Art, Architecture and Visual Culture

Space, time and the embodied description of the past
Author: Dana Arnold

This book examines how eighteenth-century prints and drawings of the architecture of antiquity operated as potent representations of thought with their own syntactical, linguistic and cultural qualities.

Original archival material is interrogated using the trope of ekphrasis to pinpoint debates about verbal and visual descriptions that continue to influence semiotics and critical theory. This novel approach makes a timely intervention in current debates about how we interpret the visual.

Beginning with the notion that the spatial world of the image and the temporal world of the text share common ground as embodiments of human thought, this study questions how these are brought to bear on the spatial and temporal aspects of the architecture of antiquity as evident in prints and drawings made of it. The book considers the idea of the past in the period, especially how it was discovered and described, and investigates the ways in which space and time inform the visual ekphrasis of architecture. The idea of embodiment is used to explore the various methods of describing architecture – including graphic techniques, measurement and perspective, all of which demonstrate choices about, and the gendered implications of, different modes of description or ekphrasis.

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Dana Arnold

This chapter analyses the approach taken and offers some conclusions, as well as pointing to the broader implications of the book as a means of thinking about other periods and media. The neutrality of visual ekphrases is called into question through the assumed norm of the masculinist language, whether verbal of visual. Using Derrida, the perceived oppositional nature of space and time is questioned. The female absence and implicit presence is emphasised in the phenomenological experience of space; the proportional system or syntax used in architectural drawing; in the line that creates images; and in the bodily processes through which prints and drawings are produced. In this way, the actions (i.e. gestures and marks) that create visual ekphrases, and in the spaces and surfaces that these images inhabit show the way to a reading of categories of production and historical analysis that differs from canonical norms.

in Architecture and ekphrasis
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Dana Arnold

This chapter looks at the ways in which the past was encountered and recorded in texts and through travel. The eighteenth-century experience of Rome is revisited using Freud. It establishes the masculinist, linguistic predicates of verbal and visual descriptions. The work of Stuart and Revett, and Piranesi are used as case studies to explore the implications of visual ekphrases of the past.

in Architecture and ekphrasis
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Dana Arnold

This chapter establishes the principal themes and the modes of enquiry used to explore how the architecture of the past is described. It begins with a discussion of the concept of ekphrasis and goes on to consider the relationship between text and image. Key figures including Winckelmann, Lessing, de Piles and Berkeley are introduced. Using Walter Benjamin, the particular qualities of prints are explored.

in Architecture and ekphrasis
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Dana Arnold

This chapter begins by thinking about the spaces of the page and the bodily experience of reading. The relationship between seeing and knowing is explored using the eighteenth-century ideas of Bishop Berkeley articulated through more recent thinking by Derrida and Merleau-Ponty. Theories of space and its representation through the illusion of perspective are traced from antiquity in relation to their influence on artistic practice. The chapter goes on to question what happens when theories of perspective and architectural practice collide, as evident in the work of Borromini, Pozzo and Robert Adam. The distinctive theories and practice of perspective in the long eighteenth century, especially the work of Dr Brook Taylor and Thomas Malton are examined in their contemporary context, including the parallel developments in literature, where the physio-psychological experience of space emerges as a popular preoccupation. The final section considers the historiographic implications for the perceived gap between the representation of space in architectural and artistic practice. It concludes with a consideration of J. M. W. Turner’s Royal Academy lecture diagrams as inheritors of a rich tradition of spatial thinking and perspective theory.

in Architecture and ekphrasis
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Dana Arnold

Using the trope of the line, this chapter considers the relationship between prints and drawings and the embodied processes in their production. The ways in which the line operates as a means of verbal and visual ekphrasis is explored through the anachronistic juxtaposition of renaissance and eighteenth-century theories of drawing and Deleuzian–Bergsonian and Benjaminian theories of lines and images. The feminine trace is revealed in Hogarth’s ‘line of beauty’ and this gendered notion of recording the past is extended into the case study of the rediscovery of the Villa of the Papyri, which remains underground and unseen. Here the Derridean idea of drawings as being an act of blindness is combined with the bodily experience of space.

in Architecture and ekphrasis
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The international congresses of architecture in Iran and the transnational search for identity
Ali Mozaffari and Nigel Westbrook

This chapter examines the content and consequences of international exchanges and debates that took place under the aegis of three architectural congresses held in Iran between 1970 and 1976. It provides the international context for the congresses, showing their relationship to the of global discourses of their time. The congresses facilitated the circulation of global ideas into Iran but also became a catalyst for propelling new approaches and thoughts back onto the global stage. The topics of discussion, revolving around tropes of tradition, the vernacular, and their contemporary relevance, indicate official Iranian concerns for reconciling development and culture. They also suggest a genuine quest for identity, based on an acute awareness of the role of heritage. The chapter presents the relevant debates, their international context, and their critical reception in Iran. It also examines some of their outcomes, such as the Habitat Bill of Rights, which clearly indicates the Iranian contribution to the global scene, a contribution that was prompted by development in the first place. The ideas discussed through these congresses formed the bedrock of architectural thought and production before and after the Islamic Revolution of 1979. They appear in the examples discussed in the following chapters.

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Design as the mediator of development and heritage
Ali Mozaffari and Nigel Westbrook

In this chapter, the various strands of discussion within the book converge. Revisiting the development–heritage–design nexus, the chapter expands on the idea of development as an ‘engaged universal’ following Anna Tsing. It comments on how development, as a process of historical change, was entangled globally while responding to and creating local specificities. It also elaborates on the meaning and formation of heritage as a corollary of this process, and the mediating role of architecture. The examples in the book suggest a curious scalar dynamic between design, heritage, and development, which is examined in this chapter. The chapter reinforces the driving arguments of the book including the fact that like any other form of cultural production, architectural production in Iran has been at once a local and global endeavour. The examples in the book have shown how and under which circumstances heritage is produced, at least in its architectural manifestation. As such, interpretations of architectural production between the 1970s and 1990s in Iran that are couched in terms of resistance, or the in-between, fall short of explaining the larger processes at work.

This book analyses the use of the past and the production of heritage through architectural design in the developmental context of Iran. It is the first of its kind to utilize a multidisciplinary approach in probing the complex relationship between architecture, development, and heritage. It uses established theoretical concepts including notions of globalism, nostalgia, tradition, and authenticity to show that development is a major cause of historical transformations in places such as Iran and its effects must be seen in relation to global political and historical exchanges as well as local specificities. Iran is a pertinent example as it has endured radical cultural and political shifts in the past five decades. Scholars of heritage and architecture will find the cross-disciplinary aspects of the book useful. The premise of the book is that transposed into other contexts, development, as a globalizing project originating in the West, instigates renewed forms of historical consciousness and imaginations of the past. This is particularly evident in architecture where, through design processes, the past produces forms of architectural heritage. But such historic consciousness cannot be reduced to political ideology, while politics is always in the background. The book shows this through chapters focusing on theoretical context, international exchanges made in architectural congresses in the 1970s, housing as the vehicle for everyday heritage, and symbolic public architecture intended to reflect monumental time. The book is written in accessible language to benefit academic researchers and graduate students in the fields of heritage, architecture, and Iranian and Middle Eastern studies.

Realizing an everyday Islamic identity
Ali Mozaffari and Nigel Westbrook

The search for a culturally appropriate housing model continued in the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution and was circumscribed by an intense ideological rhetoric of Islamism. This rhetoric was propped up with nostalgic references to an Islamic tradition and with the desire to assert an authentic identity and reimagine heritage. Beyond the revolutionary rhetoric, however, the practical solutions proposed for housing reveal a remarkable continuity with the pre-Revolution period, and in some instances, a direct link to Shushtar Now. This chapter refers to the earliest post-Revolution collection of public housing competitions conducted by the Ministry of Housing between June and November 1985 and published in 1989. It analyses some of the competition entries and refers to interviews conducted during fieldwork to examine the strands of pre- and post-Revolution continuity. This examination shows that the same traditional motifs that informed discourses of identity and authenticity before the Revolution continued to operate with more official force after 1979. The intention was clear: to produce an Islamic citizen through social engineering. This is apparent in the jury statements. For architects involved, however, pandering to such rhetoric was not always a matter of conviction, but at times, a practical survival mechanism.