Journal article

The magic of machines in the house

M Smith, H Lewi

The Journal of Architecture | Taylor & Francis (Routledge) | Published : 2008


In the 1850s, a French magician and inventor named Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin filled his home with electrical and mechanical gadgets including a system of centrally-controlled alarm clocks to wake servants, an automatic horse-feeder and a complex system of bells to detect visitors. We examine how this early intrusion of machinery into the domestic realm drew on the craft of conjuring performance and apparatus design. Through an analysis of Robert-Houdin's house, we show how the techniques of magic, specifically of simulation and dissimulation, provide a ready-made language in which to consider the accommodation of machines within architectural design. This analysis is then reflected forward t..

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