This paper begins with the slightly tinted reflections of an urban landscape, seen through the vertical windows outside of an elevator shaft. Moving down, a reflected city is revealed – narrow and high, skewed and dreamy, fragmented pieces of an American cliché, freeway, lawn, stop sign, high-rise, car, sidewalk – a city of distanced otherness, generated by rays of light bouncing of the cylinder shaped envelope of glass. It could be the opening scene of Michelangelo Antonioni’s “La Notte”, a safe-haven for cineastes and architects, but it is in fact the Westin Bonaventure Hotel (Architect: John Portman & Associates) in downtown Los Angeles, a canonical love-to-hate project for the theorists of postmodernity in the 1980’s.
Acknowledging but steering away from Fredric Jameson’s critique of this project as a “placeless disassociation”, the paper instead follows the trajectory of Norman Klein, embracing the reflective elements in John Portman’s work as scripted spaces of special effects. Just like the staircase, the railing and the furniture, the paper argues, the reflections from the elevator shafts, the empty office windows and the water pools contribute to the production of affect in this foyer.
Following this the paper asks what a material semiotics for the mirror entails, and what the reflector does in relation to other agents of the foyer space – such as humans, stairs, landings, columns and doors? How can the reflector be seen as an operator in the scripted spaces of the hotel foyer? What are the potential strategies for using the reflector of these spaces for the introduction of incompatible perspectives and purposes?
The paper then intentionally sidetracks into a discussion on the Camera Lucida and the Black Mirror (Claude Glass) as mechanical operators for the physical act of looking into a condition of otherness. Instead of addressing the unavoidable loss of meaning in the process of transcribing the object to a projected image, the paper takes great interest in the performativity of the image in itself, especially in relation to the foyer. Following this historical excursion, the paper returns to Portman’s hotel, applying the perspectival instruments of the past onto the spaces of the foyer and speculates on how the black mirror can be used to produce reflections of otherness in this luxurious time-space. The paper ends with a note on Jacques Rancière’s work on the aesthetic sensibility, and a discussion on ways for the reflector to become an operative instrument for the introduction of a previously unseen sensorium in the space of the foyer.