3rd Year Architecture studio at the Venice Architecture Biennale Sessions 2012

(05.10-08.10.2012, 7 oct, 14:00-18:00, Biennale Venice_Arsenale_Giardini_Bartolini Room F)

On Autobiographical Lenses: from Perspective to Performance

The Venice Biennale 2012 site

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"No matter what sort he is, everyone who has to his credit what are or really seem
great achievements, if he cares for truth and goodness, ought to write the story of
his life in his own hand…"
              —Benvenuto Cellini, De Vita Propria (1574), trans. George Bull

A lens is an instrument one looks through to bring new perspectives into focus, enabling the transformation of experience from a magnified self-concentrated space to a wide horizon.

In A Portrait of the Artist as A Young Man, Joyce posits autopsia, or “seeing for oneself,” as the only mode of knowledge, rather than a blind acceptance of traditions, beliefs and social norms. Joyce’s myopic observer-protagonist is marked by a Cartesian self-reflexiveness and by a Modernist self-conscious creation of self.  The structure of the self, its house of being, is created in A Portrait mainly through the epiphanic gaze. Epiphanies may be regarded as the building blocks of self and narrative; they comprehend an architectural configuration of vision. It is in the visionary moment that the kaleidoscope of the self crystallizes. The fictional prospect of the novel is made up of multiple viewpoints; the protagonist, moving in the space of the text, is affected by the presence of these manifold perspectives: the space or magnetic field of A Portrait is charged by epiphanies.
We lead a third-year design studio entitled “Beyond Words: On Autobiographical Lenses” at the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem. On Autobiographical Lenses calls for a relevant quality action, geared towards making architecture from a personal perspective. In this interdisciplinary experiment, literary criticism fosters a reconfiguration of architectural theory and performance. The subjective lenses function as a surgical tool for imagining and creating focal spaces.  Architecture is not merely another way of looking at the world – it also entails the ability to invite others to envision spaces and dreamed structures through the architect’s eyes. The architect’s epiphanic gaze manifests itself through fields of action.
We believe that our studio meets the challenge of “Common Ground” set by Sir David Chipperfield for the 2012 Architecture Biennale on several levels—projective (self/world), physical (location on-site), interdisciplinary (architecture/poetry) and multicultural:

• From Perspective to Performance:  In this studio, autobiographical lenses are introduced as surgical tools of imagining and creating focal spaces. The self-concentration opens up into a wide angle of vision: The students were required to transform personal experience, real or fictional, from a magnified self-concentrated gaze to a wide horizon.
• Interdisciplinary studio: The etymology of tekton (both builder and poet) encapsulates the interrelation of architecture and poetry. Our studio focuses on both disciplines, whose interaction invites a rethinking of architectural theory and performance. The students were invited to analyze selected texts from English and American poetry as well as write their own autobiographical portraits.
• Literal and multicultural: Our studio promotes a creative dialogue between Christian, Moslem and Jewish students. Upon formulating their subjective outlook in a poetic way, the students were then asked to perform a metaphorical intervention on-site and allocate their autobiographical design along the periphery of the Old City walls.  The loaded location demanded from each student to grapple with the challenge posed by a shared physical territory as the site of conflict.
Our goal is to redefine architecture as a discipline motivated by the understanding that the world is not merely a planet but is made up by the multiple personal worldviews of the human beings who inhabit it.


To Marco Frascari, and in memory of H. M. (Bill) Daleski, our inspiring (respective) mentors,

Nilly R. Harag     |    Talia Trainin

Talia Trainin—PhD in English Literature (HUJI). Has taught poetry in the English Department and academic writing to PhD and "Amirim" Honors Program students. She is a language editor and an exhibiting artist in both Israel and abroad.
Nilly R Harag—MA Arch. (U of Pennsylvania). Has taught architecture in Israel and abroad.  She is a Senior Lecturer at the Dept. of Architecture in Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design and a practising architect in Arctic Architects and Urban Designers.