Architecture's Historical TurnPhenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern

Architecture's Historical TurnPhenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern

Jorge Otero-Pailos

Print publication date: 2015

ISBN: 9780816666034

Publisher: University of Minnesota Press

Abstract

Architecture’s Historical Turn traces the hidden history of architectural phenomenology, a movement that reflected a key turning point in the early phases of postmodernism and a legitimating source for those architects who first dared to confront history as an intellectual problem and not merely as a stylistic question. This book shows how architectural phenomenology radically transformed how architects engaged, theorized, and produced history. The book discusses the contributions of leading members, including Jean Labatut, Charles Moore, Christian Norberg-Schulz, and Kenneth Frampton. For architects maturing after World War II, the book contends, architectural history was a problem rather than a given. Paradoxically, their awareness of modernism’s historicity led some of them to search for an ahistorical experiential constant that might underpin all architectural expression. They drew from phenomenology, exploring the work of Bachelard, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and Ricoeur, which they translated for architectural audiences. Initially, the concept that experience could be a timeless architectural language provided a unifying intellectual basis for the stylistic pluralism that characterized postmodernism. It helped give theory—especially the theory of architectural history—a new importance over practice. However, as this text makes clear, architectural phenomenologists could not accept the idea of theory as an end in itself. In the mid-1980s they were caught in the contradictory and untenable position of having to formulate their own demotion of theory.