Javier Fernández Contreras, Vera Sacchetti, Roberto Zancan (eds.) 
A Nocturnal History of Architecture
(Leipzig: Spector Books, 2024)
ISBN: 978-3-95905-674-8

For centuries, architectural theory, discourse, and agency have been based on diurnal and solar paradigms. References to the night in Vitruvius’ De Architectura are scarce; they are similarly residual in the most influential Renaissance treatises by Alberti or Palladio. Yet, long before the invention of electricity in the 19th century, the night had already been, for millennia, a central laboratory in the development of new forms of architecture and, ultimately, of living. This book is a chronological first attempt at A Nocturnal History of Architecture, an epic journey through more than 2000 years of entanglements between night and space design across different continents and geographies. From the elusive darkness of Greek temples to the constantly illuminated American suburbia, and from the presence of the moon in classic Japanese aesthetics to the Italian nightclubs of the 20th century, it reveals how the identity of human beings across time and their domestic, professional, and cultural spaces are inseparable from the night.


03 Javier Fernández Contreras, Vera Sacchetti, Roberto Zancan
Introduction: A Nocturnal History of Architecture

09 Sébastien Grosset
Obscure Origins: Sketch for a History of Habitat Under the Shadow of Architecture

21 Efrosyni Boutsikas
Through the Gates of Darkness: Discovering the Nocturnal Power of Ancient Greek Religious Architecture

31 Maria Shevelkina
Byzantine Night: Subterranean Darkness as Productive Space

38 Murielle Hladik
A Fascination for the Moon in Japanese Aesthetics and Architecture

47 Maarten Delbeke
Chasing Darkness: Night and the Performance of Metaphor in Seventeenth-Century Rome

56 Amy Chazkel
Urban Slavery at the Threshold of Night: The Architecture of Nightfall in Nineteenth-Century Rio de Janeiro

63 Lucía Jalón Oyarzun
Nothing but a Few Signs, like Stars in an Immense Black Night: Clandestinity and Night-faring Practices in the Underground Railroad

89 Carlotta Darò, Yan Rocher
“Illusion is the Thing”: Simulating Night at the Atmospheric Cinema

97 Alexandra Sumorok
Towards Happiness and Emotions: Light in Socialist Realist Interiors in Poland

106 Chase Galis
This Darkened Village: Obermutten in the Extended History of Swiss Electrification

113 Cat Rossi
“Inexistent” Architecture, Cultural “Stagings”, and the Interconnectedness of the Nightclub Interior

118 Léa-Catherine Szacka
The Space of MTV: From Inner-city Clubbing to Basement Suburbia

125 Hilary Orange
Topography, Light Design, and Industrial Heritage in the Ruhr Region: The Night Vision of IBA Emscher Park

133 Nick Dunn
Nocturnal Spaces: Rediscovering an Architecture of Darkness

139 Youri Kravtchenko
Post-scriptum: The Night, on the Margins. On the Nocturnal Studios at HEAD – Genève


This publication is the result of the international conference A Nocturnal History of Architecture, which was held at HEAD – Genève in December 2021. It was complemented at the 76th Annual International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, which was held in Montreal in April 2023. It is part of the research project Scènes de Nuit, a project funded by the strategic fund of the University of Applied Sciences and Arts of Western Switzerland (Fond Stratégique de la HES-SO) and by HEAD – Genève (Geneva University of Art & Design, HES-SO).

Issue 2
A Nocturnal History of Architecture

Edited by: Javier Fernández Contreras, Vera Sacchetti, and Roberto Zancan
HEAD – Publishing: Anthony Masure, Julie Enckell Julliard

Department of Interior Architecture
Department Head: Javier Fernández Contreras
Deputy: Valentina de Luigi
HEAD – Genève (HES–SO)

Published by Spector Books
Graphic design: Elias Erkan, Lyosha Kritsouk, Lucas Manser
Lithography: Lyosha Kritsouk, Druckhaus Sportflieger
Copyediting: Jan Caspers
Proofreading: Robert Stürzl
Printing: Druckhaus Sportflieger


© Book Photography: HEAD – Genève, Morgan Carlier