PhD thesis (2018)

“Ten Windows Following Christian Norberg- Schulz: Framing, mobility and self-reflection through the fenestral essay film” 

PhD thesis in Architectural Design, The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL, 2018. Supervised by Professor Jane Rendell and Dr. Claire Thomson. 

This thesis investigates the window in the life and work of Christian Norberg-Schulz, aiming at finding new nuances and ambiguities within his existing oeuvre, and questioning my own position as a ‘follower’ of Norberg-Schulz. Taking the window as both literal and figurative, I ask in what ways the window can become a tool for investigating Norberg-Schulz’s concept of mobility and his theory of place through the fenestral essay film – specifically through mobility, framing and self-reflection. 

Norberg-Schulz’s theory of genius loci – the spirit of the place – has been widely discussed and critiqued (Loevland 2009; Otero- Pailos, 2010; Wilken 2013). Yet, no one has yet looked at the role of the windows in his life and work, and specifically in his theory of genius loci: which is surprising because he describes the window as the place where “the genius loci is focused and ‘explained’”(Norberg- Schulz, 1980: 179). I argue therefore that the window plays a vital role both in Norberg-Schulz’s life and work, particularly related to his reading of the work of the poet Rainer Maria Rilke. 

Through oral history, site-visits, close-readings of texts, archival research, film-making and essay writing I follow Norberg-Schulz’s window on a return journey between Norway and Italy. Building upon existing methodologies of Jane Rendell’s site-writing as a critical spatial practice (Rendell: 2010) combined with the genre of the essay film (Corrigan: 2011; Rascaroli: 2017) and architecture essay film (Haralambidou: 2016) I consider how the window features both literally and figuratively in a series of fenestral essay films which explore mobility, framing and self-reflection conceptually, visually and spatially. Introduced through an itinerary, and concluding with a framework and reflections, this thesis is located at the junction between film-making and architectural history, presented through 10 Windows, each one comprising an essay and a film. 

The thesis can be requested from UCL Library

Graphic Design: Essi Viitanen

Back to The Fenestral Essay Film