Session at Association for Art History, 2018 Annual Conference, Courtauld Institute of Art and King's College London, April 5 - 07, 2018


[J]ust as the head, foot, and indeed any member must correspond to each other and to all the rest of the body in a living being, so in a building [...] the parts of the whole body must be so composed that they all correspond to one another. – Leon Battista Alberti, De re aedificatoria (c. 1450).

There has, since classical antiquity, been a complex set of correspondences between the human body and the designed building. Such interactions spring from the enduring art-theoretical ideal whereby art and architecture should imitate nature, as well as from broader cultural, medical and anatomical thinking wherein the body is described in terms of architecture and domestic arrangement. Throughout recorded history, architects have turned to the proportions, structures, processes, and narratives of the human body when designing built spaces. Likewise, artists and writers working in anatomy, medicine, politics and literature, to name a few, have turned to the shape, design and spaces of the building when discussing and explaining the body. Our panel will explore how this enduring correspondence has been expressed and shaped by visual culture. We encourage papers that treat as broad an array of visual and theoretical material as possible: from art theory and architecture to anatomical print. Papers may wish to address one of the following themes: the body's architecture, organic and anatomical theories and representations in architecture, metaphors of bodies and buildings, the (gendered) materiality and form of the body and of architecture. We intend to set no limits on geography or period, and to convene a session with as wide a scope as possible. In response to the theme of 'Look out!', we hope to bring together a variety of disciplines – from art history and architecture, to literature, history of science and medicine – and to bring different theoretical and disciplinary approaches into conversation.