Architectural conditions of publicness: Visibility

by haideev

George Baird – Architectural conditions of publicness: Visibility

‘…Visibility constitutes one of the three basic architectural conditions of publicness’ [1]

Robert, G., 2009, La Palais Garnier, Linternaute, viewed 13 September 2014, http://www.esprit-de-paris.com/blog/

The Paris Opera House Steps. Robert, G., 2009, La Palais Garnier, Linternaute, viewed 13 September 2014, <http://www.esprit-de-paris.com/blog/&gt;

The initial engagement and relationship with public space is encompassed through visibility. Baird expresses this in reference to two differing narrative segments that introduce the idea of relationships of gaze between people. In one case, at the Paris Opera House steps, the relation of the gaze is reciprocal. People attend to see others as well as to be seen, the space becoming an elaborate vestibule for public display. On the other hand, a street scene in Harlem is portrayed where people are very conscious of being seen, and perhaps even desirous of this, yet strive to look as though they are unaware. Peter Kohane further establishes the way reciprocity of gaze contributes to social event and display in public using the example of grand entrances and archways in Sydney as dramatic settings for public exchange. [2] People exult in the opportunity to be on display and this is what enables public engagement and the experience.

Paris, Je t’aime: Tuileries (2006) [3] expands on the relationship of the gaze in constituting the public experience. A lone tourist (played by Steve Buschemi) travelling in the Paris Metro learns that eye contact in the Metro should be avoided. A series of unfortunate events follow as he catches the eye of a set of lovers across the platform. This short film concisely describes the influence of the relationship of gazes and visibility in forming the basis of public experience.

Paris, Je t'aime: Tuileries, 2006, motion picture, La Fabrique de Films (France), Ascot Elite Entertainment Group (Switzerland), First Look International(US), France, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Germany.

Paris, Je t’aime: Tuileries, 2006, motion picture, La Fabrique de Films (France), Ascot Elite Entertainment Group (Switzerland), First Look International(US), France, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Germany.

Baird additionally establishes the role of visibility in permitting spaces for pause. He discusses the potential for spaces of overlook to afford opportunity for ‘distracted’ and ‘contemplative’ conditions of visibility to linger.[4] He proposes strategies towards this through successive conditions of overlook, as employed in the Paris Opera and below.

Schmertz M.F., Louis I. Kahn Collection, 2012, Philadelphia Buildings, viewed 13 Sep 2014,

Visibility – Overhang. Schmertz M.F., Louis I. Kahn Collection, 2012, Philadelphia Buildings, viewed 13 Sep 2014, <http://www.pinterest.com/jbutler12009/louis-kahn/&gt;.

[1] Baird, G., 2011, Public Space: Cultural/political theory; Street photography: An interpretation; Chapter Four: The Architectural Conditions of Publicness, Amsterdam

[2] Kohane, P., James Barnet and the classical ideal: Archiecture in Sydney,

[3] Paris je t’aime: Tuileries, 2006, motion picture, La Fabrique de Films (France), Ascot Elite Entertainment Group (Switzerland), First Look International(US), France, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, Germany.

[4] Baird, G., 2011, Public Space: Cultural/political theory; Street photography: An interpretation; Chapter Four: The Architectural Conditions of Publicness, Amsterdam

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