ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

Structure and Method - an Introduction

by Nold Egenter


13th International Congress of Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences Mexico City/ Mexico Session >Architectural Anthropology August 4th 1993




Copyright: DOFSBT, Chorgasse 19, CH-8001 Zrich, Switzerland Dec. 1997

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This is a presentation of

ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

in a condensed and programmatic form

It was originally prepared for the Session:

ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY

August 4th 1993

13th IUAES CONGRESS

MEXICO CITY/ MEXICO


Note: This text presents this new field in a broader perspective. The emphasis is on showing how many fields form a theoretical landscape. Consequently, the focus is detached from details, the paper tries to outline the whole. Thoughts are arranged out of context according to actuality within the system. This led to an unusually concise form, but which is positively readable. It mainly questions or gives impulses for thought. It can also be used for seminar discussions on overhead projector. Most of the concepts presented here are already published in detailed form in various books and journals (see bibliography).


The numbers centered in the text represent page numbers of the original overhead projector transparencies which were read and discussed.

This text has first been published in Spanish language by Guadalajara University Press, Mexico (See Amerlinck, Mari-Jos, Hacia una antropologia arquitectonica, 1995, 1997). For details see the file: 'Books on Architectural Anthropology')


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THE RELATIVELY RECENT ORIGINS OF ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH


In the end 60ies various events lead to the breakdown of what had generally and without questions been accepted before: the "theories" and programs of Modernism in architecture and urbanism. These main events were:

Many practicing architects and urban planners began to speak of a theoretical >Crisis of Modernism< and started to postulate research into the basics of architecture and urbanism. The short list on the next page gives a survey of various types of research which developed in response to this trauma.

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ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH


(Since the 60ies' "Architectural Crisis")


All these approaches show lack of scientific understanding: architecture is much wider than what is written about. "Architectural Theory" can not be based mereley on the Euro-Mediterranean history of architecture.


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WHAT IS ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY?













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ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY


Architectural anthropology is the general term for a relatively new, world-wide field of research which includes


The term ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY is consciously conceived in a provocative sense.



METHODOLOGICALLY

Architectural Anthropology operates "infra-disciplinary" beyond Euro-historical disciplinary fields, basing its interpretations on a systematically reconstructed continuum of constructive behaviour, architectural form and passive and active space conceptions which parallels the whole of human and cultural evolution.


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With these new instruments the

ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCHER

BECOMES A COMPETENT CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGIST

who, in warious sudisciplines,

may work on new and interesting hypotheses,

not only in art, religion, social anthropology,

or semiotics and symbol research,

but also in prehistory and archeology,

even in paleo-anthropology and primatology.

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ARCHITECTURE STILL FUNCTIONS LIKE A MYTH


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THE AUTOCRATIC ROLE OF THE ARCHITECT AND THE ART HISTORIAN IN MODERN SOCIETY


This page shows the very backdated structural scheme of the architects' and art historian's role in society.


HEAVEN

THE EARTH



Architecture was prevented from developing a scientific view of its factual objects by the 'post-medieval myth of the profaned Creator Genius. Into our days architecture has preserved this Renaissance myth and its prerequisite: the 'Godlike' artist-art-relation.


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MOST IMPORTANT!


>ENLIGHTENMENT<

has not happened.

The art historian as a "High-Priest"

still sings the hymns of the architect's creations as

"heavenly high" (good)

or

"earthly low" (and bad).

But this is not science!

It is merely evaluation!

Nowbody until now has ever collected all the objects that are and were built by man all over the world. This is, what a professional architectural researcher should realise:



This means that we must know basically all what man builds and what he ever built. We must know basically all what constitutes the newly defined field of architecture.


Note that architecture here is defined as "all what ever was and is built my man and his immediate evolutionary predecessors.


It has to be noted here that these claims for a systematic knowledge of architecture were written in 1993. Recently Paul Oliver's "Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World" has positively filled the former lack of data in regard to the non-urban "domestic" type of world architecture ('ethnology of architecture'!).


Paul Oliver's Encyclopedia of >architectural ethnology< of the world is a tremendous progress in architectural knowledge. Within roughly one decade only it managed to document the whole non-urban architectural traditions of the world, systematically and fairly completely. In its three volumes of totally 2500 pages it impressively shows


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FOUR CLASSES OF ARCHITECTURE

- A new definition of the field of architectural research -


The field of objects included in the term "architecture" is defined in new, anthropological ways, as "all which is and was built universally by man and his immediate biological relatives". Objective source materials suggest basically four classes:

Within the human sector this classification is basically not meant in a diachronic sense. It reflects available sources. In a secondary procedure these classes are systematically analysed, e.g. in regard to durability of the materials used. Or they are studied with regard to particular classes of material or, further, in terms of specific functions or forms. In this latter context the semantic class develops an enormous richness. Phaseological relations can only be clarified from these secondary categories. In general, systematic reconstruction of a continuum should be striven for, one which depicts a constructive process of hominisation.

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ARCHITECTURAL RESEARCH BECOMES SCIENTIFIC!


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