The Architectural Leviathan

This is the earliest image I can find from the history of architectural theory that explores the inter-relationships of an assembled crowd, their leader, and the larger space in which this assembly occurs. This is from Eugene Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc’s “Dictionary”* — the important book, published in the mid-19th century, that examined Medieval architecture and its theoretical implications. We could locate this image as one of the earliest in a visual taxonomy of the crowd that moves through the history of architectural theory — consider the crowd images by Terragni, Speer, Mies, and Fuller. And, as if it needs stating, I am thinking about images like this as Tuesday approaches and as we see images of roaring crowds.

But what I like about the above image, and Viollet-le-Duc’s description, is that Viollet-le-Duc appears to acknowledge that this very image of the architectural leviathan is one filled with risks. Viollet-le-Duc wrote of the lurking power, potential, and violence in a room such as this where a “lord gives his orders” to “a vast reservoir of men”; their life is all “warring,” he wrote. But, Viollet-le-duc also wrote, rather humbly, that his illustration gives a “weak idea” of this form of power when people are assembled by their leader. The “atmosphere,” to use a word so popular today, of this crowd’s anxiety cannot be adequately conveyed.

*See the entry “Donjon.”


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