Since my initial visit to the anatomy theater at the University of Padua in 1995, my research focus has evolved to an in-depth study of this structure and others like it. During the anatomical Renaissance, the practice of instructional dissection became the preferred method for the study of human anatomy. However, because of preservation problems with cadavers and theological disapproval, dissections were performed rarely and were thus significant events. To accommodate viewers, an architectural environment was designed specifically for instructional dissection with the goal of allowing the largest number of students the opportunity to observe the procedures. Such rooms were typically round, with the corpse placed in the center, surrounded by ascending concentric tiers of seats. The architecture of an anatomy theater creates a power relationship between the inhabitants of this space depending on their roles and locations in the theater. When in an anatomy theater, one has a heightened awareness of the inequality among the occupants, and one’s role as “viewer” or “viewed” comes into question.
Coronal Plane is the culmination of my research on the anatomical theater at the University of Padua built in 1594, the oldest surviving anatomy theater in the world. I created an architectural environment that allows viewers to walk into and through a space that evokes physical, emotional and psychological reactions similar to those experienced in the historic anatomy theater in Padua by audiences of the past.
In anatomical terminology, the coronal plane is a vertical plane that divides the body into stomach and back sections. Adopting this approach for dissection, I created a partial section of the Paduan anatomy theater, thereby metaphorically “dissecting” the space and exposing the supporting structure within. In plan, the installation recreates a lateral section of the anatomy theater, with the section rotated 90° and placed horizontally at floor level. By incorporating the concentric tiers of balustrades, the installation directly references the environment of the anatomy theater. The lateral section is extruded to a height of six feet in order for the viewer to physically engage with the installation. From the outside, the supporting funnel-like structure is revealed, a structure that is largely invisible in the historic anatomy theater. In keeping with the historic anatomy theater, the balustrades are constructed of wood milled using CNC technology. Thus, the partial section with an exposed skeletal structure suggests a methodology similar to the study of anatomy through dissection, removing layers to reveal the internal workings.
6’ x 30’ x 30’
MDO (medium density overlay), LED lights, inkjet prints mounted on glass