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Journal of Architectural Education Volume 65, Issue 2. Daniel Kopec Search for more papers by this author. Read the full text. Picking an ontology has wide-ranging significance, relative to questions of material constitution, composition, part-whole relations, properties, and relations in architecture, as well as the character of architectural notation, language, cognition, or behavior; there are also ramifications for simplicity and complexity, and the nature of ornament, proportion, context, and style.
In architectural practice, the ontology of choice also colors perspectives on such matters as intellectual property rights, collaborative work, and preservation of architectural structures. On one customary view of architectural objects, individual built structures or their abstract counterparts represent the primary unit of our aesthetic or, for that matter, any architectural, concern; all other ways of carving up the architectural world are derivative.
This view is consonant with an equally customary perspective identifying architectural objects with architectural works. Both alternatives share a commitment to some form of compositionality among architectural objects, that putting bits together yields aesthetically meaningful and utility-bearing composites, and taking them apart yields like results.
In this, the mereological view represents a downward -compositionalism, suggesting that architectural aesthetics demands our focus on structural or other elements that can be meaningfully distinguished.
Questions about causality may seem out of place in discussions of immobile objects, such as most architecture represents. Yet architectural objects appear to have a role in causing events to happen or other things to come into being. For example, socio-psychological evidence suggests that architectural objects cause behavior, and much of architectural design is predicated on this claim. Thus, the presence of one or more architectural objects might have a causal effect on the genesis or character of one or more further works by dint of social utility, planning needs, or aesthetic drivers.
If true, then—as with consequentialism in ethics—further questions arise regarding the range of causal possibilities. Where ethicists ask whether a bad may generate a good, we may ask whether the presence or construction of a functionally or aesthetically impoverished architectural object might occasion the presence or construction of a more useful or pleasing architectural object. The notion that there is or should be an architectural language—or more than one—has a provenance dating to ancient times.
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Variations of the thesis range over elements of an architectural language, how it may be used, and from whence it may be derived. The core idea, in its most prominent form, is that architecture as a corpus of design ideas realized or otherwise features a set of fundamental design and style elements which can be combined and related according to a set of rules syntax , capable of constituting or parlaying meaning semantics , and subject to contextual sensitivity and internal or relational constraints on deployment and realization pragmatics.
Beyond these structural parallels with basic facets of natural language, it is held that the purposes and possibilities of architecture qua language yield further parallels, best explained by the notion that architecture has, or even is , a language. Proponents of such views tend to subscribe, however, to defenses rooted in one or another feature of language. On syntactically-inspired views—the perspectives most indebted to the Vitruvian account—there is at least one architectural grammar or set of rules for guiding proper assemblage of parts and orientation, relation, and combination of whole architectural objects.
Some late twentieth century architectural theory embraced a grammar framework Alexander et al.
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Adherents of the view Summerson assign themselves the central task of identifying such rules. Even if this is achieved, though, a greater puzzle is whether there are identifiably preferable syntaxes—and what the criteria should look like. On a semantics-inspired view, architectural objects or their component parts bear meanings.
A primary motivation for this view is that, like objects of other artforms, architectural objects are expressive, which suggests that what they express is meaning Donougho Proponents point to an array of architectural meanings, internal or external to the object. The former tells us something about the architectural object its function or internal composition or how it relates to other architectural objects stylistic conventions ; the latter tells us something about the world, as for example, national or cultural associations per geographically variant design vocabularies , theological or spiritual significance per religious design vocabularies , or per Hegel , the Absolute Spirit.
A more ambitious proposal Baird has it that architectural objects exhibit such semantic phenomena as metaphor, metonymy, or ambiguity. Primarily, though, buildings function symbolically through exemplification literal or explicit denotation or expression metaphorical exemplification of properties of ideas, sentiments, or objects in the world.
While Goodman may have identified a denotative role for buildings, this is not clearly a semantic role. A third approach, rooted in semiotics, emphasizes the role of architectural objects as signs that prompt spectator behavior Koenig , or indicate aspects of themselves, such as function Eco In either case, architectural objects are taken to operate as communicative systems Donougho The architectural language thesis, in its various forms, is widely discredited in recent philosophy of architecture.
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To begin with, architecture features some qualities and exhibits some phenomena resembling those of natural language, but the parallels are neither comprehensive nor fully compelling. On the syntactic side, architecture may feature some brand of compositionality but different parts of architectural objects do not appear to function as do phrases or clauses Donougho As regards semantics, no likely candidate for an architectural vocabulary regularly yields any specific class or instance of meaning.
Nor are there truth conditions such as might supply the meaning of a well-defined architectural sequence Taurens As for pragmatics, there is no clear parallel with implicature or related phenomena, hence architecture is incapable of the accuracy or concision of expression we associate with language Clarke and Crossley Finally, relative to semiotics, not all—or even many—buildings signify and we would only want some to do so.
Regarding semantics, whatever we gain in fixing particular meanings to architectural objects, we stand to lose in fungibility of their forms. In the end, it is useful to ask what work we expect the architecture-as-language thesis to do. One view Alexander et al. However, it may be sufficient to highlight ways in which architecture is like a language, though they do not add up to an architectural language Forty If so, then the thesis works best as a powerful metaphor rather than as literal truth. Goodman suggests that architecture is a borderline case of an allographic artform, as its notational schemes—in the form of plans—are intended to guarantee that all objects as are compliant are genuine instances of the work.
Said intention, Goodman proposes, is not fulfilled. Goodman, for his part, balks at taking architecture to be truly allographic given the core role of history and context in generating particular structures, and notational ambiguity that marks the analog medium of traditional plans. Digital design may well resolve the ambiguity problem, however, and allow indexing for history and context, rendering architecture allographic per Goodmanian criteria S.
Fisher b. Thus, architectural formalism suggests that the sum total of aesthetic properties of an architectural object are or arise from formal properties, such that our aesthetic judgments are warranted based on experience and assessment of just those properties. As architectural objects are typically non-representational and designed with manipulation and relation of forms as a primary task, it is natural that their formal properties be seen as playing a central role in our aesthetic appreciation of them.
Our aesthetic judgment of I. Variants of architectural formalism take formal properties as the properties of or arising from the material or physical properties of built structures as consonant with concretism , or as the properties of or arising from the total properties specified by a set of formal parameters we identify with the architectural object as consonant with abstractism. For the merelogico-formalist, it might count in favor of considering such parts as independent architectural objects that we can judge those parts on a formal basis alone.
Other, non-formal aspects of an architectural object are discounted as contributing to its success. Mitrovic , embraces a normative formalist approach to criticism, on the grounds that the deeply visual nature of much cognition militates against basing appreciation or evaluation of architectural objects exclusively or primarily on features we understand through non-visual means such as context or history provide.
lestedestmati.tk The anti-formalist traditionally focuses on the importance to aesthetic judgment about non-formal properties, including historical context; other, categorial forms of context Walton ; or non-cognitive properties. None of this judgment appears to have particular roots in forms Jefferson deployed, except as befit a neo-classical style—which style may be best grasped in historicist terms. In the latter case, beauty stands in relation to concepts with which we associate architectural objects, which for such objects are typically the ends towards which they are created.
Per Parsons and Carlson , the problem with such intentionalist accounts in architecture or elsewhere where functional beauty pertains is that functions change. This view is modeled on a selected effects account of biological functions, as translated into a marketplace-driven scheme, where evolution of design solutions is driven by demand over time. Functional beauty faces several challenges. Even in their advocacy, Parsons and Carlson caution against the suggestion that function solely determines form, as that would neglect other features of artifacts not possibly highlighted by their functions.
Such features include cultural significance or aspects of non-dependent beauty as may be found in, for example, architectural ornament. In the architectural realm, another challenge is posed by ruins, which may be beautiful but have no functions. To the charge that these represent counterexamples to functional beauty theory, one tack is to answer that if ruins represent architectural objects, they are dysfunctional and their beauty is manifest in non-functional ways Parsons and Carlson.
Functional beauty theory is saved on the whole but not as universally characteristic of architectural objects. A further challenge casts doubt on seeing functional beauty as the only variant of dependent beauty, or beauty as the sole aesthetic valence of interest to a viable notion of dependent aesthetic properties.
In an architectural vein, those variants may include spiritual, emotional, or conceptual frameworks we bring to our grasp of such built structures as houses of worship, memorials, or triumphal arches. We can tell functional stories about these sorts of structures in sociological or psychological analyses but not or not only , as functional beauty accounts would have it, in terms of their mechanical or system-wise functioning.
Looking beyond functional beauty—or more broadly, dependent beauty—accounts of architecture, an inclusivist will seek the thread that ties together architectural objects with aesthetic properties of all description, be they functional, otherwise dependent, or freely independently endowed with beauty or other such properties. Thus, a modernist gas station and a Tschumi folie may share an elegance unrelated to functional ascription or the lack thereof. A general theory of architectural objects, along inclusivist lines, suggests at least a moderate formalism.
A staple of philosophy of art is that our experience of art objects—direct or otherwise—is central to basic belief formation about them first and foremost, aesthetic belief and appreciation of art objects. The philosophy of architecture is generally in agreement, though architectural objects may be of special character in this regard, as our experiences of them gives rise to or influences an extended range of psychological states. A piece of that environmental understanding is local to the built structure itself: the ways we experience architectural objects may contribute to how we comprehend, and interact with, those objects.
In addition to facilitating understanding, appreciation, or use of architectural objects, experience might also play—or reflect—a constitutive role. The content and corresponding faculties of architectural experience likely include some mix of the cognitive, emotive, and sensual.
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