Bavarian Rococo: Heterotopias

This is both a history / theory seminar and a course in contemporary design technique. Its point of departure is the observation of an exceptional moment in the history of architecture: In the early- and mid-18th century, architects, decorators, and artists in southern Germany produced a series of Catholic church interiors in a strange and regionally-specific variant of the rococo style. The output of these practitioners was remarkable not only for its quantity and geographic density, but for the hypertrophy of a style that, although it had originated elsewhere, reached in Bavaria its most profound extremes of excess and departure from period architectural norms.

Characteristic of this work is the privilege of agglomeration over space: that is to say, instead of proceeding from a totalizing and abstract geometric conception of order that might regulate the entire space of a church interior, the Bavarian rococo is in the business of agglomerating ornament and detail in sufficient densities to crowd and press against the space of occupation – with all of the soppy plasticity, mixture of media, and unrestrained gathering of artifacts that the tone of the word “agglomerate” might imply. It achieved, in a word, “heterotopia” – that shibboleth of Western thought meant to describe forms of coherence that somehow hold as coherences, despite the total absence of limitation to the quantity or difference of their constituent parts.

The work of the course will be to theorize these Bavarian “heterotopias” and then design the rudiments of new ones. Students will study a series of seminal Bavarian Rococo church interiors from the early- and mid-18th century, reading the architecture against 20th century philosophy and criticism on collection, order, and allegory. Simultaneously, students will design and build models of their own architectural agglomerations, using Maya simulation techniques and 3D printing as analogs to the ubiquitous rocaille of the Bavarian rococo church.

This is the second in a series of three planned courses on the relevance of the Bavarian rococo to contemporary design. The first, subtitled “anthropomorphism,” convened in the Spring semester of 2017.

Key Texts:
Karsten Harries, Bavarian Rococo: Between Faith and Aestheticism
Henry-Russell Hitchcock, Rococo Architecture in Southern Germany
Walter Benjamin, The Origin of German Tragic Drama
Michel Foucault, The Order of Things