elii [oficina de arquitectura]



Learning From Fiction (2)



Research: Fiction Domestic Spaces (Vol.2)

This publication forms part of a collection of domestic architecture-fiction projects and expands on the research begun in the first volume of this series titled What is Home Without a Mother. It therefore continues with a collection of domestic spaces that, despite their often not having been designed by architects, do however constitute true testing grounds for domesticity and yet with few exceptions, they have hardly been received by histories of architecture. 

While in the previous volume we focused on three architectural cases were encompassed in the infrastructuration processes of modern cities in the early 20th century to look into the impact of these new technologies on domesticity, we now turn to new questions. What is the relationship between architecture and desire? How is desire handled from architectural space? How does desire go through the spaces and bodies that inhabit them? Is desire an architectural material? What architectures do we use to weave our worlds of desire? 

To explore this problem, we looked at libertine fiction that had its heyday between the 18th and 19th centuries. We feature three architectures of fiction based on works of literature conceived at three key successive moments in modern European history. The first is the Petite Maison "designed" by Jean-François de Bastide in 1753, which features the details of a quite popular domestic typology in among the Parisian aristocracy in the decades before the French Revolution. The second is the Benedictine monastery of St Mary-in-the-Woods in the Marquis de Sade’s novel Justine, or the Misfortunes of Virtue, whose first edition was dated 1788 but finally published in 1791, i.e., at a time in history crossed and conditioned by the French Revolution. And lastly is the villa on the hills of the Arno, in Leopold von Sacher-Masoch’s 1870 novella Venus in Furs, during the period of the administrative, territorial, and economic constitution of the modern European states, at the height of the great urban reforms of some of their capitals.

In several of these novels and short stories, architecture is presented as one of the characters in the narrative, a character that participates in the erotic encounters. Domestic scenes in particular become decisive places for putting the amorous performances to the test. We have decided to call these three domestic cases super petites maisons, and although these three examples are only a few of the ways of understanding how architecture participates in desire, we consider them to be super pleasure houses that we would like to have visited and enjoyed, places where we would willingly have “gone crazy”.


1. The reality of fiction. The architecture discipline often disdains fiction as a framework of knowledge, claiming that architecture should be realistic and must flee from beliefs and myths in order to focus on reality, to operate with what is real. However, paradoxically, the reality/fiction dichotomy is itself not very realistic. Thinking that something called the real world exists and that fictions, imaginaries, myths, fantasies, etc. all exist apart from it is certainly odd at best besides not being very realistic. As if fictions, imaginaries, myths, and fantasies did not exist, along with fears, beliefs, and prejudices! 

What is truly not very realistic is claiming that fiction is unattached to reality. That may in fact be the greatest fiction of all.

2. Architectural materials. This project accepts that fiction forms part of reality, which in turn is interwoven with all the other elements that make up our worlds. Moreover, our worlds are (also) carried out in fiction. Because fictions are (also)world-making practices, and thus, the spaces of fiction also form part of what counts as architecture. By accepting this condition, we are able to understand that fictions are just another architectural material—like bricks, asphalt, or insulation—and that they provide useful tools for our practice. 

In fictions, spatial experiments are carried out that would hardly be possible to do any other way.

3. Learning from fiction. Architecture cannot exist without imaginaries; moreover, every architectural project mobilizes, unfolds/deploys, intensifies, or challenges certain imaginaries and certain phantasmatic worlds. In consequence, the first methodological premise taken for this wide-reaching research project is to learn from fiction. 

Let’s design from and within fiction.



  • elii [oficina de arquitectura]
  • Architects
  • elii – Uriel Fogué + Eva Gil + Carlos Palacios
  • Colaborators
  • elii - Eduardo Castillo, Lucía Fernández, Ana López, Teresa Martínez, Andrés Stohlmann
  • Text editor
  • Moisés Puente 
  • Editorial Advisers
  • elii – Uriel Fogué, Eva Gil, Carlos Palacios, Eduardo Castillo, Lucía Fernández, Ana López, Teresa Martínez, Andrés Stohlmann
  • Publisher
  • EPFL Architecture, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL). Faculté de l’environnement naturel, architectu-ral et construit (ENAC)
  • Courses 2020-2021-2022
  • Studio elii (BA5 / BA6 / MA1 / MA2) Orientation B: Habitats & Housing
  • Design and layout
  • elii [oficina de arquitectura]
  • Translation
  • John Franklin Nelson 
  • Printer
  • Stock CERO S.A. C/ San Romualdo 26, 2ª planta, Edificio Astygi, 28037 – Madrid. Tel/Fax: +34 917 54 54 54 / 913 27 39 88.
  • Distribution
  • elii [oficina de arquitectura], EPFL Architecture / Studio elii
  • Number of pages
  • 82
  • Research Dates
  • 2015-2022
  • Date publication Vol.2
  • 2022
  • ISBN
  • 13: 978-84-09-39222-3
  • Depósito legal
  • M-8734-2022