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 ZŸrich, Switzerland Dec. 1997
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This is a presentation of
in a condensed and programmatic form
It was originally prepared for the Session:
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-JosŽ, 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.
- Deterioration of American cities (Jane Jacobs: Death and Life of American Cities)
- Failure of postwar-reconstruction of German cities based on principles of Modernism (Alexander Mitscherlich: the Inhospitality of the Modern City)
- Charles Jencks related the end of Modernism and the beginning of Post-Modernism in Architecture and urbanism with the blast of a hardly 20 years old ten storied residential area (Pruitt-Igoe) in St. Louis, USA
(Since the 60ies' "Architectural Crisis")
- CHRISTIAN NORBERG-SCHULZ
(Architecture, Space, Existence)
Based on psychology of space, European cultural history of space conceptions, European history of architecture
- very important impulses -
- ROBERT VENTURI'S NEO-BAROQUE REACTION AGAINST MODERNISTIC FUNCIONTALISM AND RATIONALISM
(Complexity and diversity)
Interesting terms, but poorly founded methodologically (stylistically reactionary).
- Effects on architecture disastrous: deconstructivism -
- JENCK'S POSTMODERNISM
Theories based on semantics: collage of historical citations
- Superficial facade-design: symmetries, triangles etc. (see also Rossi's typologies)
- THE ART HISTORIAN'S "ARCHITECTURAL THEORY": FUNDAMENTALISM
(Kruft and Germann: history of Architectural Theory)
Regress on Vitruvianism. Heterogeneous materials considered as "Architectural Theory",
- No scientific understanding for theory -
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.
- AMOS RAPOPORT: BUILT FORM AND CULTURE RESEARCH
Amos Rapoport's book >Built Form and Culture< opened new horizons: views on the ethnology and anthropology of architecture. Since 1969 world-wide networks and associations of architectural research (Berkeley: >Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Research<, since 1988).
- We place ourselves into this latter group. It implies a new definition of architecture.
WHAT IS ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY?
Architectural anthropology is the general term for a relatively new, world-wide field of research which includes
- ARCHITECTURAL ETHNOLOGY
(approx. 2000 researchers world-wide)
- ARCHITECTURAL HISTORY
(including non-European high cultures like China, Japan, India, etc.),
- ARCHITECTURAL PREHISTORY
- ARCHITECTURAL PRIMATOLOGY.
The term ARCHITECTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY is consciously conceived in a provocative sense.
- First it demasks conventional "architectural theories" as non-scientific pseudo-theories based on subjective esthetic evaluation.
- And, second, it questions conventional disciplines of cultural anthropology
- as using a very vaguely defined basic term (culture, see below),
- as being fixed to the historical method ("scholastic handicap of the humanities"), and
- as having neglected consideration of one of the most important basic categories: space concpetions, and further, also constructive behaviour, dwellings and settlements in regard to existential conditions of man.
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.
With these new instruments the
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
- THE CONVENTIONAL CLASSIFICATION OF ARCHITECTURE AS ART IMPLIES MERELY VALUE-JUDGEMENTS (GOOD/BAD ARCHITECTURE). THE SCIENTIFIC DEFINITION OF ARCHITECTURE IS BLOCKED.
- THUS ARCHITECTURE HAS NOT DEVELOPED SCIENCE FOR OBJECTS OF ITS OWN PRODUCTION
- CONSEQUENTLY, ON OUR MODERN GLOBAL MAP OF KNOWLEDGE ARCHITECTURE WIDELY REMAINED A WHITE 'INCOGNITO'-SURFACE
- NOTE THAT THIS HAS CHANGED POSITIVELY RECENTLY WITH PAUL OLIVER'S ENCYCLOPEDIA OF VERNACULAR ARCHITECTURE OF THE WORLD
- THE WAY ARCHITECTURE IS CONCEIVED AND PRACTICED TODAY IS WIDELY STILL BASED ON MYTH
(POST-MEDIEVAL MYTH OF PROFANED CREATOR GENIUS)
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.
The relation >Artist-Creating-Creation> is the dominant perspective
- The art historian's description is based on aesthetics and style (related to "Zeitgeist"), thus ever changing.
- The art critique's description is not scientific, it is merely evaluation supported by subjective "gusto".
- Man as the real dweller is only secondary involved in this pattern.
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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In the case of God's creation (1): Science came in, hundreds of years ago, and questioned "creation" at its bottom end. Scientists started to collect plants, described animals all over the world. Consequently, modern man has a quite different concept about life and its history than medieval man, who at that time believed the written "story of creation".
- But in the field of architecture this
has not happened.
The art historian as a "High-Priest"
still sings the hymns of the architect's creations as
"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:
the way we define things, influcences the way we design and organise things
- Consequently, it is the basic task of architectural anthropology to gain a scientifically clear idea about the complex relation between man and building.
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.
- The term architecture in relation to 'architecturology' or 'architectural anthropology' now resembles "zoon" and "zoology".
- Like the elephant and monocellular animals dwelling in the same "empire" of zoology, the apes nest finds itself as "subhuman architecture" in the circle of scientific architectural research.
- Like in the case of a monocellular animal and the elephant, the apes nest is now scientifically comparable to 'high' architecture. We can compare for instance the behavior that created the World Trade Centre in New York with the nestbuilding behavior of the higher apes.
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
- what the art historian's dictatorship in architectural theory had to suppress to keep his pseudo-theoretical 'architectural theories' alive.
- Note also that this architecture was not built for kings and gods, but for people: man is deeply involved.
- To those who are looking for 'sustainable' ideas of architecture Paul Oliver's 'Encyclopedia of Vernacular Architecture of the World' is a huge treasurebox. This architecture was not outdated after 10, 20 years with ever changing 'Zeitgeist'. It lasted often for thousands of years!
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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:
- Sedentary architecture: higher, specifically conceived unit, combining several semantic and or domestic elements.
- Domestic architecture: structures which provide internal space and protection
- Semantic architecture: non domestic structures with the function of territorial, social and symbolic signs
- Subhuman architecture: nestbuilding behavior of the Great Apes
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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