Displaying the body: anatomy museum and anatomical expressions in architecture

Şahin, Zeynep Ece
Throughout history, architecture and the human body have always been in close contact, affecting, shaping, and altering each other by multifarious means. Just as the human body has been employed as a reference and source of inspiration in architectural practice and theory, the body has also been studied, represented, and communicated in architectural terms. Within this context, going beyond the clichéd body-based analogies in architectural discipline, this study draws attention to the reciprocity of the relations between architecture and the human body and analyzes these relations varying in a wide spectrum from conceptual to practical, from a point of view that focuses on the specific concept of “anatomical display”. With the aim of providing a comprehensive understanding on this particular subject, the spaces of anatomical display; visualization and display methods of anatomical objects; and anatomical structure of the human body are analyzed in detail. The “medical gaze” introduced by Michel Foucault in terms of providing a model of perception that has both medical and spatial quality and emphasizing the powerful connection between “seeing and knowing” is a significant concept for this study. In the light of this concept, the emergence and development processes of anatomy museums and vi anatomical theatres and their relation and contribution to the fields of museum and theatre architecture, in general, are examined. Following this research, the relations between architecture, and body are established through the concepts of harmony, space, transparency, cutting and fragmentation. These seemingly simple, yet intrinsically complex concepts are discussed together with binary oppositions such as visible-invisible; transparency-opacity; part-whole, and interior-exterior and explored in different scales and contexts that are mainly, the space of the anatomy museum; the space of the human body; and architectural and theory and practice in a broader sense. Within the theme of “fragments”, “dismembering and remembering” is analyzed and defined as a seminal process that takes place in the space of anatomy museum. The idea of “display in fragments” that has been widely employed in anatomical displays, is presented as a new and inspiring method for the display of architecture. The exhibition “Elements of Architecture”, curated by Rem Koolhaas for the 14th Venice Architecture Biennale is examined within this context.


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Citation Formats
Z. E. Şahin, “Displaying the body: anatomy museum and anatomical expressions in architecture,” M.S. - Master of Science, Middle East Technical University, 2020.