Phenomenology (architecture)  

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Phenomenology is both a philosophical design current in contemporary architecture and a specific field of academic research, based on the experience of building materials and their sensory properties.

Beginning in the 1970s, phenomenology, with a strong influence from the writings of Martin Heidegger, began to have a major impact on architectural thinking. Christian Norberg-Schulz was an important figure in this movement. A Norwegian, he graduated from the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule (ETH) in Zurich in 1949 and eventually became Dean of the Oslo School of Architecture. His most important writings were Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1980) and Intentions in Architecture (1963). These books were widely read in architectural schools the 1960s and 1970s. Thomas Thiis-Evensen, a follower of Norberg-Schulz, contributed to architectural phenomenology with the book Archetypes in Architecture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).

Another architect associated with the phenomenology movement was Charles Willard Moore, who was Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale from 1965 to 1970. Phenomenology, generally speaking, favored an approach to design that was highly personal and inward looking. Though most phenomenologists, Norberg-Schulz, for example, were highly critical of modernism and the International Style in particular, phenomenologically-oriented architects favored the clean and the simple over the complex or the organic. The approach that was most at odds with phenomenology was that of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who were influenced by Pop art. Though interest in phenomenology has waned in recent times, several architects, such as Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor are described by Juhani Pallasmaa as practitioners in phenomenology of architecture.

In the 1970s, the School of Comparative Studies at the University of Essex, under the influence of Dalibor Vesely and Joseph Rykwert, was the breeding ground for a generation of architectural phenomenologists, which includes David Leatherbarrow, professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania and Alberto Pérez-Gómez, professor of architectural history at McGill University. Architect Daniel Libeskind also studied at Essex in the 1970s.

Present-day architectural phenomenology has widened its scope to include theorists whose modes of thinking are bordering on phenomenology, such as Gilles Deleuze and Henri Bergson, and Paul Virilio (urban planner).

Notable architects of this academic movement include:

Major works of this movement

  • Paul Andreu, The National Grand Theater of China
  • Karsten Harries, The Ethical Function of Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1997)
  • Deborah Hauptmann (Ed), The Body in Architecture (Rotterdam: 010 Publishers, 2006)
  • David Leatherbarrow, On Weathering: The Life of Buildings in Time, with Mohsen Mostafavi ( Cambridge, Mass.: The MIT Press, 1993)
  • Christian Norberg-Schulz, Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1980)
  • Juhani Pallasmaa, The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses (New York: Wiley, 1996/2005)
  • Alberto Pérez-Gómez, Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1983)
  • Steen Eiler Rasmussen, Experiencing Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1959)
  • Joseph Rykwert, The Dancing Column: On Order in Architecture (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 1996)
  • David Seamon & Robert Mugerauer (Eds), Dwelling, Place & Environment: Towards a Phenomenology of Person and World (Martinus Nijhoff 1985/Krieger Publishing 2000)
  • Thomas Thiis-Evensen, Archetypes in Architecture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987)
  • Dalibor Vesely, Architecture in the Age of Divided Representation: The Question of Creativity in the Shadow of Production (Cambridge, Mass.: MIT Press, 2004)





Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Phenomenology (architecture)" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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