Readings for April 11th

Posted: April 9, 2019 in Readings

Beatriz Colomina
Princeton University
Architecture and Planning
Director of Graduate Studies

Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism (1991)
(part 1 and part 2)

Domesticity at War (1991)

Enclosed by Images: The Eameses’
Multi-Media Architecture

Photographers and reporters gather near Frenchman Flat
to observe the Priscilla nuclear test, June 24, 1957

Richard Nixon and Nikita Khrushchev
American National Exhibition, Moscow, 1959

  1. Kaden Plewe says:

    These dropbox links are broken for me. May have to reattach them. Thanks!

  2. The interior of the home being considered a theater box, and the primary focus of the architecture, reminds me of traditional Chinese homes. Just as with many of the buildings mentioned in the reading, traditional Chinese homes have a ‘male’ facade with a focus on the interior of the home. Each home has a courtyard in the center, which could be seen as the ‘sensual’ interior. In both philosophies, the home looks inwards and the inhabitants are subjects of viewership.

    Colomima says “In other words, fashion is a mask which protects the intimacy of the metropolitan being” which reminds me of a quote from Iris Apfel. She regards that the people downtown think they’re chic because they wear all black, but in fact they’re just wearing uniforms. In their own ways, the people of Downtown New York are their own buildings with ‘masculine’ facades that obscure their interior workings.

    • As Loos says, we have in modern times become extremely individualized and private. Our ‘cladding’ reflects this. Everything interesting, which is to say eventful, happens on the inside, in the form of private melodrama. The degree of our isolation and alienation is evidenced by the fact that today any attempt to speak with a stranger is immediatedly perceived as a hostile ‘antisocial’ act.

  3. Joanna Soh says:

    It was very interesting to read about having genders in architectural structures, with the theater boxes as “female” and an adjacent “male” space. I have also never heard of theater boxes. While the reading explains the features, could you further explain them and how they came about in history?

    • If this stuff is new and hard for you to understand, I completely get in. Colomina is not writing anything but simple schoolbook overview for students. “Split Wall”, however playful, is nevertheless a very sophisticated and penetrating theoretic investigation into the ideological assumptions (gender, race, class, etc.) coded into classic examples of modern architecture Any attempt at a full response to your request would require well over two hours of typing. I try my best to explain matters in class. Before running out the door to meet with students, I can say that recent reading have discussed the tremendous importance of theater in Western culture in the 19th and 20th centuries. With the rise of a ‘public sphere’, spectating became a major component of everyday. Fashion and celebrity were hallmarks of daily urban life. People went out of the house to see others and to be seen themselves, and they dressed accordingly. When going to the theatre the most respectable citizens did not sit in the house but in private theatre box, individual private theaters unto themselves, and bourgeois home designed in line with this model, built as private box from which person could look out onto the spectacle which is the modern society. What makes Loos unique is his thought that we have in the 20th century become so very private that we longer care to look out at the world anymore, but would rather gave narcissistically at our own lives. Thus his home are designed as theaters looking in on their own interiors. Again, I’ll try to cover all this in class. For now, it might clarify matters if you consider the painting below, by Manet, which depicts a middle-class family seeing and being by the public while seated on a private balcony. Alongside it is a fairly witting and telling parody by Magritte.

  4. Ethan Looney says:

    My initial thoughts on these readings were about what’s going on inside her head. Her writing is fascinating but so tedious to read, and I imagine even more tedious to write. I liked the small section in the multimedia reading when she includes the analogy of watching the circus. The “multiplicity” or the events happening at once in the circus is impossible to take in. She references this to explain the goal/purpose of the scientific design capabilities in a military war room. This allows a given commander to make wholistic decisions from a massive load of incoming information. It also makes me wonder how much “technological architecture” goes into our media/fashion to drive our minds to think a certain way.

    • This is very dense material. But I imagine Colomina had great fun writing these pieces. I’ve spoken with her at length in person, and she is one of the lightest and happiness scholar I know. Most persons will miss how playful and fun these essays are because it is very high-order play, which expects a great deal of preparation and agility on the part of the reader. If one doubts Colomina’s remarkably light-hearted attitude, one need only look at her scholarship on the history of Playboy magazine. Most feminists would lose their marbles writing on such material. For Colomina, it is a walk through an astonish and hilarious theme park.

  5. Sevin Park says:

    Colomina says, “Architecture is not simply a platform that accommodates the viewing subject. It is a viewing mechanism that produces the subject. It precedes and frames its occupant.” I think she’s saying buildings are not just for housing people, and when she says architecture produces the subject, I’m assuming she’s talking about buildings like museums because museums are buildings that focus on a specific topic, like dinosaurs or art or some aspect of history. Would that interpretation be right or should I be picturing something else?

    • You are right to an extent. Colomina is saying the building are like glasses or, even more so, virtual-reality goggles. To say that they ‘not simply a platform to accommodate a viewing subject is to say, in essence, that they are not simply frames through which you see they world as it actually is. The googles in fact create the word you so, and they do this be creating the consciousness through which you view the world. Simply, we don’t make buildings, so much as buildings make us.

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