Essence and Ambiguity: Phenomenological Approaches to Design

By Stephen Wischer.

Published by The Design Collection

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

Our built environment suggests the future of substantial architectural practice depends upon subsequent generations of practitioners becoming concerned with the poetic dimension in the things they create; meaning that is sensual, bound to experience and capable of inspiring wonder. Becoming concerned with the quality of our creations is one of the most necessary factors concerning the survival of the architectural discipline and significant cultural revival. The pedagogical charge of inspiring future architects to create places that instigate life’s action, which inspire meaningful and imaginative engagement, is a formidable task in a world of easily applied abstract methodologies that may reflect an underlying connection between positivism and our own constructed consciousness. Is a ‘doubt’ of our own personal exploration and experiential interpretation, in favor of formulaic ‘certainty’ consistent with Descartes philosophical ponderings? Is this conceptualization directly responsible for the compounding reductionism felt in our approaches to the world? Phenomenological inquiry provides a vital critique of this philosophical inheritance while proposing approaches that can enhance perceptual participation; narrowing the gap between what the mind is trained to think and what is perceptible in design. Inspired directly by Edmund Husserl, Maurice Merleau-Ponty, and Alberto Perez-Gomez this essay seeks to provide an alternative to the reductive tendencies posed by positivism prevalent in many of our current applications.

Keywords: Perception, Poetry, Interpretation, Phenomenology, Continental Philosophy, Symbolism, Qualitative, Reduction

Design Principles and Practices: An International Journal, Volume 2, Issue 3, pp.93-102. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 551.221KB).

Prof. Stephen Wischer

Assistant Professor, Department of Architecture and Landscape Architecture, College of Engineering and Architecture, North Dakota State University, Fargo, North Dakota, USA

My interests have always been focused around the ‘in between’ or potential ‘overlap’ between art and architecture. The particular and interstitial possibilities of architecture inspired by, or revealed through, the impulses, gestures, and interpretations inherent to art. Through these interdisciplinary studies I believe there is potential to explore phenomenological inquiry and the poetic interpretation essential in avoiding the prevailing proto-positivistic reductionism of our constructed consciousness. It has been my goal in my teaching, research, and practice, to seek an ‘origin’ of creative inquiry that exists at a more fundamental starting point than objective thought, one that may provide poetic interpretations capable of inspiring a participation with perception itself. The relationship between the ‘consciousness’ of phenomenology and the ‘unconscious well-spring’ of creativity posed by post-psychoanalytic theory will likely provide fertile explorations in the future. These basic tenets grew out of my undergraduate studies in Fine Art at the University of Alberta, Canada, and my lockstep graduate studies in Art and Architecture at the University of Calgary, Canada. These interests have been continued during my teaching and research at North Dakota State University.


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