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Using Exercise 1.6.3 Class and the Body

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Using Exercise 1.6.3 Class and the Body

Now read Robin Veder, ‘Walking through Dumbarton Oaks: early twentieth-century bourgeois bodily techniques and kinesthetic experience of landscape’ (2013).

What do you understand to be the affordances that Veder discusses?


Veder defines affordance as ‘interactive opportunities, in this case between the physical environment and the human body’ (p. 8). In this case study, the affordances arise between material and visual components of the garden, specifically the use of steps, and the user. It is the particular characteristic of the varieties of steps, their dimensions and their placing, that set up the possible scope of action from the walker. These affordances, to be successfully interpreted by the walker, need to be responsive to contemporary expectations about movement within the social context of the design.

Veder brings close attention to the archive in order to suggest that the functional and aesthetic considerations within Dumbarton Oaks’s grounds are underpinned by contemporary discourses about elite leisure and the body.

I didn’t feel like working on this exercise as set because by now I’m certain I don’t want to work on landscapes for TMA03. I think I’m heading towards using interiors as my research area, probably narrowing down to either Bloomsbury (Duncan Grant & Vanessa Bell).

However the concept of affordances offered by interior design is clearly analogous. Interactions between the physical shaping of rooms and communication between rooms and the affordances for sitting, lying, walking, going up or downstairs and more complex activities. The latter might include the performance of reading and other intellectual work, love, romance and sexual desire (especially transgressive sexual desire). The concept of the room, performative norms inscribed in rooms and transgression of those norms, in relation to form, order and the appropriate can be looked at in terms of design for tidiness or its reverse (whatever that is).

Scope of action for the inhabitant of an interior is very interesting in terms of interior design is a wonderful topic and I’ve been stimulated into this mode of thinking by re-reading Virginia Woolf’s Orlando, thinking about Duncan Grant’s relation to norms of gendered identity and how this is made manifest in his work for Eddy Sackville-West at Knole, Charleston and maybe the role of Omega. Objects in rooms can be part of this. So now o Block 2 and cities but really on the way to ‘interiors’ in Part 3.

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