The scenographic (re-)turn: figures of surface, space and spectator in theatre and architecture theory 1680–1980

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Theatre and Performance Design, 2015, 1 (1-2), pp. 17 - 30
Issue Date:
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© 2015, © 2015 Taylor & Francis. Three cultural ‘crises’, namely the seventeenth-century debate regarding the ontology of time and space, the passage into modernity in the early twentieth century and the rise of postmodernism in the late twentieth century, are portrayed here as ‘shifts’ in the spatial theories and practices of theatre and architecture. Each shift necessarily evokes the question all over again as to how meaning is attributed and negotiated in the design of space. G.W. Leibniz’s theoretical spatial model of the universe as much as Max Herrmann’s notion of theatrical space, Adolf Loos’ modernist struggle against the ornament and Robert Venturi’s embracing of the ‘hybrid and impure’ elements of architecture have shown that the centre of theatre and architecture practice rests upon the negotiation between the spectator’s perspectival viewing of the object or performance and its distinct spatial condition of both surface and volume. This article is concerned with the origin, the metaphor and rhetoric of the ‘scenographic’ in a specific time period (1680–1980) and focuses on what might be called several ‘crises’ in the thinking about architectural and theatrical space.
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