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Architecture from without: Body, Logic, and Sex

Author(s): Diana I. Agrest

Source: Assemblage, No. 7 (Oct., 1988), pp. 28-41
Published by: The MIT Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3171074
Accessed: 09/09/2008 09:50

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Diana I.
Architecture from Without:
Body, Logic, and Sex

DianaAgrestis a principalin the firmof Somewhereeveryculturehas an imaginaryzone forwhatit

Agrestand Gandelsonas,New York,and excludesand it is thatzone thatwe musttryto remembertoday.'
AdjunctProfessorat the CooperUnion.
For something to be excluded two partsare necessary:
something inside, some defined entity, and something out-
side. In our world of architectureand architecturalideol-
ogy there is such an inside, the body of texts and rules
developed in the Renaissance that, as a reading of the clas-
sics, establishedthe foundations for Western architecture,
and which I call the "systemof architecture."This inside
has been transformedthroughout history, sometimes more
profoundlythan at others;and even through the apparent
breaksof the firstdecades of this century, it has remained
at the very base of Western architecturalthought.

Logocentrismand anthropomorphism,in particularmale

anthropomorphism,have underlain the system of architec-
ture ever since Vitruvius, read and rewrittenin the Renais-
sance and through the modern movement.2 This system is
defined not only by what it includes, but also by what it
excludes, inclusion and exclusion being partsof the same
construct. Yet that which is excluded, left out, is not really
excluded but ratherrepressed;repressionneither excludes
nor repels an exteriorforce for it contains within itself an
interior of representation,a space of repression.3The
repressed,the interior representationin the system of
architecturethat determines an outside (of repression)is
woman and woman's body. The ideological construct of
the architecturalsystem determined by an idealistic logic
1. Francescodi Giorgio Martini,
the similitude between man and a concomitant system of repressionsbecomes apparent
and city in the role sex plays within it. The logic in the system of

assemblage 7

architecturerepressessex in two differentways:sex is SCENE I: THE BOOK OF THE

understood in positive and negative terms, and woman RENAISSANCE
assigned the negative term (phallocentrism);and sex is neu-
tralized or erased through the medium of the artist, who, The Scene of the Repressed:
sexless, engenders by himself and gives birth to a work, the
product of creation.
Architecturefrom Within
Architecturein the Renaissanceestablishesa system of
Society establishes a certain kind of symbolic orderwhere
not everyone has an equal chance of fitting. Those who do rules that forms the basis of Western architecture.The
not fit have to find their place between symbolic orders, in texts of the Renaissance, which in turn draw upon the
the interstices;they representa certain symbolic instability. classic Vitruvian texts, develop a logocentric and anthropo-
These are the people often called odd, abnormal, perverse centric discourse that establishesthe male body at the
or who have been labeled neurotics, ecstatics, outsiders, center of the unconscious of architecturalrules and config-
witches, or hysterics.4In strangeways, woman has been urations. The body is inscribedin the system of architec-
ture as a male body replacingthe female body. The
placed in this category when she has tried to establishher
Renaissanceoperationsof the symbolizationof the body
presence ratherthan limit herself to finding a way of "fit-
are paradigmaticof the operationsof the repressionand
ting" within the established symbolic order.
exclusion of woman by means of the replacementof her
Woman has been allowed to surface from the space of her body. Throughout the historyof architecture,woman has
repressionas a witch or as a hysteric and thus has been been displaced/replacednot simply at a general social
burned or locked up, ultimately representingthe abnor- level, but, more specifically, at the level of the body's rela-
mal. Women who are the bearersof the greatestnorm, tion to architecture.
that of reproduction, paradoxicallyembody also the anom-
aly.5 It is through her body and through the symbolic order Architectureas a Representationof the Body
that woman has been repressedin architecture,and in
The texts of the Renaissanceoffer a certain clue to the
dealing with body and architecturethe obvious question,
What body? is the key to the unveiling of many mysterious mode in which man's appropriationof woman's place and
ideological fabrications.Asking what body is synonymous body in architecturehas occurred in a complex processof
to asking which gender, for a genderlessbody is an impos- symbolization that worksat the level of architecturalideol-
sible body. ogy, thereforeat an almost unconscious level. Several texts
are exemplaryof this procedurein variousdegrees, particu-
In many of the importanttexts of the Renaissance, that is, larly Alberti'sDe re aedificatoria,Filarete'sTrattato d'ar-
the founding texts of Western architecturalideology, the chitettura, Di Giorgio Martini'sTrattato di architettura
body in architectureis not only an essential subject, but civile e militare and his Trattati di architettura,ingegneria
one, moreover, indissolubly linked to the question of e arte militare. And, of course, we cannot forgetVitruvius,
gender and sex, a question that has generatedthe most whose De architecturalibri decem is at the base of every
extraordinarymetaphors in the elaborationof an architec- Renaissancetext.
tural ideology. The reading of these texts is a fundamental
In the several steps in the operationof symbolic transfer-
operation in the understandingof a complex ideological
ence from the body to architecture,the first is the relation-
apparatusthat has systematicallyexcluded women through
an elaborate mechanism of symbolic appropriationof the ship establishedbetween man and nature through the
female body. notions of natural harmony and perfection.6Man is
presentedas having the attributeof perfectnatural
Two scenes will be presented here, two scenes of architec- proportions.Thus the analogical relationshipbetween
ture: Scene I, The Book of the Renaissance, and Scene II, architectureand the human body appearsto ensure that
The Text of the City. the natural laws of beauty and nature are transferredinto


architecture.The body thus becomes a mediator,a form of -e

; i:, 'i' r,u
"shifter. "7 -.

It is in Vitruvius that we first encounter the significant -..r

notions that will later be variouslyreelaborated.His text ".' i
clearly posits the issue of the human body as a model for ....... j-
architecture, particularly in his chapter "On Symmetry in t
Temples and the Human Body," where he relates symme-
try to proportion:
The design of a temple depends on symmetry,the principlesof
which must be carefully observedby the architect. They are due l "
to proportion,in Greek avanoyia. Proportionis a correspondence
among measuresof the members of an entire work, and of the
whole to a certain part selected as standard.From this result the
principlesof symmetry.Without symmetryand proportionthere
can be no principles in the design of any temple; that is, if there
is no precise relation between its members, as in the case of those -
of a well-shaped man. Further, it was from the members of the .
body that they derived the fundamental ideas of the measures
which are obviously necessaryin all works, such as the finger, -. ~
palm, foot and cubit.8
The relationship between architecture and the human i' t
body becomes particularly important at the moment in ...- --
which the issue of the center - a preoccupation that fil-
ters throughout the history of art and architecture in its 2. Cesare Cesariano,Homo a(d
many symbolic roles - acquires a very specific meaning. circulum

Then again, in the human body the central point is naturallythe

navel. For if a man be placed flat on his back, with his hands
and feet extended, and a pair of compassescentered at his navel,
the fingersand toes of his two hands and feet will touch the
circumferenceof a circle describedtherefrom.And just as the
human body yields a circular outline, so too a square figure may / /
be found from it. For if we measure the distance from the soles
of the feet to the top of the head, and then apply that measure to fi-
i .,
the outstretchedarms, the breadthwill be found to be the same
as the height, as in the case of plane surfaceswhich are perfectly
square.9 ./

The center is represented by the navel, which becomes a K

metonymic object or a "shifter" in relation to gender. It is

a true shifter in that it transforms the body into geometry,
nature into architecture, the "I" of the subject into the "I"
of the discourse. The relationship between these two "I's"
is what allows the constant shifting of genders. 0 This type 3. Antonio Averlino Filarete,
of formal relationship between the body of man and archi- unity of the measure

assemblage 7

r.^"""~~~~ I ~^~ stecture, developed by Vitruvius, will be everpresent in the

f!~ (;~~ttr \1~
~Renaissance texts.

-r' i'b ...y analogical relationship between the body (of man)
~~ .~ ^An
i^~ C^~~ T>\~~~~~
^and architecture can also be found in Alberti's De re
\ _
f/ A~t~~~~ y~~ aedificatoria:

The whole Force of the invention and all our skill and Knowl-
^~ ^edge i,~
i ___~~~~~_ ~ the Art of Building, it is requiredin the Compartition:
Because the distinct Partsof the entire Building, and, to use such
a Word, the Entirenessof each of those partsand the Union and
_ _ ~~~~\"it^ V
/Agreement of all the lines and Angles in the Work, duly ordered
^ \ I^ ^ \ / ~forConvenience, Pleasureand Beauty are disposedand measured
1\?.~~ ^ ^~ .-~
\ , out by the Compartitionalone: For if a City, accordingto the
1\ r^Opinion of Philosophers,be no more than a great House and, on
i^t v^ - -- the other hand, a House be a little City; why may it not be said
I'~~~~ \; i~ i ^that the Members of that House are so many little Houses . . .
V\\I~~ {j11~~~ t 1and as the Members of the Body are correspondentto each other,
so it is fit that one part should answerto another in a Building;
whence we say, that great Edifices requiregreat Members."

Alberti is never as direct in his analogies as Vitruvius or as

other architects of the Renaissance. His text offers a far
more elaborate system of metaphorical transformation by
which he develops specific notions that allow for the devel-
opment of an abstract system in a discourse that incorpo-
rates the "laws of nature."

Is / ff^y u,^^- '> \sIf what we have here laid down appearsto be true, we may con-
A?^IM clude Beauty to be such a Consent and Agreementof the Partsof
lw -
i -^+ _ _ _ g!j 4 the Whole in which it is found, as to Number, Finishing and
Collocation, as Congruity, that is to say, the principallaw of
Nature, requires.This is what Architecturechiefly aims at, and
by this she obtains her Beauty, Dignity and Value. The Ancients
2,,4^i~ ^f
.knowing from the Nature of Things, that the Matterwas in fact
\\as1 &J I have stated it, and being convinced, that if they neglected
:1 '!t\-r
.^\1~ iV~ S main Point they should never produce any Thing great or
| /' , / v^^yt)^\ 1 *
,commendable, did in their Worksproposeto themselves chiefly

t J f!i'i J/Compositions;
I . . .

Reflecting thereforeupon the Practiceof Nature as well with

Relation to an entire Body, as to its severalParts,they found
l I*~~~~*"from the very first Principlesof Things, that Bodies were not
4. Di Giorgio, the generation always composed of equal partsof Members;whence it happens,
of proportional systems from that of the Bodies producedby Nature, some are smaller, some
human physiognomy are larger,and some middling.'2


The process of symbolization takes place by relatingthe

body as a system of proportionto other systemsof propor- l5.-L,tf !
tion. The body, transformedinto an abstractsystem of
formalization, is thus incorporatedinto the architectural
system as form, through the orders, the hierarchies,and
the general system of formal organizationthat allows for
this anthropocentricdiscourse to function at the level of
the unconscious.

TranssexualOperationsin Architecture
Vitruviusand Alberti point the way to the incorporationof
the body as an analogue, model, or referent,elaboratinga
system for its transformationinto a system of architectural
syntacticrules, elements, and meanings. Filarete and Di
Giorgio Martini, further,eliminate the original ambiguity
of the gender of the body in question by making explicit
that the human figure is synonymous with the male figure.
A differentambiguitywill appearinstead, the ambiguityof 5. Di Giorgio, anthropometric
architectonic elements
gender or sex itself. In a rathercomplex set of metaphori-
cal operationsthroughout these texts, the gender of the
body and its sexual functions are exchanged in a move of the most common and apparentanalogical relationship
cultural transsexualitywhereby man's everpresentprocrea-
between the body of man and architecturewe are faced
tive fantasyis enacted.
with the exterior. In bringingabout the interior,another
Filarete startsby making sure we understandthat when he set of metaphorswill be possible, particularlythose that
refersto the "human"figure or body, he means the male allow for the permutationof gender. In orderto elaborate
figure: on the question of the interiorof man, Filaretedoes not
As I havesaid,the buildingis constructed as a simileforthe stop at the formal analogy;his symbolic operationslead
humanfigure.You see thatI haveshownyou by meansof a him to develop his most extraordinarymetaphor,that of
similethata buildingis derivedfromman, thatis, fromhis the building as living man:
form,members,and measure. [Whentheyare]measured,partitioned andplacedas bestyou
Now as I havetoldyou above,I will showyou how the building can, thinkaboutmy statementsand understand themclearly.I
is givenformand substanceby analogywiththe membersand will [then]showyou [that]the buildingis trulya livingman. You
formof man. You knowthatall buildingsneedmembersand will see it musteat in orderto live, exactlyas it is withman. It
passages,thatis, entrancesandexits.Theyshouldall be formed sickensor diesor sometimesis curedof its sicknessby a good
andarranged accordingto theirorigins.The exteriorand interior doctor.In the firstbookyou haveseen, as I havedemonstrated to
appearance the buildingis arranged
of effectivelyin such a way you, the of
origins the building and its in
origins my opinion,
thatthe membersandpassagesaresuitablylocated,justas the how it is proportioned to the humanbodyof man, how it needs
exteriorand interiorpartsand membersarecorrectforthe body to be nourishedandgovernedandthroughlackit sickensand
of man.13 dies like man.14

Here the conditions are presentfor the development of a In this manner he slowly and steadilybuilds up a symbolic
double analogy and for possible exchanges and combina- argumentthat unfolds from the building createdas a for-
tions in the body considered as interiorand/or exterior.In mal analogue of the male body, from which even the

assemblage 7

ordersare derived, to the building as a living body. If the love for her son, so he will rear it with love and diligence, cause
building is a living man the next necessarystep in the it to grow, and bring it to completion if it is possible, if it is not,
argument is its birth and its conception. It is at this critical he will leave it ordered.'1
point that another body will be incorporated:that of the Filarete pushes his argument all the way to cover the var-
architect himself. ious aspects involved in the building:
You perhaps could say, you have told me that the building is A good mother loves her son and with the aid of the father strives
similar to man. Therefore, if this is so it needs to be conceived to make him good and beautiful, and with a good masterto make
and then born. As [it is] with man himself, so [it is] with the him valient and praiseworthy.So the good architectshould strive
Building. First it is conceived, using a simile such as you can to make his buildings good and beautiful.18
understand, and then it is born. The mother deliversher child at
the term of nine months or sometimes seven; by care and in good First woman is excluded (repressed) by making architecture
order she makes him grow.'5 an image of man as an analogue to man's body and, as we
have seen, to the point of turning it into a living organism.
If the building is a living man, someone must give birth to
Then, in an extraordinary operation that I call here archi-
it - and here the architect appears in the role of the
tectural transsexuality, for which her repression is essential,
mother. The figure of the architect becomes feminized in
woman is replaced - her place usurped by man, who, as
the act of procreation:
the architect, possesses the female attributes necessary for
The building is conceived in this manner. Since no one can con- conception and reproduction.
ceive himself without a woman, by another simile, the building
cannot be conceived by one man alone. As it cannot be done Filarete's texts are greatly complemented by those of Fran-
without woman, so he who wishes to build needs an architect. He cesco di Giorgio Martini. In his Trattato di architettura
conceives it with him and then the architect carriesit. When the civile e militare and Trattati di architettura, ingegneria e
architect has given birth he becomesthe motherof the building. arte militare, Di Giorgio uses similar analogies between
Before the architectgives birth, he should dream about his con-
the human body and architecture, but in his case the anal-
ception, think about it, and turn it over in his mind in many
ways for seven to nine months, just as a woman carriesher child ogy is proposed at the scale of the city.
in her body for seven to nine months. He should also make var- One should shape the city, fortress,and castle in the form of a
ious drawingsof this conception that he has made with the human body, that the head with the attached members have a
patron, according to his own desires. As the woman can do noth- proportionedcorrespondenceand that the head be the rocca, the
ing without the man, so the architect is the mother to carrythis arms its recessedwalls that, circling around, link the rest of the
conception. When he has pondered and consideredand thought whole body, the vast city.
[about it] in many ways, he ought to chose (accordingto his own
desires), what seems most suitable and most beautiful to him And thus it should be consideredthat just as the body has all its
according to the terms of the patron. When this birth is accom- members and partsin perfect measurementsand proportions,in
plished, that is, when he has made, in wood, a small relief the composition of temples, cities, rocche,and castles the same
design of its final form, measured and proportionedto the fin- principles should be observed.19
ished building, then he shows it to the father.16
Di Giorgio further develops this argument so that the ide-
Filarete takes this transsexual operation to its extreme by ology can be better translated into specific formal systems:
transforming the architect into a woman - or better,
mother. He proceeds to state that just like a mother, the Cities have the reasons, measurements,and form of the human
architect must also be a nurse, and "with love and dili- body. I am going to describe preciselytheir perimetersand parti-
tions. First the human body stretchedon the ground should be
gence" he will help the building grow to its completion: considered. Placing a stringat the navel, the other end will create
As I have compared the architect to the mother, he also needs to a circular form. This design will be squaredand angles placed in
be nurse. He is both mother and nurse. As the mother is full of similar fashion. ...


Thus it should be considered just as the body has all the parts
and members in perfect measurement and circumference, the
center in the cities and other buildings should be observed .... <
t Iff
The palms and the feet would constitute other temples and
squares. And as the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, the veins, intes-
tines, and other internal partsand members that are organized
inside and outside the body according to its needs, in the same
way this should be observedin cities, as we shall show in some
focus. 20

The reading and reuse of Vitruvius takes on a new dimen-

sion in Di Giorgio, for it is not only part of an analogical
discourse between the body (male) and the city, it is at the
same time central in a representational discourse where the
roles and places of male and female body in relation to
architecture are swiftly exchanged. It is in shifting from the
external appearance to the internal functions and order of
the body that we will be faced once more with a transsex-
ual operation.

And so as it has been said that all the internal parts [of the
human body] are organized and divided for its government and
subsistence, in the same way that inside and outside partsof the
body are necessary, it is that each member of the city should be
distributedto serve its subsistence, harmony, and government ....
I thereforesay that first of all the main square [piazza]should be
placed in the middle and the center of that city or as close as
possible, just as the navel is to man's body; convenience should
go second to this. The reason for this similitude could be the
following; just as it is through his navel that human nature gets 6. Di Giorgio, IIMonte Athos
nutrition and perfection in its beginnings, in the same way by
this common place the other particularplaces are served.2'
Although Di Giorgio never mentions the sexual organs,
But this can only be an analogy after some operations of
they have an analogical presence in some of his designs for
substitution are performed: The umbilical cord is the tie to
cities, where the male sexual organ occupies the place pre-
the mother, the woman. Di Giorgio says "like the navel is
viously analogically assigned to the various partsof the
to a man's body," yet the relationship of the man's body to
body. That which has been taken must be negated;it is the
the umbilical cord is one of dependence. He does not pro-
denial that goes with repression.
vide nourishment; rather, he is nourished by the mother at
the beginning of life. Thus for this analogy to work for the I propose three instances in this play of substitutions: First,
city, the female body should be taken as the symbolic ref- the male body is projected, represented,and inscribed in
erence; instead, it is replaced by the male body and man's the design of buildings and cities and in the texts that
navel is transformed into the city's "womb." In the produc- establish their ideology. The female body is suppressedor
tion of this architectural analogy man's body is functionally excluded. Second, the architect himself is presentedas a
transformed, feminized. woman in relation to the reproductivecreative functions,

assemblage 7

7. Di Giorgio, fortresses

operatingas a "literal"sexual replacement. And third, the womanhood as one and the same: the representationof
male body becomes the female body in its functions of femininity is subsumed by the maternal.
giving nourishment, that is, life, to the city; man's navel In the art of the Renaissance, Mary, Queen of the Heav-
becomes woman's womb. ens and Mother of the Church, was an everpresentfigure.
It is in this ideological context, that of Christianism,that
It is remarkablethat the replacement of the female body by
the treatisesof Alberti, Di Giorgio Martini, and Filarete
the male body always occurs in relation to the maternal
were developed. (Fantasiesof male conception can also be
function: reproduction. It has been said that we live in a
found in the texts of other men, including St. Augus-
civilization in which the consecrated- religious or secu-
tine.)23 The power of this ideology was evidenced in the
lar - representationof femininity is subsumed by the
mode of representingreligion and its concomitant myths.
maternal.22In this perspective, the whole operationappears
A most powerful one was that of the Virgin Mary. The
to be a veiled representationof the myth of Mary.
nature of the mother/son relationshipbetween Mary and
In Filarete, the architect, a man, gives birth like a woman. Christ and the belief in the immaculate conception leads
In Di Giorgio, the center of the city, based on the configu- towardthe possibilityof pregnancywithout sex: woman,
ration of man's body, gives subsistence, like a woman's ratherthan being penetratedby a male, conceives with a
body, through the umbilical cord from the womb to the non-person, the spirit. This conception without sex (sin) is
rest of the city. In one case men's fantasiesof conception the negation of sex as an essential part in the reproductive
and reproductionare placed in the figure of the architect, process, and ultimately, in the birth of Christ.
in the other they are set in the principles organizingthe This religious ideology was all-encompassing. In a move of
formal configuration of the city. Woman is thus sup- perfect ideological representationin a particularsubregion
pressed, repressed,and replaced. of ideology, that of architecture,the architect, by usurping
the female body, can give birth to buildings or cities, and
Suppressed, in the analogical relation between body and just like Mary, he can conceive without sex, through spirit
architecture. It is man's body that is, accordingto the clas- alone. Man is thus placed at the center of creation.
sic texts, the natural and perfectlyproportionedbody from
which architecturalprinciples and measurementsderive. The architecturaltreatisesmentioned here develop a sys-
tem of rules elaboratingan ideology that allows for the
Repressed, in the model of the city. Woman's unique transformationin philosophy, Christianism,and the power
quality, that of motherhood, is projectedonto the male structureof the Church to filter through the subregionof
body. Thus woman is not only suppressed,but indeed her architecture.24
whole sexual body is repressed.
Woman (mother/Mary)was necessaryas an imposing
Replaced, by the figure of the architect. The male, image within the system;woman outside that system, if not
through a transsexualoperation, has usurpedthe female's suppressed,had to be burned. On the one hand, Mary;on
the other, heretics and witches, those who pointed out the
reproductivequalities, in the desire to fulfill the myth of
creation. system of repressionsand the possibilityof a certain demys-
tification. Men's mechanism of the assumptionof the
Motherhood more than womanhood has been appropri- maternal role, through Christianism, may also be a mech-
ated, but motherhood has always been confused with anism of masculine sublimation.25


SCENE II: THE TEXT OF THE CITY It is the explosion, the fragmentedunconscious, where the
"architecturalbody" does not reflect the body of the sub-
ject, as it did in the Renaissance, but instead reflects the
The Return of the Repressed: perception of the fragmentedbody as the built text, a set of
Architecturefrom Without fragmentsof languages and texts, the city. The body can-
not be reconstructed,the subject architect/mandoes not
The system of architecturefrom within is characterizedby
an idealistic logic that can assume neither contradiction recognize itself in architectureas an entity in front of the
mirror.The system has been broken;architecturecannot
nor negation and, therefore, is based upon the suppression
be recognized again as a whole.
of either one of two opposite terms. This is best repre-
sented by the consistent repressionand exclusion of We will take that built social unconscious of architecture,
woman. Woman does not fit the symbolic order;she is the city, a text, for it is not the result of the creation of a
offside, in the cracks of symbolic systems, an outsider. subject, product of a logocentric, anthropomorphicsystem.
There is no subject. Here are only fragmentsof texts and
It is in that outside that we stand. It is from that outside languages to be read, and in this reading they traversethe
that we can project better than anyone the critical look. subject, in the position of reader-writer.
Woman can place herself from without the system of
architectureby accepting heterogeneityand by including
positively the negated, woman herself. In the ideological The Street:Streetwalkers
realm of architecturethis implies the negation of the "sys-
The city presentsitself as a fragmentarytext escaping the
tem of architecture"through a critical work and the inclu-
order of things and of language, a text to be "exploded,"
sion of the denied, the excluded, the hidden, the
taken in pieces, in fragments, to be furtherdecomposed in
repressed. so many possible texts, open in a metonymy of desire.
This discourse from without incorporatesheterogeneous
To design is not to reclose but to affect the openings and
matter, includes negation, and is psychoanalyticaland his-
be affected by them to play an intersectionbetween the
torical. Woman, representingboth the heterogeneityof
two subjects, that of the readerand that of the writer, by
matter through her body26and the historical negation
an operation of shifting through the "I."The subject gets
of her gender, is in the perfect position to develop such
a discourse. Woman, a discourse of heterogeneity, caught in the text and becomes part of the text.
"representsthe negative in the homogeneity of the This subject, woman, writes as she reads, where the
community."27 repressionhas failed, where the system is fragmented,and
where she does not want to be reconstructedby finding in
To take a place from without the system is not simply to
include what has been negated, or excluded, or to surface it the reflection of an enclosed, homogeneous, unitarysys-
tem. She reads there and activatesthe absence of the
the repressed:a more complex process occurs. The classic
architecturalproject of the city (as a body) is a reflection in repression/replacementof her body.
the mirrorof a totally formed, closed, and unitary system. The street is the scene of her writing, with her body fol-
We are dealing now instead with a representationof a frag- lowing the role that she is given in the evaluation of her
mented body.28 The architect cannot recognize himself or body as merchandise. The street is the scene of architec-
his system of rules in the mirrorof the city as did Di Gior- tural writing. The privaterealm is the scene of the institu-
gio or Filarete. The body as a metaphor of the fragmented tion, where woman and her body have an assigned place:
architecturalbody, which cannot be recomposedwithin the house.
the system of architecturalrules, will be that referential
outside. Wife in the kitchen. Whore in the street.

assemblage 7

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8. Diana Agrest, ParkSquare,

Boston: A Fiction, 1978

assemblage 7

Rather than worshiping the monuments, we take the the city to affirm the city. It is the affirmationof the era-
streets, we "playhouse," taking a critical view of the family sure of the city in order to reinstateits trace. The critical
as a hierarchical system and of the rules of architecture reading is taken from the subject:I am spoken through the
that go with it. city and the city is read through me.
The city is the social scene where woman can publicly
express her struggle. She was/is not accepted in the institu- Notes 5. Ibid.
tions of power;she is dispossessed(of her body) and is with
This text originatedin the fall of 6. Francoise Choay, "La Ville et le
the dispossessed.The public place is a no-man's-landready 1971 as a proposalfor an article to domaine bati comme corps,"Nou-
to be appropriated.The scene of the city, of the street, of be entitled "Architecturefrom velle revuede psychanalyse9 (1974).
the public place is that of the dispossessed;there she is "at Without: Matter, Logic, and Sex."
7. For this notion, see Diana
home." Although my interest in the mate-
rial was very strong at that time, I Agrest, "Design Versus Non-
(A place outside the accepted institutions is taken and did not have the opportunityto Design," Oppositions6 (1976).
assumed through various texts and readingsof an open and develop it until 1986-87. The orig- 8. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, De
inal abstractwas only four pages architecturalibri decem;English
heterogeneous quality.)
long, but it contained all the ele- ed., The Ten Booksof Architecture,
ments necessaryto develop this trans. Morris Hicky Morgan (New
Reading from Without article. During the process of York:Dover Publications, 1960).
development, I realized that the 9. Ibid.
I think of this project. I have a vision, a realist image of second part, "Architecturefrom
unreal events. It flows without knowing like a mystic pad; Without," could not be expanded
10. Roman Jakobson,"Shifters,
the city like an unconscious of architectureunveils itself, in the same manner as the first Verbal Categoriesand the Russian
three modes of time in three analogues of experience:per- part, "Architecturefrom Within." Verb,"paperdelivered at Harvard
For the later section posits a prem- University, 1957.
manence, succession, simultaneity. ise for and an approachto critical 11. Leon BattistaAlberti, De re
A registerof urban inscriptions, these three together- work. I believe that this critical aedificatoria(1485); Architectureof
approachto architectureis present Leon Battista Alberti in Ten Books,
now I am reading, now I am writing- the boundariesare
in my work producedthroughout facsimile reprintfrom the Giacomo
not clear. I can read the words, the unsaid, the hidden, these years in practice, theory, criti- Leoni translationof 1726, with a
there where no man wants to read, where there are no cism, and teaching. I want to thank reprintof the "Life"from the 1739
monuments to speak of an establishedand unitarysystem Amy Miller and David Smiley and edition, ed. Joseph Rykwertand
of architecture. especially Judy O'Buck Gordon for Alex Tiranti (London, 1955).
her initial incentive and persistent 12. "You have seen briefly the
Like an optical illusion the grid becomes an object, then interest in this essay.
measures, understoodtheir names
the fabric, then the object again. The apparentcontradic- 1. Catherine Clement, "La Coupa- and sources, their qualities and
tion and undialectical opposition between object and fabric ble," in La Jeune nee union (Paris: forms. I told you they were called
at the base of this process develops a text from the inclu- Union Generale d'Editions, 1975). by their Greek names, Doric, Ionic
sions and juxtapositionof these opposite terms. 2. Even Le Corbusier'sModulor is and Corinthian. The Doric I told
entirely based on a male body. you is one of the major quality;the
All of a sudden an erasure, the erasurenecessaryto Corinthian is in the middle, the
3. Jacques Derrida, "Freudet la
Ionic is the smallest for the reasons
remark, reinstatethe obvious not seen, the tabula rasathat scene de l'ecriture,"in L'Ecritureet
could become fabric, the object that would ratherbe a la difference(Paris:Editions de alleged by the architect Vitruvius in
his book [where]he shows how they
public place. Seuil, 1967); English ed., "Freud were in the times of the emperor
and the Scene of Writing," in Writ-
Octavian. In these modes the
The refoules(repressed)of architecture,the public, the ing and Difference,trans. Alan Bass Doric, Ionic and Corinthian corre-
negation all become the material of my fictional configura- (Chicago: Universityof Chicago
sponded in measure to the form or,
tion. The (project)marksI make are organized through a Press, 1978).
better, to the quality of the form to
contradiction- a negation through an affirmation.Negate 4. See Clement, "La Coupable." which they are proportioned.As the


building is derived from man, his 21. Ibid.

measures, qualities, form and pro- 22. Julia Kristeva,"StabatMater,"
portions, so the column also derives in Histoiresd'amour (Paris:Editions
from man: The polished columns,
Denoel, 1983); English ed., Tales
according to Vitruvius, were derived
from the nude man and fluted from of Love, trans. Leon S. Roudiez
that well-dressedyoung woman, as (New York:Columbia University
we have said. Both are derived from Press, 1987).
the form of man. Since this is so, 23. Ibid.
they take their qualities, form and 24. This question of the relation-
measure from man. The qualities,
ship between humanism, Christian-
or better Ionic, Doric and Corin-
ism, and the Church is an entire
thian, are three, that is large, subject on its own and should be
medium and small forms. They treatedat length outside the context
should be formed, proportioned, of this article.
and measured according to their
25. Kristeva,"StabatMater."
quality. Since man is the measure
of all, the column should be mea- 26. Julia Kristeva,"Matiere, sens,
sured and proportionedto his form" dialectique,"Tel Quel 44 (1971).
(Alberti, De re aedificatoria). 27. Ibid.
13. Antonio Averlino Filarete,
28. Jacques Lacan, "Le Stade du
Trattato d'architettura(1461-63);
miroir comme formateurde la
Treatiseon Architecture,translated,
fonction du Je," in Ecrits 1 (Paris:
with an introduction and notes, by
Editions du Seuil, 1966); English
John R. Spencer, 2 vols. (New
Haven: Yale University Press, trans., "The Mirror Stage as For-
mative of the Function of the I," in
1965). Ecrits: A Selection (New York:Nor-
14. Ibid. ton, 1977).
15. Ibid.
16. Ibid. The emphasis is mine. Figure Credits
17. Ibid. 1, 4-7. From Francesco di Giorgio
18. Ibid. Martini, Trattati di architettura,
ingegneriae arte militare, 1470-92.
19. Francesco di Giorgio Martini,
2. From Marcus Vitruvius Pollio,
Trattati di architettura, ingegneriae
De architectura,translatedinto Ital-
arte militare (1470-92); Italian ed.,
edited by Corrado Maltese and ian, with commentary and illustra-
tions by Cesare de Lorenzo
transcribedby Livia Maltese
Cesariano, 1668.
Degrassi, 2 vols. (Milan: Edizioni I1
polifilo, 1967). Translationshere 3. From Antonio Averlino Filarete,
are my own. Trattato d'architettura, 1461-63.
20. Ibid. 8. Courtesy of the author.