The deposition of the body: Architecture and corporal limits
Fitzsimons, Juan Kent
Doctor of Architecture
This dissertation considers some aspects of architecture's relationship to the body as living flesh. It focuses on the limits that distinguish bodies that "live" in and for architecture from troubling corporealities: numb, immobile, dying. The body's vitality would seem to be the logical underpinning for architecture. But other bodily states may insinuate themselves into an architectural work as a disruption of the cultural and social norms it would support. This dissertation explores the reasons for this phenomenon, ways to read its manifestations in architectural form, and its consequences for understanding architecture and the body. An analysis of texts by Louise Pelletier and Alberto Perez-Gomez, Beatriz Colomina, and Aldo Rossi maps different ways that architectural discourse's reliance on movement and sensation is disturbed by bodies that are immobile, injured, dying, or dead. A review of Michel Foucault's notion of bio-power considers how architecture may extend instrumental conceptions of the body to greater areas of human experience. An overview of Michel de Certeau's investigations addresses this apparent impasse and theorizes the architectural work as a site for questioning the body's instrumentalization. Special attention to de Certeau's notion of a scriptural economy organized around the body's ephemerality suggests reading architecture through a "deposition of the body" that seeks indications of corporealities that are not "alive" for architecture. A reading of Herzog and de Meuron's Stone House considers how architectural qualities may resonate with problems surrounding infantile corporeality, including ambivalence and anal eroticism, and relates these to broader questions about aging and death. The film Margaret's Museum (Mort Ransen, 1995) is examined with attention to two houses that negotiate widowhood when the lost male body paradoxically has dominant status in patriarchal social structures and is instrumentalized in industrial production. Material qualities, construction processes, and formal transformations in these two houses trouble normal distinctions between bodies that are useful and useless, male and female, vital and dead. The dissertation conclusion includes speculations on how the work may engage a more broad investigation into social and poetic aspects of the body in architecture, with a focus on gender and disability studies.