Architecture as performance

Sigurd Lewerentz’s uncut bricks


  • Ken Wilder University of the Arts London



Art as Performance, Architecture, Reception Aesthetics, Nelson Goodman, David Davies


Might architecture be reconceived as a form of performance? I draw upon Nelson Goodman’s writing on architecture—including his account of architectural notation—and David Davies’s performance theory, which claims that artworks should be considered not as products made by generative performances, but rather as the performances themselves. I tie the exemplification that Goodman identifies as the primary way architectural works ‘mean’ to the role of the architectural ‘score’, recast not as a mere ‘constraint’ but as integral to the creative processes by which architecture establishes an ‘artistic statement’ and a distinctive ‘virtual’ realm. In so doing, I reconcile such a position with an aesthetics of reception, whereby the situated encounter with the physical building is seen as essential to the critical retrieval of any given architectural performance. I test this position against a late work by Sigurd Lewerentz, completed when he was in his eighties, and examine the extraordinary lengths necessitated by his idiosyncratic imperative not to cut any bricks, thereby articulating an artwork every bit as radical as contemporaneous works by conceptual artists.


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