Architecture and Sex
Andrea Branzi

There has always been a relationship between architecture and the human body. It would be interesting to examine this relationship from inside history and to study its variations in relation to variations in current moral standards, or at least in relation to the importance given to sexuality in society and in daily life. W. Reich discovered that more than half of our time, at least until we reach middle-age (about fifty), is spent thinking about sex, about our own and other’s people sex lives, imagining combinations and couplings, for sexual activities are not only a free kind of social comunication but a form of physical energy that conditions all our experiences. Of these, I should say, sex most deeply influences our «experience of space» - that is, our capacity to conceive the empty space lying between us and others (which is normally taken to be architectonic space ) as a sexual medium, as a place for the free exchange or messages and for the possible or actual sexual experiences. This kind of theory, which is moreover elementary enough to be true, is officially absent in the history of architecture. There are some isolated cases of intuition in this regard, but they are almost always limited to cases of anthropomorphic or phallic architecture and never concern any officially adopted architectonic guidelines.
In a society like ours now experiencing the first symptoms of a sexual revolution, I think there is a futur for this idea of architecture as a predominantly sexual place. Just how, it is hard to say, but it’s quite certain that such a powerfull link in inter-family and urban relationships can hardly be silenced much longer, all the more so because its discovery is more a scientific than a moral matter.
Let us not forget that the discovery of the sociality and of the city has only recently been officialy acknowledged, after long being rejected as a vulgar interference in a discipline based on itslef. The same thing might happen with sex in architecture : the whole history of architecture could be reinterpreted in the light of this hypothesis, and trace the course of humanity’s long battle against sex. The relationship between architectonic concepts and the sensorial experience of space might constitute the first step in our inquiry. In the Middle Ages, when sex was officially condemned by moral opinion, all the physical data of architectonic space were heightened, just as the hermit would resist the call of the flesh by suffocating the stimulus under more powerful sensations such as physical pain. One need only think of Gothic and Romanesque cathedrals, in which one’s perception of the monumental organism was closely related to such physical experiences as differences in temperature between the interior and the exterior, the odour of such unventilated places, a certain kind of acoustics, light filtering in through the windows, etc.. Sexual communication in such places of communal gathering (which were already completely full of both sensorial and religious stimuli ) became impossible. With the Renaissance came a restructuralization of architecture from within . In it the relationship with the physical experience of space is replaced by a kind of ideological-philosophical relationship with the classical order, while relationships with the human body shift direct experience to proportional relationships. Architecture became a completely conceptual kind of experience, soudless and odourless, immersed in an illuminated universe officially undisturbed by sexual vibrations.
This kind of approach has been handed down to us without any appreciable variants, apart from those Freudian inspiration resulting from the growing feeling among architects and many others that the organization of experience is much more revelant than it was once tought. But the role of architecture as the great instrument of sexual repression has been reconfirmed. The struggles for compositional freedom, for the discarding of functionalism as a repression of free behaviour have now reached the surveyors’ college; but the road from organic architecture to orgonic achitecture, it seems, will be long and hard.

Radical Notes, 1975

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