The Cathedral of Nature: Sullivan’s and Adler’s Auditorium Building and the Narrative Function of Architecture

Kai Horstmannshoff
  • Zeitschrift für Anglistik und Amerikanistik, January 2016, De Gruyter
  • DOI: 10.1515/zaa-2016-0006

What is it about?

An article that proposes that the meaning of architecture is best understood when reading buildings as "spatial narratives". The article begins by defining narrative as a meaningful sequence of events, signs, lines, scenes, places, spaces, etc., in which each component assumes its meaning primarily through its relation to other parts of the sequence that precede and follow it. This definition of narrative Is then used to discuss building as a proto-cinematic machines in which the architect carefully arranges a set of different scenes, impressions, objects, experiences, and views into meaningful sequences that unfold before and around the moving spectator passing along a set of possible itineraries. In describing these scenes and itineraries and setting them into relation to the building’s cultural context, we can begin to ‘read’ buildings as important cultural artifacts that play an active role in the institution of society and can be studied to gain insights into the communities for and by which they were built. These claims will be applied and tested in a discussion of Louis Sullivan’s and Dankmar Adler’s Auditorium Building in Chicago.

Why is it important?

Proposes a new theoretical framework to anyone interested in understanding or discussing the meaning of architecture.

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