Sexuality and Space. — New York, 1992

Sexuality and Space / Beatriz Colomina, editor. — New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1992. — [8], 390 p., ill. — (Princeton Papers on Architecture)  Sexuality and Space / Beatriz Colomina, editor. — New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1992. — [8], 390 p., ill. — (Princeton Papers on Architecture)

Sexuality and Space / Beatriz Colomina, editor. — New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1992. — [8], 390 p., ill. — (Princeton Papers on Architecture). — ISBN 1-878271-08-3 (paper)



Throughout the seventy-two year history of the School of Architecture at Princeton University, its faculty, students, and visitors have participated in a dynamic probing for the boundaries of architecture. It is interesting to note that the work of the many architects and scholars who have visited the School is generally well known, yet very little of what is actually seen and spoken here is recorded. An awareness of this situation led to the decision last year to undertake a project to publish the full range of activities taking place at the School.
This book is the first of a series, the Princeton Papers on Architecture, which will chronicle the full range of activities at the School. The series will trace the issues being discussed at the School. Our intentions are to inspect the limits of architectural discourse, uncover hidden possibilities for better understanding of architecture and architects, and to document discussions and images generally left out of the architectural mainstream. If we are successful we will contribute to the widening of the architect’s intellectual and artistic boundaries in the face of the particular cultural and environmental challenges facing us as we approach the turn of the century.
A symposium titled “Sexuality and Space” was held in the School’s Betts Auditorium on March 10 and 11, 1990. The symposium was organized by Beatriz Colomina, Assistant Professor of Architecture, who is also the editor of this book. The School is indebted to her for her extraordinary insight, the efforts put into organizing the symposium, and the editing of this book.
It is most fitting that the symposium and the publication of this book have been sponsored by the Jean Labatut Memorial Fund and the Hobart Betts Publication Fund. The late Professor Jean Labatut, often referred to as the “dean of teachers,” initiated the cultural interests that have always pervaded the School, and the Betts family has consistently stood behind the School with their generous support and commitment to quality education.
Ralph Lerner
Dean, School of Architecture



In March 1991, after much debate, Princeton University approved a new policy giving domestic partners of gay and lesbian graduate students access to university housing, a right previously granted only to the partners of married students. This measure, which is based on the addition of the words sexual orientation to the university’s Equal Opportunity Policy in 1985, represents the first practical acknowledgment of lesbian and gay students. In a way, you could say that this is their first “admission,” in the legal and spatial sense of the term-and admission is arguably the central function of any university. It is significant that this admission occurred around the highly symbolic issue of housing. Deprived of the right to be housed, the students were not really “let in,” “allowed entrance or access,” or “made room for in an enclosed space,” as the dictionary defines admission. Sexuality was, at least officially, left at the door. But as the dictionary argues, admission is also a question of acknowledging, recognizing, accepting as valid. To be admitted is to be represented. And space is, after all, a form of representation.
The politics of space are always sexual, even if space is central to the mechanisms of the erasure of sexuality. I have used the above event as an example not because it has any more to do with sexuality than anything else, but because the concern of this symposium was to identify precisely these kinds of close relationships between sexuality and space hidden within everyday practices, many of which appear to be concerned neither with space or sexuality.
In recent years much contemporary critical theory has been appropriated by architectural theorists. At the same time, a number of leading critical theorists have focused on architecture. But in spite of the growing reciprocity in the exchange of ideas, the issue of sexuality remains a glaring absence. All the different kinds of work on representation and desire developed over the last fifteen years by feminist theorists have been conspicuously ignored in architectural discourse and practice. This is obviously part of a more general repression of sexuality in most “critical” discourses, about which Meaghan Morris and Rosalyn Deutsche, among others, have recently written. The symposium “Sexuality and Space” was an attempt to address this absence, not simply by importing the work on sexuality into architectural discourse, but by setting up some kind of interdisciplinary exchange in which theories of sexuality are reread in architectural terms and architecture is reread in sexual terms.
The concern of the symposium was not with space as yet another symptom of sexuality, repressed or otherwise. It is not a question of looking at how sexuality acts itself out in space, but rather to ask: How is the question of space already inscribed in the question of sexuality? This formulation required that we abandon the traditional thought of architecture as object, a bounded entity addressed by an independent subject and experienced by a body. Instead, architecture must be thought of as a system of representation in the same way that we think of drawings, photographs, models, film, or television, not only because architecture is made available to us through these media but because the built object is itself a system of representation. Likewise, the body has to be understood as a political construct, a product of such systems of representation rather than the means by which we encounter them.
To simply raise the question of “Sexuality and Space” is, therefore, already to displace Architecture. In the end, this book is but the documentation of a small event in the larger project of this displacement.
I am very grateful to all the people with whom I have discussed this project at different times and whose advice has informed it: Victor Burgin, who should also be credited with the title, Rosalyn Deutsche, Mark Wigley, Constance Penley, Andrew Ross, Diana Fuss, Tony Vidler, Tom Keenan, Silvia Kolbowski, Phil Mariani, and Jane Weinstock.
Of course, the symposium and this publication would not have been possible without the support and labor of many people. I am very grateful to both Dean Robert Maxwell and his successor Dean Ralph Lerner for their enthusiastic endorsement. To Pat Morton, who assisted in the organization of the event as well as in the initial publication coordination. To Phil Mariani, who edited the texts, and Lisa Simpson, who assumed responsibility for production of the book. To Silvia Kolbowski, who designed a memorable poster, and John Nichols, who printed it. To Diana Agrest, Diana Fuss, and Mark Wigley, who acted as moderators. To the students of Princeton University who offered their time. And to Irene McElroy, Dorothy Rothbard, Cynthia Nelson, and Doreen Simpson, without whom nothing would happen.
Beatriz Colomina



Meaghan Morris 1
Great Moments in Social Climbing: King Kong and the Human Fly
Laura Mulvey 53
Pandora: Topographies of the Mask and Curiosity
Beatriz Colombia 73
The Split Wall: Domestic Voyeurism
Patricia White 131
Female Spectator, Lesbian Specter: The Haunting
Jennifer Bloomer 163
Lynn Spigel 185
The Suburban Home Companion: Television and the Neighborhood Ideal in Postwar America
Victor Burgin 219
Perverse Space
Elizabeth Grosz 241
Catherine Ingraham 255
Initial Proprieties: Architecture and the Space of the Line
Alessandra Ponte 273
Architecture and Phallocentrism in Richard Payne Knight's Theory
Molly Nesbit 307
“In the absence of the parisienne”
Mark Wigley 327
Untitled: The Housing of Gender


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Sexuality and Space / Beatriz Colomina, editor. — New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1992. — [8], 390 p., ill. — (Princeton Papers on Architecture)  Sexuality and Space / Beatriz Colomina, editor. — New York : Princeton Architectural Press, 1992. — [8], 390 p., ill. — (Princeton Papers on Architecture)


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