Criticism in Architecture: Does Aesthetics Matter in Architecture?

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Criticism in architecture: does aesthetics matter in architecture? „Urgent questions which confront the architect are indeed philosophical questions‟ (Scruton 1979). In the letter of Goldberg (2003), criticism in architecture is considered as an audience guide to appreciate good design: The purpose of architecture criticism in the general media is to create a better educated more critically aware, more visually literate constituency for architecture…

In contrast, Baird mentioned:
Today criticality is under attack; seen by its critics as obsolete, as irrelevant, and/or as inhibiting design creativity (2004, p.1).

The aesthetic experience in architecture is based on the perception of the qualities of the work of architecture. Our most concentrated perceptions of works of architecture are our quality of aesthetic experiences. The term aesthetics was coined by the German philosopher and educator, Alexander Gottlieb Baumgarten, (born July 17, 1714 in Berlin, Prussia/ Germany died May 26, 1762 in Frankfurt an der Oder) who established then the aesthetic discipline as a distinct field of philosophical inquiry (Ziff 2000). Baumgarten believed the aesthetic value of a work of art could be determined by its ability to produce vivid experiences in its audience. This essay will focus on the understanding of aesthetic implications in the work of architecture based on:     The relevance of aesthetics in architecture; The relationship between work of architecture and that of art; The query whether aesthetics should be absolute or relative; and The interpretation of aesthetics in some contemporary works of architecture.

The quote of Louis Sullivan; ‘Form (ever) follows function’ shows the importance attributed to aesthetics in a design. It is necessary then to start by defining what Baumgarten meant by the term aesthetics. In the same perspective, Leath argued: Art does not exist independently of the experience of art. Aesthetics, then, is the study of all activity from the perspective that we are orienting ourselves to have certain perceptions (experiences). The aesthetician of visual art should have a good understanding of what combination of form and colour will encourage a certain kind of experience in an audience. The aesthetician of physical activity should know what intensity and type of exercise will have certain effects on the exerciser. Moreover, aesthetics can be applied to reason. The aesthetician should know what kind of purely rational (if there is such a thing) exercise should produce a certain feeling in the person who is being rational. (1996)

According to Welsch cited by Dale and Burrell:
Some definitions of Aesthetics are; the appreciation of good design and that which provides good form, the ability to make a harmonious appealing whole from disparate elements, the appreciation of sensuous ( that which appeals to all the senses), that which concerns itself with phenomenological appearance and not substance…(2002, p. 78).

In addition, Dissanayake (1992) approved that aesthetic perception is not something that we learn or acquire for its own sake but is inherent in the reconciliation of culture and nature that has marked our evolution as humans. From the above points of view, we can notice that the aesthetic appeal involves human ability to perceive the value of aesthetics according to their background and degree of knowledge. For instance buildings fulfilling similar functions can be perceived differently according to the cultural belief, the sense of place and the period of time. If we are to consider the primary role of the building, which of providing shelter against bad weather conditions, all buildings would have been as simple as just shelters. Roth described architecture as the unavoidable art. We spend our lives in and around buildings. Not only do they provide shelter, they shape the way we feel, the way we live, and the way we work. In fact, the history of architecture is the

history of...
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