Taking possession of space is the first gesture of living things, of men and animals, of plants and clouds, a fundamental manifestation of equilibrium and of duration. The occupation of space is the first proof of
existence. (Le Corbusier)
The aim of this course is to study the relationship of built environment and social space, taking advantage of the lively presence of the Biennale Architettura in Venice, offering us a field of study and direct interaction. The course follows an interdisciplinary concept, thus highlighting the interface between Social Anthropology and Architecture.
Our point of departure will be the theory of space as a lived and shared social construction and its interrelatedness with physical places like buildings, urban situations and landscapes. We will reflect on how buildings or a cities architecture can structure and shape people’s lives and movements, create atmospheres and mediate social relationships. But it also works the other way round: social situations can finally lead to the construction of physical places. We will also learn about non-European architectural traditions and the peculiarity of sacred buildings.
From an anthropological perspective, the very structure and organization of La Biennale is a rich field of study. The national pavilions, planned by famous architects as representations of the nation state, show how buildings are charged with symbolic meaning. The exhibitions of architecture in the main venues of La Biennale and throughout the city will give us the possibility to study current architectural projects from different parts of the world and get an insight into specific social settings, urban situations and the relationship of local and global architecture and planning.
We will start with the questions about the interrelatedness of biennials in general and the Biennale di Venezia in particular with their cities. What kind of contact zones are created through the biennial event and how can we approach exhibition spaces with our senses?
Venice with its unique feature of architectural highlights and the Biennale Architettura are the ideal experimental fields for putting academic knowledge into practice and directly engage with the environment. Apart from reading and discussing texts in class, we will work in the field. Students will choose their own topic related to La Biennale, do fieldwork and reflect on their findings.
- students learn to analyze and contextualize texts
- students get an introduction into the social theory of space and place, anthropology of architecture and sensory anthropology
- students will learn about how to approach a global platform like the Biennale and make themselves familiar with it
- they will learn about the entanglement of the city and La Biennale
- students are trained in research methods and will conduct fieldwork
- The course is a seminar. Each session is organized around readings that must be completed before class. Students have to be prepared to discuss the texts and physically bring them to class (either on paper or on screen) so that we can re-read certain passages.
- prepare one oral presentation (alone or in group) accompanied by power point presentations, based on the readings
- do fieldwork (alone or in group) and present and discuss their research
- write one final essay. The essay must include bibliographical references and notes. The topic can be chosen in agreement with the professor and may range from one of the topics of the seminar to reflections on own research experiences.
30% attendance and participation
30% oral presentation in class
40% written final essay
- Biennials and their cities. Positioning between politics and policies
- History, concept and architecture of the Biennale di Venezia
- Local - global. Art and Architecture in the globalizing world
- Anthropology of space and place: introductory texts
- Anthropology of Architecture, examples from European and non-European tradition
- Anthropology of the senses: Venice and La Biennale as contact zone and sensorial space
- Introduction into research methods and fieldwork
- Fieldwork in Venice and La Biennale di Venezia
- Reflecting fieldwork and concepts
Amerlinck, Maria-José. 2001. Architectural Anthropology. Bergin& Garvey
Buchli, Victor. 2013. An anthropology of Architecture. London
Bydler, Charlotte. 2004. Introduction. IN: The Global Art World. On the Globalization of Contemporary Art. Stockholm, Uppsala
Bydler, Charlotte. 2004. The Rise of the International Biennial Format? La Biennale di Venezia/La Habana/Istanbul S. 96-123 IN: The Global Art World. On the Globalization of Contemporary Art. Stockholm, Uppsala
Dodd, James.2017. Phenomenology, architecture and the built world: exercises in philosophical anthropology. Leiden, Boston
Filipovic, Elena & Van Hal, Mareike. 2010. The biennial reader. An Anthropology on large-scale perennial Exhibitions of Contemporary Art. Bergen: Kunsthalle Bergen.
Gillin. Edward H. and Horatio Joyce. 2018. Experiencing Architecture in the Nineteenth Century. Bulidings and Society in the Modern Age. London, N.Y.
Ingold, Tim.2013. Making: Anthropology, Archeology, Art and Architecture. London
Lefebvre, Henri. 1991. The Production of Space. Oxford: Blackwell
1996. Writings on Cities. Oxford: Blackwell
Low, Setha (Ed.) 1999. Theorizing the City: The New urban Anthropology Reader. New Brunswick, NY
Miller, John. 2003. The show you love to hate. A Psychology of the Mega-Exhibitions. IN: Bruce Ferguson & Reesa Greenberg (Eds.) Thinking about Exhibitions
Nas, Peter M. and Samuels, Annemarie. 2006. Hypercity. The Symbolic Side of Urbanism. London
Pink, Sarah. 2009. Doing Sensory Ethnography. London: Sage Publications.
Georg Simmel. 2019. The Art of the City: Rome, Florence, Venice. A quartet of Essays on great European Cities. London: Pushkin Press