Vol. 2, No. 2,
November 1997

Architecture - Language




Hermeneutics as Architectural Discourse

This paper argues for a re-thinking of the role of history in architectural theory. After two centuries of unsuccessful extrapolations of scientific methods and frameworks for architecture, it proposes a radical reconsideration of our strategies to "speak properly" in view of action.
To understand history as theory, it is important to start from a critique of objectifying views of history, recalling what is proper to the historical discipline, rooted in our human capacity to tell stories and thus articulate "a truth".

Claus Dreyer


On Interpretation of Architecture

When asked about the "meaning" of architecture, one cannot avoid the use of language for interpretation: Without language architecture cannot be understood or „grasped."
The development of a canon of meaning is illustrated with comments about the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao by Gehry.

Aleksej K.


Artistic Language of the Constructivistic Architecture in Russia and its Comprehension Today

The conception of Functionalism, developing since the middle of the 19th century, was based on the statement of independence of form and function. Louis Sullivan, the ideologist of the "Chicago-School" of architecture in the USA, had put this idea in a clear aphorism: "form follows function". The classical triassic of Vitruvius - utility - strength - beauty - was replaced by a linear dependency, going in one direction - from function to form. "Simplicity" and "goal orientation" are basic marks of functionalistic architecture. Simplicity of form also had a certain visual meaning. It became a transitional link, connecting functionalism with one of the trends of European culture at the beginning of the 20th century.
A description of one of the architectural monuments of the period of constructivism in Russia - a student commune in Donskoy-Lane in Moscow (1930, architect J. Nikolaev) - attempts to illustrate the principle of constructivistic architecture, showing its links with social ideas of that time in respect of function and constructional embodiment. On the other hand it is discussed how the linguistic embodiment of the image -or the image itself -, can influence the development of other cultural elements as well as plain demands of utility, i.e. the present use of this architectural monument.



Architecture: Language for Monolog and Dialog

Epistemology of architecture, regarding its infomative-communicative potentials, demands for a distinction between the language of architecture itself ("talking" to human beings) and the language for a discussion about architecture. These two phenomenons though related are quite different and emerged from the everlasting dialog between human beings and their physical-spacial environment, being their own construction. The language of architecture in itself is totally based on the physical Gestalt of the object. At the same time it doesn´t exist outside the perceiving subject. This relates the language of architecture to a speechless, non-verbal language of emotions and associations of visual reminiscences. But even if it is subjective, it is at the same time in its architectonic form determined by parameters of geometry, material, composition and urban design as well as the leading axial guidelines of its time of construction and perception. The language for a discussion about architecture has a verbal basis.Therefore the scientific interest is not in structural particularities (seen from a linguistic perspective it develops within a distinct national culture and its scripture, literature and mass communication), but in typologies of relevant entities, such as its lyrics and the system of its axial orientations, its genre-specific forms, and the like.


Eduard Führ


Spaces of a Piece of Art

Refering to a picture of Sol Le Witt the article will discuss the relationship between text and image, that is between speaking and seeing, in a phenomenological way.

Maria Peters


„Written Border-Walks"-
Space Perception and its Literary Forms

The relationship between architectural experience and language will be discussed, introducing an experiment with an artificial space-sound installation. Acoustic, visual and movement oriented space perception and its written recall can lead to an altered ego-presence and a modified perspective on reality. A language thus emerges, which not only supports understanding and sharing, but unfolds in its "aesthetic" expression beyond communication efforts. Language becomes an instrument which recognizes differences in perception; in itself it is also capable to produce shifts and to intensify, thus creating unpredictable expressions of meaning.
Based on phenomenological considerations, the transient and modifiable relationship between perceiving subject and perceived space, which also have relevance beyond art, will be stressed. My investigation material consists of texts, that clarify written "border-walks" by medial transformations between listening, seeing, walking, moving, sensing, thinking, writing and reading what is written.

Everyday Language

Anette Sommer


Architects´ Language - Users´ Language -
Interpreters in Planning

With this essay characteristic differences in language and its implied difficulties in mutual understanding between architects on the one hand and everyday users of architecture on the other hand will be discussed.
How can one translate the users´ language, based on everyday life, into the architects´ language, based on concepts? Is it possible to interpret?
Impacts of considerations on these questions were empirically investigated in the context of a dialogue
-oriented planning project.
Besides the possibility of "interpreting", the question will be stressed, why architects should bother at all with problems in mutual understanding, especially if they don´t practice participative planning startegies.

Alena I. Gella


Architecture as Communication

Studying the interactions of people with their physical-spatial surroundings has shown the necessity for including the users of the environment (e.g. communities, citizens, "a person from a street ") in the design process. C. Alexander, R. Venturi and I. Friedman, for example, considered different variants, involving future users in the design process.
Language in architecture is characteristically represented in two ways: as verbal language and as stereotypes of visual perception. The architect, from this point of view, can enhance communication with every person affected by the project. Familiarity with visual perception is the foundation for communication about the different aspects of design. In this sense, the architect's activity could be considered a service function — technically and aesthetically integrating the contents of such communication processes.

Achim Hahn


On Describing the Objects of Dwelling

This article will try to illustrate objects of dwelling and their description, both of which are framed by the pragmatics of dwelling. "Pragmatics of dwelling" in this sense considers dwelling as an outcome of dwelling, or the dwelling experience.
I want to stress that the act of describing is not an unprofessional expression of reality that could be improved scientifically. Rather, I make a point that it is a form of announcement, showing another person how the objects of dwelling here and in this particular case are dealt with, and similarly, what meaning they have. Descriptions are the verbal expressions of practically tested rules of action (for a particular situation). The scientist, investigating experiences, does not have privileged access to the objects of dwelling beyond such announcements. There is no separation in the understanding of something and its use. In this sense, an "object of dwelling" is simply that which is described: an object of ordinary experience and familiar use.

Literality and Physicality

Kristine Patz


Littera Pythagorae in Architecture

Through the 17th century there was consensus about Pythagoras having invented the Y in its double function as a letter and a signum. In discussing the letter Y as a signum, I do not simply refer to it as a letter, or as a Chiffre full of meaning, but as something independent of appearance. That is, the form with coded meaning, based on the visual Gestalt of the letter, as it was preserved under the term Littera Pythagorae or developed in this tradition. Script has lost its similarity with the objects; thus in the past only the hyroglyphical image script was considered to have such a similarity. The letter Y was a sign for human life, in the decisive point dividing virtue and vice, or, in salvation-history, separating salvation and damnation. Its form, similar to a tree, combined the meaning of the tree of life or of the cross. With the cornea (horns) of the tree and the fork, the Y gave meaning to additional forms -i.e. in the profession of building, the endings of an arch were called horns or corn(u)a-. This paper will concentrate on the letter Y and its architectonic, anthropomorphic and vegetabile imitations, as well as on its meanings in some chosen works of the Renaissance.



Language and Myth in Architecture

Architecture organizes knowledge of space, which is perceived as "real", but represented as "ideal". Its history abounds with examples of sacral symbols and allegories, raising the architectonic form above constructions. However, the mythological-poetical consciousness is concentrated on "form" and "decoration". By separating form and decoration from ritual, the professional development has substituted linguistics by aesthetics. "Form", previously a subject of culture, thus becomes a product of technology. Recent use of language in architecture demonstrates this technological aspect, where the sensual experience of space becomes compressed into a "code", and contents like "metaphor" and "symbol", deprived of sacral meanings, seem to be able to master the tropes.
"Double coding", enriching architecture by the genre of irony, has developed on the background of paradoxical form creations in architectural designs. Postmodernism, guaranteeing before the quality of a traditional plot, has allowed for an opportunity to play with its contents by breaking the norms. "Double coding" appeared as a method for seperating the author as the bearer of an image from the hero acting in the sphere of creation. In this sense the "user" is a character of the author's text. Demonstrating the opportunities of the genre, the architect increasingly addresses theatrical forms of communication. Within the development of architectonic scenography and directing, the paradigm of being literal is superseded by a theatrical one, thus returning the art of space to architecture.

Christian Katti


Literality and Structure among Architecture and Urbanism

In this paper the given subject will be discussed as a complex exchange relationship, rather than a simple additive one. With this approach, one can identify an opposition of three disciplines, usually connected with this exchange relationship, namely art history, sociology, and philosophy, with three other disciplines, usually ignoring an understanding of this exchange aspect, namely semiotics, discourse analysis, and deconstruction. On the background of this scenario, the problematic relationship between architecture and urbanism will be unfolded and enlarged in considering the aspect of literality in architecture within a double role. Although trying to escape the category of being literal, architecture and urbanism form this double role, whenever clashing with a commonly used „term". An attempt is made to theoretically outline this conflict and to stress the problem of literality in architecture with some examples.



Architecture, Body, Language

In this article I want to talk about the relationships connecting architecture, body and language within the design process. The starting point is a statement given by the architects of COOP Himmelblau regarding their processes of finding and developing ideas. I would like to comment on this statement in three ways and, furthermore, put each comment into a historical context. The first comment will deal with the question of who is speaking during design process and what role the body plays. The second comment will focus on verbal impact, writing, and other ways which signify and describe bodies within the history of architectural theory. The third comment is an attempt to characterize recent relationship between architecture, body, and language.

The essays are open to discussion for 6 months. Remarks, comments or criticism by readers can be added to each essay. The authors then may rewrite their essays during these 6 months of interaction with readers. After this period the articles will be frozen but still available in the net.

The editorial staff keeps all rights, including translation and photomechanical reproduction. Selections may be reprinted with reference: ( Wolkenkuckucksheim, Cloud-Cuckoo-Land, vozdushnyj zamok >/theoriederarchitektur/Wolke<) if the editorial staff is informed.

Issue 1/96:Architecture in the Realm between Art and Everyday life
Issue 1/97: Modernity of Architecture. A Critical Recognition