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Theoretical Papers

Vol. 5 No. 1 (2020): Visual Spaces of Change: Designing Interiority - shelter, shape, place, atmosphere

The need for Shelter Laugier, Ledoux, and Enlightenment’s shadows




The scope of this text is to think about how the human need for shelter began to appear as a foundational allegory for the discipline of architecture in the early modern age (XVIII - XIX), particularly in Laugier’s “Primitive Hut” of 1753 and Ledoux’s “L’Abri du Pauvre” of 1804.

At roughly the same periods as these architects were investing the discipline with a new existential calling, new European visions of society, its organization and constraints were exploding the imaginary and concrete limits of the European polity which, at the time, was a planetary polity. Between Rousseau’s social contract, Kant’s Republic, Hegel’s “state,” among many other visions spanning from 1753 to 1804, Europe’s subjects, government and power, and their respective relationships, were structurally changed.

Assembled in the same picture, these allegories and visions give us many possibilities of reflection about architecture’s new position and role within the political in the modern age. On the other hand, it may help us reflect on what architecture articulates in the outbreak of new social contexts. Heeding Walter Benjamin, we propose to take control of these memories, disparate and synchronic as they might “really have been,” to ask in a moment of danger: why doesn’t architecture shelter today? How can we read that foundational calling today?