Body as Architecture/ Architecture as Body

Day: Thursday 5 April


Kelly Freeman (University College London)
Rebecca Whiteley (University College London)

Session Abstract

[J]ust as the head, foot, and indeed any member must correspond to each other and to all the rest of the body in a living being, so in a building […] the parts of the whole body must be so composed that they all correspond to one another.
– Leon Battista Alberti, De re aedificatoria (c 1450).

There has, since classical antiquity, been a complex set of correspondences between the human body and the designed building. Such interactions spring from the enduring art-theoretical ideal whereby art and architecture should imitate nature, as well as from broader cultural, medical and anatomical thinking wherein the body is described in terms of architecture and domestic arrangement. Throughout recorded history, architects have turned to the proportions, structures, processes, and narratives of the human body when designing built spaces. Likewise, artists and writers working in anatomy, medicine, politics and literature, to name a few, have turned to the shape, design and spaces of the building when discussing and explaining the body.

Our session will explore how this enduring correspondence has been expressed and shaped by visual culture. The papers will treat a broad array of visual and theoretical material, and cover a very wide time period. From classical antiquity to the twentieth century, the papers will address the intersections of body and architecture from many perspectives and employing many methodologies. The panel will address both architectures which engage with theories of the body, and bodies which are shaped, treated or thought about in architectural terms. We have taken an interdisciplinary approach, bringing together scholars in architecture, history of medicine and science, literature, art and visual culture.

Speakers and Papers

Siobhan Chomse (Royal Holloway, University of London) The Fall of Priam and the Death of Troy: Embodied architecture in Virgil’s Aeneid and its afterlife

Sarah Lippert (University of Michigan-Flint) Corpus Christi as the Bridge in Depictions of Sienese Mysticism

Adriano Aymonino (University of Buckingham) The Compass and the Flesh: The Classicist body as architectural body

Rosemary Moore (University College London) Inside the Architecture of the Body in Early Modern Anatomical Prints

Brenda Lynn Edgar (University of Geneva, Interfaculty Centre for Bioethics and Medical Humanities) De la décoration Humaine: Notions of skin in architecture and dermatology in the 19th century

Hanna Baro (Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf /Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin) The Life Cycle of a Building

Lauren Downing Peters (Centre for Fashion Studies, Stockholm University) Building a Better Body: Architectural Discourses in stoutwear design, 1915–1930

Michael Sappol (Uppsala University, History of Science & Ideas) How to Get Modern with Body Architecture: Fritz Kahn, medical illustration and the architectural rhetoric of modernity

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