“Sculpture records the first naive, unperplexed recognition of man by himself.” Playing on the contested space between the body and architecture, the thesis explores the classical figure as a device for manipulating form. Proposing the “Museum for Staging the Figure” as an extension to the British Museum, the suggested design deploys replicas from the existing collection to serve as figural abstractions of the visitor; now set halfway between the human body and the architectural object. The design argues that the modern conception of spatial experience follows from the 18th-century idea of the “aestheticized surface” of the figure as it separates from the ground. Architecture emerges in the form of the pedestal, the original construct that mediates figure and setting. Just as the pedestal allows for the duplication of the body into architecture, the manipulation of the interaction between the museum and its inanimate inhabitants blurs the line between the subject and object of the setting. This allows for an architecture to emerge out of a bodily empathy to the material frame, distinctly sensational in its muted narrative.
The thesis’s exploration of part-to-the-whole begins with the limbs of ancient figure sculpture emerging from the ground in 15th-century Rome. Uncovered, they demanded a spatial setting novel to architecture. Tracing early museum case studies, the thesis centers itself on Michelangelo Simonetti’s 18th-century redesign of the Vatican Museum, understood in conjunction with a “haptic” way of seeing and the neoclassical fragment.