In-person LabLitArch editions at IED Turin

Sketching Baltazar’s The Continuity of Parks

In-person editions of the Laboratory of Literary Architecture have finally resumed!

We have just completed a great edition at IED Turin in which the students worked on short stories by Donald Barthelme (Concerning the Bodyguard), Julio Cortázar (The Continuity of Parks), A.M. Homes (Things You Should Know), and Ernest Hemingway (Hills Like White Elephants).

Here are some images of their beautiful projects:


A new edition will be held late in May, as well as a new Laboratory of Musical Architecture at University of Turin’s DAMS.

Stay tuned.



LabLitArch News: Two Illuminating Workshops

At the Window (Lugano workshop)

The first workshop was held in April, in collaboration with professor Marco Maggi of USI University of Lugano (CH), Institute of Italian Studies, and organized by the City of Lugano.
An array of participants, including USI literature students, graduate design students, and two selfless local architects (Flora and Michela), attended. Professor Maggi’s area of research, which focuses on the “mental space” of the reader, allowed for a more in-depth exploration of how a literary text “carves out” a space from within the mind of the reader.
While working with one of professor Maggi’s students who has been visually impaired since birth, we realized how her ability to deduce an architectural space (obviously only its interior since its exterior shape isn’t perceivable to her) is incredibly similar to how a reader perceives the “structure” of a literary text, where words function not so much as “building blocks”, but more as excavating tools that actively create space by subtracting material from a solid mass (imagine, for example, the city of Petra in Jordan). A story, in fact, is obviously un-knowable from the “outside” and it’s only once we’ve begun to penetrate it (by reading it) that we start to slowly create a perception about its “construction”.
For this edition we worked on texts by Hemingway, Delius, Tabucchi and A.M. Homes. Here is a short video on our 20+ hours of practically continuous work:

Lugano Workshop YouTube Video

The second workshop was LabLitArch’s very first experiment with music. It was in fact called “Laboratory of Musical Architecture”. It was held in May, in collaboration with professor Andrea Malvano of the University of Turin’s Department of Humanities. Professor Malvano, who has degrees in both literature and music (piano), selected pieces by BachSchumannSchoenberg and Glass. The participants, all trained musicians or music students, worked with two experienced LabLitArch architects (Michelle Vecchia and Alessio Lamarca) to produce five amazing models:


We applied the very same methodology and approach used in many Literary Architecture workshops, i.e. working mostly backwards in search of possible motivating and implicit original inclinations that were at the basis of the creation of the musical pieces. As with literary texts, we avoided manifesting what is somewhat already explicit in the music. By working in the opposite direction, so to speak, we tried to get as close as possible, if it is even ever attainable, to the composer’s original creative sparkor insight or intuition.

This led us to the realization that, in music as in literature, movement in this direction forces us to leave our familiar disciplinary turf and we end up reaching a kind of expansive narrative ground probably common to most human artistic endeavors. Perhaps there indeed exists a sudden creative impulse, which is neither made of words nor of notes — it’s just there, as a not-yet-manifest expression of a narrative intuition. If so, narrative is truly all-pervasive. And architecture, with its fundamental narrative elements such as volume, space, light, weight, revelations, suspension, etc. seems to be an ideal tool to analyze, explore and even enter this boundless space of narrative.

Insight from both of these workshops will hopefully be included in the Literary Architecture book I am working on with Il Saggiatore. Work is progressing well and, as an additional sneak preview, I would like to share this new sketch of the book’s structurehere. At first glance, it may not seem so different from the previous sketch; but to me, and my very-limited writing experience, it represents a huge step forward!

Stay tuned for more news on the LabLitArch.


LabLitArch in Routledge academic anthology

e Routledge Companion on Architecture, Literature and The CityIt’s finally here and it is so exciting to see the Laboratory of Literary Architecture in a major academic publication!

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.


Video: LabLitArch @ Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo

A great in-depth video of the 2017 edition of the Laboratory of Literary Architecture held at the Turin Contemporary Art Museum Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo:


Open Call – Laboratory of Literary Architecture @ DOX in Prague

Announcing an open-to-everyone edition of the Laboratory of Literary Architecture to be held in Prague this June at the amazing DOX Centre for Contemporary Art in collaboration with ARCHIP, the Architectural Institute in Prague.
If you are an avid reader and/or a writer, a writing student or literature scholar/student, an architect or an architecture student, or are just curious to try your hand at the LabLitArch’s approach to Literary Architecture, what better occasion than at this great museum in such an incredible city?
The workshop will be held in English and the dates are June 7 – 11. Details about the application process, costs, hours and contact information can be found here or by clicking on the invitation below. The application deadline is May 20.


New LabLitArch Video

A newly edited LabLitArch video.

Special thanks to Twin Pixel Video and Al-Johara Beydoun (words).


New LabLitArch workshop @ Liceo Altiero Spinelli (Turin)

Starting on February 2: the second LabLitArch edition at the Liceo Internazionale Altiero Spinelli (Turin) in collaboration with Fronte del Borgo.

We’ll be working on texts by Amy Hempel, Friedrich Christian Delius, Wen-Fu Tsai and Ernest Hemingway.


LabLitArch @ Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo (Turin)

La prossima edizione del laboratorio che si terrà dal 16 al 19 Novembre alla Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo di Torino sarà aperta a tutti — lettori, scrittori, architetti, curiosi del rapporto tra narrativa e spazio — e, come troverete sul sito della Fondazione:

“nell’ambito dei progetti di accessibilità culturale portati avanti dalla Fondazione Sandretto Re Rebaudengo, l’attività è rivolta anche a persone con disabilità visiva. Sarà un’occasione per condividere la propria esperienza, personale o professionale, di rapporto con la lettura e con lo spazio.”

Inoltre, grazie alla collaborazione con la Fondazione per l’architettura di Torino, agli architetti che lo desiderino saranno riconosciuti 15 crediti formativi.

Vi invito quindi a guardare la pagina (qui) e di iscrivervi entro il 29 Ottobre — sarà un’opportunità per sperimentare come l’architettura possa essere usata per penetrare ed esplorare il funzionamento di un testo letterario.


From the LabLitArch edition in Taipei (Taiwan)

Some images from the LabLitArch workshop held at the Center for the Arts of National Taiwan University in Taipei. The students — with very diverse majors such as architecture, engineering, political science, social studies, philosophy and psychology — worked on texts by Amy Hempel (The Harvest), E.B. White (The Door), Ernest Hemingway (Hills Like White Elephants), and Wen-Fu Tsai (A New Dress).


LabLitArch workshop @ Liceo Altiero Spinelli (Turin)

The recently-ended LabLitArch workshop for 10th graders at the public high school Altiero Spinelli in Turin (Italy) was written up in the Turin-based, national newspaper La Stampa, here.
The fifteen-year-old students did great work, click here to look at some photos taken during the workshop: