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Spatial palindromes/palindromic spaces: spatial devices in Vitruvius, Mallarmé, Polieri, Perec and Libeskind

Varsamis, S.; (2010) Spatial palindromes/palindromic spaces: spatial devices in Vitruvius, Mallarmé, Polieri, Perec and Libeskind. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis explores non-linear geometric texts and narratives in literature and architecture and the experience of space that is facilitated by them. The research focuses on the palindrome because it is a non-linear mathematical/geometrical device that is found both in literature and architecture. In language, the palindrome is expressed in the geometrical arrangement of words, letters or concepts in the text or the narrative; and, in architecture, as mirrored symmetries or palindromic proportions, measurements and distributions of elements in drawings and buildings. The primary aim of the thesis is to explore the spatial qualities of palindromes, and the experience of those qualities not only in text but also in architecture. This dissertation thus consists of two parts: the first examines Spatial Palindromes in terms of the spatial structures of selected texts and considers their relation to architecture; and the second examines Palindromic Spaces in terms of the spatial experiences created by and through palindromes in text and architecture. The first part, Spatial Palindromes, constructs an original history of the spatial qualities of palindromes by looking at the theory guiding the use of non-linear devices in texts and architecture. This history moves from the use of palindromes in the work of classical figures and scholars (Orpheus, Pythagoras and Vitruvius), to the Medieval and Renaissance practice of mnemonics (Frances Yates, Mary Carruthers), to early twentieth-century structural linguistics (Ferdinand de Saussure) and the group OuLiPo (Raymond Queneau, Franyois Le Lionnais) and, finally, to late twentieth-century post-structural linguistics (Jean Baudrillard.) The thesis argues that palindromes create spatial experiences both in texts and architecture. For this reason the second part, Palindromic Spaces, studies the nature of spatial experience in the fictions and designs of Stephane Mallarme, Jacques Polieri, Georges Perec, and Daniel Libeskind. According to Baudrillard the poetic space, hidden or revealed by the anagram and palindrome, is where the solid structure of language is "exterminated." This act of extermination, or the poetic space that palindrome reveals in language, opens up perception, memory and recollection to a spatial experience "that incorporates the recession of outcomes ad infinitum;" a self-generated, self-consumed or self-reflective conception of history and space that this thesis aims to explore in architecture.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Spatial palindromes/palindromic spaces: spatial devices in Vitruvius, Mallarmé, Polieri, Perec and Libeskind
Open access status:An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language:English
Additional information:Music for the EROS / SORE video (not included with this thesis) composed by the music producer Robin Morrison, and Perec’s Le Grande Palindromefilm read by director Aggelos Abazoglou. In the included video Spatial Palindrome I, the following kindly participated: actor Efi Dementi, architect Ioannis Kouvidis and architect Stamatios Zografos
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Architecture

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