Academic Talk: Richard Williams ‘Sexuality, Space and the Architectural Project: A Provisional History’

Date: 
Wednesday, 3 February 2010
Time: 
6.00PM

FREE

Richard Williams, Senior Lecturer in History of Art at The University of Edinburgh, discusses his recent research: Sex, it hardly needs to be said, is everywhere. The academic world is no exception: people talk about sex all the time, about sexual identities, sexual difference, the representations of sex in art and literature, the legal regulation of sex, sexual morals, ethics, and etiquette, sexual violence and sexual disease, and a hundred other things to do with sex. Sex, at least in the humanities and social sciences in the Anglophone world, has arguably become the dominant topic of discussion during the past 30 years. But if this is true, then where is architecture? In one sense, architecture and sexuality are fundamentally related, simply because architecture by and large frames our sexual lives, contains them, provides images of them, and to some extent limits them. The availability of private or semi-private spaces allows sexual lives to exist; their absence inhibits them. Where they exist, their character (their privacy or otherwise, their comfort, their formal qualities, their location in relation to work or home) define the sexual lives that take place in them and inform their development. These questions, as this lecture shows, remain strangely obscure. Architecture, despite its liberal tendencies, remains strangely coy on the subject of sex - and (some might say) seems to want to repress it altogether. The precise nature of this problem, the (few) attempts there have been to insert sex into the architectural project, and the future of architecture in a sexually-obsessed world are some of my topics here. The lecture previews the argument of my forthcoming book, 'Sex and Buildings' (Reaktion).