Its figure from the phallus
By Antonino Cardillo
Since the Etruscan tombs, even before appearing as a structural element in the history of architecture, the arch derived its figure from the phallus. Inspired by the Egyptian God of fertility Min, a series of seven sculptures at Sir John Soane’s Museum investigates the origin of the sacred.
The transition from the square to the circle has been a fundamental theme of architecture. Min resolves the passage from the parallelepiped to the sphere through an intersection of the two solids, identifying a monolith shaped by arched sides and hemispherical dome.
The form of Min is also reminiscent of John Soane’s canopies and the London Red Telephone Box designed by Giles Gilbert Scott who, in turn, took inspiration from the Soane family tomb in Old St Pancras churchyard.
Dionysian Mysteries were a ritual of ancient Greece and Rome. These rites were often associated with women. They involved liberation from civilization’s rules and constraints. They celebrated a return to the source of being. They also involved escape from the socialized personality and ego into an ecstatic, deified state or the primal herd. Such activity has been interpreted as fertilizing, invigorating, cathartic, liberating and transformative. Many devotees of Dionysus were those on the margins of society: women, slaves, outlaws and foreigners. All were equal in a cult that inverted their roles. Festivals were orgies of wine and sex: over all reigned the Phallus.
Accessed Nov. 2013.
Client: Sir John Soane’s Museum
Director: Abraham Thomas
MD of Soane Museum Enterprises: Xanthe Arvanitakis
Communications assistant: Maxwell Blowfield
Retail manager: Olly Perry
Architecture design: Antonino Cardillo
Producer: Marmi Ghirardi
Text: Antonino Cardillo
English translation: Antonino Cardillo and Paolo Bedetti
Photography: Antonino Cardillo
Thanks to Siobhan Henderson
Antonino Cardillo, ‘A synchronicity of cultures and civilisations’, paper presented to the Dessauer Gespräche, ed. Johannes Kister, Hochschule Anhalt, Dessau Institute of Architecture, 13 Nov. 2019.
Ana Araujo, ‘Da nobis hodie incantum quotidianum’, Design Exchange, vol. 1, no. 12, London, Aug. 2015, pp. 108‑109.
Antonino Cardillo, ‘Falsche Freunde’, Baunetzwoche, no. 403, ed. Kristina Herresthal and Lisa Kadel, BauNetz, Berlin, March 2015, p. 25.
Maxwell Blowfield, Space and light [media release], Sir John Soane’s Museum, London, 7 Aug. 2014.