The The Politics of the Plinth: Notes on a Latent Ocularcentrism in Aureli’s Theory of an Absolute Architecture




According to Pier Vittori Aureli, architectural form becomes political by being a clearly defined limit. These defining effects of architectural form are also what allow a civic and political space to exist. In contrast to the tradition of urbanism, Aureli praises Mies van der Rohe because of the architect’s use of form as an act of demarcation, where a reinterpreted classical plinth carries a glass-and-steel pavilion structure. While Aureli regards this Modernist plinth as a guarantor of absoluteness and independence from urbanism, this article conversely argues that the Miesian plinth is just as implicated in nineteenth-century urbanism as the gridded plans of Cerdà, since this model can be traced back, not to the Ancient Greek temple, but to a novel nineteenth-century visual culture which came into being under the spell of ocularcentrism and panopticism. Aureli’s theory is thus supplemented with its necessary counterpart to management: the representational component of urbanism.


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Author Biography

Kasper Lægring, Department of Arts and Cultural Studies, University of Copenhagen

Kasper Lægring is an architectural theorist and currently a Ph.D. Fellow at the Royal Danish Academy of Fine Arts, School of Architecture, Copenhagen, as well as an External Lecturer at the University of Copenhagen. He holds research degrees in architecture and art history from the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Copenhagen, and has taught at the aforementioned institutions as well as at the University of Southern Denmark and DIS – Study Abroad in Scandinavia. Additionally, he has received the Gold Medal of the University of Copenhagen, a Fulbright Scholarship, a Thanks to Scandinavia Scholarship, and a scholarship from the ZEIT-Stiftung Ebelin und Gerd Bucerius. He has published in Architecture and Culture, Nordic Journal of Architectural Research, and Garten + Landschaft: Zeitschrift für Landschaftsarchitektur. His research interests include meaning in architecture, architectural postmodernism, urbanism, and organicist theories of architecture and urban planning, and he has lectured, chaired conference sessions, and published on these topics. Particular areas of interest are the aesthetic theory of Nelson Goodman and the architecture and urbanism of Rem Koolhaas. His Ph.D. addresses ‘image building’ in contemporary architecture and the marginalization of the contemporary architect in urban matters.