Architectural Ethics: A Phenomenological Perspective
Many voices indicate that the moral mission of architecture has been in decline for the last few decades. Numerous theorists have been promoting a vision of architecture as an intellectualized, abstract exploration of form. Others suggest that architecture should investigate intelligence, projection, and innovation, following the market dynamics and seemingly staying away from a fruitless social critique. In both the aesthetic and the pragmatist approach, architects tend to see architecture as an autonomous discipline, reducing its dependency on external conditions – such as social, cultural, and political factors. Accordingly, the gap between architecture and the world of its users expands. Is there a way out of these difficulties? Ethics indubitably needs a more prominent place within architectural discourse.
This chapter addresses architectural ethics from a phenomenological perspective, referring primarily to the works of Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer. It argues that phenomenology – allowing for and demanding a non-reductionist account of the human environment – provides viable foundations for ethical discourse in architecture.
The article begins with a brief introduction to phenomenology, and then concentrates on two themes. Firstly, it discusses architecture as a part of the lifeworld and argues for the importance of context in architectural design. Secondly, it theorizes architectural ethics within the phenomenological concept of practice. The way of defining practice and specifying its priorities very much determines the way of approaching ethical issues within any given conceptual framework. The chapter concludes with an example of architectural practice (the Rural Studio) that reflects phenomenological ideas.
KeywordsPractical Wisdom Ethical Reflection Human World Practical Science Hermeneutic Phenomenology
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