In a series of articles i’d like to work to an understanding on how we can look at architecture, if we can say something about the beauty of architecture (or just taste and fashion) and if we can identify ourselves with architecture and how that influences our perception of the built environment.
In this first article in this series i’d like to go into the different aspects, a lot of different meanings and ways to look at architecture. The method described below is based on a study of the works of Immanuel Kant, a German philosopher who lived from 1724 till 1804. In his book ´Kritik der reinen Vernunft´ (critique of pure reason) he states that the ‘ding an sich’ (thing itself), things as they are in themselves are unknowable and need human perception and experience to get meaning. (also you can look into Martin Heidegger’s Bauen Wohnen Denken (building, dwelling, thinking, 1951))
for an analyses one can look at a thing from three different ways
1. we can look at its context
2. we can look at its condition
3. we can look at its concept.
we can look at the things above in a physical (a), emotional (b) and intellectual (c) way, which will be explained from the example of a building below.
1.a. looking at the physical context of the building, how it is situated, near a road, river, in a city, in a street, near a church, shops, railwaystation etc.
1.b. looking at the emotional context of the building, we can see if it is on a crowded, noisy, still, lonely or whatever spot. smells from traffic, moist from river, smell and moist from sea, but also recognize the sequence approaching the building.
1.c. looking at the intellectual aspects of the context we look at the meaning of the surroundings. is the building located on a site with historical background, what is the genius loci, the spirit of the place.
2.a. looking at the physical condition of the building, we see its materials, colors, how it is made, how it is maintained.
2.b. looking at the emotional condition of the building, we can talk about dark and light places/rooms, warm/cold materials smells of wood, cleaner, kitchen..warm/cool colors, lightning, acoustics, etc. etc.
2.c. looking at the intellectual condition of the building we can look if there are symbols in the architecture, ornaments, details that tell us about the time it is designed, etc.
3.a. looking at the fysical concept, we look how the building works, how the floor plan works for the inhabitants. eg when talking about a house, where is the kitchen located, the bathroom and sleeping rooms. is it a logical mapping. how do we enter the building, is there a logical sequence in the rooms.
3.b. looking at the emotional aspects of the concept, we look if the building gives the right feeling for the use it was built. is it a place for living, a home or a residence, cozy or with grandeur.
3.c. looking at the intellectual aspects of the concept, we look if the building has the right meaning in the sense of eg a gathering point for the family, meanings which are important in culture, is the building well balanced
If we have looked at these different aspects of the building, we get a pretty good idea or perception of it, so we can understand the building.