Polyphilo or The Dark Forest Revisited
An Erotic Epiphany of Architecture
This remarkable book explores the origins of architectural beauty in the dynamics of sexual desire.
This remarkable book explores the origins of architectural beauty in the dynamics of sexual desire. It is a daring departure from the conventional genres of architectural writing and a completely original reflection on the erotics of architecture. Pérez-Gómez retells the love story of the famous Renaissance novel/treatise Hypnerotomachia Poliphili in late twentieth-century terms. The original work, long a cult book among architects and regarded as one of the most enigmatic books ever published, takes place in a forest. In the retelling, the forest has been replaced by the high tech and pop environment of appliances and airports. Both versions exist somewhere in the borderland between fiction, theory, and pornography. The text is paralleled by a running sequence of photographic collages merging the body and the machine. The original hero of Hypnerotomachia, Poliphilo, is lost in a dark forest searching for his lover Polia, for harmony and order in a vast maze of ruined antiquities - caverns, pyramids, theaters, and temples that are described with an almost fanatic erudition and unbridled lust. This modern version of the tale imaginatively frames our own dark forest in terms of the technology that has become our "nature." The hero finds himself in the most inhospitable and uncontrollable of spaces, the space of contemporary travel: in an airport and in flight. His voyage does not take him to real buildings, but rather to a jungle of deconstructivist forms - metal grids, plastic domes, computer hardware, blueprints, construction sites, and paintings where the erotic roots of architectural meaning are disclosed and the limitations of a world subjugated by doctrine and tradition are revealed. The sites visited range from the Carceri of Piranesi and the works of Ledoux, Boullée, and Lequeu to recent theoretical and architectural projects by Hejduk, Rossi, Libeskind, and Eisenman.
Polyphilo is a brilliantly sharp and original reflection on the pop aspects of our visual culture. As a critical restatement of the environmental and sexual mores of the 1990s it will be much discussed. Those interested in Renaissance mysticism and comic-book machismo as applied to architecture and technology will be eager to read the book.
George L. Hersey, Professor, Yale University
Alberto Pérez-Gómez understands that the salvation of space and consequently of architecture lies within woman. He celebrates women's hidden souls and their unrelenting inculcation of spirit in contrast to a society that reduces sense to a technology and man to an automatic. Alberto Pérez-Gómez fills us with the harmonic murmurs of the heart and he amplifies the unearthly sounds of the soul so that we can also taste the intellect and be comforted by her.
John Hejduk, architect