Surface and Threshold: Antinomies of the Architectural Façade


Charles Burroughs

Document Type



Winter 2-13-2018


threshold burroughs syracuse architecture






Anyone who has strolled through a historic Italian city recalls streets framed by impressive house facades, forming a surprisingly uniform backdrop to the choreography of the streets while registering, more or less subtly, the status of individual occupants. The architectural facade has a history. As part of a building, the facade arises in late medieval Italy and eventually meets a fatal challenge in the reaction against 20th century modernism (its more recent resurrection is not my topic). The facade is also a cultural phenomenon, coinciding with the era of portraiture, the Renaissance emphasis on the human face, not so much as a window into the soul as a crucial site of dissimulation and insincerity. For Renaissance architects the facade was a surface requiring a harmonious and unified design, incorporating an element, the entrance, that potentially disturbs the integrity of the whole. Especially baroque facades concentrate the typical rhetorical dimension at the portal, as key interface of interior and exterior, the source of (claimed) power and the arena of its projection. This talk will review examples in Italy and France of the tension in many facades of between the expression of passage and the implementation of ideal principles of design, and will discuss inventive responses to the challenge of the facade.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.