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The Myth of the Casa Malaparte: The Myth Surrounding a Piece of Architecture Created by Journalistic Writing

Part 1 Dissertation 1998
University of Westminster | UK
The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the 'myth' surrounding a piece of architecture created by journalistic writing and the reflection this has on architectural writing as one of the primary means by which architecture is presented. It is the intention to investigate how writing affects the way in which a piece of architecture is 'seen' and to speculate on both the positive and negative aspects of these phenomena. Architects, architectural students, academics, and indeed anyone interested in architecture, use periodicals and books in acquiring much of their knowledge about the subject.

In this respect a dependence on written and photographic material is taken for granted in architectural education Of all the architecture one 'knows' only a small percentage is experienced 'first hand'; most of our experience is based on secondary source material published in periodicals and books . lt might be reasoned that the best solution to this problem is privilege 'first hand' experience; but necessarily we continue to rely on architectural publications and some understanding of the limitations of architectural writing may prove useful.

In this dissertation the intention is to investigate architectural writing about a single building. In earlier work toward this dissertation I embarked on research into the Casa Malaparte in Capri. My initial interest was provoked by viewing the film "Le Mepris", directed by Jean-Luc Godard, in which the building features. This beautifully shot piece featured several elements that held my interest. The film is the story of a failing relationship between a scriptwriter and his wife set in the context of an attempt to film Homer's "Odyssey" ( based on a novel by Alberto Moravia).

The sources were mainly short articles from periodicals usually featuring some photographs In reading through the articles it became apparent that the reports differed in their observations sometimes to the point of being contradictory, but in other cases an idiosyncratic or 'poetic' observation by a reviewer reappears in later articles without being questioned or justified. Articles read in the context of the periodical in which they appear (i.e. in isolation) led to the conclusion that in most cases these discrepancies remained unnoticed. In order to draw out the threads of an argument the material will be surveyed chronologically, drawing comparisons and using references to highlight particular idiosyncrasies.

Barthes, R. Elements of Semiology. Great Britain: Cape Editions (1967)
EECO, U. The Limits of Interpretation. Bloomington and Indianapolis: Indiana University Press (1990)
GODARD, J. L. Le Mepris (Contempt) 1963
TALAMONA, M. Villa Malaparte. AA files. no. 18, Autumn 1989, p.3-14

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