Sprezzatura

MArch Thesis Research
2015 - 2016
University of Waterloo

The rigidity of the architectural system is an important aspect of design and education. One must learn the rules before breaking them. Fundamentals are important in teaching a student what constitutes good architecture. These same fundamentals must exist for Sprezzatura as well. Its inherent rebellion is the key to its success. Rebellion’s existence is dependent on the establishment of a fixed set of rules. Without rigid pressure, there would be no revolt. This thesis outlined those rebellious glimpses.

           These rigid frameworks require paring down, but not dismantling. Through this understanding, the rules soften. They transform into a set of guides, adaptable for unique use. Much like Archetypes in Architecture, this thesis outlines attributes of seductive architecture. However, not all forms of architecture fall into these categories. As stated, this thesis is prone to metamorphosis. As the art of seduction evolves, so does seductive architecture.

           The combination of seductive attributes creates the performance for every Spectator. These mischievous parts exist within the realm of a rigid set of archetypes. Within them, they perform as personified entities of building. The attributes are the Veil, Reveal, and so forth, defined by my personal experiences made over the course of this thesis. The experiences exemplified said tools in action.

           Built upon these attributes, the architecture of seduction relies on experience. As a Spectator passes through, he may notice the penetrating light or sound. Noticing the series of arranged objects is insufficient. The interaction is what creates the magic of the performance. Sprezzatura is a form of a delightful architecture. It can only exist through the interaction between Spectator and architecture. Much like the Hypnerotomachia Poliphili, the architecture embodies an ideal, which affects her admirer.

           This leads us to the true meaning of Sprezzatura. Castiglione coined the term in The Book of the Courtier. The text described sprezzatura as a nonchalant attitude when performing tasks of great expertise, to give the artisan the appearance of effortlessness. In this thesis, the word builds upon Castiglione’s idea. On the exterior, Sprezzatura must dazzle. It requires a shimmering cloak to draw Spectators. Inside, a surprising element is important. There must exist something unexpected, like a theatrical unveiling at the end of a mystery; the mystery, however, must not be a finished plot. Questions must remain unanswered, to allude and remind Spectators to revisit the site. In essence, Sprezzatura is surprising twist presented nonchalantly cloaked with beauty and mystery. Nonchalance is key; as the intent is never to be perceived as contrived or exhaustively forced.

           Sprezzatura was an explorative exercise to unearth a world danced with delight. Its designers may not have intended these instances. They embody the elements of seduction, though firmly rooted in the fixed predictability of architectural design. This predictability, combined with its inflexible education, allows seductive elements to dance through buildings. This mischief plays with the rules of a rigid and relentless architecture. They play and entice.

           If architecture is a mere kit of parts, then Sprezzatura is the grace and delight. It is the indelible, which burns into the memory of those who visit.


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The full thesis is available for perusal online. It is hosted by the University of Waterloo's Insitutional Repository, UW Space. Click the link HERE.

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© Dennis Tang 2017