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Architecture of Thought

Andrzej Piotrowski

Publication Year: 2011

In Architecture of Thought, Andrzej Piotrowski maps and conceptually explores material practices of the past, showing how physical artifacts and visual environments manifest culturally rooted modes of thought and participate in the most nuanced processes of negotiations and ideological exchanges. According to Piotrowski, material structures enable people to think in new ways—distill emerging or alter existing worldviews—before words can stabilize them as conventional narratives.

Combining design thinking with academic methods of inquiry, Piotrowski traces ancient to modern architectural histories and—through critical readings of select buildings—examines the role of nonverbal exchanges in the development of an accumulated Western identity. Unlike studies that organize around the traditional scheme of periodization in history, Architecture of Thought uses an interdisciplinary approach to investigate a wide spectrum of cultural productions in different times and places.
Operating from the assertion that buildings are the most permanent record of unself-conscious beliefs and attitudes, it discusses Byzantium and the West after iconoclasm, the conquest and colonization of Mesoamerica, the Reformation and Counter-Reformation in Eastern Europe, the rise of the culture of consumerism in Victorian England, and High Modernism as its consequence. By moving beyond the assumption that historical structures reflect transcendental values and deterministic laws of physics or economy or have been shaped by self-conscious individuals, Piotrowski challenges the traditional knowledge of what architecture is and can be.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press


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pp. 1-7


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pp. 8-9

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pp. ix-x

It took me many years to write this book. Even after years of research, this project would not have materialized without access to remote sites and unique resources. In some cases, it was a matter of obtaining permissions to photograph certain places; in many other cases, my work depended on the goodwill of generous people who accepted my intrusion into their daily lives and environments. And thus I am grateful to Father George for his help ...

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Introduction: The Moving Target of Architecture

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pp. xi-xviii

History and theories of architecture seem to be chasing a moving target. Despite the continuous efforts to catalog architectural products and to identify conceptual programs that have motivated their designers, built environments—historical and lived-in structures— defy taxonomies of form and challenge simple notions of intentional creativity or problem solving. Questions of what architecture is and what the design process involves produce many divergent, often contradictory, answers. ...

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1. Architecture and Medieval Modalities of Thought

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pp. 1-32

Michel Foucault once asked: “What does it mean, no longer being able to think a certain thought?”1 Such a question directly applies to Byzantine architecture. Its best-preserved examples, such as Hagia Sophia in Istanbul or the Katholikon in the monastery of Hosios Loukas near Delphi, seemingly belong to the traditional canon of the Western history. They are frequently featured in books about architecture of the medieval ages. Yet, in general, ...

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2. Colonization and Symbolic Reality in Mesoamerica

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pp. 33-92

Many contemporary studies of the conquest and colonization of Mesoamerica strangely resemble texts from that period. Both historical and contemporary writings frequently frame cultural and political phenomena in a similar manner—a problem reaching beyond the truthfulness of so-called factual information established in old Spanish records. Old and new documents seem to be grounded in a way of thinking that created the “black” or ...

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3. Structures of Tolerance and Religious Domination

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pp. 93-152

What does it mean to dismiss a building as provincial architecture? Most likely, it implies that it lacks certain features characteristic of so-called high culture, that is, its design is not sufficiently aligned with the stylistic principles of the ideology that dominated that region or nation. Provincial phenomena are usually seen as synonymous with the peripheries of political and intellectual influence. Location alone is not sufficient, however, to discount a ...

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4. Technologies of Thought in Victorian England

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pp. 153-230

Previous chapters have shown that, throughout history, Europeans have made various efforts to control symbolic thought. In the nineteenth century, the desire to merge material and symbolic technologies was still present, but the traditional—reductive and stable— ways of thinking could no longer deal with the dynamism of the emerging structures of sociopolitical relationships and practices of life triggered by the industrial revolution. It was no longer a question of a different system of interpretations; rather, there ...

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5. High Modernism according to Le Corbusier

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pp. 231-257

Throughout most of the twentieth century, Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret) was considered a creative genius instrumental in reshaping the built environments of the modern world. Historians agree that his was the primary contribution to the emerging High Modernism. He is still emblematic of the myth that the total design has redemptive powers. His work is said to mark a turning point in the development of Western architecture, ...

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Closing Remarks: The West

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pp. 258-265

It may be useful to reflect more generally on the Western perspective against which the examples in this book have been analyzed. All material practices studied here revolve around the thinkability of represented concepts and the control of their meanings. Dominant powers have always laid claim to control over the way people know things, but the West seems to have been the most successful in fusing power and knowledge, its primary tool being ...


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pp. 267-310

Illustration Credits

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pp. 311-313

Index [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 315-322

E-ISBN-13: 9780816645732
E-ISBN-10: 0816645736
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816673056

Page Count: 408
Publication Year: 2011