X-Ray Architecture by Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller Publishers

In many ways, this book is a continuation of themes in Colomina’s past work; namely the understanding of modern architecture as a mediated thing, and the airing out of its patriarchal undertones. It’s a debunking of modernist myths, similar to what Colin Rowe and Robert Slutzky did with their phenomenal transparency essays or Reyner Banham with his arguments about functionalism. It’s also a feminist critique—Colomina takes the primacy away from the tectonics of a building, the all-mighty structure that is associated with the masculine, and shifts it to the visual and mediated experience of space. In her reading of modern architecture, the structural and technical, “serious” components of a building are merely the means to hold up the materials—e.g. glass—that produce the visual experience, the true location of architecture. Jennifer Bloomer did something similar in the 1980s with her Boudoir essay, using her characteristic wit and wordplay to unravel Alberti’s assignment of (masculine) structure as primary, and (feminine) ornament as secondary

An X-ray beauty contest in 1956
An X-ray beauty contest in 1956 © Lars Müller Publishers - Image  X-Ray Architecture by Beatriz Colomina Lars Müller Publishers.

X-Ray Architecture takes the reader from the male gaze looking at women’s bodies exercising—in heels—on Le Corbusier’s rooftops to a kind of feminist glazed gaze. The last project she discusses is a temporary installation by SANAA in Mies’s Barcelona Pavilion. It consists entirely of a curved acrylic wall that is in all appearances unobtrusive, ...