This talk explores the relationship between premodern concepts of the body and the experience of architecture. It is occasioned by a problem in the current terms of architectural understanding. Despite the advent of post-modernist aesthetics and notions of embodied perception, the study of Renaissance architecture remains closely tied to formalism and the analysis of buildings in purely “optical” abstract terms. The limitations of this interpretive paradigm are revealed in studying the authorship question of the Pazzi Chapel. Viewed closely in the formalist lens, the Chapel seems not only to lose its Brunelleschian authorship but to shrink into a second-rate work of architecture. How are we to resolve the contradiction between this analytic reduction and the powerful impression that the Chapel nevertheless makes in “ordinary” viewing? A reconsideration of the building-as-body syndrome in Renaissance architectural thought and practice suggests new categories of analysis. Through these concepts not only is the Pazzi Chapel seen in a new light as a remarkable work in itself, but it is revealed as the avatar of an important unrecognized architectural current of the quattrocento.
Marvin Trachtenberg is Edith Kitzmiller Professor of Art History at the Institute of Fine Arts of NYU. A leading specialist in medieval and Renaissance architecture, his publications in this area include over 30 articles and three books: Building-in-Time from Giotto to Alberti and Modern Oblivion (2010), The Campanile of Florence Cathedral “Giotto’s Tower” (1972) and Dominion of the Eye: Urbanism, Art and Power in Early Modern Florence (1997). Trachtenberg’s honors include fellowships from I Tatti, the NEH, the Kress and Guggenheim Foundations, membership in the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and four book prizes: two Hitchcock awards from the Society of Architectural Historians, a Charles Rufus Morey Prize from the College Art Association, and the George Sarton Medal in the History of Science from Ghent University.
The lecture is open to all and free of charge.