You are on page 1of 13


Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture

i. before and after kant Architecture does not loom large in Kants aesthetics, nor has Kants thought about architecture, such as it is, loomed large in the history of thought about architecture. But there is a profound difference in the philosophy of architectureby which I mean here views about architecture in the writings of canonical figures in the history of philosophy and philosophical aesthetics, not the broader body of professional writing that might go under the name of architectural theorybefore and after Kant.1 Given the indisputable influence of Kants aesthetics on the next epoch of the discipline, above all the aesthetics of German idealism in the forty years following the publication of Kants Critique of the Power of Judgment in 1790, it thus seems natural to look for the shift in philosophical thinking about architecture within Kants aesthetics. The shift is there to be found. The shift I have in mind is from an essentially Vitruvian conception of architecture, according to which its two chief goals are beauty and utility, to a cognitivist or expressivist conception of architecture, in which, like other forms of fine art, architecture is thought of as expressing and communicating abstract ideas, not just aiming for beauty and utility. The decisive factor in this turn, I would suggest, is Kants thesis that all art involves the expression of aesthetic ideas, that is, the expression of rational ideas in a form that yields inexhaustible material for the play of the imagination. But I will also argue that the range of forms that this general thought can take in the philosophy of architecture, from the thought that a work of architecture should express and communicate its own function to the thought that it should express the nature of its structure and of the physical forces that under-

lie that to the thought that a work of architecture should give expression to more abstract, metaphysical ideas, can be seen as a consequence of, or at least allowed by, Kants own loose specification of just what sort of intellectual content aesthetic ideas have. To the extent that the philosophy of architecture might be thought to have had any influence on architectural theory, Kant might then be seen as responsible not only for the idea that architecture should express ideas but also for the competing views about what ideas architecture should express. Of course, as Hegel famously said, the owl of Minerva flies only at dusk, that is, philosophical analysis often follows changes in cultural or scientific practice rather than producing them, and expressivist developments in architectural practice and theory may have preceded rather than succeeded the Kantian and post-Kantian shift to an expressivist philosophy of architecture think of the executed and unrealized but pub and Claudelished work of Etienne-Louis Boullee Nicolas Ledoux from the 1770s, for example.2 But even if the Kantian shift in the philosophy of architecture did not cause a shift in architecture proper, it can at least be thought not to have closed off, but to have left open, competing conceptions of the intellectual ambitions and imperatives of architecture in architectural practice and theory. I will only briefly characterize the radically divergent tone of philosophies of architecture prior to and after Kant before I give my account of Kants own incidental yet influential thought about architecture. Philosophical thought about architecture before Kant, I asserted, was dominated by the Vitruvian paradigm. The Ten Books on Architecture of Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, thought to have been written between 33 and

c 2011 The American Society for Aesthetics

8 14 BCE, are primarily a manual on the siting, design, and construction of public buildings of various types, from breakwaters and city walls to temples and theaters, private villas, and construction machinery, and devote only a few introductory lines to what we might think of as philosophical and aesthetic theories of architecture.3 In Book I, Chapter II, under the heading The Fundamental Principles of Architecture, Vitruvius states that architecture depends on ordinatio, dispositio, eurythmia, symmetria, decor, and distributio or oeceonomia, or (in the early twentieth-century translation of M. H. Morgan) Order, Arrangement, Eurythmy, Symmetry, Propriety, and Economy.4 In Book I, Chapter III, Vitruvius states that all types of building must be constructed with due reference to firmitas, utilitas, and venustas, or durability, convenience, and beauty.5 The relations between these two lists and the terms within them may be understood the following way. Firmitas or durability is not an aesthetic quality or merit, but a physical and historical quality of a building and its other properties: it is what allows a building with its utilitas or convenience and venustas or beauty to endure and be enjoyed over time. So it is not a value in its own right but rather an instrumental condition for the continued enjoyment of the intrinsic values of a building, convenience and beauty. Similarly, on the first list, economy is not so much an independent virtue of buildings but rather the requirement to realize them and their other virtues as efficiently as possible, that is, as cheaply as possible relative to the requisite durability of the structure: Economy denotes the proper management of materials and of site, as well as a thrifty balancing of cost and common sense in the construction of works.6 Order, arrangement, eurythmy, symmetry, and propriety are then left to realize the two more general goals of utility and beauty. More particularly, order, eurythmy, and symmetry all concern perceptible proportions among the shape, size, and number of the members of a building, features of its form that contribute to its beauty; arrangement concerns the layout or groundplan of the building, which contributes to its utility as well as to its beauty, and also the elevation of the building, which might be thought to contribute more to its beauty than to its convenience.7 And propriety concerns, to some extent, observation of traditional and therefore beloved patterns for construction (use of the orders of columns and entablature, for example),

The Aesthetics of Architecture but, more importantly, the proper design of the building for its intended function, such as the location of sacred precincts in very healthy neighbourhoods with suitable springs of water and the proper locations of bedrooms, libraries, baths, and picture galleries relative to sunlight.8 Thus, order, eurythmy, and symmetry contribute primarily to beauty, while arrangement and propriety contribute somewhat to beauty but more so to utility. The two basic values in architecture remain utility and beauty. This Vitruvian emphasis on utility and beauty as the two fundamental values of architecture remained prevalent in eighteenth-century philosophy of architecture prior to Kant. For illustration, I choose two authors who not only express this point with particular clarity but also who enjoyed enormous popularity and influence in their own times and places precisely because they gave such clear voice to widely held assumptions. I refer to Christian Freiherr von Wolff in Germany and Henry Home, Lord Kames, in Britain, Wolff being the chief voice of the German Enlightenment until he was dethroned by Kant and Kames being the chief voice of the Scottish Enlightenment. Wolff (16791754) wrote an enormous series of textbooks, beginning with logic and metaphysics and then covering every known field of theoretical and practical philosophy, first in German and then, to reach a wider audience, and at even greater length, in Latin. In his Vernunftige Gedancken uber Gott, der Welt, und der Seele des Menschen (Rational Thoughts on God, the World, and the Soul of Man), or German Metaphysics, first published in 1719, he used architectural examples to illustrate his central conception of perfection, which he analyzed as the concordance of the parts of any object or action for the realization of its goal. But Wolff does not just manifest the Vitruvian paradigm in his use of architectural examples in his metaphysics; he also devoted an entire treatise to architecture in his four-volume encyclopedia of mathematics, which appeared both in German and in Latin. Here, Wolff begins his treatise on the Principles of Architecture with the claim that architecture is a science for constructing a building so that it is in complete correspondence with the intentions of the architect.9 This locates the harmony or agreement in which perfection always consists in the relation between the intentions of the architect and the building that results from his or her plans and supervision. However, as he

Guyer Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture proceeds, Wolff makes it clear that the intention of an architect is always to produce a structure that is both formally beautiful as well as useful and comfortable, so the perfection of the intention can only be realized through the perfection of both form and utility in the building itself. Thus, Wolff argues on the one hand that [a] building is space that is enclosed by art in order that certain functions can proceed there securely and unhindered, and that [a] building is comfortable if all necessary functions can proceed within it without hindrance and vexation.10 These definitions form the basis for a requirement of perfection in the utility of a building. On the other hand, however, Wolff also introduces his standard definition of beauty, namely, that [b]eauty is perfection or the necessary appearance thereof, insofar as the former or the latter is perceived, and causes a pleasure in us, and then asserts that [a] building must be constructed beautifully and decoratively.11 This is the basis for the requirement of formal rather than utilitarian perfection in a building. Through the remainder of the treatise, both conceptions of perfection are at work. Thus, Wolff argues that the parts of buildings should exemplify certain proportions simply because they are pleasing to the eye, and he gives a lengthy analysis of the proportions of the five canonical orders of columns that is based throughout on the assumption that certain proportions simply appear more harmonious to us than othersthis is indeed the rationale for Wolffs inclusion of this treatise in his mathematical compendium.12 But Wolff gives equal time to considerations of utility, beginning with a (Vitruvian) discussion of the correct use of building materials, continuing through discussions of structural matters, such as that lower stories of columns must be heavier than higher ones because they carry more weight and that the pitch of roofs must be determined by balancing the need to shed rain and snow (which points toward a steeper pitch) with the weight of the roof itself (which would argue for less pitch), and concluding with discussions of such matters as (once again) the proper sizing of windows for both illumination and the human pleasure of looking out on the passing scene, the location of staircases for proper circulation, and the construction of privies with proper ventilation and seats that can remain clean. Our overall pleasure in a building, in other words, depends on both its beauty and utility.

9 We find exactly the same assumption in the comments on architecture in the Elements of Criticism published by the Scottish jurist and man of letters Henry Home, Lord Kames, in 1761. Kames, a cousin of David Hume whose lordship came from his seat on the highest court of Scotland, published numerous works of jurisprudence and history, but his Elements of Criticism was one of the most widely read works of the Scottish Enlightenment and was certainly the mostly widely read work of the Scottish school of aesthetics until well into the nineteenth century. The general premise of Kamess work is that we enjoy the unhindered motion of the mind along what he calls ideas in a train, and that beauty and other aesthetic qualities facilitate such motion in one way or another; this idea may be regarded as one of the forerunners of Kants conception of our pleasure in beauty as due to the free play of imagination and understanding. But Kames does not make any explicit use of this thesis in his chapter on Gardening and Architecture, which is the penultimate chapter of the lengthy Elements; by this point in the book, he must assume that the reader understands what beauty is. Instead, his point is that gardens and buildings, and their various components, may be destined for use solely, for beauty solely, or for both, thus that buildings in particular may be distinguished into three kinds, namely, what are intended for utility solely, what for ornament solely, and what for both.13 Thus, Kames does not suggest that each work of architecture must possess both utility and beauty, but he does suggest that these two are the sole merits of architecture. He also suggests that it is typically easy to design works that are intended to be either merely useful or merely beautiful, and that [t]he great difficulty of contrivance, respects buildings that are intended to be beautiful as well as ornamental.14 The greater part of his discussion thus concerns how these two goals are to be conjointly realized in the same objects. Like Wolff, he begins his illustration of this point with windows, doors, and stairs, mentioning how various aspects of them are determined by utilitysince human beings are all pretty much the same size, for example, whether in a large building or a small building, [t]he steps of a stair ought to be accommodated to the human figure, without regarding any other proportionbut yet considerations of utility must also be combined with the requirements of freedomfor example, while

10 [t]he height of a room exceeding nine or ten feet, has little or no relation to utility, considerations of proportion, that is, beauty, will often require a greater height than that, indeed proportion is the only rule for determining a greater height.15 A great hall with a low ceiling would just appear mean and ugly even if it was as useful as one with a higher ceiling.16 Indeed, Kames does acknowledge that architecture can strive for grandeur as well as utilityOf all the emotions that can be raised by architecture, grandeur is that which has the greatest influence on the mind; and it ought therefore to be the chief study of the artist, to raise this emotion in great buildings destined to please the eyeand for Kames, grandeur is a different property from beauty.17 But like beauty, as Kamess words indicate, grandeur is destined to please the eye, and so it can be regarded as a purely aesthetic property distinct from utility. The point remains that for Kames the most complex works of architecture aim to combine utility on the one hand with more purely aesthetic properties such as beauty and grandeur on the other. One point on which Kames seems to go beyond both Vitruvius and Wolff and to point toward post-Kantian philosophies of architecture is his statement [t]hat every building ought to have an expression corresponding to its destination: A palace ought to be sumptuous and grand; a private dwelling, neat and modest; a play-house, gay and splendid; and a monument, gloomy and melancholy. . . . A Christian church . . . ought . . . to be decent and plain, without much ornament . . . because the congregation, during worship, ought to be humble, and disengaged from the world.18 Here it might seem as if Kames is supposing that buildings ought to express ideas or moods independently of both their utility and their beauty. But even though he uses the term expression, which might be taken to imply such a conclusion, his point is rather that buildings must encourage certain moods in order properly to serve their functions, in other words, for the sake of utility in a broad sense. Thus, he introduces the comments just quoted with these sentences:
Regularity and proportion are essential in buildings destined chiefly or solely to please the eye, because they produce intrinsic beauty. But a skilful artist will not confine his view to regularity and proportion; he will also study congruity, which is perceived when the form and ornaments of a structure are suited to the purpose for

The Aesthetics of Architecture

which it is intended. The sense of congruity dictates the following rule, That every building have an expression corresponding to its destination.19

In other words, having both structure and ornament that will produce a certain emotion or mood in its inhabitants or visitors is part of what is necessary for the utility of a buildinga church that does not promote the feeling of humbleness is just not serving its intended purpose very well. Thus, in spite of recognizing the emotional aspect of the experience of architecture, Kames remains well within the Vitruvian paradigm that utility and beauty are its two goals. How different things look a few decades later, after Kant. Let us look at the views expressed about architecture by the three leading aestheticians of post-Kantian German idealism, namely, F. W. J. Schelling, Arthur Schopenhauer, and G. W. F. Hegel. In his System of Transcendental Philosophy (1800), Schelling famously described art (in general) as the universal organ of philosophy, more truthful than philosophy itself, because it is the product and expression of the identity of the conscious and the unconscious in the self, and consciousness of this identity.20 Two years later, in the winter semester of 18021803, Schelling gave a set of lectures on the philoso phy of art at Jena, which he repeated in Wurzburg in 18041805; these were only published posthumously in 1859, but they were widely enough reported to have been influential long before that.21 In these lectures, Schelling replaced his earlier contrast between the conscious and the unconscious with a contrast between the real and the ideal, roughly the material and the mental, and argued that both philosophy and art each combine both, though with an emphasis on the mental in philosophy and the material in art, although art is never merely material but uses the material to bring out the mental nature of reality. The arts differ in how real or material they are, with literature obviously being the least dependent on the material media in which it is recorded and communicated and architecture, needless to say, being intimately involved with and dependent upon the material realm. But in order to count as an art at all, architecture must de-emphasize its own materiality and emphasize the ideal, or intellectual content. Schelling puts this point by radically departing from the Vitruvian paradigm: instead of combining utility and beauty, architecture must

Guyer Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture demote utility to a mere condition of its beauty, not a goal in its own right, and beauty in turn is understood as the expression of something intellectual. Schelling puts the first point plainly:
Architecture . . . would not be fine art if it addressed merely need and utility. For architecture as fine art, however, utility and the reference to need are themselves only condition, not principle. Every mode of art is bound to a specific form of appearance existing more or less independently of it, and only the fact that art puts into this form the impression and image of beauty elevates it to fine art. Hence, as regards architecture, precisely the expediency is the form of the appearance, but not the essence.22

11 such that these appear as one in the portrayed object itself, and it is certainly not clear how this leads to the claim that architecture must portray the purposiveness within itself or exactly what that conclusion is supposed to mean.24 One thing that it could be taken to mean, however, is that a work of architecture should portray, symbolize, or otherwise express its own purpose or intended function, thus that the functionality or utility of a work of architecture is not its primary goal and source of beauty, but that its expression of its own function is. Thus, each building typea temple, a church, a palace, and so onshould not merely serve its function, but also should express its function. In his metaphysical way, Schelling thus seems to state the premise that already informed the and Ledoux. projects of such architects as Boullee Arthur Schopenhauer was deeply influenced by Schellings opposition of the conscious and the unconscious, but in his magnum opus The World as Will and Representation (1819), he gave it his own unique twist: applying it to Kants distinction between appearance and thing in itself, he identified appearance with consciousness of the particulars and the in-itself with a single unconscious and nonrational will manifesting itself in the particulars of the phenomenal world. He then overlaid this metaphysics with an ethical doctrine according to which self-identification with the world of particulars is the source of nothing but misery and frustration, for in that world the satisfaction of one personal desire leads only to the emergence of another, not yet satisfied desire, and contentment, if not exactly happiness, can be found only in detachment from the sensible world and selfidentification instead with the common, underlying will, which makes everything personal seem meaningless. He then famously argued that aesthetic experience is at least a preliminary step to such contentment, for in such experience the ordinary human subject becomes, at least momentarily, a pure will-less, painless, timeless, subject of knowledge because the object of such experience is not an individual thing as such, part of the frustrating phenomenal world of particulars, but the Idea, the eternal form, the immediate objectivity of the will at this grade. In aesthetic experience, the particular thing at one stroke becomes the Idea of its species, and the perceiving individual becomes the pure subject of knowing.25 By contemplating the various forms in which the will manifests itself in particular things, the human

The term form has been used in a myriad of ways in the history of aesthetics and philosophy more generally, of course, but here, contrasted to essential, it pretty clearly means inessential: serving some need (of a client or patron) is of course what it takes to get a building from drawing board to construction, but it is not, in Schellings view, what architecture is really about. Schellings second point, that the primary purpose of architecture is intellectual, the expression of some idea, is more obscurely put. He next says that [i]t was earlier proved that nature, science, and art in their various stages observe the sequence from the schematic to the allegorical and from there to the symbolic, that [t]he most primal sequence is numbers, and that [a]rchitecture, as the music of the plastic arts, thus necessarily follows arithmetical relationships.23 This suggests that what architecture should express or symbolize is mathematical relationships. Thus, insofar as its beauty lies in its expression, its beauty lies in its expression of mathematical relationships, and that should be the primary goal of the architect. In spite of the metaphysical route to this conclusion, the result would in fact be a version of formalism in an ordinary sense of that term. However, several pages later, Schelling states, with emphasis, that [a]rchitecture, in order to be fine art, must portray the purposiveness within itself as an objective purposiveness, that is, as the objective identity between concept and thing, the subjective and objective. His proof for this assertion is merely the general statement that art as such is merely the objective or real portrayal or representation of the identity of the universal and the particular, of the subjective and the objective

12 being is supposed to be able to detach himself or herself from those particular things and his or her always frustrated desires for them, at least for a time. Schopenhauer then argues that different arts express different aspects or Ideas of reality as the objectification of the will. Architecture is the first art because it expresses Ideas that are the lowest grades of the wills objectivity: because of his view that the function of art is to free us from all our concerns with the practical, he agrees with Schelling that the goal of architecture cannot be mere utility, but instead of inferring from this that works of architecture should express their own purposes, he instead holds that their function is to present the Ideas or express the nature of most elementary forces of the physical world. Thus, he writes,
Now if we consider architecture merely as a fine art and apart from its provision for useful purposes, in which it serves the will and not pure knowledge, and thus is no longer art in our sense, we can assign it no purpose other than that of bringing to clearer perceptiveness some of those Ideas that are the lowest grades of the wills objectivity. Such Ideas are gravity, cohesion, rigidity, hardness, those universal qualities of stone, those first, simplest, and dullest visibilities of the will, the fundamental bassnotes of nature; and along with these, light, which is in many respects their opposite. Even at this low stage of the wills objectivity, we see its inner nature revealing itself in discord; for, properly speaking, the conflict between gravity and rigidity is the sole aesthetic material of architecture. . . . From what has been said, it is absolutely necessary for an understanding and aesthetic enjoyment of a work of architecture to have direct knowledge through perception of its matter as regards its weight, rigidity, and cohesion.26

The Aesthetics of Architecture his former schoolmate Schelling, but he eventually gave it his own terminology: for Hegel, reality and its history are constituted not by the struggle between the conscious and the unconscious but by Spirit coming to know itself; but unlike Schopenhauer, who despised him for this difference, for Hegel what thus gradually manifests itself in natural and human history is not nonrational will but reason itself: the rational, which is synonymous with the Idea, becomes actual by entering into external existence, where it emerges in an infinite wealth of forms, appearances, and shapes and surrounds its core with a brightly colored covering in which consciousness at first arises, but which only the concept can penetrate in order to find the inner pulse, and [t]o recognize reason as the rose in the cross of the present and thereby to delight in the presentthis rational insight is the reconciliation with actuality which philosophy grants to those who have received the inner call to comprehend.27 This view, which Hegel first developed in his Phenomenology of the Spirit (1807) and then elaborated in his Science of Logic (18121816) and Encyclopedia of Philosophical Sciences (1817), became the foundation for the lectures on aesthetics that he gave from 1818 (in Heidelberg) to 1829 (in Berlin), which were edited, amplified, and posthumously published by his student H. G. Hotho in 1835.28 Hegels view is that spirit alone is the true . . . so that everything beautiful is truly beautiful only as sharing in this higher sphere and generated by it, and that [t]he beauty of art is beauty born of the spirit and born again, that is, all beauty is a manifestation of spirit in general but artistic beauty is the spirit in general made visible by spirit in particular, that is, human artists with their particular mentalities and capabilities.29 By spirit in general, Hegel means both reason and its personification in the idea of the divine, and thus fine art
only fulfils its supreme task when it has placed itself in the same sphere as religion and philosophy, and when it is simply one way of bringing to our minds and expressing the Divine, the deepest interests of mankind, and the most comprehensive truths of the spirit. . . . Art shares this vocation with religion and philosophy, but in a special way, namely by displaying even the highest [reality] sensuously, bringing it thereby nearer to the senses, to feeling, and to natures mode of occurrence.30

In other words, the conclusion that Schopenhauer draws from his complicated metaphysical and ethical argument is that works of architecture should express not their own function, but rather the nature of their own construction and the physical forces involved in and affecting that construction; by his own idiosyncratic route he reaches a con` clusion that we associate with Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and John Ruskin later in the nineteenth century and with classical modernists of the mid-twentieth century, such as Walter Gropius and Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. Yet another variant of an expressivist approach to architecture is found in Hegel. Hegel initially developed his philosophy in close contact with

But the fact that art gives sensuous representation to the ideas of the spirit or the divine is both the

Guyer Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture glory and also the doom of art, [f]or precisely on account of its form, art is limited to a specific content. Only one sphere and stage of truth is capable of being represented in the element of art, namely, an understanding of the nature of thought, reason, or divinity in physical imagery or symbolism that is ultimately incapable of comprehending the true nature of spirit and thus must eventually give way to religion and even more so to philosophy, because religion also is still too dependent upon imagery and too tied up with art to yield absolute knowing of the spirit.31 This is why art, considered in its highest vocation, is and remains for us a thing of the past, even though people will still go on building, painting, and poetizing, but necessarily for lower vocations.32 This is Hegels notorious thesis of the death of art. That art is necessarily an expression of ideas about the spirit but also necessarily an inadequate expression of an adequate conception of the spirit or at best an adequate expression of an inadequate conception of the spirit is particularly evident in Hegels treatment of architecture. Hegel regards architecture as having begun with the crudely symbolic representation of crudely symbolic conceptions of the spirit, as in the constructions of older art in Babylonia, India, and Egypt, and as having reached its apogee in classical architecture, in the form of the Greek temple, where the temple serves as the housing for the representation of a god in the human form of the statue that sits at its heart.33 But such a representation of divinity, although better than the purely symbolic forms of earlier antiquity, is still inadequate to an ultimately philosophical understanding of spirit as reason, and in any case in the classical temple the spiritual meaning does not reside exclusively in the building . . . but in the fact that this meaning has already attained its existence in freedom outside architecture, that is, in the statue that the temple houses.34 Christian architecture, with its domes or Gothic arches, points toward a more adequate conception of spirit, but in so doing, it also begins to dissolve the immediate unity of classical architecture. Thus, architecture necessarily tries to express a profound, metaphysical idea, but is equally necessarily undermined by its inescapable attempt to do so. In post-Kantian idealism, we thus find a uniform acceptance of the view that the goal of architecture is by no means simply to combine utility with beauty, but is rather to express some idea

13 or ideas, with functionality being at most a necessary condition but not part of the achievement of the goal of the art and with beauty itself being redefined as expression rather than anything more formal. This general view, as we have seen, takes different forms: in Schelling the thought is that a building should express its own function, in Schopenhauer that it should express the nature of its own construction and the physical forces on which that depends, and in Hegel that it should express metaphysical ideas about divinity and spirit itself. All of these views have been prominent in later philosophy of architecture and architectural theory, but our question here is how such views so rapidly replaced the Vitruvian paradigm that dominated eighteenth-century philosophy of architecture. To see how this transition came about, we must now at last turn to Kant.

ii. kants views about architecture As I said at the outset, architecture does not loom large in Kants own exposition of his aesthetic theory. But his general philosophy of fine art would have profound implications for the subsequent philosophy of architecture, and architectural examples, or the example of architecture in general, figure in significantly different ways at crucial stages in Kants overall argument. So let us now see what Kant says explicitly about architecture as well as how his general philosophy of fine art bears on the philosophy of architecture. Kant expounds his aesthetic theory in the form of a critique of taste and begins his exposition with the simplest form of judgments of taste, namely, judgments of beauty, paradigmatically the beauty of individual natural objects or works of decorative rather than fine art, that is, works of art that do not have content and meaning.35 He proposes first that our pleasure in beauty is disinterested, thus that our pleasure in a beautiful object is not dependent upon the judgment that it serves any function in which we have an interest. Such a judgment would of course presuppose a concept of the function an object is supposed to serve, so Kant excludes any concept of the function of an object from playing a role in the paradigmatic judgment of beauty. In the next step of his argument he generalizes this conclusion into the exclusion of any concept whatsoever from playing a role in a paradigmatic judgment of beauty. Yet

14 Kant also holds that judgments of beauty speak with a universal voice or, like other judgments, do not purport merely to report the idiosyncratic response of one judge, but rather claim validity for all who would respond to the same object, at least under optimal circumstances.36 But even though a judgment of taste must be independent of any concept, in Kants view, it cannot be independent of our cognitive faculties altogether if it is legitimately to claim such universal validity; thus Kant introduces his famous hypothesis that our pleasure in beauty is due to the free play of the cognitive powers of imagination and understanding in which the presentation of the manifold of experience as an object by the imagination (any experience of a manifold of content that lasts more than a moment must involve the imagination, since that is involved in any temporally extended experience that requires reproduction of more than immediately current experience) satisfies the understandings general interest in cognition, namely, its interest in unity and coherence, but without any determinate concept restrict[ing the imagination] to a particular rule of cognition.37 Such a mental state of free play is particularly pleasurable precisely because it feels to us as if our general goal of cognition is being satisfied apart from the condition that would normally guarantee it.38 Kant then says that the quality of an object by means of which it can induce this pleasurable state of free play can be called the mere form of purposiveness, and then he equates the mere form of purposiveness in an object with the purposiveness of [its] form, where by form he now means what both aestheticians and artists have generally meant by form, namely, the spatial or temporal structure of objects, Gestalt or figure, for example, drawing (Zeichnung, design) rather than coloration in the case of painting or composition rather than instrumentation in the case of music.39 This last step in Kants argument, by which he reaches his famous and influential formalism, is a non sequitur, but as we shall see, it is not in fact fatal to Kants ultimate theory of fine art, which turns on a much more liberal conception of what aspects of aesthetic objects can genuinely induce the mental state of the free play of the cognitive powers of imagination, understanding, and, as it turns out, reason as well.40 Kant offers as paradigmatic examples of the objects of the simple judgments of beauty that he

The Aesthetics of Architecture initially analyzes such things as beautiful birds or crustacea, decorative patterns on wallpaper, and fantasias or music without a text.41 But he does not exclude that purely formal beauty may be found in more complex works of human artifice, and indeed he uses an architectural example in his very first illustration of what he means by a disinterested judgment or taste: I would be making an interested judgment, thus failing to make a genuine judgment of taste if, when someone asks me whether I find the palace before me beautiful, I . . . say that I dont like that sort of thing, which is made merely to be gaped at, or . . . in true Rousseauesque style, I . . . even vilify the vanity of the great who waste the sweat of the people on such superfluous things.42 This would seem to suggest that a properly aesthetic judgment of a work of architecture is made, so to speak, merely by gaping at it, that is, that the aesthetic judgment of architecture concerns only formal beauty, not utility or disutility, not social costs or benefits, not any function or dysfunction of the work. This might suggest that Kant departs from the Vitruvian paradigm for architecture, not by adding a requirement of conceptual meaning and expression to it, but rather by subtracting utility from the chief goals of architecture and reducing the goal of architecture to beauty alone. This would be a misleading conclusion, however. For no sooner has Kant completed his initial analysis of simple judgments of taste and the formal beauty that is supposed to be their object than he complicates his model of aesthetic judgment by introducing a distinction between pure judgments of free and self-subsisting beauty that fit the initial analysis and more complex judgments of adherent and conditioned beauty that go beyond it; and the latter judgments are characterized precisely by the fact that they do presuppose a concept of what the object ought to be . . . and the perfection of the object in accordance with it. In particular, judgments of adherent beauty presuppose a concept of what the intended function or particular end of the object is, by which the imagination, which is as it were at play in the observation of the shape of the object, would be restrictedalthough apparently without the opportunity for free play disappearing altogether, since Kant does after all call adherent beauty a kind of beauty.43 Kant then immediately illustrates his conception of adherent beauty with architectural examples: thus he says that the beauty . . .

Guyer Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture of a building (such as a church, a palace, an arsenal, or a summer-house) presupposes a concept of the end that determines what the thing should be, hence a concept of its perfection, and is thus merely adherent beauty. . . . One would be able to add much to a building that would be pleasing in the intuition of it if only it were not supposed to be a church.44 Kant does not expand upon these comments, but presumably he has in mind such commonplace assumptions as that a palace must appear grand and imposing to project the authority of government, that an arsenal must have thick walls with few openings to serve as a secure bastion, that a summer house on the contrary must be light and airy, that a (Protestant) church must keep its decor simple to induce the proper mood of humbleness (as Kames had argued), and so forth. Thus, Kant seems to recur to the traditional Vitruvian paradigm that a successful work of architecture must be judged to have both utilitas and venustas. To be sure, Kant is not very specific about precisely how utility and beauty or function and form are to be related to each other in the adherent beauty of a work of architecture. Some of the language that has just been quoted suggests that, like Schelling after him, he might think that the functionality of a building is just a precondition of our finding it beautiful, that is, that our appreciation of the beauty of a building might be blocked if we found it dysfunctional but that its functionality is not a proper part of its beauty, which would then presumably lie only in its formal properties. However, Kants remarks that the rules that might be prescribed with regard to adherent beauty (unlike free beauty, which does not allow any rules at all) are rules for the unification of taste with reason and that the entire faculty of the powers of representation gains if both states of mindthe response to function and the response to formare in agreement might seem to suggest that both functionality and formal beauty are proper parts of the judgment of architectural success.45 Indeed, such remarks might even be thought to suggest that architectural success requires some sort of intimate interaction between function and form, that certain forms and functions be not merely compatible with each other but in some way enhance each other, thus that in such cases our pleasure in objects is not so to speak just added but multiplied.46 But this conclusion would only bring Kant back to the point of accepting the Vitruvian paradigm

15 for architecture that he had initially seemed to reject. What basis do we find within his theory for the remarkable transformation of this paradigm that we found in the aesthetic theories of his immediate successors such as Schelling, Schopenhauer, and Hegel? We find this in Kants theory of fine art, which comes only much later in the Critique of the Power of Judgment (namely, 4353) than the opening Analytic of the Beautiful (122) to which our discussion has thus far been confined. Kants theory of fine art is designed to solve the paradox that judgments of beauty must be independent of concepts, yet works of art are products of intentional and rational human activity, which is, of course, guided by concepts.47 Kants resolution of this potential paradox is that both the creation and the experience of works of art are guided by and indeed aimed at the presentation of concepts, but, like the experience of natural beauty and the production and experience of decorative art, they are never fully determined by such concepts. Kant expounds this solution by offering a theory of both the production of works of fine art and of the contents of such works. His theory of the production of fine art is his theory of genius, according to which the production of successful art is guided by concepts, including technical rules, but depends upon an innate originality, a natural gift, that takes the artist beyond his own rules in ways that he cannot formulate and allows him to pass on exemplars of originality but not determinate rules to successive artists.48 His theory of the content of successful works of fine art is his theory of aesthetic ideas. According to Kant, a beautiful work of art must have spirit: A poem can be quite pretty and elegant, but without spirit. A story is accurate and well organized, but without spirit. And spirit, the animating principle in the mind, comes from an aesthetic idea, by which he means
that representation of the imagination that occasions much thinking though without it being possible for any determinate thought, i.e., concept, to be adequate to it, which, consequently, no language fully attains or can make intelligible.One readily sees that it is the counterpart (pendant) of an idea of reason, which is, conversely, a concept to which no intuition (representation of the imagination) can be adequate.49

By this in turn Kant means that a work of art with spirit presents an intellectual idea, indeed in his

16 view, ultimately a moral idea, but by means of an imaginative use of both form and material whatever counts as material in a particular art form, perhaps images in the case of poetry, incidents in the case of the novel or drama, colors or pigments in the case of painting, ornament and rich materials in the ordinary sense in the case of architecturethat cannot be reduced to any rule and that stimulate a free play of the imagination with or between the content, the form, and the matter of the work of art. Ultimately, then, Kants conception of beauty in art is not the strictly formal beauty that he discussed in the first fifteen sections of the Analytic of the Beautiful; his conception is rather that beautiful art always suggests some profound intellectual content, but does so by means of form and matter so rich that it cannot be reduced to any rule but instead triggers inexhaustible and pleasurable motion or free play in the mind of its audience. Of course, such a work must result from free play with an idea in the mind of the genius who produces it, but even the genius conception of the object cannot fully determine the audiences response to it, for in that case the latter would not also be an instance of free play and would not be pleasurable.50 Kant next offers a classification and hierarchy of the fine arts premised on the assumption that all of the fine artsrhetoric, poetry, sculpture, architecture, painting, music (including opera), and dancepresent intellectual ideas aesthetically, although of course some do it better or more fully than others.51 (Actually, Kant next claims that all beauty, whether of nature or art, involves aesthetic ideas [CPJ , 51, 5:320]; he fails to justify this claim, but neither does he rest anything on it.) Kants position is thus that as a fine art, architecture does contain aesthetic ideas and by their means presents intellectual ideas, although it does not do so as fully as poetry, but may do so more fully than, for example, its sister among the plastic arts, namely, sculpture. Kants explicit discussion of architecture is brief. Kant divides the sphere of pictorial arts (bildende Kunste , which could better be translated as formative arts were form not already such an overworked term in Kants aesthetics) into the two domains of plastic (Plastik) and the art of painting (Malerkunst), and he then subdivides the domain of plastic into sculpture and architecture (using the two German words Bildhauerkunst and Baukunst). His chief com-

The Aesthetics of Architecture ment comes in the form of a comparison between sculpture and architecture:
[Sculpture] presents corporeal concepts of things as they could exist in nature (although, as a beautiful art, with regard to aesthetic purposiveness); [architecture] is the art of presenting, with this intention but yet at the same time in an aesthetically purposive way, concepts of things that are possible only through art, and whose form has as its determining ground not nature but a voluntary end. In the latter a certain use of the artistic object is the main thing, to which, as a condition, the aesthetic ideas are restricted. In the former the mere expression of aesthetic ideas is the chief aim. Thus statues of humans, gods, animals, etc., are of the first sort; but temples, magnificent buildings for public gatherings, as well as dwellings, triumphal arches, columns, cenotaphs, and the like, erected as memorials, belong to architecture. . . . The appropriateness of the product to a certain use is essential in a work of architecture, while by contrast a mere picture, which is made strictly for viewing and is to please for itself, is, as a corporeal presentation, a mere imitation of nature, though with respect to aesthetic ideas; where, then, sensible truth should not go so far that it stops looking like art and a product of the power of choice.52

This is a complex comparison that does not assert a straightforward superiority of one art to the other. It assumes that it is an essential aim of both arts not only to be beautiful but also to express aesthetic ideas, that is, rational ideas conveyed by aesthetic means, by their use of forms and materials: Both make shapes in space into expressions of ideas.53 It also assumes (as any pre-twentiethcentury theory would) that sculpture imitates natural objectseven when it presents something supernatural, such as a god, it does so by imitating natural forms, for example, by adding the wings of a bird to a human figurewhile architecture does not imitate natural forms and is thus not limited to natural forms. In this regard architecture would seem to have less constricted means for presenting ideas and thus perhaps be able to present a wider range of ideas through the indefinite number of forms and combinations of them available to it. However, any work of architecture also has a voluntary end or intended use that restricts it and, apparently, what aesthetic ideas it can present, and indeed this intended use is the main thing, and in all architecture the appropriateness of the product to a certain use is essential. Thus, the restriction on what or how

Guyer Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture aesthetic ideas may be expressed that is supposed to follow from this is also essential to architecture. So sculpture is restricted in what aesthetic ideas it can represent or how it may represent them by its restriction to the imitation of natural forms, while architecture is restricted in its expression of aesthetic ideas by its requirement of functionality, which is now apparently neither a mere precondition of its aesthetic value nor one component in its aesthetic value, but the primary component. Thus, Kant concludes that, in architecture, utility, or in his own terminology objective purposiveness, is always essential, but that the presentation of aesthetic ideas is also always some part of its beauty. Aesthetic ideas are in turn the expression of rational ideas, so Kants position might seem to prepare the way for something closest to Hegels position, that architecture, like other arts, always aims at the expression of metaphysical ideas, although even with this addition, Kant clearly remains closer to the Vitruvian paradigm than do Schelling, Schopenhauer, or Hegel by ultimately insisting that suitability to intended use is essential to the success of architecture. But in practice, Kant seems to restrict the ideas presented by art to moral or morally significant ideas, and in this regard, his conception of what sorts of ideas art, including architecture, can express seems narrower than or at least different from Hegels. However, what we should probably conclude here is that Kant does not offer any actual argument for why all art must express rational ideas, a fortiori specifically moral ideas, so what his theory actually does is open the door for the post-Vitruvian conception of architecture as expressing ideas without entailing any particular restriction on what ideas it can represent. Thus, while himself assuming that architecture must express moral ideas, Kant prepares the way for the different ideas that architecture should express ideas of its own function (Schelling), ideas of the nature of physical forces and its own construction (Schopenhauer), or metaphysical ideas (Hegel). Kant does cross the Jordan between pure Vitruvianism and postVitruvian expressionism in the philosophy of architecture, but once on the other side he does not conclusively specify what road should be taken further. Kant also mentions stock architectural examples such as the Egyptian pyramids and St. Peters in Rome in his discussion of the sublime, but

17 there is no room to pursue that complicated subject here; it will have to suffice that for Kant, unlike other authors such as Gerard and Kames, the experience of sublimity is only triggered by nature, and works of human architecture can at most be colossal, which is almost too great for all presentation and which borders on the relatively monstrous, but not infinite or even apparently infinite enough to trigger the experience of the sublime.54 Without a discussion of the sublime, I will rest here with the conclusion that Kant at least cracked open the door to an architecture of ideas. In his theory of fine art as the expression of aesthetic ideas he had already swung the gate to the expressivist philosophy of fine architecture wide open. Although Kant remained more committed to the primacy of function and thus to the Vitruvian paradigm in the philosophy of architecture than his idealist successors were to be, it seems fair to conclude that his theory of fine art opened the way from the Vitruvian to the post-Vitruvian conception of architecture within philosophical aesthetics. It also seems fair to conclude that the absence of an argument for Kants own specification of what kind of ideas fine art must express left the door open for the variety of expressivist theories of architecture that we find in German idealism and beyond.


Department of Philosophy University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104 internet:

1. For discussion of this term, see Hanno-Walter Kruft, A History of Architectural Theory from Vitruvius to the Present, trans. Ronald Taylor, Elsie Callander, and Antony Wood (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1994), pp. 1315. 2. Hegels famous statement about the owl of Minerva comes from Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, Elements of the Philosophy of Right, ed. Allen W. Wood, trans. H. B. Nisbet (Cambridge University Press, 1991), Preface, p. 23. For the classical discussion and illustrations of Boulees and Ledouxs work and the expressivist philosophy of architecture, see Emil Kaufman, Architecture in the Age of Reason: Baroque and Post-Baroque in England, Italy, and France (Harvard University Press, 1955), especially chap. 12, pp. 141180; for more recent discussion, see Kruft, Architectural Theory, chap. 13, pp. 141165, and Henry Francis Mallgrave, Modern Architectural Theory: A

Historical Survey, 16731968 (Cambridge University Press, 2005), pp. 3643. 3. See Kruft, Architectural Theory, p. 21. 4. Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, The Ten Books of Architecture, trans. Morris Hicky Morgan, ed. Herbert Langford Warren (Harvard University Press, 1914), p. 13; for the Latin terms, see Kruft, Architectural Theory, p. 25. 5. Vitruvius, Ten Books, p. 17; Kruft, Architectural Theory, p. 24. 6. Vitruvius, Ten Books, p. 16. 7. Vitruvius, Ten Books, pp. 1314. 8. Vitruvius, Ten Books, pp. 1415. 9. Christian Freiherr von Wolff, The Principles of Ar chitecture, in Anfangsgrunde aller mathematischen Wissenschaften, new edition (Frankfurt, Leipzig, and Halle: Renger, 17501757, reprint, ed. J. E. Hofmann, Hildesheim: Georg Olms, 1999), Division I, Vols. 1215, 1, p. 305. 10. Wolff, Foundations of Architecture, 4, p. 306, and 7, p. 307. 11. Wolff, Foundations of Architecture, 8, p. 307, and 18, p. 309. 12. Wolff, Foundations of Architecture, 2021, pp. 310311. 13. Henry Home, Lord Kames, Elements of Criticism, sixth edition (Edinburgh: Bell and Creech, and London: Cadell and Robinson, 1785), modern edition by Peter Jones (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 2005), vol. II, chap. XXIV, pp. 685, 699. 14. Kames, Elements, p. 685. 15. Kames, Elements, vol. II, chap. XXIV, pp. 700, 701. 16. Of course, one might argue that considerations of acoustics and HVAC as well as bodily circulation affect the utility of a room, and therefore also enter into determination of its height, but the point remains that whatever considerations one enters onto the side of utility, there will still be room for further features of design determined by considerations of beauty alone. 17. The quotation is from Kames, Elements, vol. II, chap. XXIV, p. 709. For the difference between grandeur and beauty for Kames, see Kames, Elements, vol. I, chap. IV, pp. 150178. 18. Kames, Elements, vol. II, chap. XXIV, pp. 706707. 19. Kames, Elements, vol. II, chap. XXIV, pp. 706707. 20. F. W. J. Schelling, System of Transcendental Idealism, trans. Peter Heath (University Press of Virginia, 1978), p. 219. 21. F. W. J. Schelling, The Philosophy of Art, ed. and trans. Douglas W. Stott (University of Minnesota Press, 1989). For information about the original presentation and later publication of the lectures, see Translators Introduction, pp. xxvii, liii. 22. Schelling, Philosophy of Art, p. 165. 23. Schelling, Philosophy of Art, p. 165. 24. Schelling, Philosophy of Art, p. 168. 25. Arthur Schopenhauer, The World as Will and Representation, trans. E. F. J. Payne, 2 vols. (Indian Hills, CO: Falcons Wing, 1958), vol. I, 34, p. 179. 26. Schopenhauer, World as Will and Representation, vol. I, 43, pp. 214215. 27. Hegel, Philosophy of Right, Preface, pp. 2022. 28. The standard English version of the lectures is based on Hothos second edition of 1842: G. W. F. Hegel, Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, trans. T. M. Knox, 2 vols. (Oxford:

The Aesthetics of Architecture

Clarendon Press, 1975). In recent years, there has been much debate about the authenticity of Hothos edition, and some of the original transcriptions of Hegels lecture courses, including Hothos own, which turn out to be much shorter than Hothos published version, have been published (although not yet translated into English). These include the course of 18201821, G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesung uber Asthetik , ed. Helmust Schneider (Bern: Peter Lang, 1996); that of 1823, G. W. F. Hegel, Vorlesungen uber die Philosophie der Kunst, ed. Annemarie Gethmann-Seifert (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2003); and the course of 1826, G. W. F. Hegel, Philosophie der Kunst oder Asthetik , ed. Annemarie Gethmann-Seifert and Bernadette Collenberg-Plotnikov (Munich: Wilhelm Fink, 2004). 29. Hegel, Aesthetics, vol. I, p. 2. 30. Hegel, Aesthetics, vol. I, pp. 78. 31. Hegel, Aesthetics, vol. I, p. 9. 32. Hegel, Aesthetics, vol. I, p. 11. 33. Hegel, Aesthetics, vol. II, p. 636. 34. Hegel, Aesthetics, vol. II, p. 661. 35. Immanuel Kant, Critique of the Power of Judgment, ed. Paul Guyer, trans. Paul Guyer and Eric Matthews (Cambridge University Press, 2000), 9, 5:216. References to this Critique (henceforth CPJ ) will be located by Kants section number and then the volume and page number of the text as it appears in Kants gesammelte Schriften, ed. Royal Prussian (later German, then Berlin-Brandenurg) Academy of Sciences (Berlin: Georg Reimer, subsequently Walter de Gruyter, 1900) (the so-called Academy edition), where it was edited by Wilhelm Windelband. The Academy edition pagination appears in the margins of the Cambridge edition, so references to the page numbers of the latter itself are not given. The best contemporary edition of the German text is Immanuel Kant, Kritik der Urteilskraft, ed. Heiner F. Klemme, notes by Piero Giordanetti, Philosophische Bibliothek 507 (Hamburg: Felix Meiner, 2001), which also includes the Academy edition pagination as well as the pagination of the 1793 second edition of the Kritik, the preferred original edition. 36. Kant, CPJ , 8, 5:216. 37. Kant, CPJ , 9, 5:217. 38. See CPJ , Introduction, section VI, 5:187188. 39. Kant, CPJ , 11, 5:221; 13, 5:223; and 14, 5:225. 40. For detailed support of the interpretation of Kants argument offered in this paragraph, see my Kant and the Claims of Taste (Harvard University Press, 1979; rev. ed. Cambridge University Press, 1997), chaps. 36, and among my more recent writings, especially The Harmony of the Faculties Revisited, in my Values of Beauty: Historical Essays in Aesthetics (Cambridge University Press, 2005), chap. 3, pp. 77109. 41. Kant, CPJ , 16, 5:229. 42. Kant, CPJ , 2, 5:204. 43. Kant, CPJ , 16, 5:229230. 44. Kant, CPJ , 16, 5:230. 45. Kant, CPJ , 16, 5:230231. 46. For a fuller discussion of this point, see my Free and Adherent Beauty: A Modest Proposal, The British Journal of Aesthetics 42 (2002): 357366, reprinted in Values of Beauty, chap. 5, pp. 129140. 47. Kant, CPJ , 43, 5:303304. 48. Kant, CPJ , 46, 5:307308. I have discussed Kants theory of genius in detail in Autonomy and Integrity in

Guyer Kant and the Philosophy of Architecture

Kants Aesthetics, Monist 66 (1983): 167188, reprinted under the title Genius and the Canon of Art in my Kant and the Experience of Beauty (Cambridge University Press, 1993), chap. 8, pp. 275303, and Exemplary Originality: Genius, Universality, and Individuality, in The Creation of Art: New Essays in Philosophical Aesthetics, ed. Berys Gaut and Paisley Livingston (Cambridge University Press, 2003), pp. 116137, reprinted in Values of Beauty, chap. 10, pp. 242262.

49. Kant, CPJ , 49, 5:313314. 50. For further detail, see my Kants Conception of Fine Art, The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 52 (1994): 175185, reprinted as chap. 12 of the revised edition of Kant and the Claims of Taste, pp. 351366. 51. Kant, CPJ , 5152, 5:321326. 52. Kant, CPJ , 5:322. 53. Kant, CPJ , 5:322. 54. Kant, CPJ , 26, 5:253.