What is Phenomenology (architecture) – Architectural Phenomenology

1. Overview of the Topic – Summary:

From Wikipedia: Phenomenology is both a current aspect of philosophy influencing contemporary architecture and a field of academic research into the experience of built space and of building materials in their sensory aspects. In phenomenology, the environment is concretely defined as “the place”, and the things which occur there “take place”. The place is not so simple as the locality, but consists of concrete things which have material substance, shape, texture, and color, and together coalesce to form the environment’s character, or atmosphere.

From Wikipedia: The phenomenology of architecture is the philosophical study of architecture. In contrast, architectural phenomenology is a movement within architecture beginning in the 1950s, reaching a wide audience in the late 1970s and 1980s, and continuing until today. Architectural phenomenology, with its emphasis on human experience, background, intention and historical reflection, interpretation and poetic and ethical considerations stood in sharp contrast to the anti-historicism of postwar modernism and the pastiche of postmodernism.

2. What is the focus of this Topic?:

From Wikipedia: In phenomenology, with the environment defined as “the place”, it is this atmosphere which allows certain spaces, with similar or even identical functions, to embody very different properties, in accord with the unique cultural and environmental conditions of the place which they exist.

Phenomenology is conceived as a “return to things”, maneuvering away from the abstractions of science and its neutral objectivity. Phenomenology absorbs the concept of subjectivity, making the thing and its unique conversations with its place the relevant topic and not the thing itself.

3. Why it’s listed here – What is the relevance to Architectural Medicine?

An important component of Architectural Medicine is the focus of health on multiple levels of well being – physically, mentally and psychologically.

With Architectural Phenomenology’s focus on an experiential perspective, the sensory and experiential connection is related more to the personal experience of architecture on the individual in a subjective manner. This contrasts with the more typical evaluation of architecture based on a more intellectual “form and function”, and as such has a more human approach to the designs of the built environment.

This can become particularly important when it comes to health and wellness, as this can often be defined in terms of a sensory experience of the built environment.

4. Common groups and individuals involved with this topic:

From Wikipedia: American architects first started seriously studying phenomenology at Princeton University in the 1950s under Prof. Jean Labatut, whose student Charles W. Moore was the first to write a PhD dissertation, titled Water and Architecture (1958), that drew heavily on the philosophy of Gaston Bachelard. In Europe, Milanese architect Ernesto Nathan Rogers, through his influential editorship of the journal Casabella Continuità helped to advance architectural phenomenology in Europe. He collaborated with philosopher Enzo Paci, and influenced a generation of young architects including Vittorio Gregotti and Aldo Rossi. By the 1970s, the Norwegian architect, theorist and historian Christian Norberg-Schulz achieved international acclaim with his book “Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture” (1979), which was markedly influenced by Martin Heidegger’s hermeneutic ontology.

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 included David Leatherbarrow, professor of architecture at the University of Pennsylvania, Alberto Pérez-Gómez, professor of architectural history at McGill University, and the architect Daniel Libeskind. In the 1980s, the phenomenological approach to architecture was continued and further developed by Vesely and his colleague Peter Carl in their research and teaching at the Department of Architecture at the University of Cambridge.

The phenomenon of dwelling was one research theme in architectural phenomenology. Much of the way it was understood in architecture was shaped by the later thought of Martin Heidegger as set in his influential essay: “Building Dwelling Thinking.”

Prominent architects, such as Daniel LibeskindSteven Holl, and Peter Zumthor were described by Juhani Pallasmaa as current practitioners of the phenomenology of architecture.

5. Resources: