Part-architecture: methods of writing architecture

Wednesday 10 February
Exhibition Area 4th Floor Claremont Tower
1pm – All Welcome

Dr Emma Cheatle (Research Fellow NU Humanities Research Institute) – Part-architecture: methods of writing architecture

In this presentation I will outline my method of writing about the history of architecture, art or place. It is a method where the research oscillates between, firstly, the archive and available historiography, and, secondly, through the experience of the building or artwork itself. The latter part of the method relies on getting close to a building, regarding it as a character, or set of resonant objects, imagining it; it demands getting close to its past, in order to establish historical and social events that may have happened there. My approach, called ‘part-architecture’, is inspired by ideas from Freud on the unconscious, Lacan on the part-object and Benjamin on history. It utilises the feminist philosophy and art theory of Irigaray, Krauss and Kivland. The resultant writings are creative critical ‘histories’ that incorporate theory, creative writing, drawing and audio works, to understand the history of architecture as a social and creative inhabitation of space.

Here, I will specifically describe my doctoral research which gave new historical accounts of the Maison de Verre (Pierre Chareau, 1928–32) and the Large Glass (Marcel Duchamp, 1915–23). Using the themes glass, dust and air, which emerged from early research, I will firstly show how these were used to unearth new content – ideas, poetics and relationships – between the two works. I will secondly outline the way the themes further structured methodologies around seeing/drawing (glass), history, archive and writing (dust), and voice and audio (air).

I will conclude with a brief overview of a new research project ‘“The dark and airless room”: architecture, maternity and gynaecology, 1750–1880’ which uses similar approaches to look at John Dobson’s 1826 Lying-in hospital in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to establish links between architectural space and the development of the practices of gynaecology.

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