How many times have we paused while reading a book and had the feeling that we were inside a structure built, knowingly or unknowingly, by the writer? Not simply the ability to picture in our minds the locations or architectural settings described in the text, but rather the sense of being immersed in a space, a literary space, designed by someone else.
Architectural metaphors are often used in the discussion of literature, as in “the architecture of a novel”. In any real architectural project, there are ideas that need to be designed and conveyed, a supporting structure, sequences of spaces, surprises and suspensions, hierarchies of space and function, and so on. In creative writing, many of the challenges seem to be similar. For example, how should different strands of narrative be intertwined? How can chronology be rearranged in a plot sequence? How is tension expressed? What do certain narrative sequences and omissions convey or mean? How do characters connect?
As a cross-disciplinary workshop, the Laboratory of Literary Architecture can be adapted specifically for writing, literature, and architecture students, as it explores how pure, spatial, wordless thought is an essential aspect of both literary and architectural structures. However, the LabLitArch approach to literary and spatial analysis and discovery has been successfully adopted also by high schools and theater programs.
As Alice Munro said:
“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”
(Selected Stories, 1968-1994)
A CROSS-DISCIPLINARY EXPLORATION OF LITERATURE AS ARCHITECTURE
THE JOY OF CARDBOARD, GLUE AND STORYTELLING
“The process of adding word to word is much the same as adding brick to brick. … I can’t think of a better course where the purposes of two arts are so finely blended.”
“… one of the strangest and most interesting classes I’d ever seen.”
The Paris Review
“… rarely has architecture served the same function for writing as writing has served for architecture: to analyze and clarify.”
“The Laboratory for Literary Architecture pushes students to compose through their model a fictional architectural experience.”
“A stunning intellectual experiment.”
Since May 2016, a monthly Literary Architecture series has been featured in The Paris Review Daily and, until December, also appeared in the Italian national newspaper La Stampa. From February 2017, the Italian series will now be featured in the weekly pagina99. In this series, Matteo Pericoli shares some of his designs and what they reveal about the stories they are modeled on.
The Laboratory of Literary Architecture was created in 2010 by architect/author/illustrator Matteo Pericoli after holding his first workshop at the Scuola Holden in Turin, Italy, assisted by engineer/writer Giuseppe Franco. Since then, the Laboratory has been held in the U.S., Italy, Israel, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates at the following institutions (among others):
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