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Seeing versus moving: A review of Julienne Hanson’s ‘The architecture of justice’ (1996)

Jianfei Zhu


This essay reviews Hanson’s article on English law court buildings. It provides a summary of the work and highlights the main contributions made, before moving on to discuss a few issues raised in Hanson’s research. It is argued that, besides many discoveries, a major methodological contribution of the research is a combination of the descriptive and the analytical, and of the quantitative with the qualitative, in several specific ways. It is further observed that the work has raised several critical issues that invite discussion and research. These include the significance or insignificance of iconography and the mask, the use of dualities, the interrelation between visual and syntactic cores, and the bifurcation of visibility and permeability. Speculations are made in response to these issues, with a central attention paid to the relations between visibility and permeability. The discussion centers on the separation between the visual field and that of permeable movement, and the rise of such separation in the emergence of modern institutions. It is speculated that the visual field unfolded as the plan of permeable spaces was increasingly disciplined and closed in by walls or boundaries, the courtroom being an example. The essay ends with a methodological call for more attention to be paid to the relations between the field of seeing and that of movement.


Julienne Hanson, English law courts, iconography, syntactic structure, visibility, permeability, modern institutional buildings

Full Text: JOSS_2012_P55-61