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 imagining the locations and architectural settings described in the text, but rather sensing our being immersed in a space, a literary space, designed by someone else.
Architectural metaphors are often used to describe literature, as in “the architecture of a novel”. Similarly, in any architectural project there is an inherent “narrative” structure, e.g. a sequence of spaces, surprises and suspensions, hierarchies of space and function, and so on. By using architecture to explore narrative we discover how many of the challenges that writers face are similar to those of architects: 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?
The Laboratory of Literary Architecture is a cross-disciplinary exploration of narrative and space. It is for anyone interested in literature — from high school through graduate school and beyond — and, in particular, for writing, literature, and architecture students and professionals, as it explores how pure, spatial, wordless thought is an essential aspect of both literary and architectural structures.
As Alice Munro said:
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.”
The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City, edited by Jonathan Charley, features a chapter on the LabLitArch, which includes a narrative on the genesis of the laboratory, images, project samples, the Literary Architecture series, as well as a dialogue between professors Carola Hilfrich and Jonathan Charley about the pedagogical implications of the LabLitArch.
Quotes from the dialogue between Carola Hilfrich and Jonathan Charley:
“One of the valuable features of the LabLitArch project is that it seems to suggest a ludic alternative to a super-rationalized modern education system.”
“It sets up a process of playful experimentation … that has all the edginess, marginality, contingency, and frustration as well as the serious stakes in liberating our thought from habitual constraints.”
“Seeing the process at work felt like being in loophole of knowledge production; a place where participants, thrown out of the respective boxes of their home disciplines, move into a hybrid, interactive, and reconfigurable field.”
“I think of Matteo’s Laboratory as a unique environment for exploring the potential of … moments where literature and architecture, words and buildings and spaces, readability and inhabitability intertwine with humans.”
“Asking us to put our hands on works of literature by architecturally removing their verbal skins, the LabLitArch makes us grasp their actual texture rather than their form or meaning, so as to shape it, collaboratively, as a habitable space.”
“LabLitArch is perhaps most transformative for our thinking and doing at moments of counter-intuition, competing intuitions, mixed intuition, or intuitions that fail us; and that its emphasis on intuition, or gut feeling, includes loops through the whole body and its more intentional responses, as well as through the imagination and the environment.”
“Matteo’s Laboratory is itself a theory of intuition and failure. Intriguingly, its teaching method in collaboratively haptic creativity advances from the outset a non-subjectivist approach; and it does produce end-results, in the form of the final projects.”
In the LITERARY ARCHITECTURE SERIES, Matteo Pericoli shares some of his designs and what they reveal about the stories they are modeled on. The series has been featured in The Paris Review Daily since May 2016 and, until December 2016, also in the Italian national newspaper La Stampa. As of February 2017, the Italian series has been featured in the Italian weekly Pagina99.
The Laboratory of Literary Architecture was created in 2010 by architect/author/illustrator Matteo Pericoli. Since then, the Laboratory has been held in the U.S., Italy, Israel, Switzerland, Taiwan and the United Arab Emirates at the following institutions (among others):
A chapter dedicated to the Laboratory of Literary Architecture is included in the anthology titled The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City, edited by Jonathan Charley (Routledge, 2018). In his text, Matteo Pericoli shares his journey that led to the creation of LabLitArch; in addition, professors Jonathan Charley and Carola Hilfrich (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem) discuss its theoretical and pedagogical implications.
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