Dense voids, violent laughters and other unorthodox ways

Abstract: Starting from an analysis of Georges Bataille’s text ‘The Labyrinth’ (1935-6), this paper addresses the always changing relationship between architecture and the city, considering in particular the architectural ‘void’, as both a physical space and a disciplinary domain. In the city, architecture operates in a ‘void’ that is dense of tensions, unevenness, singularities, stratifications and movements, and must devise strategies for addressing and inhabiting these networks of relations. Focusing in particular on Peter Eisenman’s definition of the ‘interstitial’ as a spacing condition of form-form relation, and on Rem Koolhaas’s ‘strategy of the void’ and its congestion with architectural ‘junk’, this text argues that different postmodern positions on architecture in the city have addressed the ‘void’ as a space that is not feared – and therefore ‘designed’ by the architectural project – but tensioned with the potentiality of Bataille’s convulsive laughter: that destabilizing and de-compositional force that transverses relations of structured organizational contiguity, and challenges them with a force that travels across the (architectural) ‘void’.

Bio: Teresa Stoppani (MArch IUAV Venice, PhD Arch&UD Florence) is Reader in Architecture at the University of Brighton. She has taught architectural design and theory at the IUAV Venice, the Architectural Association London, the University of Greenwich, RMIT University Melbourne and the University of Technology Sydney. Her research interests are the relationship between architecture theory and the design process in the urban environment, and the influence on the specifically architectural of other spatial and critical practices.

Teresa is an editor of the EAHN journal Architectural Histories and of Ultima Thule: Journal of Architectural Imagination. Her writings have been published internationally in edited books and academic journals (Angelaki, ARQ, Footprint, Haecceity Papers, Idea Journal, Log, The Journal of Architecture, The Journal of Architecture) and include: considerations on G.B. Piranesi’s architectural space in relation to contemporary spatial practices; a series of explorations of the significance of dust in the work of W. Benjamin, G. Bataille and in the visual arts and media, proposing a reconsideration of form. Recent works include a study of the complex relation of the project of architecture with the destructive event of war and terrorism (in Space & Culture 15:2, 2012 ), an essay on the critical nature of architecture for the 13th Venice Architecture Biennale (in D. Chipperfield (ed.), Common Ground. Critical Reader, 2012), an exploration of the connection between the material and the critical in architectural representation, through a study of practices erasures (in I. Wingham (ed.), Mobility of the Line, Birkhauser, 2013). Her book Paradigm Islands: Manhattan and Venice was published by Routledge in 2010; her current work proposes a critical consideration of key concepts for the reconceptualization of the architecture of the city – to be published in the forthcoming X Unorthodox Ways to Rethink the City (Routledge, 2014).