In the past couple of decades, architectural discourse has increasingly focused on issues of representation. Research has stressed that architecture is not confined to the physical object, but that it appears in a variety of different media. Consequently, various forms of visual representation have been investigated as carriers of architectural knowledge. Conversely, architecture’s capacity of evoking a strong sense of physical, spatial, and material presence as well as establishing what Michael Fried called “presentness” of the object, has shifted out of focus. This session investigates instances of architectural communication beyond or after representation. Our session is concerned with instances of architectural presence, i.e. situations, moments, or events where architecture, through its inherent spatial qualities, presents itself directly and without recourse to intermediary devices of representation.
In order to discuss the notion of presence in architecture, we seek examples of architectural display that have tried to evade this representational dilemma. Possible case studies range from large-scale structures such as the "White City" at the World’s Columbian Exposition, experimental installations such as Kurt Schwitters’s “Merzbau,” the Werkbund exhibitions, to Interbau and other international building expositions. Further examples include Aldo Rossi's “Teatro del Mondo”, Oswald Mathias Ungers’s house in a house as part of the Deutsches Architekturmuseum (DAM), as well as more recent initiatives such as the spatial experience of Diller + Scofidio’s “Blur,” or the ephemeral Serpentine Gallery Pavilions.
How is architectural presence manifested in exhibitions? What are the curatorial approaches to evoke spatial experience? What strategies of design have architects devised to instill in their projects a heightened sense of presentness? In what way is, or can the display of architecture be institutionalized? Proposals from scholars of all periods and geographies are welcome.
Session chairs: Martino Stierli, University of Zurich, martino.stierliuzh.ch; and Reto Geiser, Rice University, reto.geiserrice.edu.
CFP: After Representation: Architecture displays itself (Austin, 9-13 Apr 14). In: ArtHist.net, Apr 3, 2013 (accessed Aug 12, 2022), <https://arthist.net/archive/5005>.