Frederick Kiesler’s Magic Architecture:
Caves, Animals, and Tools from the Prehistoric to the Atomic Era

Spyros Papapetros (Greece)

Alt Art Space


“According to [Frederick] Kiesler… houses are primarily ‘defense mechanisms,’ acting as shields against the belligerent environment, both natural and manmade. The first human shelter, the cave, is not a fixed natural enclosure, but the first product of human design: originally altered in height by man’s own hands to support his newly-acquired bipedal state, the cave gradually becomes detached from the rock and transforms into a portable umbrella hut adapting to humanity’s pre-agricultural nomadic condition. Once the human groups settle on a spatially-demarcated territory, the cave becomes stationary yet starts transforming disproportionally in size, ranging from the colossal religious monuments of ancient civilizations to the ‘slums for the people that build them,’ thus projecting the vast inequalities in sociopolitical hierarchy consolidated by millennia of human design.” –SP

Frederick Kiesler’s Magic Architecture is a film installation on Austrian-American architect Frederick Kiesler’s unpublished book manuscript Magic Architecture (Its Origins and Future): The Story of Human Housing (ca. 1945-47). The film focuses on the architect’s descriptions of the first human shelters in caves and trees, as well as animal structures, and the creation of the first tools made of natural materials. Kiesler appears to suggest that while constantly reinventing our origins, humans ultimately design their own end.