A light-hearted survey course that I, Alexis Clements, put together for my former work colleagues upon the occasion of our weekly beer drinking celebration. Some of the links are dead (I apologize in advance for that), but some people seem to enjoy this, so I've left it up. Click here to return to my homepage.

A Brief Survey of Artistic Representations of Social Interaction:
From the Caves of Lascaux to the Halls of CIW

Unit 11 - Interiors

Architecture...the adaptation of form to resist force.
John Ruskin (1819-1900)
British art critic, author

Architecture is the art of how to waste space.
Philip Johnson (b. 1906)
U.S. architect
New York Times (Dec. 27, 1964)

The purpose of architecture is to shelter and enhance man's life on earth and to fulfill his belief in the nobility of his existence.
Eero Saarinen (1910-1961)
Finnish/U.S. architect
Address at Dartmouth College


Haus der Deutschen Kunst
(House of German Art), Munich
designed by Paul Ludwig Troost
Photo credit:
Florida Center for Instructional Technology

Glorious sweeping curves and carefully wrought angles dip and plunge around these monuments to human endeavour, these shrines to human aspiration. Architecture is held by many to be the highest art form, the one with the greatest potential to yield the perfect combination of form, function, and beauty. In the above image you see the enormous columns of one in a series of important buildings in Munich, all of which were ordered built by a man not only enamoured and impressed with the possibilities of architecture, but also infinitely aware of its psychological impact. Hitler's dream of Germany was not only to be rid by any means necessary of the people that he deemed unfit, but it was also to be singular in aesthetic, with reminders at every turn of the might, the indestructibility, and the immensity of this fantasy world. In Hitler's dream there was no where that you could go and not be reminded of his gaze and his ambitions, the ever present eye of the party on all that took place within its walls.

Stateville Correctional Center
Crest Hill, Ill May 14, 2002
(photo credits listed below)

Hitler was not the first, nor will he be the last to try to harness brick and mortar in order to weild his power. In perhaps one of the most cunning manifestos on the impact of architecture, one Jeremy Bentham, writing in 1787, describes a plan for "any establishment, in which persons of any description are to be kept under inspection." In this panoptic (meaning, quite literally, a single view containing everything that is visible) world, all the people contained therein are constantly under the gaze of figures residing in a central tower into which they cannot see--never knowing if the guards are present or not, they must always assume they are being watched, being witnessed. The idea has since come to be realized in a number of different ways, but none so precisely as the Stateville Correctional Center in Crest Hill, Illinois (pictured above).

Michel Foucault, a French philosopher and social critic, writes at length about the phenomenon of the Panopticon in his book Discipline and Punish (orig. in French, Surveiller et Punir), as it can be seen in the broader context of society. Drawing on a long and gruesome history of punishment and tortures, both public and private, Foucault arrives at modern times with the idea that we are all simultaneously acting as the one watching and the one being watched, that the architecture of our world thrusts us into the dual position of fearing the gaze and at the same using it against those around us.

Surveillance cameras were recently installed in various corners of DC, with many Americans crying foul, but in no other country than Britain (the homeland of the great Mr. Orwell himself) is there more scrutiny by camera of the populous. Over 4 million cameras are installed in that tiny, island country, each one linked to a immense network known popularly as CCTV (closed-circuit television). If a shop wants to install a camera where there isn't one already, they must subscribe to CCTV and a camera is then added to the vast array that are already scanning the citizenry.

But wasn't it also the great modern architects of the 20th century who were building houses of glass and window into which all may see and inside of which all may be seen? There is the Philip Johnson house pictured above, and the Villa Savoye of Le Corbusier (see link below)--credited by many as being his masterwork if not one of the masterworks of all 20th century architecture. When viewing such spaces one is, of course, quickly reminded of the popular proverb:

“Qui a sa maison de verre,
Sur le voisin ne jette pierre.”
Proverbes en Rimes (1664) [translation below]

And so, with one last thought from Mr. Bentham, I close: "What would you say, if by the gradual adoption and diversified application of this single principle, you should see a new scene of things spread itself over the face of civilized society? - morals reformed, health preserved, industry invigorated, instruction diffused, public burthens[sic] lightened, economy seated as it were upon a rock, the gordian[sic] knot of the poor-laws not cut but untied - all by a simple idea in architecture?"

Related Links:
Jeremy Bentham's Panopticon (full text)

Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, written by Antonio Sant’Elia
(please be warned, there is some strong metaphor usage here and the Futurists were admitted facists)

Fairly recent article on the expansion of CCTV throughout Britain with mild implications about the implementation of facial recognition software

A page with images of Le Corbusier's Villa Savoye, and then if you click here you can visit the Le Corbusier Foundation site.

One interptertation and two different sites giving the origin and meaning of the phrase, "Those who live in glass houses shouldn't throw stones." Interpretation (quoted from clichesite.com) "If you have weaknesses, you should not point out the weaknesses of your opponents." Sites: 1, 2.