The Theology of Tabula Rasa: Walter Benjamin and Architecture

The Berlage, second-year studio Housing Contemprary Forms of Life: A Project for Tehran.
Seminar with Pier Vittorio Aureli
Friday 30 November
Room C, 15:00 – BK-TU Delft

The Theology of Tabula Rasa:
Walter Benjamin and Architecture


It could happen to someone looking back over his life that he realized that almost all the deeper obligations he had endured in its course originated in people who everyone agreed had the traits of a “destructive character.” He would stumble on this fact one day, perhaps by chance, and the heavier the shock dealt to him, the better his chances of representing the destructive character.


In the presentation I will address Walter Benjamin’s reading of architecture. I will focus on two texts written in 1931 “The Destructive Character” and “Experience and Poverty” I believe that these two texts not only summarize Benjamin’s approach to architecture, but they also offer the possibility of an ethical project within and against the current ethos of economic recession and austerity measures.

Walter Benjamin, “The Destructive Character,” in Selected Writings 1931-34 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2005), 540-542.
Walter Benjamin, “Experience and Poverty,” in Selected Writings 1931-34, ibid., 731-736.
Detlef Mertins, “Walter Benjamin and the Tectonic Unconscious: Using Architecture as a Optical Instrument,” in Modernity Unbound (London: Architectural Association), 114-139.