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The House Of Henry Brulard

Part 1 Dissertation 2001
Sean Flanagan
University of Auckland Auckland | New Zealand
The House of Henry Brulard, a dissertation concerning the appearance of architectural drawing.

By S. Flanagan. (completed Nov. 2000. Supervisor: Dr. Sarah Treadwell.)

"The House of Henry Brulard" is a dissertation concerning the appearance of architectural drawing.

A study of Stendhal's drawings from the autobiography "The Life of Henry Brulard" (1836) is undertaken to establish a theoretical position concerning the role of architectural drawing as a place of discourse. Having examined the traditional linear interpretations of Stendhal's drawings (in particular questioning their commonly accepted classification as illustrations), efforts are directed towards perceiving the drawings as unique artefacts that exist, to some degree, independently of the surrounding text. Attributing such significance to the drawings themselves requires resistance to the seductive linearity of functional interpretation that encourages a slide away from the semiotic potential of drawing in favour of a linear translation of the symbolic or narrative meaning of the text.

"The House of Henry Brulard" is presented as a series of five drawings, or rather, five shimmering approximations of a house. Each approximation depicts a unique domestic situation, while collectively the multiple drawings question the possibility of a singularly definitive house. The contorno and non-finito nature of drawing is addressed to raise questions concerning translation between the theoretical and graphic domains of architecture. Mark Wigley's definition of the house as a single line describing an opposition of inside and outside is critiqued in reagrds to this discourse of the general and the specific.

The drawings of "The House of Henry Brulard" prompt questions concerning domestic architecture. They do so by appearing strange, difficult and distanced from an immediately identifiable reality, yet all the drawings continue to employ traditional systems of architectural representation (plans, sections, notation, symbols, labels). Such an uncanny resemblance to the recognisable modes of representation inspires an effort to occupy the strange houses. Insisting upon closer inspection and often-elaborate projection, the drawings of "The House of Henry Brulard" both disturb established concepts of the house and afford a space in which to explore the house anew.

Key References.

Elkins, J., 1998, "On Pictures and the Words that Fail

Sean Flanagan

The House of Henri Brulard: A Dissertation Concerning the Appearance of Architectural Drawing by Sean Flanagan

Stendhal is not obviously of an architectural persuasion being known primarily as a literary figure. And yet he keeps appearing in writings and readings that congregate around architecture; Aldo Rossi and Catherine Ingraham both refer to him, as does Hélène Cixous. He is found, or rather versions of him are found, in unexpected places. Stendhal/Brulard, multiple man, with little commitment to singularity, does, however, explicitly engage in architectural work in the book The Life of Henri Brulard (1836) that is the starting point of the thesis, The House of Henri Brulard; a dissertation concerning the appearance of architectural drawing, by Sean Flanagan.

Stendhal attracts architects perhaps because of the formal control and patterning of his writing but also because he does draw. Small black ink drawings. The craft of his writing is set beside these strange calligraphic drawing/notes. In both the deployment and mistreatment of disciplinary techniques (plan drawing conventions) Stendhal’s drawings become the engaging matter of this absorbing thesis.

The intricate, reproduced sketches trace the house(s) in which Stendhal spent part of his complicated, and repressed childhood. The drawings, rather than being seen as ‘mere’ illustrations of literary text, are taken in this particularly architectural research to be matters of importance. The construction, structure and formal alignments in the drawings are carefully considered.

The thesis allows the drawings, the house plans, to overlap, congregate, and aggregate letting the black calligraphy of the drawings settle onto a single surface. They are then ‘read’ through mechanisms extracted from the content of the drawings. ‘Shimmering approximations’ of the house are formed. ‘Reading’ the drawings has become in this thesis an act of design as the ‘approximate’ houses are considered as momentary but concrete conditions of architecture. Operating with disciplinary techniques of precision, scale and alignment the approximate houses make space for differing accounts and conditions of Brulard/Stendhal.

The houses also operate as commentaries on the domestic and its negotiated definitions. The Table House design is a site of mediations between the individual and the collective while the Place House addresses the partitioning and appropriations of public space. The Fire House, bo

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