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In this discussion, we explore how sensuality, sexuality and voyeurism have been a source of inspiration in architecture as well as for the artists Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp.
For Marcel Duchamp, eroticism was “the basis of everything”, despite the fact that “no one talks about it”. This fascination with the erotic was also something that he shared with long-time friend and collaborator Salvador Dalí. The pair’s works frequently featured nude bodies and sexual references, which were further combined with a mutual interest in vision and perspective.
The influence Dalí and Duchamp had on their contemporaries was ubiquitous and so was their interest in eroticism. Works such as Dalí’s Face of Mae West Which Can Be Used as an Apartment (1934-1935) and Duchamp’s posthumous Etant donnés(1946–66) challenged the boundaries of physical space and provided a framework for exploring sexuality and voyeurism. From the surrealist excursion of Le Corbusier and Dalí in the now demolished Beistegui apartment in Paris, to the tactile and sensual interiors defined by Frederick Kiesler in his Endless House (1950), many modern architects flirted with eroticism and expressed it in the sensuality of the sinuous shapes of their work.
The erotic dimension of architecture has been the subject of studies since the Middle Ages and includes iconic examples like the phallic House of Pleasure (1779) by Claude-Nicholas Ledoux. Freudian symbolism and metaphoric interpretations of eroticism in architecture have been left aside by contemporary practitioners to embrace the topic in the framework of today’s sexual liberation. In this debate we will explore the erotic dimension of contemporary architecture and how sexuality can be a vital source of inspiration for architects working today.
Nigel Coates – architect and designer; author of Ecstacity at the Architecture Association (1992), Mixtacity at Tate Modern (2007), Hypnerotosphere at the 2008 Venice Architecture Biennale, and Picaresque at the Triennale Design Museum (2012)
Rosa Ferré – Head of Exhibitions, CCCB; curator of 1000m2 of Desire
Penelope Haralambidou – Acting Director, MPhil/PhD Architectural Design at The Bartlett School of Architecture; author of Marcel Duchamp and the Architecture of Desire
Gonzalo Herrero Delicado (chair) – Architecture Programme Curator, Royal Academy of Arts