We cannot verify your location
Browse Book and Journal Content on Project MUSE

Architecture's Historical Turn

Phenomenology and the Rise of the Postmodern

Jorge Otero-Pailos

Publication Year: 2010

Architecture’s Historical Turn traces the hidden history of architectural phenomenology, a movement that reflected a key turning point in the early phases of postmodernism and a legitimating source for those architects who first dared to confront history as an intellectual problem and not merely as a stylistic question.
Jorge Otero-Pailos shows how architectural phenomenology radically transformed how architects engaged, theorized, and produced history. In the first critical intellectual account of the movement, Otero-Pailos discusses the contributions of leading members, including Jean Labatut, Charles Moore, Christian Norberg-Schulz, and Kenneth Frampton. For architects maturing after World War II, Otero-Pailos contends, architectural history was a problem rather than a given. Paradoxically, their awareness of modernism’s historicity led some of them to search for an ahistorical experiential constant that might underpin all architectural expression. They drew from phenomenology, exploring the work of Bachelard, Merleau-Ponty, Heidegger, and Ricoeur, which they translated for architectural audiences. Initially, the concept that experience could be a timeless architectural language provided a unifying intellectual basis for the stylistic pluralism that characterized postmodernism. It helped give theory—especially the theory of architectural history—a new importance over practice. However, as Otero-Pailos makes clear, architectural phenomenologists could not accept the idea of theory as an end in itself. In the mid-1980s they were caught in the contradictory and untenable position of having to formulate their own demotion of theory.
Otero-Pailos reveals how, ultimately, the rise of architectural phenomenology played a crucial double role in the rise of postmodernism, creating the antimodern specter of a historical consciousness and offering the modern notion of essential experience as the means to defeat it.

Published by: University of Minnesota Press

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

pdf iconDownload PDF (62.7 KB)
pp. 2-7


pdf iconDownload PDF (57.3 KB)
pp. vii-viii

read more


pdf iconDownload PDF (42.3 KB)
pp. ix-x

When I entered Cornell University’s undergraduate architecture program in the 1980s, an older student handed my classmates and me a copy of Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Genius Loci and told us to read it if we wanted to get through school. I naively followed her advice and continued to read about architectural phenomenology for years. ...

read more

Introduction: Architectural Intellectuality at the Dawn of Postmodernism

pdf iconDownload PDF (126.5 KB)
pp. xi-xxxiv

By the early 1960s, a young postwar generation of architects had seized the idea that architecture should participate in the liberation of human experience from the constraints of the social status quo. Raised during the ascendancy of postwar modernism in the West, they viewed its austere institutionalized aesthetics as the emblem of an oppressive and closed social order. ...

read more

1. A Polygraph of Architectural Phenomenology:

pdf iconDownload PDF (131.5 KB)
pp. 1-24

The nature of architectural phenomenology makes it challenging to historicize. That it presented itself as a new way of doing architectural history requires that one contend with its historiographical conventions without succumbing to them. ...

read more

2. Eucharistic Architecture: Jean Labatut and the Search for Pure Sensation

pdf iconDownload PDF (6.1 MB)
pp. 25-99

In 1973, the University of Virginia awarded the prestigious Thomas Jefferson Memorial Foundation Medal to Jean Labatut for his lifetime contribution to the advancement of architecture.1 Previous recipients included Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (1966), Alvar Aalto (1967), Marcel Breuer (1968), John Ely Burchard (1969), Kenzo Tange (1970), ...

read more

3. LSDesign: Charles W. Moore and the Delirious Interior

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 100-145

In December 1979, Progressive Architecture asked American architects to nominate the most influential architects from among their peers. Charles Moore (1925–1993) made the top ten. He also came in first in terms of number of pages devoted to a single architect by the magazine. ...

read more

4. Photo[historio]graphy: Christian Norberg-Schulz’s Demotion of Textual History

pdf iconDownload PDF (2.5 MB)
pp. 146-182

Christian Norberg-Schulz was one of the most influential architecture theorists of the 1960s and 1970s. He was a key interpreter of phenomenology in general and of Martin Heidegger in particular for architectural audiences. His popular definition of architecture as a meaningful expression of the genius loci, or the spirit of place, ...

read more

5. Surplus Experience: Kenneth Frampton and the Subterfuges of Bourgeois Taste

pdf iconDownload PDF (3.9 MB)
pp. 183-250

For Kenneth Frampton, making buildings where people could pursue aesthetic experiences was an ethical commitment dependent on, and appropriate to, progressive social politics. However, despite Frampton’s enormous influence in architectural culture around the world, the experiential core of his theory of critical regionalism remains unexamined. ...

read more

Epilogue: After Architectural Phenomenology

pdf iconDownload PDF (84.6 KB)
pp. 251-262

Architectural phenomenology radically transformed architectural historiography, expanding traditional theories of history beyond mere writing conventions to include a more ambiguous experiential intellectual realm expressed through photography, graphic design, camouflage studies, and in short, a wealth of visual techniques imported from architectural practice. ...


pdf iconDownload PDF (216.1 KB)
pp. 263-298


pdf iconDownload PDF (784.8 KB)
pp. 299-310

About the Author

pdf iconDownload PDF (32.3 KB)
p. 347-347


pdf iconDownload PDF (2.7 MB)
pp. 348-359

E-ISBN-13: 9780816673629
E-ISBN-10: 0816673624
Print-ISBN-13: 9780816666041

Page Count: 320
Publication Year: 2010