Picturing Modernism: Architecture, Lifestyle, and the “Embodied Image”
How do architectural images influence our physical experiences of a building or site? Why do some architectural images become iconic, while others fail to resonate? In this essay, I focus on the iconic photograph of the now-famous Stahl House (Case Study House #22) and consider how the image impacts our engagement with the architecture through conscious and non-conscious processes. I analyze the photograph through three different lenses: first, in its context within the greater field of architectural photography; second, as an iconic photograph and its influence on lifestyle and architectural tourism; and finally, through an emerging field of research in the cognitive neurosciences related to the embodied simulation of images. Through these three lenses, I argue that the image works on different levels of embodiment, as a result of the interplay between the published photograph and the built structure. Because this Case Study House was essentially built to be photographed, I contend that the built form serves as a supplement to the published photograph, which ultimately influences our engagement with the actual site. In this essay, I consider the roots of the photograph’s iconic status, its role in perpetuating the legacy of its subject, and what this might reveal about our aesthetic and architectural beliefs and experiences. I apply recent research from the cognitive neurosciences to explore how we respond to architectural photographs in general, and the iconic image in particular. I conclude that the two- and threedimensional realms work in concert to influence our engagement and embodied experience of architecture.
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