Spyros Papapetros

Spyros Papapetros is Associate Professor in the School of Architecture at Princeton University and the author of On the Animation of the Inorganic: Art, Architecture, and the Extension of Life and coeditor of Retracing the Expanded Field: Encounters between Art and Architecture (MIT Press).

  • Magic Architecture

    The Story of Human Housing

    Frederick Kiesler, Spyros Papapetros, and Gerd Zillner

    The first publication of artist and architect Frederick Kiesler's epoch-spanning history of human architecture, largely unknown but still relevant.

    Magic Architecture was the architect Frederick Kiesler's most ambitious book project, an epoch-spanning history of human housing from prehistory to the atomic era—and yet it was never published, as Kiesler moved on to other exhibitions and projects. Kiesler's comparative exploration of the quasi-“magical” effects of atomic technology and contemporary telekinetic military systems and the alternative epistemology of “magic” practices associated with cave drawings and protohistoric subterranean settlements reflects his profoundly interdisciplinary perspective on the evolution of art, architecture, and design.

    This edition preserves Kiesler's conception of the book as a neo-Vitruvian Renaissance treatise divided into ten parts or books that narrate an alternative history and theory of architecture. Also included are sixty composite illustrations, cut and pasted from books and popular science journals, with elaborate captions. The editors have reassembled the book's text and illustrations from archival material, supplementing them with notes that document the evolution of the work. Introductory essays provide a chronology of Kiesler's research and an interpretation of key themes. Appendixes offer additional textual and visual material gathered by Kiesler for the project.

    • Hardcover $50.00
  • Pre/Architecture


    Spyros Papapetros

    How a pre-architectural world became a central object of study by architectural historians and architects in the aftermath of world historical events.

    Can there ever be a world before architecture? Is there an arche—origin, beginning, or authority—that precedes the appearance of architectonics? This book argues that such a pre-architectural state became a central object of investigation by architectural historians and practicing architects in the aftermath of world historical events and major epistemological revolutions.

    Confronted by the ravages of war and omens of modern architecture's own ending, architects like Frederick Kiesler tried to trace the origins of human design by exploring the foundational techniques of human and animal building through conversation with paleoanthropologists and evolutionary biologists of the first half of the twentieth-century. At the same time, historians like Sigfried Giedion attempted to reinterpret a number of recently discovered prehistoric monuments, if only to corroborate theoretical principles that were already in use by modernist art and architectural critics.

    After WWII, the narrative of pre-architecture moves progressively backwards to the middle of the nineteenth century when the term "prearchitectonic" was coined even before the institutional emergence of prehistory as a discipline of scientific research. Gottfried Semper wrote about the "prearchitectonic conditions" of peoples from eras preceding the historical civilizations of the Near East, expressed through smaller structures such as ceramics but not yet through monumental structures. For Semper, "prearchitectonic" elements described not a single temporal period but a general structural condition that survived the inventions of history and of architecture. Even after monumental buildings emerged, prearchitectonic traces are grafted on their surfaces as cladding or ornament, suggesting a layered continuity between prehistoric and (proto)historic eras.

    Ultimately, the study of prehistoric origins could uncover not only the causes of modernity's present crisis, but also the signs of architecture's futures past. By juxtaposing the fossils of prehistory with postwar cosmic anxieties and prognostications of a post-histoire, what is ultimately invented is a pre/post/erous history—a fictional prehistory of future architectonics. Pre-architecture is not simply "not architecture;" it is what architecture could have become but ultimately disavowed. The same unfulfilled potentialities haunt not only the distant past but also architecture's anxious present, periodically circling back to an aborted prehistory.

    • Paperback $17.95
  • Retracing the Expanded Field

    Retracing the Expanded Field

    Encounters between Art and Architecture

    Spyros Papapetros and Julian Rose

    Scholars and artists revisit a hugely influential essay by Rosalind Krauss and map the interactions between art and architecture over the last thirty-five years.

    Expansion, convergence, adjacency, projection, rapport, and intersection are a few of the terms used to redraw the boundaries between art and architecture during the last thirty-five years. If modernists invented the model of an ostensible “synthesis of the arts,” their postmodern progeny promoted the semblance of pluralist fusion. In 1979, reacting against contemporary art's transformation of modernist medium-specificity into postmodernist medium multiplicity, the art historian Rosalind Krauss published an essay, “Sculpture in the Expanded Field,” that laid out in a precise diagram the structural parameters of sculpture, architecture, and landscape art. Krauss tried to clarify what these art practices were, what they were not, and what they could become if logically combined. The essay soon assumed a canonical status and affected subsequent developments in all three fields. Retracing the Expanded Field revisits Krauss's hugely influential text and maps the ensuing interactions between art and architecture.

    Responding to Krauss and revisiting the milieu from which her text emerged, artists, architects, and art historians of different generations offer their perspectives on the legacy of “Sculpture in the Expanded Field.” Krauss herself takes part in a roundtable discussion (moderated by Hal Foster). A selection of historical documents, including Krauss's essay, presented as it appeared in October, accompany the main text. Neither eulogy nor hagiography, Retracing the Expanded Field documents the groundbreaking nature of Krauss's authoritative text and reveals the complex interchanges between art and architecture that increasingly shape both fields.

    ContributorsStan Allen, George Baker, Yve-Alain Bois, Benjamin Buchloh, Beatriz Colomina, Penelope Curtis, Sam Durant, Edward Eigen, Kurt W. Forster, Hal Foster, Kenneth Frampton, Branden W. Joseph, Rosalind Krauss, Miwon Kwon, Sylvia Lavin, Sandro Marpillero, Josiah McElheny, Eve Meltzer, Michael Meredith, Mary Miss, Sarah Oppenheimer, Matthew Ritchie, Julia Robinson, Joe Scanlan, Emily Eliza Scott, Irene Small, Philip Ursprung, Anthony Vidler

    • Hardcover $36.95