From the LabLitArch News page  

The first workshop was held in April, in collaboration with professor Marco Maggi of USI University of Lugano (CH), Institute of Italian Studies, and organized by the City of Lugano.
An array of participants, including USI literary students, graduate design students, and two selfless local architects (Flora and Michela), attended. Professor Maggi’s area of research, which focuses on the “mental space” of the reader, allowed for a more in-depth exploration of how a literary text “carves out” a space from within the mind of the reader.
While working with one of professor Maggi’s students who has been visually impaired since birth, we realized how her ability to deduce an architectural space (obviously only its interior since its exterior shape isn’t perceivable to her) is incredibly similar to how a reader perceives the “structure” of a literary text, where words function not so much as “building blocks”, but more as excavating toolsthat actively create space by subtracting material from a solid mass (imagine, for example, the city of Petra in Jordan). A story, in fact, is obviously un-knowable from the “outside” and it’s only once we’ve begun to penetrate it (by reading it) that we start to slowly create a perception about its “construction”.
For this edition we worked on texts by HemingwayDeliusTabucchi and A.M. Homes. Here is a short video on our 20+ hours of practically continuous work: YouTube LabLitArch Lugano Video

The second workshop was LabLitArch’s very first experiment with music. It was in fact called “Laboratory of Musical Architecture”. It was held in May, in collaboration with professor Andrea Malvano of the University of Turin’s Department of Humanities. Professor Malvano, who has degrees in both literature and music (piano), selected pieces by BachSchumannSchoenberg and Glass. The participants, all trained musicians or music students, worked with two experienced LabLitArch architects (Michelle Vecchia and Alessio Lamarca) to produce five amazing models:

We applied the very same methodology and approach used in many Literary Architecture workshops, i.e. working mostly backwards in search of possible motivating and implicit original inclinations that were at the basis of the creation of the musical pieces. As with literary texts, we avoided manifesting what is somewhat already explicit in the music. By working in the opposite direction, so to speak, we tried to get as close as possible, if it is even ever attainable, to the composer’s original creative sparkor insight or intuition.

This led us to the realization that, in music as in literature, movement in this direction forces us to leave our familiar disciplinary turf and we end up reaching a kind of expansive narrative ground probably common to most human artistic endeavors. Perhaps there indeed exists a sudden creative impulse, which is neither made of words nor of notes — it’s just there, as a not-yet-manifest expression of a narrative intuition. If so, narrative is truly all-pervasive. And architecture, with its fundamental narrative elements such as volume, space, light, weight, revelations, suspension, etc. seems to be an ideal tool to analyze, explore and even enter this boundless space of narrative.

Insight from both of these workshops will hopefully be included in the Literary Architecture book I am working on with Il Saggiatore. Work is progressing well and, as an additional sneak preview, I would like to share this new sketch of the book’s structurehere. At first glance, it may not seem so different from the previous sketch; but to me, and my very-limited writing experience, it represents a huge step forward!

Check the original post from the LabLitArch website:

A newly edited LabLitArch video.
Special thanks to Twin Pixel Video and Al-Johara Beydoun (words).

Visit for more information.

Some images and a video from the incredible and intense, 5-day-long May 2016 edition of the LabLitArch in Jerusalem, held in collaboration with The Hebrew University‘s Department of Comparative Literature, the Bezalel Academy‘s Department of Architecture, and Da’at HaMakom (The Center for the Study of Cultures of Place in Jewish Modernity).



By AJ Artemel

Writing has long been intrinsic to the practice of architecture, from Vitruvius’s Ten Books on Architecture to the theoretical essays of Peter Eisenman. Writing helps architects explain ideas that are hard to glean from drawings alone, and allows for the setting out of non-project-specific agendas in manifestos or magazines, such as Le Corbusier’s L’Esprit Nouveau. Theoretical writers have engaged with architecture, as well; Jacques Derrida, for example, used architectural metaphors to describe the structures of texts and advised architects on the Parc de la Villette competition. Architects have also figured as characters in works of fiction, perhaps most memorably in Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead. But rarely has architecture served the same function for writing as writing has served for architecture: to analyze and clarify.

This past spring, Columbia University School of the Arts writing students set out to do just that, in Professor Matteo Pericoli’s workshop, the Laboratory of Literary Architecture (Pericoli has also taught the course at the Scuola Holden in Turin for the past four years). The thirteen students each started with a literary work they knew well, and carefully stripped away its language to reveal the structures and spaces that organize it. These hierarchies, sequences, and literary volumes were then translated into architectural models with the assistance of Columbia architecture students (see the projects below). Under Pericoli’s instruction, students strove to represent the literary, not the literal.

“On The Road” by Jack Kerouac

The inspiration for the models starts with reading. As Professor Pericoli writes, “When I read a novel, an essay, or some well-structured (other than well-written, of course) piece of writing, there is a moment when I have the feeling that I am inhabiting a structure that goes beyond its words, that was somehow built (I am not sure how consciously) by the writer. And I am not talking about settings described in the book.” But the hope is that analyzing literature with architecture will eventually help students become better writers. Pericoli adds, “What matters, I think, is that [students] realize that creating a piece of writing in your mind can be a spatial and structural exercise—before, during or after you have begun to put actual words on paper. For a writer, thinking wordlessly may turn out to be a positive experience.”

While the class is specifically intended to develop writers’ ability to think spatially, the architectural outcomes of the class show the students’ strong understanding of space, and how to manipulate it with surfaces and volumes. The designs range from sparse and ethereal pavilions to models that seem well on their way to becoming buildings. Many of the pavilion designs adopt a memorial-like simplicity, adhering to a few cuts in the ground or a group of walls. This similarity may stem from the need to create spaces for the narratives of the reader or the visitor (in the students’ explanatory essays, these are often one and the same), or from that elusive sense of architectural poetics.

“A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again” by David Foster Wallace

The more building-like projects seem to stem from works in which the author sets forth a strong, repetitive or clear structure, as in David Foster Wallace’s “A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again.” The power of this structure is more easily conveyed into floorplates, stairs, and elevator shafts, and sheds light on how architects themselves might go about diagramming an initial idea.

The Laboratory of Literary Architecture succeeds in bringing writing and architecture closer together than ever, by equipping writers with an architect’s vision and mode of analysis. Architects can learn from this experiment, too; perhaps architecture schools should reintroduce writing classes where possible, in order to teach architects how to think in narrative, in metaphor, and ultimately, to translate these concepts into imaginative spatial structures.

Read the piece and look at project photos and texts from Architizer: