Chora 7: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture 

Edited by Alberto Pérez-Gómez and Stephen Parcell 
Montreal: Published for the History and Theory of Architecture Graduate Program, McGill University by McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016.


This final volume of Chora: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture includes fifteen essays on provocative topics in architecture, its history, and related disciplines. 

Four focus on embodied human experience. Diana Cheng leads us through a seductive house, commissioned and governed by an eighteenth-century Parisian courtesan, that slowly builds up erotic fantasies in her clientele as they anticipate arrival in her boudoir. Paul Holmquist revisits the civic brothel at the centre of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux’s ideal city of Chaux, using Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s Emile as an illuminating guide. Angeliki Sioli evokes the spatial qualities and lived experience of Frederick Kiesler’s enigmatic Endless House, drawing from descriptions in his writings, drawings, and models. Christos Kakalis describes daily and annual rituals in a 1,600-year-old monastery on Mount Athos in northeastern Greece, focusing on how sound and silence organize the monks, pilgrims, and visitors. 

Theatre, one of the ancient roots of architecture, is pursued in three other essays. Lisa Landrum distills meanings of chōra from ordinary human situations and dramatic performances in ancient Greece, before chōra was recast philosophically by Plato in Timaeus. Negin Djavaherian describes the origins, staging, and experience of Peter Brook’s 1971 theatrical production of Orghast at the ruins of ancient Persepolis in Iran, manifesting his concept of Immediate Theatre. Marc Neveu presents a previously unpublished project by Douglas Darden for an unfinished graphic novel entitled The Laughing Girls, set in Troy, New York; Troy, Greece; and a future Troy. 


Black and white photo of dream like scene with a hieroglyph on a rock
Andy Goldsworthy, Stone Shadow Fold, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield, UK (2007). Film still. © Andy Goldsworthy, Courtesy Gallery Lelong, New York.


Architectural creation, a topic of interest to everyone who is architecturally active, is approached differently in four of the essays. Alberto Pérez-Gómez examines Filarete’s ideal city of Sforzinda, in which the political seed from a benevolent prince gestates in the architect’s imagination for nine months before emerging as a fully formed urban design. Paul Emmons considers the role of the Renaissance frontispiece in three analogous locations: the illustrated title page of a book, the pedimented front of a building, and the human forehead. Anne Bordeleau elucidates different concepts of time that underlie compelling projects by filmmaker Andrei Tarkovsky, sculptor Andy Goldsworthy, and architect Peter Zumthor. Stephen Wischer takes us on a journey through the labyrinthine constructions and installations in the private studio and compound of German artist Anselm Kiefer at La Ribaute in southern France. 

Historical origins of architecture are probed in four more essays. Nikolaos-Ion Terzoglou unpacks significant words and concepts in Leon Battista Alberti’s De re aedificatoria, recognizing an underlying structure from principles of law that distinguish between the universal and the particular. Ron Jelaco assembles clues at the origins of modern architecture in seventeenth-century France to dispute the prevalent belief that Claude Perrault was the architect of the Paris Observatory. Robert Nelson takes us on a historical and etymological stroll through different concepts of “street” and the urban principles with which streets around the world have been created and represented. Yoonchun Jung highlights Japan’s attempt to construct a new Western tradition for itself, represented in the buildings and historical narrative of an industrial exhibition at the former Gyeongbok Palace in Seoul in 1915, when Korea was a colony under Japanese rule. 

Along with the four themes mentioned above, the essays could be categorized in other ways: different scales (from a forehead to a city), different types of subjects (books, buildings, drawings, exhibitions, and performances), different locations (France, Greece, Iran, Italy, Korea, United States, and the world at large), and various historical eras (antiquity, Renaissance Italy, early modern France, and the past hundred years). Topics in architectural history and theory are multifaceted rather than hierarchical, so many paratactic links can be made throughout Chora 7, as well as our discipline. 

The authors have brought different intentions and motivations to their work: righting a wrong, solving a puzzle, piecing together fragments, presenting a discovery, building an argument, evoking experience, and illuminating a familiar subject in a new way. Some of them spent years – not just nine months – conceiving their topic, nourishing it, exercising it, and polishing it to a brilliant shine. Now it’s time to give it a name and send it out into the world. Some of them are trying something new. “Essay” is not just a stuffy academic assignment; it comes from the French essayer, to try. We believe that the world – or at least the architectural discipline – will be a better place after these essays have been disseminated, savoured, internalized, and externalized. 

The order of essays in Chora 7 is alphabetical by author, so there’s no real beginning or end. There is one exception: this volume ends with Lisa Landrum’s study of pre-philosophical chōra, a solid bookend that loops back to the very first essay in Chora 1, by Alberto Pérez-Gómez, also on chōra and its significance for architecture. 

Architects who build things can observe the finished products and witness others inhabiting and interpreting them. Architects who write may feel like they’re speaking into the void. If an essay inspires you, we encourage you to check “About the Authors” and send the author an email; ask a question or deliver a compliment. Keep the ball rolling by citing the essay in your own essay, your blog, your tweets, whatever. 

On this occasion, the final book in the Chora series, the editors would like to congratulate everyone who participated in this venture throughout its 25 years, 7 volumes, 78 authors, 87 essays, and 2,305 pages. Most, but not all, have been associated with the doctoral program in architectural history and theory at McGill University: as faculty, students, visitors, or distant acquaintances. Because McGill has offered the only architectural PhD program in Canada, it has been a hotbed of academic activity for decades, especially in history and theory. In cosmopolitan Montreal, with the bottomless collection of the Canadian Centre for Architecture nearby, and with so many excellent students and visitors from around the world, Chora has enjoyed an abundance of riches.


Black and white photo of large hill with some small people walking around the base
General view of Achaemenid tombs at Naqsh-e-Rustam. Photograph by Nicol Faridani © Monavar Mola Soltani Sohi.




1. Monumentality and Contemporaneity in the Work of Tarkovsky, Goldsworthy, and Zumthor by Anne Bordeleau

2. The Public Boudoir of an Actress: The Petite Maison of Mademoiselle Dervieux

By Diana Cheng

3. Peter Brook’s "Empty Space": Orghast at Persepolis by Negin Djavaherian

4. Bodies, Books, and Buildings: Encountering the Renaissance Frontispiece by Paul Emmons

5. “More Powerful than Love”: Imagination and Language in the Oikéma of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux by Paul Holmquist

6. Adrien Auzout and the Origins of the Paris Observatory by Ron Jelaco

7. Constructing Architectural History in the Joseon Industrial Exhibition of 1915 by Yoonchun Jung

8. Silence and Communal Ritual in an Athonian Coenobitic Monastery by Christos Kakalis

9. The Language of the Street: A Vocabulary of Communal Space by Robert Nelson

10. The Laughing Girls by Marc J Neveu

11. Filarete’s Sforzinda: The Ideal City as a Poetic and Rhetorical Construction by Alberto Pérez-Gómez

12. Is the Endless a House? by Angeliki Sioli

13. The Juridical Character of Alberti’s Mind by Nikolaos-Ion Terzoglou

14. The Architecture of Anselm Kiefer: La Ribaute and the Space of Dramatic Representation by Stephen Wischer

15. Chōra before Plato: Architecture, Drama, and Receptivity by Lisa Landrum

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