The Bartlett School of Architecture


Vasilis Aronidis

Image: ‘A Night at the Cotton Club’, diagrams by Vasilis Aronidis, 2017 


Musical Event as ‘Synecdoche’ of Interrelated Sound and Spatial Parameters: Composing Sound and Space in Harlem in the 1920s-1930s

First and second supervisors 


Two contrasting musical traditions from the nineteenth century defined the music and architecture for musical performance in New York City during the 1920s-1930s. From the Sunday ‘Slave Dances’ held at Congo Square (New Orleans,1820s) to the Sunday ‘Celebrity Nights’ at the Cotton Club in Harlem (New York, 1920s), and from the notion of ‘Gesamtkunstwerk’ in Wagner’s operas (1840s) to the ‘New Stagecraft Movement’ as practised by Joseph Urban in New York’s musicals and operas (1920s), this thesis examines the interdependence between music and architecture regarding the evolution of architectural thought and musical composition.  

The primary objective is to define a conceptual basis for interpreting the built environment in its historical dimension as a receptor and co-formulator of the musical object. To this end, the project sets a framework around the New York musical scene in the given period – considering the Metropolitan operas, Broadway shows, the 'Midnight Frolics' and the Harlem Jazz Club shows – to investigate how the interactions between spatial and musical parameters could 'synecdochically' create typologies for music events. In examining the jazz performances during the Harlem Renaissance and analysing how spatial configurations in African-American music events are linked to the evolution of architecture for musical performances, the research outlines new strategies for composition and design through the analysis of data, structures, and concepts applied to both spatial and musical principles of reasoning.   

The interdisciplinary character of this thesis determines its conceptual and theoretical framework, in which the concept of 'Synecdoche' is used as a methodological approach, applied in the analyses of sound recordings, architects' journals, eyewitness accounts, historical and musicological studies, musicians' autobiographies, and fictional writings. 


Vasilis Aronidis is an architect, musician, and a PhD candidate at The Bartlett School of Architecture, UCL. Before moving to London, he studied Architecture Engineering and completed his MSc in Architectural Theory at NTU, Athens. While at The Bartlett, he was a member of the SOUND | MAKING | SPACE Doctoral Network, which he coordinated for the academic year 2018/19. Vasilis joined Studio M R in 2016, and since then, he has been leading design teams and supervising the construction of awarded buildings in historic districts of London and areas of significant heritage value in Somerset and Dorset. 

Image: ‘A Night at the Cotton Club’, diagrams by Vasilis Aronidis, 2017