Architecture Beyond the Visual

Seminar History, Criticism and Theory in Architecture (052-0814-23)
Organizer: Chair of Prof. Stalder
Lecturers: Dr. Anna Myjak-Pycia
Time: Thursday, 17:45-19:30
Location: HCP E 47.3

Architecture has been conceptualized to a large extent in visual terms. Due to its long alliance with art history and visual mediums, architectural history has contributed to the persistence of the notion of architecture as the domain of sight, and its own proclivity for centering on the visual has made it emit a whole range of other realms in which buildings partake. This ocular-centrism has had a profound impact on notions of the subject/ user both architecture and architectural history have crafted.
Combining readings in architectural history and critique with analyses of design, this seminar will parse how the visual emphasis has been articulated in architectural discourse and practice, and examine attempts to overcome it by centering on other sensory modalities in architectural experience in the context of materiality, technology, and culture. The course will also address the spatial experience of the disabled, whose understanding requires parting with the primarily visual mode of conceptualizing architecture.

Photo: Wheelchair user is stretching her arm at her maximum reach to grasp an object on a shelf. Photo, 1955-60.
Source and Copyrights: Handicapped Homemaker Project Records. Archives & Special Collections, University of Connecticut Library


Week 1 (February 23): Introduction
  • Berit Brogaard, Dimitria Electra Gatzia, "Introduction"  in Berit Brogaard, Dimitria Electra Gatzia (eds), The Epistemology of Non-Visual Perception, pp. 7-23.

Week 2 (March 2): The pervasiveness of the visual approach to space and the historical development of the hierarchy of senses

Week 3 (March 9): Architecture and photography
  • Mary Woods, part of "Introduction " in Mary Woods, Beyond the Architect's Eye: Photographs and the American Built Environment, pp. XVII-XXIV.

Week 4 (March 16): Critique of the hegemony of sight in architecture

Seminar Week (March 23) : NO CLASS

Week 5 (March 30): Touch/the haptics

Week 6 (April 6): Air, temperature, and olfactory sensations in relation to technology and science

  • Wulf Böer, "Synthetic Air ", Future Anterior, Volume XIII, Number 2, Winter 2016, pp. 77-101.

Easter Break (April 13): no instruction at ETH on that week

Week 7 (April 20): Senses as connected: hypersthesia, intersensoriality, synesthesia, sensescape

Week 8 (April 27): The environment and its physiological and psychological impact on the subject

Week 9 (May 4): Movement, ergonomics, labor, and designing for the disabled

Week 10 (May 11): Methods of accounting for the non-visual: challenges and opportunities


Dr. Anna Myjak-Pycia
A. Chiara Gloor