Facing Both Ways

Andrew Milligan, Roderick Adams, Nigel Bruce Simpkins UCLAN

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


From city portal to domestic threshold; kitchen cupboard to digital gateway; the door is a key player in the performance of everyday life. In the urban context, the door is on the front line, often territorial and marking out ‘…a boundary between foreign and domestic worlds’. In the domestic realm, the door’s plane suggests transition to Bourdieu's notion of ‘a world reversed’. This paper considers the door’s performative role in constructing social relations. As an architectural element, the door is more than a dumb object; simultaneous absence and presence make this architecture of passage significant for both producing and reinforcing normative familial and gender roles. Walter Benjamin commented on the doorways in Atget’s photographs as ‘a meeting ground between domestic and civil life, the innermost plane of the private person’s public face’. The door is part of the setting for the performance of everyday life; embodying a porous relationship between outer, on-stage appearance, and inner messiness backstage. As electronic gateways obviate the need for physical barriers, so the door is reconsidered in the context of its dematerialisation. As Rem Koolhaas observed ‘..in the case of the door, the more you abandon the physical, the more you surrender to an Orwellian, insidious situation’. Linking the spatial to the metaphorical, artists from Freud to Duchamp have explored the door for its metaphorical associations, the ambiguity of its presence and absence a reminder of Bachelard’s thought that ‘every door is an incitement to dream’
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 13 May 2020
EventTenth International Conference on The Constructed Environment - University of California, Berkeley, Berkeley, United States
Duration: 13 May 202014 May 2020


ConferenceTenth International Conference on The Constructed Environment
CountryUnited States
Internet address


  • Ambiguity,
  • Absence
  • Presence
  • Porous,
  • Transition

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