Report: Report from Corpo-real #6
Corpo-real/ArtEZ Master Interior Architecture
am curious about what architecture can learn from
Report from Corpo-real #6
From a novel to a house
literature. Starting from my interest in the literary narrative, I discovered new insight into architecture through the lens
of literature. In my theoretical research I investigated how literary narrative relates to memorial architecture. Of the four categories of rhetoric, as Nigel Coates described in his book Narrative Architecture (2012), narrative is no doubt rooted in, and thus most relevant to the domain of literature1.The earliest literary theory related to the narrative can be traced back to Aristotle’s Poetics (350 B.C.) in ancient Greece. In his book Narrative and Time Volume I (1984) Paul Ricoeur defines narrative as ‘the organization of the events’2. In narrative works, he states, there is a certain structure and approach on how events are organized and constructed into tellable stories3.
Enriching the meaning of architecture from a narrative perspective
Literary Narrative When Shlomith Rimon-Kenan in her book Narrative Fiction (1983) raises the question what a narrative is, she juxtaposes two texts, and qualifies only the first as a narrative.
By Ting Yang There was a young lady of Niger Who smiled as she rode on a tiger. They returned from the ride With the lady inside And the smile on the face of the tiger. Roses are red Violets are blue Sugar is sweet And so are you.
In narrative works, there is a certain structure and approach of how events, the ingredients of the story, are organized and constructed into a tellable story. The development of critical studies of modernist literature contributed substantially to the formation of narratology, which addresses the studies of narrative device and narrative works. Tzvetan Todorov (19392017) first adopts the term narratology4 in Grammaire du Décaméron (1969). In an earlier essay, Todorov argues that a narrative work has two aspects: histoire and discours5. Histoire [story] refers to the story and events, real or fictional, which are narrated in the work. We could learn about the same story by watching a film or through the oral account of a witness. At the same time, the work is told by a narrator in a certain way. Therefore, the second aspect of narrative is discourse. ‘Histoire’ is a ‘what’ question, discours is a ‘how’ question. The first half of the twentieth century Europe and the United States witnessed a significant turning point in the field of western literature. Modernist writers revealed increasing interests beyond written language and the moral value embedded in traditional literary works (e.g. how does the work educate its readers). In response to this literature critics and theorists posed more efforts on studying other aspects of literary works, such as arrangement of story lines and the point of view of the narrator. Consequently, the development of critical studies of modernist literature contributed substantially to the formation of narratology, which is concerned about the studies of narrative device and narrative works. As described before, Paul Ricoeur defines narrative as ‘the organization of the event’s’. A series of delicately organized events constitute the plots of a story. In short, narrative is concerned with what is the narrative content itself, the branch of story, and how it is narrated, the branch of discourse. Specifically, in narrative works, there is a certain structure and approach to how events, the ingredients of various materials, are organized and constructed into a tellable story.
Architectural narrative Opposite to the situation in literature, narrative is quite foreign in the field of architecture. Due to the pioneering educational work conducted in the 1980’s at London’s
Architectural Association (commonly known as the AA), the
positions of these two architect’s, both of their works have
Inspired by this narrative structure, I designed a house, which
notion of narrative has become prominent in the discourse of
frequently been associated with narrative architecture.
accommodates a writer and an architect.
contemporary architecture since the mid-1980’s.
I turned the house 90° (vertical-horizontal) to realise two
In Narrative Architecture, Nigel Coates, one of the leading
“It is quite evident that space matters in architecture while
perspectives. I wondered: can people live in the same house
contributors who introduced narrative in architecture,
time matters in literature.” – Ting Yang
with different perspectives? In one perspective, two inhabitants
discusses how narrative can be applied to architecture. He
meet with each other; in another perspective, they do not. From
notes that there are different configurations of components
Time is generally acknowledged as the most fundamental
within architecture. But there is one architectural situation that
component of literature. Many literary works narrate events
remains the same. This situation consists of ‘a set of essentials’
along the flow of time: the beginning, the development and the
I first extracted the contradictions in architecture: ownership of
that are ‘significant to the subject’. It is the configuration of
end. In 1945, Joseph Frank introduces the idea of spatial into the
space, circulation, and function. From the writer’s perspective,
those essential situations that makes architecture step into the
literary discussion in his classic essay Spatial Form in Modern
the inhabitants have their own space without interacting with
territory of narrative. Coates also argues that narrative is ‘an
Literature (1945). The notion ‘spatial form’ does not refer to
another. When the house is turned to the architect’s perspective,
approach to practice’, a process of translation from abstract
physical space (e.g., a room), but instead, a certain structure
the exactly same divided space becomes a common corridor;
idea to tangible, physical form, which we call architecture. He
of narration . Specifically, Frank observes that the writers of
there are even common areas shared by the two inhabitants. After
adopts the word translation, which suggests that there is a
modern literature break down the sequence of events and thus
assigning functions to the different rooms in two perspectives,
gap between the intangible and the tangible. Following Coates,
disturb their chronological order. They replace sequence with
I juxtaposed some selected rooms from one perspective with
we can think of the architectural narrative as a grammar of
simultaneity. The juxtaposition of multiple fragments works as
their counterparts from another perspective. It is interesting to
architecture. This grammar allows communication between
collage, dissolving the sense of temporal discontinuity.
see that the inhabitants do either similar or completely different
one perspective to another, I reshape the inhabitants’ life.
things in the same space.
the architect who invents [writes] the intangible ideas, and the public that apprehends [reads] the built works. The significance
This collage of fragments has also been recognized in the field
of architectural narrative is that it shows us that architecture
of architecture. For example, in Transparency: Literal and
“I concluded that the value of narrative for both literature and
Phenomenal (1963), Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky define two
architecture is to create stories and thus meaning through
types of transparency: the literal and the phenomenal . They
organization of events.” – Ting Yang
In his book Meaning in Architecture (1969) Christian Norberg-
pair Walter Gropius and pre-cubists such as Moholy-Nagy
Schulz argues that architecture concretizes ‘values’6 . It gives
versus Le Corbusier and post-cubists such as Fernand Leger.
Indeed, architecture has become different when I apply a
visual expression to ideas that brings meaning to its’ inhabitants.
Like Moholy-Nagy’s composition of geometrical planes in his
literary structure to it. For the two protagonists in my project, I
Then what is the role of narrative in communicating meaning?
paintings Gropius’ Bauhaus building is one example of literal
preset two ways of living in their house: one is living separately
According to Coates, narratives can engage with the medium of
transparency in its use of reflective material (glass) to create an
and another one is living interactively. How can these two
space, and form the basis on which architecture can be given
interesting interaction with light. Contrary to literal transparency,
modes be possible in the same house? What I did is changing
meaning’. Sophia Psarra, in her book Architecture and Narrative:
perceived seeing-through is not the prerequisite of phenomenal
the perspective by turning the house.
The Formation of Space and Cultural Meaning (2009) also agrees
transparency. The authors find similarities between post-
that narrative facilitates architecture to communicate meaning.
cubism paintings and works of Le Corbusier. The former, such as
Turning the house – it sounds only workable in fiction. By
Her publication is a more recent work discussing narrative and
Fernand Léger, juxtaposes multiple planes on one single painting,
designing a house with multi-perspectives, I realized that the
architecture with a strong interest in investigating how spatial
generating a sense of ‘shallow space’, which is termed as
same spatial structure has different temporal dimensions. Two
configuration contributes to the creation of cultural meaning.
phenomenal transparency. Regarding to architecture, the authors
modes of living cannot happen at the same point in time. But
observes that Corbusier deploys the principle of frontality in his
it could be realised at different points of time. Metaphorically,
If we agree that architecture conveys meaning, it could be
design of Villa Garches. He confronts visitors with pre-set planes,
architecture seems like a template with multi-perspectives.
helpful to introduce insights from semiology (the study of signs
compresses their vision to shallow space. It is the retracted
It determines, to a certain extent, how we spend our time
and symbols and their use or interpretation). Italian semiotician
depth that stimulate visitors to imagine what is behind those
throughout the days. Architecture is a template with multiple
Umberto Eco writes in La Structure Absente: ‘The architectural
planes. Corbusier plays with real and imagined space.
perspectives, and I see endless possibilities there.
sign becomes the signifier X denoting a spatial signified–which
While juxtaposing the idea of ‘spatial form’ in literary theory
is a function Y that in its turn becomes a signifier connoting a
and ‘phenomenal transparency’ in the field of architecture, one
In short, there are great potentials for the narrative in
proxemic signified as a social value K’ . In his view, architecture
could find among writers, painters and architects the shared
architecture. Through this project, I realized that how to look at
is the symbol, the signifier. The signified is split into two levels.
interest in decomposing a wholeness into fragments. Narrative
architecture is as important as what it is, just like how to tell a
At the first level, architecture denotes ‘primary functions.’ The
is deployed to mediate among fragments, synthesizing the
story is as essential as what the story is about.
second level corresponds to connotative ‘secondary functions’ .
heterogeneous, balancing the paradox between discordance
He takes the cave as an example to distinguish architectural
and concordance, to achieve ‘followability’.
About Ting Yang, an architect with an open soul
connotation and architectural denotation, and argues that
Ting Yang’s journey is one with a few twists along the way.
the cave, the physical object, denotes a shelter function, the
Originally from China, the blueprint for Ting’s career changed
physical object’s primary function. Over time, it also connotes
symbolic function, ‘a certain ideology of the function’, e.g.
Do we see architecture differently when we look at it by
to the country as a law student at Maastricht University.
family, group, security, familiar surroundings, etc.. According
applying a literary structure? In my artistic research, I followed
After earning her degree in law, she worked for a while as a
to Coates, narrative in architecture resides on the connotative
the two-folded ‘story-discourse’ framework and explored the
paralegal. She felt that she wanted to try something new and
rather than the denotive meaning of architecture. Therefore, we
how aspect in architecture. I chose Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s
challenge herself. Interior Architecture was a subject she was
can argue more specifically that narrative facilitates to reveal
detective short story In A Grove as a narrative structure. This
interested in for a long time. Her interest first led to the pre-
architecture’s connotative meaning.
novel consists of seven chapters. Each chapter is a monologue
master in Interior Architecture, after which she enrolled in the
Besides the contributions from theoretical works on
of one of the characters that are independent from each other.
master programme. She graduated in June 2022, and recently
narrative architecture, there are also discussions from the
There are contradictions among their statements and the truth
started working at an architectural studio in Rotterdam.
practice of architecture. Architects do not hold the same
remains unclear to readers.
quite a lot after she moved to the Netherlands. She first came
answer to the question whether architecture can tell a story. For example, Daniel Libeskind’s Jewish Museum in Berlin is
In a Grove is written by the Japanese writer Ryūnosuke
regarded by many as one of the most popular examples of
Akutagawa and was published in 1922. It had significant
narrative architecture. Libeskind himself explicitly asserts
influence on the world of literature in Japan after it was
that architecture can tell a story . However, Peter Zumthor
published. Several adapted versions have been created from
Nigel Coates, Narrative Architecture, p. 15.
Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative, Volume I, p. 36.
disagrees. In 1993, Zumthor won a competition regarding a
the original story, and in different fields other than literature,
Shlomith Rimmon-Kenan, Narrative Fiction: Contemporary Poetics, p. 1
new museum that addresses the Holocaust on the site of the
such as film (e.g. the award-winning 1950 film Rashomon
Todorov Tzvetan, Grammaire du Décaméron in series Approaches to Semiotics–3.
Todorov Tzvetan. Les catégories du récit littéraire. In: Communications, 8, 1966, 125-
former Gestapo’s headquarters in Berlin. Zumthor indicates
directed by Akira Kurosawa) and musical work (Rashomon, the
that he cannot convince himself that it is possible to design a
opera by Alejandro Viñao). Furthermore, the title of the book
building to comment on such an impactful history11. Different
has transformed to an idiom in the language of Japanese
from the design methods adopted in many memorial projects
(藪の中) and Chinese (羅生門). It is used to describe situations
such as building something symbolic, Zumthor’s idea was to
in which the truth is not clear and different people have
build a pure construction without meaning, without comment.
However, unlike the architect’s intention, people still interpret
This novel consists of seven chapters. Each of them is a
his design in relation to stories from the past. Zumthor learned
monologue of one character. Such a narrative method can be
that meaning cannot be avoided, although he is not interested
referred as to polyphony. Polyphony is a term originally from
in investing architecture with meaning. Despite the different
music. It means multi-melody at the same time.
Christian Norberg-Schulz, ‘Meaning in Architecture’ in Meaning in Architecture, ed. Charles Jencks and George Baird, 223.
Sophia Psarra, Architecture and Narrative: The Formation of Space and Cultural Meaning.
Extracted from Nikolaos-Ion Terzoglou in Architecture as Meaningful Language: Space, Place and Narrativity, Linguistics and Literature Studies 6.
Umberto Eco, ‘Function and Sign: the Semiotics of Architecture’, in Rethinking
Lecture Edge of Order, School of Architecture and Planning, The University at
Peter Zumthor: Seven Personal Observations on Presence In Architecture.
Architecture, ed. Neil Leach, 179-181. Buffalo. 12
Joseph Frank, Spatial Form in Modern Literature, Sewanee Review 53.
Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky, ‘Transparency: Literal and Phenomenal’, Perspecta, 45-54.
With this Corpo-real report we proudly present an excellent example of the diverse artistic expressions of our community. Corpo-real is a unique, international, twoyear full-time master programme in the field of Interior Architecture focusing on the endlessly changing relationship between bodies and space. In the title Corpo-real ‘corpo’ stands for bodies in general and ‘real’ for the reality that surrounds them. Corpo-real is located in Zwolle, where students and tutors develop a researchdriven spatial design practice geared towards an unknown future. The current reality of new unfolding societal and political structures, discrimination, gender issues, scientific and technological developments challenge us in profound ways. We invite our students to address recent and future societal changes, based on an Writer 1
understanding that whatever has worked well in the past may not be sufficient in the future, and that many of these changes are too broad and complex to address using existing methods. Therefore, we encourage our students to make good use of knowledge from other disciplines, through collaborations within and outside ArtEZ. Throughout the programme, students are introduced to, and learn to work with, research methods from various disciplines such as anthropology, sociology, theatre, curating, or literature. Corpo-real is particularly focused on the connection between theoretical thinking, reflecting and the practice-based research. The fruitful meeting between these research methods in recent Finals projects shows that it leads to new findings and perspectives for the professional field. During the first year, students develop a theoretical research question, which they will then consolidate during the first half of
the second year in the form of a written paper, while also exploring and challenging during this second year their theory through artistic and practice-based research. For their final thesis, presented during the final exam at the end of the second year, students are asked to demonstrate how the theory and the practice-based research are interconnected, and how this has led to new findings and insights. Ting Yang, as a practice-based researcher with a background in law, has in an admirable manner connected theoretical research with her architectural explorations. Her interest lies in the narrative, during her theory research she explored the role of narrative in literature. The structure of the short story was explored and analysed. Inspired by this structure she designed a house that accommodates a writer and an architect, including the two different perspectives on narrative by turning the house 90 degrees. Through this research she found the great
potential of narrative in architecture. The synthesis of this thesis shows consistent research that has a solid foundation in both architectural explorations and theory. W corpo-real.artez.nl E email@example.com I corporeal.artez
Colophon Tutors Writer 4
Mark Proosten, Paper supervisor Eric de Leeuw, Finals tutor Lucia Luptáková, Finals tutor Editor Ting Yang Ingrid van Zanten Roos Krootjes Photography (models) Nico van Maanen / ArtEZ Graphic Design
Office for Desing, Loek Kemming Studio Damiaan Renkens, Arnhem Printing Drukkerij Loor, Varsseveld