or: the analysis of architecture

All Souls 2006

…to conjure
up Woman and soothe the bitter pain
of having just one prick…

Je suis foutu. Tu m’as vaincu.
Je n’aime plus que ton gros cu…

Paul Verlaine, Dizain ingenu and Le sonnet du trou dy cul


Beware, My Reader! Especially my Female Reader who is, I am sure, filled with moral abomination and once again prepared to send excited letters to the editor of our Faculty Journal regarding yet another terribly female-unfriendly porn piece by your author. Be assured that the following surely must be considered an attempt to give an impetus to the so-called ‘scientification’, yes even to the ‘architecture-theorization’ of our faculty. After all, it is said to be one of the ‘missions’ of our academic enterprise…

Great minds in architectural theory regularly cite psychological, if not even psychoanalytic literature to support their opinions on the Art of Architecture. Why should not this writer do the same? Not only does the topic of the arse or but plug seems to be an almost ideal introduction to elucidate the mind processes of an intellectual, arduously on his way to a hypothesis, meditating on this obscene object will also provide insight into the architecture of our footwear.

The but plug as art - why not: as architecture
The but plug as art – why not: as architecture

Be reminded, then: Long ago, no one less than the great Rossi – why not call him ‘Aldo the Second’ I honor of our own Aldo Van Eyck – occupied himself with ‘the architecture of a teapot’. Thus, my ‘architecture of the shoe’ has at least one serious reference. So, do not even think that these considerations are a farfetched alibi for vile, camouflaged pornography!

What leads me to my contemplation of the arse plug was the reading of the novel In His Hands, written by Marthe Blau, an English translation published by the Labour Press. What labourers won’t read nowadays! Together with other volumes, Blau’s book was picked up quite randomly from some of the piles at the Amsterdam ramsj bookshop De Slegte – stuff for the breaks during my laborious hours of study in La Roche.

I was going to France for a few weeks – to write a series of lectures and also, without knowing this at the time, to write the present little essay. When I purchased the Blau-book, I did not yet know anything about its content. It was chosen because of its beautiful, purple hardcover. Both the color purple and hard covers are my passions – not to be further analyzed here.

The writer’s name strikes me as German. Nonetheless it seems – from the local context of her story and given her literary references – that she must be a Française. The original edition was called Entre Ses mains, dating from 2003 and produced by Éditions Jean-Claude Lattès. Note the capital S.

Only after one has finished its reading the meaning of the title becomes clear. If touching her at all, He only puts his hands into the ‘I’ who is ‘in his hands. The story never arrives at the point of real sexual penetration. The plot of the title is hidden in the metaphorical double entendre of the French entre ses mains which, as the reader perhaps knows, also means ‘in his power’. Marthe is mad about Him, mentally His slave, she wishes to be taken wildly and roughly. However only by Him.

Because the man systematically rejects this solution, He is only feeding her intense imagination and desire. In her fantasy she subjects herself completely. For this reason ‘he’ in the text is systematically written as ‘He’ – and ‘his’ as ‘His’.

Cet obscur objet du désir…

Except for putting His fingers in her openings, from time to time, for instance on page 101/2, while the two of them are driving around Paris in an automobile, He orders her to push a ‘conical object’ single-handedly into her arse. When she does not succeed in performing the act He takes over. Their car waiting in front of a red traffic light, “without any preliminary action, and under the pleased eyes of the driver of a Range-Rover He forces her recalcitrant sphincter to open.”

‘Plug’ according to the dictionary means stuffing and filling. In English the word is also used to describe making something popular through regular repetition – rubbing it in so to say. Thus ends my clinical analysis. To leave the scientific quality of this essay intact, I must spare you further details. As an empirical starting point this epiphany of the arse plug is sufficient. Architectural theorists quite often rub their psychological and sociological shit in the minds of their readers – repeating it over and over. As does pornography.

Chance would have it that on my southbound journey I also brought a collection of photographs with me, to be sent to friends and acquaintances, including my wife, my mistress and an old friend. Each one of them portrays Indian footwear. Each single specimen or each pair can be admired in the ‘Bata Shoe Museum’ in Toronto. Jewels – almost every one of them.

Etymologically`shoe’ and `sheath’ are closely related. In both meanings it concerns a close-fitting envelope of either leather, flesh or metal. It will not surprise you that in psychoanalytic literature the appearance of a shoe in a dream is supposed to refer to the female sex. In my collection of cards there is one which stands out amongst the rest – a dark red slipper, with at its ‘nose’ two pointed cavities. Methinks, a man dreaming of this shoe will go far – so far. This as an aside.

There are however also images of – well, of what? Let me call them sandals.

These also fall under the museum’s denominator of ‘footwear’, although they don’t enclose anything at all. An Indian sandal often consists of a huge flat plateau sole – not equipped with a high heel, but both high at the front and at the back. However, just like high-heeled shoes these sandals require effort on behalf of the wearer and thus make the calves flex and bulge magnificently. The labeur of feminine walking serves a purpose. Although at the risk of staining this architecture-theoretical analysis with my own erotic notions, I just want to share with my reader the fact that especially this phenomenon grounds my negative bias towards women wearing boots.


In the case of these Indian sandals, here with heels, we are dealing exclusively with wooden soles. In contrast to western, textile slippers – usually held to the foot with the use of a band over the heel – an Indian woman must clench her wooden sandal to her foot with both the big toe and her adjacent foot finger. Screwed in each sole is an elegant metal element in the form of a firm plug. The picture here shown is an argumentative illustration of my thesis – I sent a larger version of it to the female friend of a maitresse on whose shapes my eye had fallen.

Could it be – hypothesis! – that in our subconscious mind real, that is ‘closed’ footwear opens up our unconscious, associative limbo in which are hidden the various notions we have of the feminine sex? Instead, such open sandals with their plugs screwed in perhaps unlock dark mental backrooms in which the fanciful a tergo taking of the arse has poll position.

And – good Lord! – psychoanalysts not only consider the appearance of shoes in dreams as a reference to the female sex, the same holds for buildings, corridors, rooms. And tunnels, of course – Freud-addict Hitchcock played with the notion frequently, heavily so in North by North-West. Shouldn’t the famous if not infamous Graaflandian ‘School of Research by Design’ at the TUDelft be required to concern itself speedily with such sublime phenomena? Why not call it research in favor of a typology of buildings, allowing us to make an analytical distinction between cunt-like and arse-like architecture.

One of the most remarkable characteristics of both animals and people, though of people in particular, is their projective capacity. In the presence of an object with a certain form we are capable to ‘see’ in it approximately anything.


Here you see a polished glass stopper once used to close off a matching wine bottle, perhaps even an apothecary’s flagon. Until recently, that is until the reading of Mlle Blau’s novel, I considered this piece of glass rather as a symbol of my own sex – the prick, that is, lovingly called My Fellow Traveler. So long I have kept it on the writing desk in my telephone-less, internet-less, lonely niche of the French campagne. A souvenir of a man’s frivolous possibilities.

After reading Blau’s novel Entre Ses mains, all at once I could see nothing else in the object but a potential arse plug, fitting whomever I see fit. An obscene piece of architecture, in search of its mysterious sheath.

Even the beautifully cut cork, in use such a long time, changed mysteriously. After the pouring of a glass of superb red wine it always looked to me like a reddish prick sucking itself into a vagina-shaped decanter. Suddenly such metamorphosis! But, then, the ways of the Lord are unfathomable.

Sierksma, La Roche, All Souls 2006 – published in the Journal of The Faculty of Architecture TUD


Author: rjsiersk

Sierksma was born in Friesland, a 'county' in the northern part of the Netherlands with its own language which he does not speak and with an obstinate population to which he both belongs and does not belong. A retired Professor of Social Philosophy and Aesthetics, as a Harkness fellow he taught at Rutgers and Berkeley Universities in the USA, and at GUAmsterdam and TUDelft in the Netherlands. In 1991 he was awarded his PhD from Leiden University on the subject of 'Surveillance and Task: Labour Discipline between Utilitarianism and Pragmatism'. His books include Minima Memoria (1993), Lost View (2002 with Jan van Geest), and Litter Scent (2013). He has published poems and articles in Te Elfder Ure, Nynade, Oasis and the Architectural Annual. Half the year he lives in Haarlem, the other half he spends in la France Profonde, living ‘in his own words’ as the house out there was bought with the winnings from his essay Eternal Sin, written for the ECI Essay Prize (1993). In this blog, Sierksma's Sequences, written in English, he is peeping round his own and other people’s perspectives. Not easily satisfied with answers nor with questions, he turns his wry wit to a number of philosophical and historical issues. His aim in writing: to make parts of the world light up in his perspective - not my will, thine! Not being a thief, he has no cook, one wife, some children, one lover and three cats.

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