Architectural Metaphors of Knowledge: The Mundaneum Designs of Maurice Heymans, Paul Otlet, and Le Corbusier
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The author discusses the architectural plans of the Mundaneum made in the 1930s by the Belgian modernist architect Maurice Heymans in the footsteps of Le Corbusier and in collaboration with Paul Otlet. The Mundaneum was the utopian concept of a world center for the accumulation, organization, and dissemination of knowledge, invented by the visionary encyclopedist and internationalist Paul Otlet. In Heymans's architecture, a complex architectural metaphor is created for the Mundaneum, conveying its hidden meaning as a center of initiation into synthesized knowledge. In particular, this article deconstructs the metaphorical architectural complex designed by Heymans and focuses on how the architectural spaces as designed by Heymans are structured in analogy to schemes for the organization of knowledge made by Otlet. In three different designs of the Mundaneum, the analogy is studied between, on the one hand, the architectural structure (designed by Heymans) and, on the other hand, the structure of the cosmology, the book Monde, and the vision of knowledge dissemination as invented by Otlet. The article argues that the analogies between the organization of architectural space and knowledge, as expressed in the drawings of Heymans and Otlet, are elaborated by means of a mode of visual thinking that is parallel to and rooted in the art of memory and utopian imagination.
© 2012 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. This article first appeared in Library Trends, Vol. 61 (2), 2012, pp. 371-396.
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