From: Christopher Tweed
To: Nold Egenter
Date: Sun, 26 Apr 1998 17:34:37 +0000
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>Dear Professor Egenter
>Thank you for sending me your book review.  I am glad to see you are still very 
>active in scholarship and research.  I would very much like to see a copy of the 
>finished paper you mention on the phenomenological approach to culture as my 
>interests lie firmly in that direction.

> >I am currently trying to reconcile the many viewpoints I have encountered in >recent reading. The fundamental problem, for me, is to what extent the work >of Husserl, or phenomenology in general, can be relied on today to provide >insights into architectural experience. Husserl has come in for so much >criticism that I feel I have to at least familiarise myself with arguments >directed against his 'foundational' phenomenology, not least from Heidegger's >writings. I am no philosopher and so I can not pretend to follow the more subtle >arguments regarding transcendentalism, but I have a yearning to develop an >understanding which can defend phenomenological methods from its many >current detractors. The most exciting ideas I have come across recently are >contained in Anthony Steinbock's book, "Home and Beyond: generative >phenomenology after Husserl" which contains many anthropological themes, but >which are insufficiently 'fleshed out' to provide a ready-to-use method.

> >Since I am also involved with computers in architecture, I have tended to apply >phenomenological thinking to studies of the impact of computers on design, e.g. >by tracing what is lost in the move from paper to screen, and from imagination >to photorealistic rendering. A major influence has been Don Ihde, whose >phenomenological approach has inspired me to delve deeper into Merleau-Ponty, >Ihde himself, and his colleague at SUNY, Edward Casey. I have recently >submitted a research fellowship application to study the possible impact of >advanced telecommunications on existing ideas of 'home.' I expect Wilson's >book may be very useful in this respect. > >Apologies for rambling, but I would appreciate a copy of your paper when it is >finished. > >Thanks > >Chris > >------------------------------- >Dr Christopher Tweed >Department of Architecture >The Queen's University of Belfast >2 Lennoxvale >Belfast BT9 5BY > >Tel. +44 1232 274522 >Fax +44 1232 682475 >Email >-------------------------------

To: Christopher Tweed
From:: (Nold Egenter)
Date: 28.4.1998, 1:36

Dear colleague,

thank you for your friendly letter. Yes I am still "building". And Wilson's book is a very good outline of my own intentions. If nothing goes wrong I will put the paper into our website in May or June which will be announced.

I can understand your problems with phenomenology. Do you know the following book: David Seamon and Rober Mugerauer: "Dwelling, Place and Environment" (1985)? Mugerauer is philosopher and phenomenologist (Heidegger). The book presents the papers of a symposium with the title "Phenomenologies of Place and Environment." The contributions are grouped into 4 parts with particular topics (Beginning and directions, Environment and place, Place and dwelling, Discovering wholes). Common topics are 'seeing and saying', 'person-environment relationsship', and 'harmony', an interesting discursive grid with interesting contributions, e.g. "The dwelling door: Towards a phenomenology of transition (R. Lang), or "Body, house and city: The intertwinings of embodiment, inhabitation and civilisation" (B. Jager). The whole gives a good impression of the potential of the phenomenological method (including problematic aspects). Another book which dominantly uses phenomenology, discusses place in the framework of various approaches: R. Mugerauer: Interpretations on Behalf of Place (1994).

I myself have a more systematical approach and am basically following O. F. Bollnow's phenomenological method related to space. On one hand Bollnow is clearly in the tradition of Husserl and Heidegger. But, Bollnow made an enormous step within the phenomenological school. In my opinion, Husserl, and to some extent also Heidegger, were still strongly involved in conventional logics as a method and as thematical focus (Husserl against prevalent psychologisms around the turning period of the 19th and 20th century). Like Husserl and Heidegger, Bollnow is strongly related to language, particularly German, its literature and its etymologies, but he brings in three new *systematic parameters*, thus transcending the phenomenological method: 1) evolution of space per/conception, 2) human space is not void, but is intimately interwoven with the empirically objective (domesticated/ nondomesticated environment) and 3) the topic 'man and space' transcends Eurocentric logics, it is a cross-cultural, an anthropological question.

These three "monumental" insights provided by Bollnow question conventional humanities fundamentally in some respects and allow new reconstructions of evolutionary processes of culture related to architecture and habitat in the anthropological framework. Point 1) questions the humanities fundamentally in regard to (spatial) retroprojections. Point 2) supports a new definition of architecture (-> "subhuman architecture"; "semantic architecture") and thus favours the anthropological approach suggested in 3).

The empirical paradigm has another important "philosophical" aspect. It implies an infra-logical element of cognition: categories. Bollnow has suggested this clearly with the organisation of his whole book into polarly contradictive units. Bollnow's phenomenology of space thus unveils an immanent order of human space. It is structured into contradictive categories which form unities. This can be taken as a full fledged cognitive system which could not be discovered by conventional logical or analytical reasoning, because it was/is absolutely incompatible to analytical logics (-> disaster scenario in our website). That this immanent spatial order carries whole world-views, high valued ontologies, along its axially polar structures was clearly shown by Mircea Eliade (axis mundi relating heaven and earth) for evolved historical societies. Bollnow may provide the phenomenological concept to interprete Eliade anthropologically. Research into the human settlement or habitat gains central importance.

In this sense I understand "phenomenology" definitely in Bollnow's sense (see report on Bollnow's book "Man and space"). Paired with its empirical component it can
1) research material culture objectively and scientifically exact, or architecture (in the sense of zoon!) or settlement-patterns,
2) reflect on each 'object' "phenomenologically" in the widest cultural context, and
3) reconstruct culture in new ways, as, for instance, described by P. Wilson in his book: as an "architectural [and spatial] revolution".


Nold Egenter

P.S. I would, however, not really consider Wilson as a "phenomenologist". He uses the conventional discursive method related to defined topics. He does not deal with his 'objects' in the framework of phenomenological reflections. His factual understandings of a house are rather literary.

P.S. Reading once more the end of your letter I think you might be interested in my paper: it explains architecture globally (low and high) with two basic architecturo-spatial patterns: 'access-place scheme' and 'vertical polarity scheme'.

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