The Body Drawn Between Knowledge and Desire


  • J. Kent Fitzsimons



The architectural drawing brings together two aspects of architecture’s inescapable relationship with the human body: knowledge and desire. When Adolf Loos designed the never built Josephine Baker House (1928), his drawings mobilized and transmitted knowledge of the human body in general. At the same time, Loos deployed architectural means to express desire for the dancer’s body. The sections and plans suggest that the Viennese architect imagined Baker swimming in a pool whose submerged walls include large windows looking into the watery stage, enveloping the dancer’s body while putting it on display for guests.

Considered more generally, the architectural drawing always contains these two bodily moments, insofar as it describes proposals that give form to the lived world. This dynamic couple in the drawing corresponds to the difference between touching the body and grasping it; between an architect pursuing the desire to affect others through their senses and an architectural discipline extending its knowledge of human existence. This article considers relevant aspects in the writings of Robin Evans, Michel Foucault, Michel de Certeau, William T. Mitchell, and Jean-Luc Nancy to develop a theoretical basis for understanding the tensions and alliances at play when architecture draws the body between knowledge and desire.

Author Biography

J. Kent Fitzsimons

J. Kent Fitzsimons teaches architectural design and theory at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure d’Architecture et de Paysage de Bordeaux, where he is also a member of the research laboratory Profession Architecture Ville Environnement. He holds a professional architecture degree from McGill University and earned Master and Doctor of Architecture degrees at Rice University. His research considers the social effects of architecture’s conceptualization of lived experience and of the human body.