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Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

Henri Lefebvre

Publication Year: 2014

Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment is the first publication in any language of the only book devoted to architecture by Henri Lefebvre. Written in 1973 but only recently discovered in a private archive, this work extends Lefebvre’s influential theory of urban space to the question of architecture. Taking the practices and perspective of habitation as his starting place, Lefebvre redefines architecture as a mode of imagination rather than a specialized process or a collection of monuments. He calls for an architecture of jouissance—of pleasure or enjoyment—centered on the body and its rhythms and based on the possibilities of the senses.

Examining architectural examples from the Renaissance to the postwar period, Lefebvre investigates the bodily pleasures of moving in and around buildings and monuments, urban spaces, and gardens and landscapes. He argues that areas dedicated to enjoyment, sensuality, and desire are important sites for a society passing beyond industrial modernization.

Lefebvre’s theories on space and urbanization fundamentally reshaped the way we understand cities. Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment promises a similar impact on how we think about, and live within, architecture.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Other Works by the Author, Copyright

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Translator’s Note

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pp. vii-x

The title Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment is taken directly from Henri Lefebvre’s French working title, Vers une architecture de la jouissance, and, in that sense, is unproblematic. The proverbial elephant in the room makes its appearance in the form of jouissance, a word ripe (some might say rife) with connotations that has repeatedly proven problematic...

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Introduction. A Manuscript Found in Saragossa: Toward an Architecture

Łukasz Stanek

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pp. xi-lxii

The Manuscript Found in Saragossa is a gothic novel by Jan Potocki (1761–1815), a Polish aristocrat touring Napoleonic Europe, that recounts the story of a mysterious manuscript found in the Spanish city of Saragossa and features the adventures of Walloon soldier Alphonse van Worden who, on his way through the mountains of Sierra Morena...

Toward an Architecture of Enjoyment

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pp. 1-2

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1. The Question

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pp. 3-23

By “architecture” I understand neither the prestigious art of erecting monuments nor simply the professional’s contribution to the indispensable activity of construction.1 In the first sense, the architect elevates himself to the status of a demiurge; in the second, he responds to an external and higher command, which authorizes him to stand in for...

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2. The Scope of the Inquiry

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pp. 24-31

This inquiry is not limited to specialized or technical questions about architecture. Its scope is broader than a purely aesthetic analysis. To use a common expression, we could say that it is philosophical, except that philosophical reflection or meditation is centered on the philosopher’s proof (experience), whereas here it is a question of social...

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3. The Quest

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pp. 32-49

The doorway to dreams lies ajar, a sinuous road passes through. What will I find on the other side, where, with a shiver of fear, the bold would confront monsters? The void? A voyage through the interplanetary vacuum or monsters in a land of marvels? To discover the place of enjoyment, we must enter the dream because the real has betrayed...

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4. Objections

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pp. 50-59

The imaginary voyage and the oneiric exploration of the possible have turned out to be disappointing. The ability to make our way appears to have been less useful than presumed. What now? The moment has come to seriously examine the objections. Whether by order of increasing or decreasing gravity hardly matters. This moment could have come earlier; the...

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5. Philosophy

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pp. 60-79

Philosophers have distinguished the nuances of affective tonalities with the utmost finesse: pleasure, sensuality, happiness, satisfaction. Every great philosopher has focused on one such quality and given it a particular meaning. Before delving further, we might ask ourselves if the philosophical breakdown of what we have referred to with a single...

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6. Anthropology

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pp. 80-86

Anthropology was able to free itself of the curse laid on it by evil fairies at the time of its birth. Today, it has rid itself of a form of intellectual asceticism embodied (or, rather, disembodied) in the work of Claude Lévi-Strauss. The amateur intellectualism of analysis reduced ontological realities to nomenclatures, to words and abstract relationships...

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7. History

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pp. 87-101

We can learn a great deal from history. Unfortunately, the general history that might contain an answer to the question exists only in cursory form. There are good histories of architecture, where we can learn of the inventions of the great masters—Palladio, Ledoux, Eiffel, Perret. However, the relationship between the architectural work and...

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8. Psychology and Psychoanalysis

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pp. 102-116

The psychology of pleasure and pain has done little to alter the claims of philosophy. Yet psychologists, psychiatrists, and psychoanalysts have helped accentuate the lived experience of pleasure and pain, enjoyment and suffering, noting their irreducibility to representations, to knowledge, to speech about (pleasure, pain, etc.). Knowledge, philosophy, and...

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9. Semantics and Semiology

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pp. 117-127

To begin this chapter, I assume the following statements or propositions to be self-evident. If the reader feels there is something arbitrary about these claims, I encourage him to investigate other sources, whose identity and content I leave it to him to discover.1

a. Language, speech, and discourse occupy a mental time-space and designate...

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10. Economics

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pp. 128-135

The meaning of the term “economics” has changed several times in modern scientific terminology. After encompassing the concept of household organization (the meaning of the Greek for “economy”), it came to refer to economic abstinence. In the human sciences, this meaning has recently become broader and more obscure, shedding any contact...

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11. Architecture

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pp. 136-145

Until now we have surveyed, or explored, architecture in the form of an oneiric landscape. At times it even gave way to larger questions about space, ambiguity, and so on. We need now to take a closer look at architecture and architectural discourse. In doing so, if this analysis uncovers a principle (or principles) of classification for architectural works...

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12. Conclusion (Injunctions)

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pp. 146-154

Let us retrace the path we have taken. Following an intentionally restrictive approach, a limited investigation focused on architecture expanded into space, the relation between space and nature, between the everyday and the noneveryday, between use and exchange. But the initial question remains. For it is at the architectural level that the space of...


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pp. 155-176


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pp. 177-190

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About the Authors

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p. 191-191

Henri Lefebvre (1901–1991) was a noted French philosopher and sociologist. His studies of modern urban society resulted in the publication of several classics in a wide range of fields, including philosophy, sociology, urban studies, political economy, geography, and literary studies. The author of more than sixty books, he was among the first scholars to recognize the implications of alienation...

E-ISBN-13: 9781452941974
E-ISBN-10: 1452941971
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816677207

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2014