Body-Building

K.Conty_Building-bodies-dance (2009)

In the primary tradition, the body plays a role in understanding reality: it designates both material and conceptual realities.[1] For both Plato and Aristotle, “the body is always seen as linked with the soul, which in turn is related to the animated structure of reality as a whole.”[2]

Vitruvius famously draws a comparison between the human body and buildings (De Architectura Book III, Chapter I), emphasizing that this primarily occurs through symmetry and proportion (anologia).

In this tradition,

[A]nologia is a symbolic structure that has nothing directly to do with numbers.  It depends on resemblances, similarities, and eventually a balanced tension of sameness and difference when related to various phenomena. . . The metaphorical nature of analogy, represented numerically as a form of proportion (similar to the nature of syntax or grammar in language), suggests that underlying proportion (and other summary notions such as universal beauty, order, and harmony) there is always present a deeper level of articulation, coextensive with the articulation of the world as a whole.[3]

The richness of the relationship between the human body and the world is reflected in the concept of “body-image” as described by Marco Frascari.  A body-image is formed in the mind, “not merely the product of sensation, representation, or perception…[but] a coalescing of the three, generating an understanding of one’s body that is fairly different from one’s anatomical condition.”[4]  Envisioning architecture through “body-image” means that the “imaginal force of human bodies is impressed, received and vividly transmitted into the built environment.”[5]

The body postures in Pastor Valeriano’s sketches for the District School Center near Dolo anticipate “how the body of the projected building will interact with its future inhabitants.”[6]

Valeriano_Pastor_sketches-with-bodies

Clues to this interrelation of inhabitation, construction, and imagination can also be found in the characteristic bodies that populate drawings by Walter Pichler and drawings by Valeriano’s teacher, Carlo Scarpa.

Walter Pichler_Houses-for-the-Steles_1987(elevation)

Scarpa-Carlo_Brion-Tomb_door-study Scarpa-Carlo_Galli-Tomb_Elevation


[1] Dalibor Vesely, “The Architectonics of Embodiment,” Body and Building (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002) 29.
[2] Ibid, 31.
[3] Ibid, 37-38.
[4] Marco Frascari, “A Tradition of Architectural Figures,” Body and Building (Cambridge: MIT Press, 2002) 260.
[5] Ibid, 261.
[6] Ibid, 263.