Notes on Sexuality & Space

SMArchS Thesis: History, Theory and Criticism, Spring 2013

Very little has been written on the subject of sexuality in architectural scholarship. Sexuality & Space (Princeton Architectural Press, 1992), which contains the proceedings of a 1990 conference of the same name held at the Princeton School of Architecture, was both the first and last book-length publication dedicated to a comprehensive discourse on sexual identity within the discipline of architecture. While symposium organizer and proceedings editor Beatriz Colomina writes in the proceedings interdiction that the occasion’s effort to “raise the question of ‘Sexuality and Space’” was but “one small event” in an ongoing discourse; that discourse failed to materialize. Twenty years later, I have tried to figure out what happened.

The reality of historiography is that from text alone there is no way of knowing. However, by carefully examining the construction of the constative within the publication Sexuality & Space, I have come to a better understanding of how that publication was both the beginning and end of the conversation it sought to inaugurate.

In this thesis, I investigate three related essays published in Sexuality & Space: Laura Mulvey’s “Pandora: Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity,” Beatriz Colomina’s “The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism,” and Mark Wigley’s “Untitled: The Housing of Gender.” Each investigated essay has been given a corresponding chapter. My method has been close reading, or the sustained interpretation of brief passages of text. By paying close attention to individual words, syntax, and the order in which ideas unfold as they are read, I have developed a comprehensive narrative of how these three essays in Sexuality & Space, together, both instantiate and negate a shared discourse. My investigation is centered on “The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism;” to that end, the first and third chapters are written in support of the second.

Image: Untitled, Samuel Ray Jacobson, 2013