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Invisibility Studies

Surveillance, Transparency and the Hidden in Contemporary Culture


Henriette Steiner and Kristin Veel

Invisibility Studies explores current changes in the relationship between what we consider visible and what invisible in different areas of contemporary culture. Contributions trace how these changes make their marks on various cultural fields and investigate the cultural significance of these developments, such as transparency and privacy in urban architecture and the silent invasion of surveillance technologies into everyday life. The book contends that when it comes to the changing relationship of the visible and the invisible, the connection between seeing and not being seen is an exchange conditioned by physical and social settings that create certain possibilities for visibility and visuality, yet exclude others. The richness and complexity of this cultural framework means that no single discipline or interdisciplinary approach could capture it single-handedly. Invisibility Studies begins this conversation by bringing together scholars across the fields of architectural history and theory, art, film and literature, philosophy, cultural theory and contemporary anthropology as well as featuring work by a collective of artists.
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10 The Secret Suburb: Second Lives in Second Homes


The ability to be ‘invisible’ seems to be an important quality in relation to a summerhouse. In fact, summerhouses can be said to be ‘invisible’ in a double sense. As I will explore in this chapter, summerhouses are neglected in planning and partly forgotten in Danish building regulations, at the same time as their owners like to see summerhouses as hidden places where they can live secret lives, hidden away from the modern world.

Let me start by looking at developments in early twentieth-century domestic architecture. Naturally, the home was the primary focus for the architects of modernism, because the home was considered to be the space in which crucial aspects of modern life develop and unfold. The leading architects of modernism therefore developed a number of homes that have become architectural landmarks of the time and a continuing source of inspiration for architects today. The best of these homes have the status of icons, representing modernist domestic architecture and the prevailing ideals for which it stood. These icons feature in almost all literature about domestic architecture in the first half of the twentieth century. I will now briefly describe four buildings, built in different decades, which are among the most important of these icons.

Villa Savoye, designed by Le Corbusier in 1928, is probably the most reproduced building in books about the domestic architecture from the 1920s. With its white walls and the almost ritual ascent through the house, from the small washbasin...

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