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Phenomenology is both a philosophical design current in contemporary architecture and a specific field of academic research, based on the physical experience of building materials and their sensory properties.
Beginning in the 1970s, phenomenology, with a strong influence from the writings of Martin Heidegger, began to have a major impact on architectural thinking. Christian Norberg-Schulz was an important figure in this movement. A Norwegian, he graduated from the Eidgenossische Technische Hochschule ETH in Zurich in 1949 and eventually became Dean of the Oslo School of Architecture. His most important writings were Genius Loci: Towards a Phenomenology of Architecture (New York: Rizzoli, 1980) and Intentions in Architecture (1963). These books were widely read in architectural schools the 1960s and 1970s. Thomas Thiis-Evensen, a follower of Norberg-Schulz, contributed to architectural phenomenology with the book Archetypes in Architecture (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987).
Another architect associated with the phenomenology movement was Charles Willard Moore, who was Dean of the School of Architecture at Yale from 1965 to 1970. Phenomenology, generally speaking, favored an approach to design that was highly personal and inward looking. Though most phenomenologists, Norberg-Schulz, for example, were highly critical of modernism and the International Style in particular, phenomenologically-oriented architects favored the clean and the simple over the complex or the organic. The approach that was most at odds with phenomenology was that of Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown, who were influenced by Pop art. Though interest in phenomenology has waned in recent times, several architects, such as Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor, claim to be phenomenologists.
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