Jolanda Devalle – Never Innocent: Architecture, Anthropology and Domestic Space

Architecture and anthropology are deeply intertwined, so it’s unsurprising that anthropologists have studied architectural forms since the discipline’s inception in the 18th century. Less clear, however, is how architects have historically engaged with anthropology.

The thesis aims to trace the history of this relationship by examining the work of architects and architectural thinkers, who, directly or indirectly, integrated an anthropological reading of architecture; whether by borrowing case studies, adopting research methods, or appropriating ideas and theoretical frameworks. To examine the historical arc of this phenomenon, the research begins in the eighteenth century, a period when both disciplines came of age, arriving to the present day. It examines this question, by focusing on a series of architects and architectural thinkers who, despite seemingly unrelated, all share a degree of influence or allegiance to anthropological thought. The inquiry will critically assess built and unbuilt projects, as well as publications, curatorial practices, photography, editorial projects, and didactic endeavors.

Beneath this highly diversified set of case studies, the research’s intent is threefold: to uncover the motivations driving the recurring alliance with anthropology, to assess the impact on modern architectural thought and practice, and to identify what legacies of thought, terms, tools, and tropes endure today and require recalibration. The primary hypothesis is that the anthropological study of built form went hand in hand with the development of new principles in modern architecture. A central theme in this research is the study of domestic spaces, which has often served as a point of convergence and encounter between these two disciplines. Dwellings, most often geographically or temporally remote, have been a shared concern and object of study for anthropologists and architects, providing the means for renewal, critique, or development of modern architectural forms.