chapter  2
18 Pages

Theatricality: The Structure of the Tectonic

Several questions provide an opening for a discussion of Gottfried Semper’s idea of theatricality. Is there room for excess within elements basic to a constructed space? How does excess sneak into the purpose of the object and legitimize itself beyond recognition? Is our fascination with structures like the Eiel Tower and the work of engineers at the turn of the last century, and even the recent structures conceived and built by Santiago Calatrava and Cecil Balmond due to the absence of excess? Or, contrary to our expectation, is it excess in its full representation? And, nally, what does excess have to do with the tectonic? For a positive response to these questions it is enough to recall Semper’s idea of constructed-form as “selfillumination” of technique, or look at Carlo Scarpa’s architecture and drop the subject right here! Scarpa’s work is an exemplar of the tectonic of theatricality at two levels. On the one hand, his entire oeuvre can be classied, metaphorically, as a montage of fragments each articulated tectonically. On the other, his engagement with detailing and materiality is so compelling that each building is seemingly designed just to reveal its articiality; meaning that it is just a fabrication. We will return to the Italian architect at another occasion in this book. For now we should focus on the neo-avant-garde architecture and the excessive theatricality (theatricalization) in their work that is usually theorized along Gilles Deleuze’s discourse on “fold.”1