The 'Deep Structure' of Architecture

Constructivity and Human Evolution

by Nold Egenter

A slightly longer version of this text was prepared for and presented on July 27th 1998 at the Section "Architectural Anthropology" at the 14th International Congress of the International Union of the Anthropological and Ethnological Sciences (IUAES) at Williamsburg, Virginia, U.S., July 26 - August 1 1998. In view of its publication, the text was later condensed and shortened to the present form. Note that the overall theme of the congress was "The 21st Century: The Century of Anthropology."


(The initial title was slightly different)

HABITAT ANTHROPOLOGY: A PHENOMENOLOGICAL APPROACH TO CULTURE. Cultural anthropology, as it is practiced today, shows great handicaps in its many contradictory "pluralisms" or in what Mühlmann called "the endless oscillation of contradictory theories" (1948). In general, only few are aware to what extent its disciplinary structure is an evolved Eurocentric projection on other cultures and, furthermore, wo what extent cultural anthropology works with Eurocentric values (e.g. high/ low economy, high/ low art, high/ primitive religion" Such firmly critical positions are the result of recent research into the anthropology of architecture and space. Ethnologically, the focus is on the human habitat in the framework of its structural organisation of space. Space is surveyed in close relation to anthropologically defined built form (Egenter 1982, 1994). Note that the habitat and its material outfit is not classified into conventional disciplines, but described phenomenologically as tectonic material culture (semantic architecture) and the local value system it implies (ontology). Further important is the ethno (pre-) historical outlook (Wernhart 1981). The approach thus works preferentially in "high cultures" (Japan, India etc.) showing urban historical and rural agrarian levels as an interacting system ("stratigraphic method") Very similar sources universally (life-tree/ fetish/ maypole-complex; Egenter 1995) allow us to interpret culture as a sequence (or evolution) of architecturally demarcated, increasingly extended habitat systems with striking continuities ("settlement-core-complex"). The prototype of this core-complex can clearly be demonstrated in the subhuman level (nest building behavior and night camps of higher apes, Egenter 1983, 1997).

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