In the second book of Vitruvius’s On Architecture is a reference to the myth of Hermaphroditus which he describes as a “mistaken rumour” that, through its almost nonchalant dismissal, provides a starting point for an investigation into architectural ambiguity. While the hermaphrodite was a popular subject in the sculpture of the Late Hellenic Period and, through replication, Rome, it was a theme that Vitruvius, as the surviving spokesmen on architecture from the period, was unable to assimilate into his broader discourse on architecture. Despite Vitruvius’s reluctance, there has been a long history of hermaphroditism in architecture that has run parallel to, and in opposition with, the broader themes of Classicism. Responding to the theme of “queer space”, this paper will look at the complex lineage that connects architecture and hermaphroditism, focusing in particular on the subversive taxonomies of Jean-Jacques Lequeu. Using Vitruvius as a starting point, the paper will demonstrate the role of the hermaphrodite in Greek and Roman mythology, its relationship to broader attitudes of gender and space (particularly in the work of Lequeu) and its relationship, while deeply contested, to the foundational principles of architectural form.
Queer Spaces: Centres and Peripheries. Queer Spaces: Centres and Peripheries. Conference Proceedings (Sydney 20-21 February, 2007) p. 1-7