Download Architecture in Words: Theatre, Language and the Sensuous Space of Architecture PDF

TitleArchitecture in Words: Theatre, Language and the Sensuous Space of Architecture
ISBN 139780415394703
File Size4.2 MB
Total Pages255
Table of Contents
                            Book Cover
Illustration credits
Part 1: Character and expression: staging an architectural theory
	1. Architecture as an expressive language
	2. Character theory in theatrical staging
	3. Rules of Expression and the paradox of acting
Part 2: Play-acting and the culture of entertainment: architecture as theatre
	4. Theatre as the locus of public and social expression
	5. Theatre architectureand the role of the proscenium arch
Part 3: Language and personal imagination: an architecture for the senses
	6. Taste, talent, and genius in eighteenth-century aesthetics
	7. Newtonian empirical sciences and the order of nature
	8. Empirical philosophy and the nature of sensations
Part 4: Plotting an architectural program: the space of desire
	9. Staging an architecture in words
	10. The narrative space of desire
	Conclusion: The temporality of human experience
Selected bibliography
Document Text Contents
Page 2

in Words

What if the house you are about to enter was built with the confessed purpose of
seducing you, of creating various sensations destined to touch your soul and make
you reflect on who you are? Could architecture have such power? Generations of
architects at the beginning of modernity assumed it could. From the mid-eighteenth
century onwards, architects believed that the aim of architecture was to communicate
the character and social status of the client or to express the destination and purpose
of a building.

Architecture in Words explores the role of architecture as an expressive language
through the transforming notion of character theory and looks at the theatre as a
model for creating sensuous spaces in architecture.

Since the beginning of the eighteenth century, the theatre was more than simply a
form of entertainment; it changed how individuals related to one another in society.
Acting was no longer restricted to the performing stage in theatres; it became a
way to conduct oneself in society. Such transformations had obvious architectural
repercussions in the design of theatres, but also in the configuration of the public
and private domains. The succession of spaces, the careful crafting of lighting effects
and the expressive role of architectural features were all influenced by parallel
developments in the theatre.

Pelletier examines the role of theatre and fiction in defining the notion of character
in eighteenth-century architecture. She suggests that while usually ignored by instru-
mental applications, character constitutes an important precedent for restoring the
communicative dimension of contemporary architecture.

Louise Pelletier is an architect and Adjunct Professor at the School of Architecture,
McGill University. She is also Faculty Lecturer at the School of Design, Université du
Québec à Montréal.

Page 127

The article “Génie” also traces the origin of the word in classical
mythology. The genies were beings whose bodies were made of an aerial substance
and who inhabited the vast realm between the sky and the earth. These subtle spirits
were considered to be ministers sent by gods to mediate in human affairs, since the
gods were unwilling to be directly involved but did not wish to neglect the human
world entirely. As inferior divinities, the genies were immortal like gods but felt
passions like humans. They were assigned to protect specific humans during their
life and to guide their souls after death. From this interpretation, gØnie came to mean
the human soul delivered and detached from the human body. Once supernatural
constructs became suspect during the Enlightenment, the notion of freedom of the
mind remained the most powerful attribute of the genius: “The extent of the mind,
the strength of imagination, and the activity of the soul, there lies the genius.”19

With the surge of Newtonianism and empirical philosophy, eighteenth-
century philosophers such as Condillac investigated the mind, the body, and the
process by which ideas were carried from one to the other through the senses. In
his article on gØnie for the EncyclopØdie, the author insists that how we receive ideas
affects how we remember them. Humans receive their ideas about the world through
sensations, and for most people sensations will be vivid only if they are immediately
related to one’s needs, taste, passions, etc. Everything else will not make a significant
impact and will be forgotten. The man of genius, on the other hand, is touched by
every sensation in nature: “The man of genius is he whose soul is more extended,
who is touched by the sensations from all beings, interested in everything in nature,
every idea awakens in him a feeling.”20

When the soul is affected by an object, perception is intensified by the
memory of specific events related to that object. This is one of the basic principles
of Condillac’s empirical philosophy. Memory behaves as a sixth sense, a bridge
between sensation and understanding. In the act of remembering, imagination plays
a crucial role because it combines different memories of sensations and creates new
meanings according to the changing context. For a person of genius, this faculty is

He remembers these ideas with a feeling more intense than how he
received them, because these ideas are merged with thousands more,
that all contribute to arouse a feeling. The genius, surrounded by objects
that concern him, does not remember, he sees; he is not restricted to
seeing, he is moved. In the silence and darkness of his study, he takes
pleasure from the joyful and fertile countryside; the whistling of the wind
freezes him; the sun burns him; he is scared by storms.21

The genius not only uses memory and association to create new meanings for a
particular object, but also engages her/his mnemonic faculty to transform the tragic
into the terrible and the beautiful into the sublime, to animate matter and to color
the mind by reenacting every sensation: “In the heat of enthusiasm, [the genius]
does not rely on nature, nor on the continuity of his ideas; he is transported into the
situation of the characters he has created; he becomes these characters.”22 In
the arts, as in the sciences and business, the genius seems to change the nature of

Language and personal imagination


Page 128

things, as it casts its light beyond past and present to shine into the future. Similarly,
in the article on the adjectives ØclairØ and clairvoyant, Diderot expands on the
discerning quality that distinguishes the genius from the enlightened (ØclairØ) and the
perceptive (clairvoyant) person. While an educated individual knows things, an
enlightened one knows how to apply them in an appropriate way. Both have acquired
their knowledge (lumiŁres acquises) through education. The discerning or perceptive
person, on the other hand, knows how to read the human mind and is clairvoyant
through natural wisdom (lumiŁres naturelles). However, a man of genius is superior
to both an enlightened person and a discerning one because of his ability to interpret
knowledge and create new things:

A man of genius creates things; a perceptive man deduces principles from
them; an enlightened man applies those principles; an educated man does
not ignore the things that have been created, or the laws that have been
deduced from them, or their applications; he knows everything but
produces nothing.23

The process of association and interpretation with which the genius creates a new
world and new meanings is free from dogmatic or external rules. No rule of judgment,
such as those dictated by taste, can restrict the creative ability of a man of genius,
since he perceives and creates directly from nature. Taste, on the other hand, must
conform to a model of beauty that is dictated by acquired rules. Therefore, genius
is often distinct from taste because rules governing taste often hinder the free
expression of genius.

This mutual exclusion between genius and reason (embodied by rational
rules) was pervasive in eighteenth-century artistic discourse. It also found an
equivalent in philosophical debates. Comparing two great thinkers of the previous
century, John Locke (1632–1704) and the earl of Shaftesbury (1671–1713), the article
“Génie” from the EncyclopØdie praises Locke for the vastness of his sharp and just
reasoning. Shaftesbury, however, is regarded as a genius:

There are very few errors in Locke, and too few truths in the Earl of
Shaftesbury: the first one, however, is only a broad, penetrating and just
mind, while the latter is a first rate genius. Locke saw, Shaftesbury
created, built, erected; we owe to Locke some great truths coldly
perceived, methodically followed, dryly enunciated and to Shaftesbury
brilliant systems often unfounded, but full of sublime truths, and in his
moments of error, he pleases and convinces again by the charms of
his eloquence.24

Anthony Ashley Cooper, earl of Shaftesbury, was known as a great defender of
morals of sentiment. He advanced concepts such as enthusiasm, the sublime, and
disinterested pleasure as foundations of ethical behavior, and “fashioned the rudi-
ments of a doctrine of creative imagination.”25 He is also considered to be the first
link in the lineage of romantic sensitivity that developed in the eighteenth century.26

Locke, on the other hand, was a leading figure in Enlightenment philosophy, and
believed that sensations were objective and homogeneous, and that moral judgment,

Taste, talent, and genius in 18th-century aesthetics


Page 254

88–9; Opera 128; Ste. Geneviève, Paris 2, 3,


spectators 43, 60, 77–8; drame bourgeois 73–6,

77, 207n; relocation 84–90, 92; Rousseau 71

squares 101–2

stage sets 40–5, 79, 80

staircases 89–90, 92

Ste. Geneviève, Paris 2, 3, 126

sublime 144–5, 146

Tableaux vivants 48

talent 109, 110

taste 108–10, 111, 113, 139

teatro da sala 80

temples 11

Ten Books of Architecture (Vitruvius) 80

tennis courts 78, 81

theatre 4, 18, 25–6, 192, 207n; and architecture

18–19, 21–4, 77–8; civility and conventions

62–4; and gardens 189; and granary

95–102; Le Camus 6, 7; light and darkness

30–40; Mercier 193–4; new tradition and

relocation of spectator 82–90, 92–5;

Nougaret 193; private 64–7; public and

social expression 59–61; rethinking

auditorium 78–82; Servandoni 26–8, 30;

society theatre and drame bourgeois 67,

69–73; stage sets 40–5; staging of a play

73–6; theory 108–10

thØâtre, Le (Garnier) 92

Théâtre du Marais 80, 200n

Thebes 137

Theocritus 175

ThØorie des jardins (Morel) 186–7

time 193–4, 195

Tory, Geoffrey 178

touch 134–5

tradition, and science 124–30

tragedy 69, 205n

TraitØ de la construction des thØâtres (Roubo)


TraitØ de la force du bois (Le Camus de

Mézières) 118, 119, 123–4, 127

TraitØ des feux d�arti�ce pour le spectacle

(Frézier) 36, 37

TraitØ des sensations (Condillac) 131–5, 138

TraitØ des systŁmes (Condillac) 131

TraitØ du beau essentiel dans les arts (Briseux)


Trattato sopra la struttura d��teatri e scene

(Motta) 80–1

tripartite stage 44, 44

Turin 5, 81, 83

unity of action 193–4

unity of place 41, 193

Vandière, M. de see Marigny, marquis de

Vauxhalls 99

Venus 172, 176

Vernet, Joseph 149–50, 151, 188

Versailles 53, 185; Opera 67, 92; Théâtre des

petits cabinets 65–7, 66

vestibule 21, 23, 89, 90, 156, 157, 162

Vidler, Anthony 93

Viel, Charles-François 126–7

vision 92–3, 134, 136, 137

Vitruvius 1–2, 11–12, 17, 197n; light 39, 201n;

theatre 79, 80; wood 125

Voltaire 41–4, 71, 83, 108

Wagner, Richard 92

Wailly, Charles de see De Wailly, Charles

Watelet, Claude-Henri 187–91

Whateley, Thomas 189–90

wood 123, 124–5, 127

Young Girl Blowing a Kiss Through the Window

(Greuze) 148

Young Girl Crying Over Her Dead Bird (Greuze)


Yvon, M. l’Abbé 146



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