Panel Discussion and Book Launch | Husserl and Spatiality: A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space

Friday, February 11, 2022, 5:30 - 7:30pm

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Tao DuFour: Plan sketch of the Centro do Caboclo Tupiniquim, Salvador, Brazil. 2010.

Tao DuFour: Plan sketch of the Centro do Caboclo Tupiniquim, Salvador, Brazil. 2010.

This presentation will be conducted in-person and through Zoom. Public attendance is limited to Zoom, please register in advance here.

Please join the School of Architecture for an interdisciplinary panel discussion and launch of the book Husserl and Spatiality: A Phenomenological Ethnography of Space, authored by Tao DuFour AR’02 and published in 2022 by Routledge. Participants will include Tao Dufour, Leslie Hewitt, Natalie Melas, moderator Elizabeth O'Donnell, Jorge Otero-Pailos, and Anthony Vidler. This event is accompanied by an exhibition of associated photographs and field notes from DuFour’s fieldwork in Brazil.

Husserl and Spatiality is an exploration of the phenomenology of space and embodiment, based on the work of Edmund Husserl. Little known in architecture, Husserl’s phenomenology of embodied spatiality established the foundations for the works of later phenomenologists, including Maurice Merleau-Ponty’s well-known phenomenology of perception. Through a detailed study of his posthumously published and unpublished manuscripts on space, DuFour examines the depth and scope of Husserl’s phenomenology of space. The book investigates his analyses of corporeity and the “lived body,” extending to questions of intersubjective, intergenerational, and geo-historical spatial experience, what DuFour terms the “environmentality” of space.

Combining in-depth architectural philosophical investigations of spatiality with a rich and intimate ethnography, Husserl and Spatiality speaks to themes in social and cultural anthropology, from a theoretical perspective that addresses spatial practice and experience. Drawing on fieldwork in Brazil, DuFour develops his analyses of Husserl’s phenomenology through spatial accounts of ritual in the Afro-Brazilian religion of Candomblé. The result is a methodological innovation and unique mode of spatial description that DuFour terms a “phenomenological ethnography of space.” The book’s profoundly interdisciplinary approach makes an incisive contribution relevant to academics and students of architecture and architectural theory, anthropology and material culture, and philosophy and environmental aesthetics.

Tao DuFour is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Architecture at Cornell University. His work investigates questions of embodied spatial experience, intersubjective and intergenerational understandings of architecture, landscape, and territory, and the ways in which these both constitute and are embedded in the historicity of environments. His interests are in the phenomenology of perception and corporeity, phenomenological accounts of the experience of spatiality and the "natural" world, and their relationship to ethnographic descriptions of space. He has recently written on this theme as a chapter contribution to the Routledge Research Companion to Landscape Architecture. DuFour directs Cornell’s Landscape and Urban Environmentalities Lab, an interdisciplinary collaborative research group that he established in 2020, which studies spatial and territorial relationships between cities and their hinterlands, including climate and atmospheres, industrial and agricultural landscapes, infrastructures, greenbelts, and forests. His current research focuses on the regional context of the Caribbean and Guianas. He holds a BArch from The Cooper Union and an MPhil and Ph.D. in the history and philosophy of architecture from the University of Cambridge. 

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Filha-de-santo marking her body with scented powder. Photo by Tao DuFour.

Filha-de-santo marking her body with scented powder. Photo by Tao DuFour.

Leslie Hewitt is an Associate Professor at The School of Art of The Cooper Union for the Advancement of Science and Art. She studied at The Cooper Union, the Yale University School of Art, and at New York University, where she was a Clark Fellow in the Africana and Visual Culture Studies programs. She was included in the 2008 Whitney Biennial and the recipient of the 2008 Art Matters research grant to the Netherlands. A selection of recent exhibitions includes the Museum of Modern Art in New York; the Studio Museum in Harlem; Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York; The Walker Art Center in Minneapolis; Project Row Houses in Houston; and LA><ART in Los Angeles. Hewitt has held residencies at the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University, and the American Academy in Berlin, Germany amongst others. She was a faculty member at Barnard College in the department of Art History 2012-2017, where she was actively engaged in The Harlem Semester: A Community Partnership for Social Justice Pedagogy.

Natalie Melas in an Associate Professor at the Department of Comparative Literature at Cornell University. Melas obtained her Ph. D. in Comparative Literature (English, French, Ancient Greek) from UC Berkeley. Her interests range across Francophone and Anglophone Caribbean literature and thought, modern Greek, modern French and modern English poetry, comparison, modernism and colonialism, modern reconfigurations of antiquity, Homer, Césaire, Cavafy, philosophies of time, decadence, barbarism, alexandrianism, comparative modernities, world literature in world history, postcolonial or decolonial studies, aesthetics and politics, critical theory. She is the author of All the Difference in the World: Postcoloniality and the Ends of Comparison (Stanford UP, 2007) and co-editor of The Princeton Sourcebook in Comparative Literature (Princeton UP, 2009).  Her current research centers on colonial poetics and the politics of time in Aimé Césaire and C. P. Cavafy.

Elizabeth O’Donnell served as Associate Dean for the School of Architecture for eleven years. A member of the faculty since 1984, Professor O’Donnell has taught Structures II (as part of the structures sequence with Professor Emeritus Ysrael Seinuk), the project-based course Crossings, Design III as part of the studio team, and currently teaches Structures I and Design II.  She presented at the 2012 Imagining America National Conference in New York, the 2012 World Energy Forum in Dubai, the 2012 Deans’ Roundtable at the Center for Architecture New York, was a panelist on the Town and Gown symposium “Next Steps for the City’s Design-Related Academic Institutions,” served as liaison for the New Museum’s Ideas City festivals in 2011 and 2013, and she was rapporteur for the 2010 Dubai Forum. In practice she has completed numerous projects in New York City including offices for non-profit foundations, schools, loft residences, and building additions, with an emphasis on the adaptive reuse of existing buildings and sites.

Jorge Otero-Pailos works at the intersection of art, architecture, and preservation. He is Professor and Director of Historic Preservation at GSAPP. His work has been commissioned by and exhibited at major museums, foundations, and biennials, notably the 53rd Venice Art Biennial, Victoria and Albert Museum, Louis Vuitton Galerie Museum, Artangel Trust, Thyssen-Bornemisza Art Contemporary, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Otero-Pailos is the founder and editor of the journal Future Anterior, author of Architecture's Historical Turn (2010) and contributor to scholarly journals and books including the Oxford Encyclopedia of Aesthetics and Rem Koolhaas' Preservation Is Overtaking Us (2014). He is a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences of Puerto Rico, and has received awards from major art, architecture, and preservation organizations including the Kress Foundation, the Graham Foundation, the Fitch Foundation, the Canadian Center for Architecture, and in 2012 the UNESCO Eminent Professional Award. Otero-Pailos studied architecture at Cornell University, holds a Ph. D. from MIT, and was a founding faculty member of the School of Architecture at the Polytechnic University of Puerto Rico.

Anthony Vidler is a historian and critic of modern and contemporary architecture, specializing in French architecture from the Enlightenment to the present. He has taught a wide variety of courses in design history and theory at the Princeton University School of Architecture, the University of California, Los Angeles, and, most recently, The Irwin S. Chanin School of Architecture of The Cooper Union. As designer and curator, he installed the permanent exhibition of the work of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux in the Royal Salt Works of Arc-et-Senans in Franche-Comté, France, as well as curating the exhibition, "Ledoux et les Lumières" at Arc-et-Senans for the European year of Enlightenment. In 2004 he was asked to curate the portion of the exhibition "Out of the Box" dedicated to James Stirling, for the Canadian Center of Architecture, Montreal, and in 2010 installed the exhibition "Notes from the Archive: James Frazer Stirling, " in the Yale Centre for British Art, an exhibition that then travelled to the Tate Britain and the Staatsgalerie, Stuttgart in 2011. Vidler has received awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities; he was a Getty Scholar, at the Getty Center for the History of Art and the Humanities in 1992–93 and a Senior Mellon Fellow at the Canadian Centre of Architecture, Montreal, in 2005. His publications include The Writing of the Walls: Architectural Theory in the Late Enlightenment (1987), Claude-Nicolas Ledoux: Architecture and Social Reform at the End of the Ancien Regime (1990) which received the Henry-Russell Hitchcock Award from the Society of Architectural Historians, The Architectural Uncanny: Essays in the Modern Unhomely (1992), Warped Space: Architecture and Anxiety in Modern Culture (2000), Histories of the Immediate Present: The Invention of Architectural Modernism (2008), James Frazer Stirling: Notes from the Archive (2010), and The Scenes of the Street and other Essays (2011). He is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and received the architecture award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2011.

For more information about Husserl and Spatiality, please click here.

In-person attendance to the lecture is open to Cooper Union students, faculty, and staff in the Third Floor Lobby. Members of the public may attend through Zoom only.


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