Architecture and horror: analogical explorations in architectural design by Sean Pickersgill

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Abstract

This thesis examines the relationship between the practice of architectural design and the media through which it is represented. It makes a consistent critical appraisal of the philosophical presumptions under which architectural theory is made, in particular, the relationship between theories of expression and representation. The thesis presents seven distinct projects by the author which developmentally explore the degree to which architecture is able to represent the sublime – in particular through the concept of horror. In this instance horror emerges as a category of excess that supervenes the uses of the term in the genres of film and literary studies. Within the thesis horror describes an (impossible) objective for representation The thesis argues that the environment within which these philosophical questions of ‘effect’ may most resonantly be explored is, ultimately, digital media. The author draws on contemporary commentary by Jacques Derrida and Georges Bataille, in particular Derrida’s discussion of the Parergon and contemporary discussion of l’informe, the informal to support these arguments. It is within the apparently ‘real’ environments of virtual reality that the presentation of the mise-en-scene of horror may be explored. Immersive digital environments, it is argued, provide an appropriate level of freedom and direction for the exploration of the spatial experience of the abyss. The thesis concludes by presenting observations on the antinomy of aspirations that any materialist theory of architectural practice must attend to when working within digital media.

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