Presentation Details

The Second International Conference on New Directions in the Humanities

Body Knowledge and Creativity: Reflections on Buildings, Poems, and Walking

Ben Jacks, Annie Finch.

This paper examines issues of interdisciplinarity, the creative process, and body-centered knowledge. Focusing on a collaborative teaching project between a poet and an architect—and between their students in architecture and poetry—we explore the centuries-old, primal connections between buildings, poems, and walking in an effort to transcend established disciplinary boundaries within the humanities and articulate a transdisciplinary model for the creative process. Although it seems basic to architecture, the experience of the body in architecture is increasingly ignored; similarly, the breath-meter link in poetry, and the possibilities for durable public poetry have received little attention. Addressing these issues through an interdisciplinary architecture studio and poetry workshop, students in architecture and English examined ways of thinking about the human experience of the body in landscape and the built environment. By focusing on walking, poetry, and architecture, students considered the history of walking, walking based poems, and poetic meters. Architecture students designed buildings based on selected poems of high quality in English and constructed large-scale wood models of building designs for a comprehensive exhibition. Student poets wrote sonnets, Sapphics, ballads, and other poems in form and meter. Together the poets and architects considered the nature of creative work in the parallel disciplines. By examining these connections between ways of knowing and creating, this paper addresses the larger conference themes of place making in the humanities, old forms and new agendas in poetry, and learning as an act of transformation.


Ben Jacks  (United States)
Assistant Professor
Department of Architecture and Interior Design, School of Fine Arts
Miami University

Ben Jacks is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Architecture and Interior Design, Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. He teaches Design and Human Behavior, and design studio. He is currently researching and writing about walking, landscape, and buildings. His article, “Reimagining Walking: Four Practices,” will be published in the February issue of the Journal of Architectural Education. Prior to teaching he was in the private practice of architecture. He earned a BA from the University of Chicago in 1983, and a Master of Architecture degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1986.

Annie Finch  (United States)

Miami University

  • Body
  • Creativity
  • Architecture
  • Landscape
  • Poetry
  • Walking
  • Interdisciplinarity

(30 min. Conference Paper, English)