, many also regretted that he had no greater opportunities to display his talent as a designer. Among the actors of the Gothic Revival in mid-century Britain, Burges was singular for the modest scope of his production and the fact that he directed much of his energy...

  16. Perspective Jing: The Depth Architectural Representation in a European-Chinese Garden Encounter
    (pp. 275-304)
    Hui Zou

    IN 1786 THE COURT PAINTER Yi Lantai created twenty copperplate drawings of the Western Multistoried-Buildings (Xiyang Lou),² a “Western-like” garden designed and co-built by European Jesuits for Emperor Qianlong of the Qing dynasty. The garden was located in a remote corner of the imperial Garden of Round Brightness (Yuanming Yuan). These copperplate drawings were composed in Western linear perspective, called “line-method” (xianfa) in eighteenth-century China. Commissioned by the emperor, Yi’s copperplate set is the earliest application of Western linear perspective to the representation of a Chinese imperial garden.³ The term “line-method” is also inscribed in the titles of these copperplate...

  17. About the Authors
    (pp. 305-310)