Volume 6

Chora 6


Edited by Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell
Assistant Editor: Lori Riva-Wu

Contents and Authors

Lumen opacatum: Flesh in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis
Lawrence Bird

birdl [at] cc.umanitoba.ca (Lawrence Bird) is an architectural and urban designer whose work tends to veer off into film and other media. He completed his PhD in history and theory of architecture at McGill University in 2009, after earlier studies in urbanism at Kanazawa Institute of Technology, Japan, and the London School of Economics. His dissertation focuses on three versions of Metropolis: Fritz Lang's film of 1926, Osamu Tezuka's manga of 1949, and the 2001 work of anime by Rintaro, which folds these two stories together. He is currently SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at the University of Manitoba's Faculty of Architecture, where he is carrying out a research-creation project on the representation of the city in video and ubiquitous media, involving architectural students and members of the community in a remapping of Winnipeg.

On Fire and the Origins of Architecture
Lian Chang

lchang1 [at] gsd.harvard.edu (Lian Chang) received her PhD from McGill University in 2010, with a dissertation entitled “Articulation and the Origins of Proportion in Archaic and Classical Greece.” In between tending her garden and miniature zoo, she has taught studios and has served as a guest lecturer and critic in the professional and post-professional programs in architecture at McGill. She is currently an MArchI student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design, with plans to become an architect one day.

The Sacred Stones of Saint-Denis
Jason Crow

jason.crow [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Jason Crow) is a PhD candidate in the School of Architecture at McGill University. He is currently working on a dissertation concerning the interrelationship of the histories of vision and stone, under the working title “Animate Matters: Stone 1100–1600.” His research explores changes in the understanding of the artisan’s ability to transform matter, which he sees as comparable to the inherent power of stone to change itself. He presented a paper, "Light, Stone, and Tears: Bernard of Clairvaux and Stone as Flesh in the Cistercian Church," on the understanding of stone and light in Bernard's sermons, at the second Architecture and Phenomenology Conference in the summer of 2009. As a registered architect, he has worked at the forefront of sustainable design for the United States National Park Service and the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts.

(Why No One Can Be) Against Sustainability: Traversing the Fantasy of Sustenance and the Topology of Desire
Donald Kunze

kunze767 [at] gmail.com (Donald Kunze) has taught architecture theory and general arts criticism at Penn State University since 1984. He studied architecture at North Carolina State University (BArch) and received his PhD in cultural geography in 1983. His articles and lectures engage a range of topics dealing with the poetic dimensions of experience. His book on the philosophy of place of Giambattista Vico studies the operation of metaphoric imagination and memory. As the 2008 Nadine Carter Russell Visiting Chair at Robert Reich School of Landscape Architecture at Louisiana State University, he applied boundary language theory - an interdisciplinary notation system he developed to describe conditions of reception in architecture, landscape, literature, film, and art - to the problem of the surrealist garden.

Writing a Life from the Inside of a Drawing: Stendhal’s Vie de Henry Brulard
Mari Lending

Mari.Lending [at] aho.no (Mari Lending) is a professor of architectural history and theory at the Oslo School of Architecture and Design, and since 2009 has been head of its Institute of Form, Theory, and History. She holds an MLitt in comparative literature, focusing on Marcel Proust (1997), and a PhD in architectural historiography (2005). She has been a visiting scholar at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design and at Columbia University's Department of Art History. Her latest book, Omkring 1900: Kontinuiteter i norsk arkitekturtenkning (2007), is a critical rethinking of the concepts of historicism and modernism in nineteenth- and twentieth-century Norwegian architectural discourse. Recent articles include "Negotiating Absence: Bernard Tschumi’s Design for the New Acropolis Museum in Athens," Journal of Architecture (2009); and "Landscape vs. Museum: J.C. Dahl and the Preservation of Norwegian Burial Mounds," Future Anterior: Journal of Historic Preservation, History, Theory, and Criticism (2009). She is currently working on "Place and Displacement: Exhibiting Architecture," a research project on architectural representation, decontextualization, and architectural models.

Perceptual Unfolding in the Palace of Minos
Rachel McCann

rmccann [at] caad.msstate.edu (Rachel McCann) is a professor of architecture at Mississippi State University, where she teaches architectural history, theory, and design. She received a PhD in architectural histories and theories from the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London. Her essays on architecture have appeared in Intertwinings: Interdisciplinary Encounters with Merleau-Ponty; Writings in Architectural Education: EAAE Prize 2003–2005; Dictionary of Jewish-Christian Relations; and Architecture and Civilization. Her research weaves Merleau-Pontian thought and architectural theory to investigate the intercorporeal experience and design of architecture. 

History as Storytelling in the Account of the Eleven Orders of Architecture According to Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz
Maria Elisa Navarro Morales

Originally from Colombia, maria.navarromorales [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Maria Elisa Navarro Morales) first studied architecture at the Universidad de los Andes in Bogota. After practising in Colombia and the United States, she moved to Montreal in 2005 to pursue a master's degree in history and theory of architecture at McGill University. She is currently a PhD candidate at McGill, studying the work of the Spanish polymath Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz. Her research revolves around connections between mathematics, theology, and architecture in early modern Europe.

Prato della Valle, Reconsidered
Marc J. Neveu

Following a professional education and a few years of work in Boston, marcjneveu [at] gmail.com (Marc J. Neveu) travelled to Montreal to pursue studies towards a PhD. His dissertation, "Architectural Lessons of Carlo Lodoli (1690–1764)," examines the origins of architectural education in the Veneto during the eighteenth century. Its main focus is Carlo Lodoli’s bifold understanding of indole (inherent nature) – with respect to the meaning of materials and architectural education – and includes the first ever translation of Lodoli’s architectural fables, Apologhi Immaginati (1787), into English. Neveu has taught at the Wentworth Institute of Technology in Boston, the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, and SCI-Arc in Los Angeles. In 2007 he began work at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo, California, where he teaches history courses and studio. He has lectured and published on issues of architectural pedagogy in both historical and contemporary contexts. Like another, more famous, Marc, Neveu longs to return to Venice one day.

Situating Pataphysical Machines: A History of Architectural Machinations
Peter Olshavsky

peter.olshavsky [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Peter Olshavsky) is a devout pataphysician and a lover of exceptional machines. After spending much of his youth tending to his own machines, he went on to study architecture at the Pennsylvania State University and the history and theory of architecture at McGill University as a Canada-US Fulbright Fellow. He has taught at McGill, Philadelphia University, and Temple University. He is now a PhD candidate in the history and theory of architecture at McGill, investigating the architectural implications of pataphysics via the machine.

The Tree, the Cross, and the Umbrella: Architecture and the Poetics of Sacrifice
Santiago de Orduña

sadeordu [at] hotmail.com (Santiago de Orduña) hails from Mexico City. At Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City he completed an undergraduate degree in architecture and a graduate degree in philosophy, then taught there for ten years. In 2000 he moved to Montreal and completed a post-professional MArch and a PhD in the history and theory of architecture at McGill University. His doctoral dissertation is entitled "Coatepec, the Great Temple of the Aztecs: Recreating a Metaphorical State of Dwelling," and it addresses the origins of the ambiguous but highly poetic character of contemporary Mexican cultural manifestations. He lives with his wife and two children in Coatepec, Veracruz, Mexico.

Utopian Knowledge: Eidetics, Education, and the Machine
Jonathan Powers

jonathan.powers [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Jonathan Powers) is currently pursuing his doctorate in the history and theory of architecture at McGill University in Montreal. His dissertation concerns the relationship between architecture, rhetoric, and utopia. Jonathan holds an MA in philosophy from Boston College, where he focused his studies on ethics, and a BA in philosophy from Amherst College, where his senior thesis compared the thought of Friedrich Nietzsche with that of Nishitani Keiji. Between degrees, Jonathan has worked for the École de Management Strasbourg, the United States Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the Affordable Housing Institute.

Second Life: Identification, Parody, and Persona in William Burges’s “Vellum Sketchbook”
Nicholas Roquet

nicholas.roquet [at] mail.mcgill.ca (Nicholas Roquet) is an architect and associate professor in the School of Architecture at Université de Montréal. Since graduating from Université de Montréal in 1991, he has combined teaching, research, and participation in design competitions with work in private practice and public service (urban design, historic preservation, and museum design). He is currently completing a doctoral dissertation at McGill University entitled "Life in Costume: The Architectural Fictions and Anachronisms of William Burges." This project examines different facets of the concept of authenticity – in particular, the nineteenth-century intersection of historical imagination and personal identity.

Perspective Jing: The Depth of Architectural Representation in a European-Chinese Garden Encounter
Hui Zou

hzou [at] dcp.ufl.edu (Hui Zou) was born in southwestern China and completed graduate studies in architecture in China, the United States, and Canada. He obtained his PhD from McGill University at the end of 2005. He taught at Tongji University in Shanghai and has been teaching at the University of Florida in Gainesville since 2003. He was a former Fellow of the Garden and Landscape Studies at Dumbarton Oaks (Harvard University) in Washington, DC.


Continuing its dedication to innovative and open scholarship that challenges the conventional view of architecture’s history, this sixth volume of CHORA also revitalizes efforts to establish an effective, interdisciplinary dialogue on architecture. Characterized by a cross-cultural and temporal scope, and supported by diverse approaches to the problem of architecture’s history, the individual topics examined here are united by their desire to investigate alternative models of architectural meaning. Beyond the orthodox reading of architecture defined by the drive of aesthetics or technology, CHORA's academic forum presents research that recognizes the potential of architecture to ethically and poetically connect with humanity. It also addresses a need for an architectural discourse that embraces histories of architecture as both evidence of cultural difference and as precedents for responsible action. The authors of the thirteen chapters included here recognize the imperative of such scholarship.

One recurring concern in this volume of CHORA is the ritual and cosmological origins of architecture and their connection to the public realm of political and social interaction. For example, in “On Fire and the Origins of Architecture,” Lian Chang probes the metaphorical significance of fire in architectural origin myths, beginning with the Vitruvian story of fire as the linguistic origins of architecture. Chang’s study looks at the Greek associations of fire with the civilized, the social, and the technological and at how this strengthens architecture’s connection with both language and society. With similar emphasis on the cultural value of architectural origins, Santiago de Orduña relates Aztec mythology and ritual sacrifice to architecture’s potential to engage humans with the phenomenal world. By illustrating the cultural specificity of Aztec symbolism, Orduña illustrates that the Christian appropriation of Aztec symbolism was at odds with the Aztecs’ embodied understanding of nature. Orduña’s historical understanding of ritual sacrifice as an ethical act therefore suggests a contemporary cultural value for Mesoamerican metaphor and poetics.

The power of drawing as a poetic translation of the architectural imagination is a prevalent theme in the chapters by Roquet, Lending, and Zou. In the former, Nicholas Roquet focuses on the artistic persona and process of William Burges in Victorian England. Roquet looks at the cultural meanings of Burges’s emulation of Villard de Honnecourt in his Vellum Sketchbook. He is primarily concerned with the impact of this adoption of a fictional persona on Burges’s artistic process through drawing. Mari Lending’s chapter also addresses the relationship between the architectural imagination and the narrative potential of architecture as drawing. In her exploration of the multidimensional layers of meaning in the text, drawings, and drawn-text of Stendhal’s Life of Henry Brulard, Lending weighs in on the spatial and existential dimensions in Stendhal’s fictional landscape, both for the reader and for the author. Similarly, Hui Zou considers the relationship between architecture and its drawn image in the design and representation of the imperial Garden of Round Brightness in late eighteenth-century China. Zou argues that this adoption of a Western system of representation is employed not as a formalistic device but, rather, as a culturally valuable and embodied vision of nature and the mind.

Architecture as the site of embodied interaction with the phenomenal world is at the centre of two chapters that posit an understanding of the material world at different temporal moments. In “The Sacred Stones of Saint-Denis,” Jason Crow questions the established characterization of materiality in the Gothic cathedral, and in “Perceptual Unfolding in the Palace of Minos,” Rachel McCann explores perceptual movement in the experience of Minoan art and architecture. Crow argues for a revised understanding of the role of light in the Gothic through a precise study of the medieval theological concepts of the material and the immaterial, while McCann looks at embodied experience and how it is overlooked in conventional appraisals of meaning in Minoan architecture. In McCann’s analysis, movement becomes the experiential element that the participant encounters at the Palace of Minos, providing a communion of body and world through architecture.

The machine as a metaphorical device is the key preoccupation of several of the chapters. Although each deals with vastly different historical frameworks, these studies illustrate the continuous interrelation of architecture and technology. Lawrence Bird turns to the fictional space of the cinematic city in his dissection of the phenomenological meanings of the shadows in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Through a detailed formal analysis of Lang’s use of frame and surface in his construction of filmic space, Bird underscores the conflation of modern themes such as city, machine, and desire as a fictional response to the traumatic conditions of the modern urban subject. Jonathan Powers, in his examination of sixteenth-century definitions of utopia in Tommaso Campanella and John Amos Comenius, considers the orderly, cosmic machine as the eidetic concept of the city in the Renaissance. Meanwhile, Peter Olshavsky’s playful exploration centres on the literary machines of “pataphysicist” Alfred Jarry and provides a useful exegesis on the history of architectural machines from Vitruvius to the so-called Machine Age.

The tradition of architectural theory and education provides the framework for two historical studies. In her chapter on Juan Caramuel de Lobkowitz, Maria Elisa Navarro Morales addresses the polymath’s treatise on architecture, relating Caramuel’s discussion of the columnar orders to his philosophical views in the fields of mathematics and theology. Focusing on eighteenth-century Italian architect and politician Andrea Memmo, Marc Neveu writes on the Prato della Valle, an enigmatic public space in Padua. Neveu’s work provides a historic reassessment of Memmo’s project, evaluating the Lodolian influence on Memmo’s understanding of history and its emblematic role in the design process.

Provoking a dialogue with profound relevance for today’s definition of architecture, Donald Kunze looks at the ideological juggernaut of sustainability and its contemporary status as a force that cannot be opposed. Kunze argues that the only way to decipher (and perhaps eventually dismantle) its mythic power within our culture is to consider sustainability within the psychoanalytic terms of fantasy. Caught by an overzealous reliance on computer technologies and aesthetics, architecture today is at a crucial turning point. A challenging and effective architectural discourse is increasingly urgent – one that re-establishes the human values of architectural practice beyond narrow technical parameters and recognizes that architecture has the potential to participate in the realm of action.