LITERARY ARCHITECTURE

How many times have we paused while reading a book and had the feeling that we were inside a structure built, knowingly or unknowingly, by the writer? Not simply the ability to picture in our minds the locations or architectural settings described in the text, but rather the sense of being immersed in a space, a literary space, designed by someone else.

Architectural metaphors are often used in the discussion of literature, as in “the architecture of a novel”. In any real architectural project, there are ideas that need to be designed and conveyed, a supporting structure, sequences of spaces, surprises and suspensions, hierarchies of space and function, and so on. In creative writing, many of the challenges seem to be similar. For example, how should different strands of narrative be intertwined? How can chronology be rearranged in a plot sequence? How is tension expressed? What do certain narrative sequences and omissions convey or mean? How do characters connect?

As a cross-disciplinary workshop, the Laboratory of Literary Architecture can be adapted specifically for writing, literature, and architecture students, as it explores how pure, spatial, wordless thought is an essential aspect of both literary and architectural structures. However, the LabLitArch approach to literary and spatial analysis and discovery has been successfully adopted also by high schools and theater programs.

As Alice Munro said:
“A story is not like a road to follow … it’s more like a house. You go inside and stay there for a while, wandering back and forth and settling where you like and discovering how the room and corridors relate to each other, how the world outside is altered by being viewed from these windows. And you, the visitor, the reader, are altered as well by being in this enclosed space, whether it is ample and easy or full of crooked turns, or sparsely or opulently furnished. You can go back again and again, and the house, the story, always contains more than you saw the last time. It also has a sturdy sense of itself of being built out of its own necessity, not just to shelter or beguile you.”
(Selected Stories, 1968-1994)

THE LABORATORY

A CROSS-DISCIPLINARY EXPLORATION OF LITERATURE AS ARCHITECTURE
THE JOY OF CARDBOARD, GLUE AND STORYTELLING

 

“The process of adding word to word is much the same as adding brick to brick. … I can’t think of a better course where the purposes of two arts are so finely blended.”
Colum McCann

“… one of the strangest and most interesting classes I’d ever seen.”
The Paris Review

“… rarely has architecture served the same function for writing as writing has served for architecture: to analyze and clarify.”
Architizer

“The Laboratory for Literary Architecture pushes students to compose through their model a fictional architectural experience.”
The Common

“A stunning intellectual experiment.”
IL Magazine

    • Learn how to set up and organize your own LabLitArch via a series of remote, Skype or similar, conversations and informational QA sessions, (including basic curricular materials). Great for schools wishing to offer a LabLitArch workshop that can be customized to their specific curricula (high-school through graduate studies).

    REMOTE
    CONSULTANCIES

    • An in-depth, hands-on workshop in which teachers are presented a history of the Laboratory’s past results and then participate in a condensed version of the workshop in order to be able to hold one themselves.

    TEACHER
    WORKSHOPS

    • A two or three-day session that includes an introduction to the principles behind the LabLitArch and a workshop that, depending on the kind of school and time available, may or may not include the participation of architects to assist the students in building their models. The students can either select a text to analyze or can be assigned one.

    STUDENT
    WORKSHOPS

    • A 10-15 hour workshop that introduces the ideas behind LabLitArch and allows students to fully realize their projects. Depending on the kind of school and time available, it may or may not include the participation of architects to assist the students in creating their models. The students can either select a text to analyze or can be assigned one.

    MASTER
    CLASSES

    • A several-week long course (20-30 hours) during which all aspects of the Laboratory are fully explored: introduction to literary architecture, text analysis, architectural structure analysis, project development, collaboration with architects and/or writers, and final presentations. A final exhibition of the students’ work can also be organized.

    FULL-LENGTH
    COURSES

    • For architects interested in applying the principles of storytelling to architecture and design. Expand your creative process by using space, materials, light and volume to explore and analyze narrative structures. Either as a full-course or workshop for architecture students, or as a one- or two-day workshop for architectural firms, the Laboratory of Literary Architecture offers a unique way to explore the common structural language of architecture and narrative.

    FOR
    ARCHITECTS

PREVIOUS WORKSHOPS

NEW YORK, CALIFORNIA, MARYLAND, TEXAS, JERUSALEM, TURIN (IT), FERRARA (IT), ROME, DUBAI, POSCHIAVO (CH)

Workshop Projects

  • All
  • Dubai Design Week
  • Columbia University
  • Hebrew University of Jerusalem
  • Turin Architecture Festival
  • Polo Poschiavo (Switzerland)
  • Scuola Holden
  • Amy Hempel
  • Antonio Tabucchi
  • W.G. Sebald
  • Yonathan Raz Portugali
  • Alice Munro
  • E.B. White

The Literary Architecture Series

Since May 2016, a monthly Literary Architecture series has been featured in The Paris Review Daily and in the Italian national newspaper La Stampa. In this series, Matteo Pericoli shares some of his designs and what they reveal about the stories they are modeled on.

    • JOSEPH CONRAD, HEART OF DARKNESS
    • The skyscraper looming above us is composed of a clean, well-defined volume …
    • Continue reading at:
    • The Paris Review
    • FRIEDRICH DÜRRENMATT, THE JUDGE AND HIS HANGMAN
    • Friedrich Dürrenmatt’s mystery novel … revolves around the sudden nighttime encounter between chief detective Bärlach and his eternal rival Gastmann. …
    • Continue reading at:
    • The Paris Review | La Stampa
    • KURT VONNEGUT, SLAUGHTERHOUSE-FIVE
    • How can a horrific event, so monstrous that it seems incomprehensible, be told? How does one even find the words to write about it? …
    • Continue reading at:
    • The Paris Review | La Stampa
    • ANNIE ERNAUX, LES ANNÉES
    • … the author writes that she “would like to unify the multiplicity of images of herself – separate, disjoined – through the thread of a story: that of her existence …”
    • Continue reading at:
    • The Paris Review | La Stampa
    • ITALO CALVINO, THE BARON IN THE TREES
    • “Rebellion cannot be measured by yards … Even when a journey seems no distance at all, it can have no return.” …
    • Continue reading at:
    • The Paris Review | La Stampa

In the Press

ABOUT/CONTACT

The Laboratory of Literary Architecture was created in 2010 by architect/author/illustrator Matteo Pericoli after holding his first workshop at the Scuola Holden in Turin, Italy, assisted by engineer/writer Giuseppe Franco. Since then, the Laboratory has been held in the U.S., Italy, Israel, Switzerland and the United Arab Emirates.
In 2013, Mr. Pericoli taught a six-week LabLitArch master class at the M.F.A. writing program at Columbia University School of the Arts, New York. In July 2015 LabLitArch was invited to participate in the Turin International Architecture Festival organized by the Fondazione Ordine Architetti of Turin. LabLitArch workshops have also been held at the University of Ferrara, Department of Architecture; at Southwestern University, Texas; in Poschiavo, Switzerland; at CUNY’s Hunter College and Graduate Center in New York City; and at various high schools.
In May 2016 a LabLitArch workshop was held in Jerusalem in collaboration with The Hebrew University‘s Department of Comparative Literature, the Bezalel Academy‘s Department of Architecture, and Da’at HaMakom (The Center for the Study of Cultures of Place in Jewish Modernity). In October 2016, LabLitArch offered a 5-day workshop at Dubai Design Week 2016 in partnership with the Emirates Literature Foundation.

 

CONTACT

For any inquiries or questions, please write to: info@lablitarch.com
or sign up to the LabLitArch Newsletter

Testimonials

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“… I knew immediately that the course would shake myself and my students out of the ruts of ordinary perception. The course provided a new way of seeing. The process of adding word to word is much the same as adding brick to brick. Sometimes we build in order, only to knock down and begin again. One builds one’s stories in the same one that one hopes to build a house, or a workplace, a field, a retreat, or maybe even at times a prison cell, since prisons are intentional spaces too.
… I can’t think of a better course where the purposes of two arts are so finely blended. If we are left with books, we are also with memories of how the books were created.
I don’t doubt that some day Matteo’s vision will be realised in another way — and we will have a physical street full of books, or buildings of books, in which we can dwell. I will enter the door of Ulysses and make my way underground to Dostoyevsky and beyond. We will turn ourselves into streets, towns, countries.”
Colum McCann, writer
“LabLitArch creates a unique environment to explore the haptic interface of literature and architecture, words and buildings, readability and inhabitability. It activates its participants to grasp actual texture, rather than form or meaning, and to move rather than to focus, enhancing our sense of an open-ended plasticity of texts and the value of our embodied engagement with them. It is seminal, I believe, for a mapping of the potential choreography between our bodies, imagination, and the built environment, and for opening the gates of creative thought for writers, architects, and scholars alike.”
Carola Hilfrich, Chair of the Program in Cultural Studies, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
“As [the Laboratory] guides writers to collaborate with architects in order to create in three dimensions, the writers certainly learn to think more deeply and more conceptually about the meaning of structure. It was intense and it was fun. What was both surprising and also profoundly valuable was that it deepened the way I read, the way I write, and the way I see.”
Bridget Potter, non-fiction writer, Undergraduate Instructor and Consultant in the Writing Center at Columbia University, and course tutor (2013)

“Attending the Laboratory of Literary Architecture was extremely liberating for my writing process. It forced me to think about fiction in architectural terms and helped me understand how every literary decision we make on the page can always be translated into a spatial idea. Building and crafting a three dimensional, literary piece and the ability to experience a piece of writing from different vantage points, was exhilarating. As I was in the last semester of my MFA and in the midst of writing my final thesis, the opportunity to think in spatial terms was particularly illuminating. Seeing the final model and its resemblance with my experience of reading the piece was uncanny.”
Javier Fuentes, former LabLitArch student (2013), Creative Writing Program, Columbia University
“At the beginning you don’t understand the connection between writing and architecture. And you think: ‘What is this for?’ You want to give up: ‘I want to write, I don’t want to glue pieces of cardboard!’ But then, all of a sudden, you realize that writing has everything you’d find in an architectural project: design, structure, space, paths, proportions, light or darkness, noise or silence. And at the end, without even understanding how, you perceive that you cannot do without this new perspective.”
Valerio Codispoti, former LabLitArch student (2013), Creative Writing Program, Scuola Holden, and course tutor
“LabLitArch was a most wonderful experience. As a design student, I was introduced to an aspect of design that’s often overlooked; a certain depth to its essence that transcends boundaries to exist on another dimension; cultivating a sensibility that holds ground in being thought provoking, other than in simply being noticed. It was an intense and fully immersive experience.”

Nihan Junaid, former LabLitArch student (2016), Dubai Design Week

“There is a good deal of seduction in an ordinary line, in the process of architecture. As poet, as architect, one must reserve space only for the essential. Thinking more visually about structure has helped me immensely in knowing how to approach my fiction writing. Though I primarily write poetry, I’ve begun to write prose and it requires a different type of structural planning, one that is truly aligned with architectural design (where will this line overlap, where do these elements repeat, how can I make this motif powerful, yet entirely subtle?). In writing, as in architecture, the suggestion of a line is more powerful than the line itself.”
Catherine Pond, former LabLitArch student (2013), Creative Writing Program, Columbia University
“LabLitArch was five days of exploring, learning, introspecting, reevaluating and, most importantly, being reminded that all of this can be tremendous fun … At LabLitArch, we built a channel of thought bridging from prose to form. By the end, we saw how prose stands in structure and how its essence had adapted to fit a new framework where grammar was physical. The process is pure alchemy as any pursuit of creative expression … The gift of the workshop is a refined sense of wonder, an enthusiasm to look for the narrative in everything around us and, more importantly, seeing and appreciating them.”
Vishnu Prasad, former LabLitArch student (2016), Dubai Design Week — architecture graduate, illustrator and writer
“This process has changed the way I approach my own writing by giving me a new way into story construction, a way that approaches its elements through newly-articulated considerations of relativity/distance, submergence, balance between internal and the reach of the outside world. All these nuances I had a lesser grasp of before taking this class.”
Joanne Yao, former LabLitArch student (2013), Creative Writing Program, Columbia University
“This is exactly the kind of learning that I think should be taking place more frequently.”
Jonathan Weller, English teacher at Redwood High School, California