Derealisation, Perception and Site: Some Notes on the Doppelgänger Space

Cambridge Scholars Publishing
Publication Type:
Conference Proceeding
PERCEPTION in Architecture: HERE and NOW, 2015, pp. 2 - 10 (9)
Issue Date:
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In their German Dictionary from 1838, the brothers Grimm give an intriguing definition of the term Doppelganger as someone who ‘is thought to be able to show himself at the same time in two different places’ . Intriguing is this definition as it defies the popular notion of the Doppelganger as someone who looks just like another person, who is somebody’s twin, or double. Rather than focus on the physiognomic aspects of the Doppelganger, Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm’s dictionary entry proposes a shift toward a topological definition that in its consequence speaks of a person who is present and is seen in two different sites simultaneously. This paper follows Grimm’s initial orientation but turns it on its head by considering the Doppelganger phenomenon from the perspective of site, thus discussing such buildings that show themselves in two different places and expanding the field of observation to include such buildings that show themselves in two different places at different times. The phenomenon of the architectural double is investigated here in relation to ‘what it does’ rather than ‘what it is’, with the authors taking their cue, again, from the word itself, the German ‘doppelt gehen’ is the equivalent of the English ‘double walking’. Rather than ‘doppelt sein’ (eng ‘to be double’), the Doppelganger implies the action of walking, thus suggesting that a performative element is bound to the very existence of the double. The perception of the architectural double, with perception understood here as an active and cognitive process of our sense-making of the world, this paper argues, merges into the pronounced experience of a split presence where the architectural Doppelgangers are neither identical twins nor complete reconstructions, defined by difference and, possibly, constructed across several sites and temporalities.
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