Picturing Modernism: Architecture, Lifestyle, and the “Embodied Image”

  • Lindsay Kaisla University of Victoria
Keywords: Modernism, mid-century, architecture, photography, iconicity, embodiment, embodied simulation theory, Case Study House #22, Stahl House, Julius Shulman


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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Author Biography

Lindsay Kaisla, University of Victoria

Lindsay holds a Master of Arts (2019) and Bachelor of Arts (2017) in Art History and Visual Studies from the University of Victoria, where her research focused on mid-century modern architecture and its media. She also has a professional background in graphic design and communications, and works on various projects related to heritage and architectural history. Lindsay has previously been involved with the Art History and Visual Studies Graduate Association Board as Co-editor and Layout Designer of ARTbeat (the Association’s newsletter) and Co-editor of ARTiculate. She is grateful for the opportunity to contribute to the present volume as an author, and would like to thank the talented editorial team for their incredible work in producing the fourth issue of ARTiculate.

How to Cite
Kaisla, Lindsay. 2023. “Picturing Modernism: Architecture, Lifestyle, and the ‘Embodied Image’”. ARTiculate 4 (June). Victoria, British Columbia, Canada, 6-35. https://journals.uvic.ca/index.php/articulate/article/view/21429.