ABSTRACT

Joseph Rykwert’s canonical lecture ‘The Sitting Position—A Question of Method’, which he delivered at the Ulm School of Design (Hochschule für Gestaltung), Germany in the winter semester of 1957–1958, carried a covert critique of two institutions’ pedagogies. While the subject of ‘the chair’ may appear to be a seemingly innocuous topic choice, in his lecture, it became a device through which he delivered a surreptitious critique of the pedagogy and methods of Ulm School and the interpretive procedures of the Warburg Institute in London. Rykwert’s discussion of the value of emotion, aesthetics, symbolism and memory within the formation and reception of design signalled central pedagogical and methodological debates present within these institutions. His lecture critically navigated between the two clashing perspectives associated with the holistic vision of the Warburg Institute against the rationalising programme of design at Ulm. His critical approach in this early career lecture foreshadows a strategy that would re-emerge throughout his subsequent body of work.