Materiality and Simulacrum

This project investigated the idea of the cave in architecture. The cave has been the site of the confrontation of nature, technology, and simulation in various contexts throughout history. The anachronistic “otherness” of cave architecture invites its interpretation as a skeuomorph-in-reverse: architectural forms stripped of their structural function and transposed to a more “primitive” medium as ornament.

Nowhere is this more evident than in the rock-cut chapels and dwellings found throughout the Mediterranean provinces that were once part of the Byzantine empire.The repurposing and/or evocation of the cave as architecture in the Byzantine world is insufficiently understood in terms of pragmatism or symbolism. The proliferation of rock-cut architecture was a deliberate cultural choice that invoked material locality as a form of provincial resistance and self-determination, operating though formal modes may be defined in terms of ideas derived from postmodern cultural theory: namely the simulacrum and the “formless”.

Fieldwork for this project was conducted in Pantalica (Sicily), Cappadocia (Turkey), and Lakonia (Greece) to address thematic issues of representation: how does a representational type (sketch, orthographic drawing, 3D model, point cloud, photography, video) reveal a different ontology/epistemology of the cave? Which types of representation does the cave resist and/or thwart, and which have been historically favored? Various forms of digital media, including photogrammetry and generative code-based video, were explored for their documentary and expressive potential.

Grants and Fellowships
Moore Traveling Seminar Fellowship, Department of Architecture and Urban Design, University of California, Los Angeles, 2012. Travel to sites in Italy included in Bernard Rudofsky's Architecture Without Architects (1964), including the rock-cut architecture of Pantalica, Sicily. Seminar led by Sylvia Lavin.
Dixon Fellowship, Department of Art History, University of California, Los Angeles, 2013.
Full Scholarship, Cappadocia in Context Workshop, Koç University, Istanbul, Turkey, Summer 2011.

Conference Presentations
"The Idea of the Cave in Architecture". Society of Architectural Historians Annual International Conference, Austin, April 11, 2014.
"Materiality and Simulacrum in Byzantine Cave Architecture: The Case of Pantalica". The Substance of Sacred Place: An Interdisciplinary Workshop on Locative Materiality, Max Planck Kunsthistoriches Institut Florence, Italy, June 20-21, 2013.

Underground Spatialities (Humanities Studio), Rice University, 2019

Undergallery, Rice University, 2019

©Marie Saldaña 2023