Life. A User’s Manual

Novel by Georges Perec, 1987

Student: Maria Heinrich, Lucie Castillo Ros, Matteo Armenante, Noah van Asselt

Title: Life. A User’s Manual, novel by Georges Perec, 1987

Semester: 2021

Teachers: Prof. dr. ir. Klaske Havik, ir. Jana Culek

In Spring 2021, the studio 'Transdiciplinary Encounters’ focused on Architecture and Literature. Students investigated how urban places are described and imagined in novels. Which social, material and experiential aspects of architecture has the writer emphasized in the literary description? Learning from this perspective, students developed design proposals through literary narratives. 

This novel by French-Polish author George Perec (member of the experimental writing col­lective OuLiPo, which included as well Italo Cal­vino) departs from an architectural structure: that of an apartment block. Imagining all the lives taking place beyond the facade, the novels tells about the inhabitants of an old Parisian building. Using the architectural configuration of the apartment block as organising principle for the novel, the story de­scribes the eccentric characters of the building as well as the ordinary activities of everyday urban life. In the analysis of the novel during this course, Matteo Armenante highlighted the structure of the novels and the way in which events unfold in time, related to the characters inhabiting the structure. Lucie Ros Castillo used the metaphor of the jig-saw puzzle, a figure used by Perec in the novel, as a method to study one of the characters. In her design project, she deve­loped scenarios for the former swimming pool Tropicana in Rotterdam, on the basis of three diverse characters.