1000m2 of desire. Architecture and sexuality Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, CCCB Show
1000m2 of desire. Architecture and sexuality
Exhibition at Barcelona Centre of Contemporary Culture – CCCB, Catalonia, Spain
14 Oct 2016
1000m2 of desire. Architecture and sexuality at CCCB
1000m2 of desire. Architecture and sexuality Exhibition in Barcelona
Curated: architect Adélaïde de Caters and the CCCB’s head of exhibitions la Rosa Ferré
Dates: 26th October 2016 – 19th March 2017
Centre de Cultura Contemporània de Barcelona – 26/10/16 to 19/03/17
Press conference: Tuesday, 25th October at 11am
Opening: Tuesday, 25th October at 7.30pm
The exhibition looks at the way Western society has planned, built and imagined spaces for sex from the 18th century to the present day.
With some 250 exhibits, including drawings and architectural models, art installations, audiovisuals, books and other materials, the exhibition explores the power of spaces as the driving force of desire and shows how architecture has been a tool that controls behaviour and creates gender stereotypes in our patriarchal society.
It presents some of the projects that have subverted traditional models and advocated utopias of sexual cohabitation, or private spaces designed solely for pleasure. It looks afresh at the proposals of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux, Charles Fourier, De Sade and Guy Debord, the radical architecture of the 1960s and 1970s, Carlo Mollino, Adolf Loos, Nicolas Schöffer, Wilhelm Reich, Playboy architecture and works by contemporary architects and artists.
Many people refer to today’s sexual freedom as sexual liberalisation. At a time when our daily lives are monitored by production and consumption, which spaces are reserved for sexual pleasure today?
“1000m2 of desire. Architecture and sexuality” curated by the architect Adélaïde de
Caters and the CCCB’s head of exhibitions la Rosa Ferré, will be at the CCCB from 26th
October 2016 to 19th March 2017. It underpins the need to reappraise, for contemporary
times, the validity and interest of some of the radical, speculative projects that seem to
speak directly to us today, even though some of them date back more than 200 years.
Drawings and architectural models, artworks, installations, films and documentaries, books
and other materials invite us to consider how sexualities are constructed in accordance with
specific cultural codes subject to norms that govern bodies and discourses, and the nature
of the space of desire and pleasure in our society.
The exhibition highlights the way certain forms of resistance to established norms have
largely originated from informal architecture and the appropriation of places. It shows how
architectural practice has been dominated by men until very recently and, as a result,
spaces designed for pleasure have been imagined from male desires and fantasies.
Architecture as the physical design of a space and setting makes up a substantial part of
our sexual fantasies. Many of the exhibits have never been created before and are
constructed through language or the projected image.
The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections: Sexual utopias, Libertine refuges
and Sexographs and includes several independent spaces that act as ‘mini exhibitions’
each one curated by different specialists: a recreation of Nicolas Schöffer’s Centre for
Sexual Leisure (Eléonore de Lanvandeyra Schöffer and Guillaume Richard), a reading
room containing libertine novels (Marie-Françoise Quignard), an installation dedicated to
Playboy magazine and its architecture (Beatriz Colomina and Pep Avilés) and an
archetypal 1970s ’ porn cinema (Esther Fernández).
It also presents William Kentridge’s new installation Right Into Her Arms, which the South
African artist created for his production of Alban Berg’s Lulu.
Curators: Adélaïde de Caters and Rosa Ferré
Advisors: Beatriz Colomina, Esther Fernández and Marie-Françoise Quignard
Exhibition design: stage designer Sabine Theunissen
Catalogue with texts by: Adélaïde de Caters, Beatriz Colomina, Pol Esteve, Esther
Fernández, Fulvio Ferrari, Rosa Ferré, Marie-Françoise Quignard, Rem
The exhibition has received loans from prestigious international institutions, including
FracTurbulence Orleans, the MoMA Architecture Department New York, the Bibliothèque
Nationale de France (BNF) and the Biblioteca Nacional de España (BNE). And from the collections
of the architects who have taken part in the project and given generously of their time.
The exhibition is divided into three thematic sections:
1) SEXUAL UTOPIAS (18TH-20TH CENTURIES)
The exhibition begins with some of the speculative projects by architects, thinkers, artists
and communities who have sought to have an impact on sexual behaviour by monitoring
It examines the sexual utopias of the 18th century such as the temple of pleasure, the
Oikema, imagined by the architect Claude-Nicolas Ledoux; the Parthenions, which Restif
de la Bretonne organised according to detailed rules in his treatise on prostitution, Le
Pornographe; and Charles Fourier’s settings for erotic and gastronomic orgies. Fourier’s
proposal reveals an imagination, a radicalism and extreme relevance with the phalanstery as
the engine of a utopian community governed solely by its inhabitants’ desires.
The exhibition also features one of the Marquis de Sade’s cabinets which reveals how he
constructed his narrative utopia of excess through his passion for architecture and the
Reformist or subversive, these sexual architectures of the 18th and early 19th centuries are
contrasted and establish a certain continuity with more contemporary utopias from the
modus vivendi of hippy communities to the radical architecture of the 20th century: Ettore
Sottsass, the Archigram and Superstudio groups, Rem Koolhaas/OMA, Haus-Rucker-
Co and Ricardo Bofill’s Taller de Arquitectura.
The exhibition also seeks to put the spotlight on the visionary work of Nicolas Schöffer
who was closely associated with the Situationists and part of the French radical architecture
movement in the 1960s. He designed a utopian city, the Ville Cybernétique (1955 -1969)
which contained its own Centre for Sexual Leisure. A vast installation recreates this space
made up of sex, volts, dancing cybernetic sculptures and perfume.
2) LIBERTINE REFUGES (18TH-20TH CENTURIES)
This section explores the power wielded by spaces as driving forces of desire and analyses
the nature of private realms conceived entirely as settings for pleasure, from the French
aristocracy’s petites maisons of the 18th century, with their rooms, décor, and specialist
furnishings, to the bachelor pads suggested by Playboy magazine. It shows the role of
architecture as a sensorial experience in seduction strategies and how sophistication in the
design of constructional and mechanical devices can fire the erotic imagination.
Architecture and storytelling worked osmotically during the 18th century in a game of
mutual fascination. The exhibition presents the architecture of two iconic novels in this
regard, La Petite Maison (1758) by Jean-François de Bastide and Point de Lendemain
(1777) by Vivant Denon.
The reading room containing libertine novels is presented in this section of the exhibition.
Devised by the specialist Marie-Françoise Quignard, it features novels by Nerciat,
Crébillon, Servigné, Choderlos de Laclos and De Sade, among others. The libertine
novel, related to the materialistic philosophy of the day, has a single objective: to celebrate
desire and the enjoyment of the body. Entering the libertine’s chamber is like entering an
imaginary world where the characters are subjected to all the fantasies of desire. It is also
like stepping into the atmosphere of enclosed places: into boudoirs, convent cells or
brothels where we follow the narrator, the clandestine observer, while the story unfolds.
The exhibition devotes a whole section to Playboy, curated by Beatriz Colomina. The
magazine defined a new identity for men that included how they should dress, what they
should listen to, drink and read, as well as the environment they ought to live in as well as
the furnishings and interior décor. From Frank Lloyd Wright to Mies van der Rohe and
including John Lautner and Ant Farm, alongside designs by the Eames, George Nelson,
Eero Saarinen and Harry Bertoia, architecture and design are presented as tools capable
of altering a code of conduct. As a media machine that had an enormous impact by treating
women and buildings as objects of fantasy and desire, Playboy made a significant
contribution to the transformation of ‘intimacy’ into a public spectacle.
This section reproduces Hugh Hefner’s legendary bed (in contrast to the traditional double
bed invented in the 18th century which remains the dominant setting for our sex lives
today). According to another of the leading specialists in the Playboy phenomenon, Beatriz
Preciado: “The round, revolving bed, connected to a radio-cum-phone-cum-hi-fi system,
was used as a place for orgies as well as an office for Hefner who ran his business for years
in his pyjamas and without leaving the house. The bed has become a true multimedia
platform, the direct predecessor of our laptop computer and a media extension of our libido,
as well as a new centre of production and consumption.”
The exhibition also reveals that the architecture of the Modern Movement is a project based
on masculinity, which underplays its erotic dimension. Beatriz Colomina sums it up by
saying “women are the ghosts of modern architecture”. Adolf Loos designed a bedroom for
his wife, Lina, as if it were a fur-lined case and dreamt up a Parisian house for Joséphine
Baker. The exhibition also presents the enigmatic and sensualised home interiors designed
by Carlo Mollino, and, as a counterpoint to these intimate spaces, the home of Rudolph
Schindler in California, which features an experimental programme for two couples living
together, with outdoor beds/sleeping baskets.
3) SEXOGRAPHS (20TH-21ST CENTURIES)
Following in the wake of Guy Debord’s Situationism, the exhibition presents a number of
maps of contemporary passions through pieces by architects and artists (such as Bernard
Tschumi, ecoLogicStudio [Claudia Pasquero and Marco Poletto], Jean-Didier Bergilez,
Danli Wang, Pol Esteve, Marc Navarro and Ania Soliman). It reveals public spaces coded
for sex, among them parks, streets and public toilets. The exhibits in this section include
two impressive series of photographs, The Valley by Larry Sultan and The Park by Kohei
The screening room was one of the spaces transformed by the discourses of the sexual
revolution of the late 1960s. It was a space that embraced an increasing sexualisation until
the advent of the first legal porn films. The so-called ‘porn chic’ that emerged in the United
States in the 1970s opened up spaces for the consumption of pornography to the female
gaze and envisaged an experience of collective viewing that continued until the mid-1980s,
when video technology moved porn into people’s homes. The exhibition features an
archetypal porn cinema of the 1970s, where clips from legendary X-rated films will be
shown, curated by Esther Fernández, we will see how venues for sexual encounters (from luxury resorts to brothels,
whorehouses-cum-hotels on highways, bathhouses and gay dark rooms, discotheques and
bars, oubliettes and BDSM spaces, as well as sex shops) are all highly ritualised social
systems. They are domains in which initiation and transgression act as the driving force of
desire: a particular type of lighting, smells and music are part of this informal architecture.
They are designed for and, at the same time, govern particular practices. They are all
spaces of representation that reflect group mythologies.
But what are the spaces for sex today? Undoubtedly cyberspace, with internet porn and
encounters apps for every taste, is growing in importance. Now that we are fully steeped in
the technological utopia, artists, such as Yann Mihn, are engaged in a search for telepathic
ecstasy. Mihn is working on the prototype of a machine that will enable total immersion in virtual
reality and stimulation (teledildonics), his “NooScaphe-X1 Cybersex immersion engine”.
In Hacer el amor en abstracto: la arquitectura de la cultura de baile, the architect and artist
Pol Esteve examines the spatial experience of discotheques and raves and the way in
which a combination of technologies such as stroboscopic lights, music and drugs can
produce orgasmic effects and a displaced sexuality.
Ingo Niermann proposes a community of sex volunteers with his platform of an army of
love, thearmyoflove.net, who will create situations and spaces of satisfaction for those who
are “usually excluded”, people with physical problems or with a body that does not match
conventions of attractiveness.
Desire in the 21st century is the desire of others expressed through recognition and in the
competition for representation. From the selfie to Instagram, we are compelled to look sexy
and happy; the internet makes the laborious construction of the image of our private lives
compulsory. Do sexual images on the Web represent or replace relationships by sublimating
them? Is the hypersexualisation of society, as it is represented by the media, substituting
actual sexual life? Society seems to have plunged into a narcissistic depression in which the
internet functions as a masturbatory machine. In the Western context, in which
permissiveness is no longer transgression but the norm, what role does space play in reviving transgressive eroticism, in re-eroticising society?
This project explores the interstices of freedom in certain non-normative spaces for desire,
such as the queer movement, and the way these constitute revolutionary resistance to
commodified scenarios and to the control of increasingly all-encompassing social
1000m2 of desire. Architecture and sexuality images / information received from Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, CCCB
Location: Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona, Barcelona, Spain
Barcelona Architecture Designs – chronological list
Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona [CCCB]
Pinon, Viaplana, Mercade, Architects
Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona
Barcelona buildings near Centre de Cultura Contemporania de Barcelona [CCCB]
Barcelona Museum of Contemporary Art, Plaça des Angels, Ciutat Vella
Richard Meier & Partners, Architects; Associate Architect – F.J. Ramos i Associats
Museum Contemporary Art
Blanquerna Url, Faculty of Information Science, Ciutat Vella
Freixas, Miranda, Bou, Gonzalez / Various Architects
Blanquerna url Barcelona
Photos © adrian welch / isabelle lomholt
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