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  • from phenomenology to sensation

    from phenomenology to sensation
    new haven CONNECTICUT

    brennan BUCK: Contemporary interest in the architectural interior can be tied to changes in the way we understand the psychic interior. The popularization of and recent developments in contemporary neuroscience have renewed the importance of subjectivity for architecture. Research by Antonio Damasio, among others, has shown that the presence and emotional state of the body-in-space directly affects cognitive processing. Beyond the cliché of emotions clouding logical thought, ideas have an emotional component that plays a direct role in deduction and decision making. Within architecture, these discoveries suggest a renewed consideration of bodily experience, one that may underlie the recent disciplinary interest in sensation and affect and raise the specter of a return to phenomenology.
    Work by: David Bench, Dawood Rouben, Jonathan Reyes, Laura Wagner, Liam Lowry, Margaret Hu, Nancy Putnam, Owen Howlett, Tom Fryer, Vincent Calabro, Zac Heaps, Zhai Shuo

    The seminar examined contemporary ideas of what Nigel Thrift calls the ‘spatialities of feeling’ in comparison with phenomenology as it was translated into the discourses of art and architecture in the 1970’s and 80’s. A sequence of readings and discussion sessions charted the commonalities of both perspectives – particularly the prioritization of bodily experience over abstract logic and linguistic meaning – but also examined the evolving differences. These include shifts from phenomenology’s primarily philosophical focus to a contemporary social/political one, from essentialism to materialist multiplicity, and from a preference for nostalgia to one for novelty.

    After establishing the discursive lineage of architectural affect, students were asked to fabricate full-scale affective environments within the school. Like the artist Robert Irwin, they worked infrastructurally – with minimum means to produce maximum effect. Architects don’t produce environments directly, only the material assemblies that give them form. Phenomenology-based design exercises often focus on ephemeral qualities that might be choreographed to evoke eternal truths about being and experience. Here, the design task was similarly concerned with environmental qualities absorbed through the body – light, scent, humidity, tactility – but our agenda focused on the architectural interior as the setting for life rather than a representation of it.

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