CANCELLED! Animating Landscapes: The Concept of Empathy in Early Twentieth Century Dance Choreography and Garden Design

Event Date: 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Event Date Details: 

We regret that this lecture has been CANCELLED due to unforseen circumstances and unfortunately, will not be rescheduled.  We apologize for any inconveniences this may cause. 

Event Location: 

  • Arts Building Rm 1332

Event Contact: 

Lety Garcia, Programs and PR Manager

805 893 2951 or


with Robin Veder - Penn State Harrisburg



How do bodies respond to built and natural environments? In this talk, Robin Veder resurrects the theories of “physiological aesthetics” that interactively informed landscape architecture and modern dance of the early to mid-twentieth-century United States. Landscape architects and dance educators read physiological aesthetics — developed within German experimental physiological psychology — that posits the aesthetic experience occurs when a viewer’s neuromuscular system “empathizes” with the physical form of an image, object, building, or landscape. Designed spaces thus stimulate physiological response and so were understood to function as structuring environments for neuromuscular programming.

Within this logic of environmental determinism, landscapes discipline and even transform the bodies of people who live in them. And yet, American landscape architecture’s investment in empathy theory’s environmental determinism was modified by the methods of emancipated kinesthetic-awareness practiced by a transatlantic community of modern dancers. To make this case, Veder begins at mid-century with the collaborative work of landscape architect Lawrence Halprin and his spouse, the modern dancer Anna Halprin, then looks back to the discourse of kinesthetic empathy that appears in key theoretical and pedagogical texts from American landscape architecture and dance education of the 1910s through 1940s.


Cosponsored by History of Art and Architecture Department.