Tania Lopez-Winkler

Tania López Winkler is an architect and exhibiting artist based in London. Central to her work is the investigation of the world of fantasy embedded in the quotidian. Her interests are focused on the liminal space between interior space and city (as enacted in detective fiction and manifested in architecture), as well as drawings of an architecture that emerges from the psyche and its negotiation with reality. She is invited to give lectures and seminars in many countries including England, France, the United States, Italy, Spain, Poland and Mexico. She holds architecture degrees from ITESM in Mexico and the Architectural Association School of Architecture in London.

The Detective of Modern Life

Mark Cousins, Teresa Stoppani

The main proposition of the doctoral thesis The Detective of Modern Life is the city as a result of its reading. The thesis examines the question of how knowledge is constructed in a city experiencing rapid growth, impossible to render as one central image, by the practice of reading. The overall investigation proposes that in the 19th century the city reconfigured human experience. There is a shift from visual perception to reading.

This phenomenon presents a differentiation between pre-urban perceptions of the world and the qualitative shift to urban experience, which I will argue, is centred on the capacity to ‘read’ different types of objects and persons. ‘Reading in the city’, as a practice, unfolds into other territories that do not necessarily involve the written word. A simple example of this is that in the rural environment when you meet someone in the street, it is likely that you ‘know’ this person; on the other hand, in a modern city such as 19th-century London when you meet an stranger you are compelled to ‘read’ this person’s clothing, manners, etc., as signs that will fit him or her into a category: a wealthy gentleman, a butcher, a soldier, a prostitute, etc. It can be said that ‘to know’ in the city the experience of everyday life goes through an order of categories. The importance of the novel and centrality of the crowd in a lot of 19th-century literature may be taken as a symptomatic index of this. Therefore the argument is explored using the literature of the Private Detective in 19th-century London from which the clue is extracted as a semantic device and used as tool/site of investigation into urban questions.

Secondly, the thesis proposes the literary figure of the English Private Detective to be equivalent to that of the flâneur - a figure considered to be located in Paris and lacking in London. I argue that both figures provide what I call semiographical readings of 19th-century capital cities.