Volume one of the Research Series (Egenter 1992) - subtitle: "The Present Relevance
of the Primitive in Architecture" - presents an essay focussing essentially on
a sequence of relevant theoretical approaches (Soeder, Rykwert, Read, Andrae, Yerkes)
thus discussing the basic concept. Another part of the same book - more methodologically
oriented - described the four main classes of "subhuman", "semantic", "domestic"
and "sedentary" architecture indicating a phaseological or evolutionary sequence
of anthropologically relevant architectural types (Egenter 1992). Semantic architecture,
the most important class, is theoretically introduced and ethnographically documented
in "Semantic and Symbolic Architecture" (Egenter 1994b, 1998a), similarly in an
earlier concise monograph with the title "Sacred Seats of Reed and Bamboo" (Egenter 1982).
The methodological structure of this new type of architectural research and its
wider cross cultural implications is described in 'Hacia una antropologia arquitectonica' edited in Spanish by Mari-Jose Amerlinck (1995, 1998*). Aspects related to prehistory
are outlined in a study on rock art published in Semiotica (1994a). A detailed survey
of nest building behaviour related to Joseph Rykwerts 'On Adams House' can be found in the Vienna design journal 'Umriss' (Egenter 1982, 1998*).
The asterix following year-indicators in bibliographical references hints to the file
"Research Series Online" in the web site of our 'Documentation Office for Fundamental
Studies in Building Theory' (DOFSBT). The URL is: http://home.worldcom.ch/~negenter
The term 'fibro-constructive industry' (or technology) is a very important term in
the framework of anthropology of architecture and habitat. It implies a new category
of material [proto-] culture in the archaeological periodisation scheme with a temporal
depth of at least 15 million of years ago (nest building behaviour of the Miocene
apes) and a striking continuity into the material culture of modern traditional societies.
Archaeologically it can be shown with various types of durable sources (rock art,
tectiformes, plant ornament, early script, 'life trees', architectural forms [columns],
There is a clearly recorded case of a gorilla settlement (Izawa/Itani 1966, Egenter
1983, 1998*). This supports our suggestion of a primary sedentary element, the assumption
of spatial organisation defined by fibro-constructive demarcations. The nests of
the group form a night camp of distinct spatial organisation (value centrality and
The term 'topo-semantic' is introduced by the anthropology of habitat and architecture.
It characterises the basic function of place markers (semantic architecture) within
habitats. Topo-semantic systems are considered as a primary non-verbal type of communication.
Note that this method is fairly contradictory to the one used by Amos Rapoport. In
his 'Built Form and Culture' (1969) he takes the house basically as a unit which
is supposed to develop differently under different culturo-geographical conditions
(three factors). Evidently this remains very vague and highly schematic. It does not help
us to really understand house form. Rapoport neglects the ritualistic component which
he attributes in the conventional sense to religion and thus to the socio-cultural
factor. He is not aware of the architectural aspects of ritual demarcations. The best
example is his article on the Australian aborigines (Rapoport 1975). He mentions
that they seemed to have no huts, hints to the fact that they had imported foreign
types of primitive structures into their culture relatively recently. Surprisingly, Rapoport
very clearly describes the ritualistic spatial arrangement, but was not aware of
the potential that this arrangement of signs and symbols represents a primary type
of pre-domestic topo-semantic architecture. The aborigines described by Rapoport would
thus show a pre-domestic type of dwelling. The example also indicates the theoretical
problems of the pragmatic approach. Its definitions risk to be questioned from a
wider anthropologically defined field of observation (Egenter 1992). The absence of
the ritualistic factor related to vernacular architecture is also one of the essential
handicaps of the Encyclopaedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World edited by
Paul Oliver. It isolates house form from a primary topo-semantic demarcation system which
created its traditional plan and its aesthetic conditions. Consequently, the house
risks being explained with highly questionable modern functional projections.
Note that this adaption is not an easy task. It implies competence in many different
disciplines, subdisciplines and special fields.
For instance: the anthropological definition of material culture as suggested in
this paper might lead to new methods in 'post-processual' archaeology (Hodder 1992).
Spatial and symbolic codes to interpret architectural sites (house, settlement,
rites and cults) could be reconstructed in the uppermost and vital stratums of ethnology
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