8 September 2019
Colomina, Beatriz. "Sexuality & Space." Sexuality & Space, edited by Beatriz Colomina. Princeton Architectural Press, 1992, pp. 73-128.
Wilson, Elizabeth. "Sexuality and Space edited by Beatriz Colomina." Harvard Design Magazine, Winter/Spring 1997.
In this essay, Beatriz Colomina explores the concepts of cultural, social and biological perception in the architectural work of Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier. She presents her research as a "detective story," using historical photographs and drawings to investigate these themes. This essay also explores concepts suchs as architectural framing, interior versus exterior, cladding, the gaze, mirrors, windows, boundaries and gender. Psychoanalytic theory a la Freud and Lacan is the main tool used for unlocking these architectural "mysteries." The ideas of Walter Benjamin figure prominently.
The "sex" mentioned in the title exists in references to gender within the essay. Her idea of architecture is not limited to that of a built structure but rather a perceptual framework with broad cultural and intellectual underpinnings, such as a film or a series of photographs.
How does this essay relate to scenography?
Perhaps a more plausible title for this essay would have been "Theatricality and Space," or better, "Theatricality and the Architectural Work of Adolf Loos and Le Corbusier." One main idea in this essay is the "domestic drama" latent in both the architecture itself and the photography of it. Colomina asserts that a photograph leaves clues ("stage props"), like an open interior door, a scarf on the back of a chair or an ashtray. Space is layered with suspense, she suggests. This is a development of the theatrical and filmic concept of mise en scène, and also relates specifically to ideas of dramatic tension as presented by thinkers and theater practitioners such as Robert Edmond Jones and Konstantin Stanislavski. Colomina often refers to a "theater box" and the spectator/performer relationship in her analysis. Her discussion of windows and mirrors directly relates to scenographic notions of composition, aspect ratio, void and place. At one point she references the playwright Pirandello.
One idea in this essay that might be particularly interesting to students of theatrical design is that the chronological development of the architectural works in the essay mirrors the development of the audience and spectator relationship in theatrical space as it goes from a proscenium staging (Loos' Steiner and Moller houses) to theatre-in-the-round (Loos' project for a house for Josephine Baker) to film (Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye).