The Laboratory of Literary Architecture The Laboratory of Literary Architecture
The Laboratory of Literary Architecture
A cross-disciplinary exploration of literature as architecture
What makes a story stand? stand?
What makes a story stand?
How do we perceive literary structures? literary structures?
How do we perceive literary structures?
How do they affect us? affect us?
How do they affect us?
Can a literary structure be designed? designed?
Can a literary structure be designed?

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.

– Alice Munro, Selected Stories, 1968-1994

Literary Architecture

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.

The Book

The Great Living Museum of the Imagination

Il Saggiatore
(Italian edition)

This is a book unlike any other. It is a building. To be precise, a museum: the Museum of Literary Architecture. But please don’t expect a museum in the traditional sense.
What we’re going to do is discover how this building, which you have never visited before, has its own architectural structure that will slowly take shape not only thanks to the words printed on these pages, but
above all — as you will discover — thanks to your creative reading experience.
See you at the entrance.

Workshop Projects

Previous Workshops
About

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, SwitzerlandTaiwan and the United Arab Emirates at the following institutions (among others):

M.F.A. writing program at Columbia University School of the Arts, New York
Department of Comparative Literature at The Hebrew University, Department of Architecture at the Bezalel Academy, Jerusalem
Center of the Arts, National Taiwan University, Taipei, Taiwan
Dubai Design Week 2016, with the Emirates Literature Foundation, Dubai, UAE
Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano, Switzerland
University of Turin, Department of Humanities, Italy (as Laboratory of Musical Architecture)
Istituto Europeo di Design (IED), Turin (Italy)
University of Ferrara, Department of Architecture, Italy
Southwestern University, Texas
Polo Poschiavo, Poschiavo, Switzerland
CUNY’s Hunter College and Graduate Center, New York City
High schools in Maryland, California, Oklahoma and Turin (Italy)

The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The City (2018), 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.

The Laboratory of Literary Architecture was created in 2010 by architect/author/illustrator Matteo Pericoli.

Since then, the Laboratory has been held at various institutions in the U.S., Italy, Israel, SwitzerlandTaiwan and the United Arab Emirates.

The Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and the City (2018), 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.

Student Worshops

Various length workshops tailored to each school’s or institution’s needs and budgets during which all aspects of the Laboratory are explored: introduction to literary architecture, text analysis, architectural structure and narrative analysis, project and model development (in collaboration, if necessary, with architects), text production, and final presentations.

Teacher Workshops & Coaching

An in-depth, hands-on LabLitArch workshop in which teachers are presented a detailed history of the Laboratory’s past results and then participate in a condensed version of the workshop in order to be able to hold one themselves.

Remote Consultancies

Learn how to set up and organize your own LabLitArch via a series of remote (Skype, Zoom, or similar) conversations and informational Q/A sessions, including basic curricular materials. Great for high schools and higher education programs wishing to offer a LabLitArch workshop that can be customized to their specific curricula.

For Professionals

For architects or professionals interested in applying the principles of narrative and storytelling to architecture and design. Expand your creative process by using space, construction materials, light and volume to explore and analyze literary structures. Either as a full-length course or a workshop/seminar for architecture students or as a workshop for firms in the fields of architecture, design, and more, the Laboratory of Literary Architecture offers a unique way to explore the common structural language of architecture and literature.

Testimonials

“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.”

“LabLitArch creates a unique environment to explore the haptic interface of literature and architecture, words and buildings, readability and inhabitability. … It is seminal … for opening the gates of creative thought for writers, architects, and scholars alike.”

“The LabLitArch is an extraordinary experiment on and with readers and the resourcefulness of their imagination. By taking part in the laboratory, one discovers that experiencing the space of a text does not exclusively mean visualizing the settings described in it, but also requires performing a complex synesthetic and imaginative process.”

“This is exactly the kind of learning that I think should be taking place more frequently.”

“This is a great project. It gives us, the students, a way to show understanding in a creative, artistic way. The project is not what you expect from an English class, especially not in high school, and is a nice change from boring analytical essays. I also believe that it makes us think in a more in-depth way about the story.”

“LabLitArch was a most wonderful experience. As a design student, I was introduced to an aspect of design that’s often overlooked; a certain depth to its essence that transcends boundaries to exist on another dimension; cultivating a sensibility that holds ground in being thought provoking, other than in simply being noticed. It was an intense and fully immersive experience.”

“As [the LabLitArch] guides writers to collaborate with architects in order to create in three dimensions, the writers certainly learn to think more deeply and more conceptually about the meaning of structure.”

“Attending the [LabLitArch] was extremely liberating for my writing process. It forced me to think about fiction in architectural terms and helped me understand how every literary decision we make on the page can always be translated into a spatial idea.”

“LabLitArch was five days of exploring, learning, introspecting, reevaluating and, most importantly, being reminded that all of this can be tremendous fun … The gift of the workshop is a refined sense of wonder, an enthusiasm to look for the narrative in everything around us and, more importantly, seeing and appreciating them.”

“[LabLitArch] made me think out of the ordinary, as I usually read a novel and have to write an essay about it. Creating an architectural structure on the book made me think about and analyze the book in a totally different way. … [It] changed the way I read the book and I had an amazing experience working on this project.”

“The [LabLitArch] is educational, creative, imaginative, fulfilling in its end result.”

In the Press

“… one of the strangest and most interesting classes I’d ever seen.”

“… rarely has architecture served the same function for writing as writing has served for architecture: to analyze and clarify.”

“Writers as Architects”

“The Laboratory of Literary Architecture pushes students to compose through their model a fictional architectural experience.”

“The writer and the architect aren’t so different from each other when you consider each one as builders of an environment, and what better way than this to introduce that concept to a class of high school students.”

“A stunning intellectual experiment.”

“Every book has a structure – but what if you were to represent it as a physical object?”

“I don’t even know where to begin so much it fascinated me […] The dynamics of the story turns into an actual architectural construction.”

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