28 January, Carsten Thau: The Passage or the City Inside Out

2015_Lecture_Robert Greenwood-poster

Department of Architecture
Shanghai Study Center
2016 SPRING Public Lecture Series

Speaker: Carsten Thau
Lecture Title: Critic and Professor of Architectural Theory and History at Royal Academy School of Architecture in Copenhagen
Date: 28 Jan 2016 (Thursday)
Time: 19:30 – 20:00
Venue: HKU/Shanghai Study Centre
Address: 298 Bei Suzhou Lu (close to Sichuan Bei Lu), Hongkou District, Shanghai
(Subway Line 10, Tiantong Rd)

Lecture at the opening of the exhibition on Passages by Carsten Thau, professor of architectural History and Theory at The Royal Danish Academy´s Schools of Architecture, Design and Conservation.

The Passage or the City Inside Out

For long the passages of the city were overlooked and regarded as an insignificant part of the capillary structure, something ephemeral or just “negative”, in some cases just as simple little leftovers in the general lay out of the urban structure. Since the 1980ties however, Western architects and theoreticians of art and architecture have taken a particular interest in this part of the urban tissue. Mainly because the passages offer a break in our daily routines, a window of oppurtunities for reflection , i.e. for being confronted with yourself in an interstice that escapes the rational Master plan exactly by being secretive, irregular and discreet. A complex of passages will often, in the final analyses, appear as labyrinthian and a variety of spaces that add to the complexity and richness of the city.

Architecture is to a large extend about getting inside or into something, be it a house, a building, a hallway, a shopping mall, an elevator etc. In the open public space of the city little passages and arcades provide you with a feeling of getting inside the body of the city. The exterior space of the city turns into an interior.

The historically most famous instance of passages are the Parisian business sarcades built throughout the 19th century, arcades covered with glassroofs above rows of luxury shops. These arcades were “drilled” through already existing urban blocks in a most irregular pattern. In the early 20th century, longtime abandoned, they attracted groups of surrealists, artist who were fascinated by them as time capsules, that offered a dusty insight into romantic, eery fantasms of the previous century, archeological remnants from the very outbreak of Modernity.

The lecture explores the character of arcades/passages in Paris, London, Copenhagen and Milan, while at the same time, in a wider perspective, it deals with the remarkable attention devoted to the “dimension between”, “the in-between”, the interstice and the passage in contemporary architecture, art and new conceptions of the urban realm.

Carsten Thau (born 1947 in Denmark). Professor of Architectural Theory and History at the Royal Academy School of Architecture in Copenhagen since 1997. Before that senior lecturer at the School of Architecture in Aarhus (1980 – 1992) and senior lecturer in Cultural Studies at the University of Copenhagen (1992 – 95).Professor in the History of Architecture at the School of Architecture,  Aarhus  (1995 – 1997).

He studied philosophy and art history at The Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main, German; and art history at Churchill College, Cambridge, England as well as History of Ideas in the University of Aarhus.

He has lectured extensively in Scnadinavia, Europe and North America. Guestprofessorships in Norway, Germany and Lithuania.

He is co-author of volumes on the British artist and filmmaker Peter Greenaway, Danish Designer and Architect Arne Jacobsen, apart from books on the role of The Frame in Art– issued by the Danish National Gallery in Copenhagen, furthermore the Dimension of time in Architecture, the relationship between architecture and philosophy. His books have laid the foundation for exhibitions at Kunstakademie Hamburg, MoMA in New York, MoMA in Oxford, Sao Paolo in Brazil and many other cities around the world. Has written numeruous articles on design, urban history, art and film, works translated into various languages. His productions for Television dealing with contemporary Danish architects and Modern Masters like Arne Jacobsen have been on show in the Nordic countries and Germany. His videoproductions on Vienna 1900 and Brirtish architect John Soane have won international prices.