Refolding the Baroque

Misshapen pearl or postmodernist morphology? Stylistic category or generative design principle? Historically-grounded worldview or radical aesthetic credo? The panoply of Baroque concepts in architectural design and theory seems as much tied to the fact of the Baroque’s presumptive status as anti-modernist and anti-classical as to its apparent eclipse as a valid historical category. The Baroque remains, in the words of many a contemporary critic, a “historiographical monstrosity.” For more than a few theorists, the Baroque stands as a crucial point of focus both in poststructuralist thought and for those who inherited the interpretive models that such thought produced. While for those historians who increasingly favor the anodyne precision evoked by “the long seventeenth century,” the Baroque has become an unfashionable term all the while still signaling monarchical absolutism, Counter-reformation fervor, colonial expansion and Newtonian science.
Whether Baroque forms translate into curves and ellipses, infinite variability, cavernous effects, bombastic irregularities, the treatment of matter by aggregates, the rounding off of angles, the avoidance of straight lines, the tendency of matter to overflow beyond spatial boundaries and thereby aim at folds and fluidity-or, as Wölfflin lyrically once wrote, “the elaboration of a whorl that feeds endlessly on new turbulences”-the revitalized grammar of Baroque mentalities has set the stage for conditions of possibility whose semantic dimensions are only beginning to be assessed. With close readings of selected architectural projects and theoretical texts, this seminar will pursue such assessment.