Tracing the Avant-Texte of Architectural Theory: The Paul Felix Case
This article attempts to dissect the production and use of architectural theory in its formative stage. Instead of reproducing the fixed canons of architectural theory, based upon the publications of celebrated authors, it tries to unravel the coming-into-being of architectural theory as a field. Specifically, this article will concentrate on the theoretical ideas of Paul Felix (1919–1982): a Catholic, Belgian modernist architect, and a professor of architectural theory at the Katholieke Universiteit (KU) Leuven from 1952 to 1978. Felix will be studied not through his pioneering modernist architectural designs or through his limited published work, but by looking at his day-to-day work — archiving, reading, and teaching — which remains a relatively untapped and yet relevant context in intellectual history. By developing a textual exegesis of a well-thumbed key text of Felix’ course, the 1968 text La fonction et le signe by the Italian thinker Umberto Eco (1932–2016), this article will redirect the predominant focus on canonical texts of architectural theory to the work of those actors who were foremost not in producing but consuming theory.