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THE AESTHETICETICS OF ARCHITECTURE

Roger, Scruton
PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS
1979, PRINCETON, NEW JERSEY
1. Introduction: the problem of architecture 1
PART I
2. Architecture and design 23
3. Has architecture an essence? 37
4. Experiencing architecture 71
5. Judging architecture 104
PART II
6. Freud, Marx and meaning 137
7. The language of arch. 158
8. Expression and abstraction 179
9. The scene of detail 206
10. Conclusion: arch and morality 237
PART III
Summary 259
NOTE REZUMATIVE:
AM. Zahariade
PREFACE (pp. ix-x)

Hans Sedlmayr/Verlust der Mitte: the new type of architect has become
hopelessly uncertain of himself. He glances over his shoulder at the engineer,
he fancies himself in the role of inventor and even in that of a reformer of
mens lives, but he has forgotten to be an architect. the subject is
approached ab initio.

The urgent questions that confront the architect are indeed philosophical
questions. There is a great confusion in the architectural theory.

The theme of the book:


1. To introduce the subject of aesthetic.
2. To explain the nature and value of aesthetic taste.
The thesis relates aesthetic judgement to practical understanding.
The thesis: to steer a middle course between two separate disciplines in a way
offensive to the practitioners of both, as a valid form of philosophical speculation
INTRODUCTION: THE PROBLEM OF ARCHITECTURE
The subject of aesthetics takes its modern form from Kant, who was the first to
suggest that the sense of beauty is a distinct and autonomous employment of the
human mind comparable to moral and scientific understanding.
mental faculties: theoretical/understanding; practical/practical reason;
aesthetic/judgement
a central position to aesthetics all over the 19th c.
The division between practical reason and aesthetic. Judg. = in fact untenable, and
that until the relation between the two is re-established they must both remain
impoverished.

The first task of aesthetic must lie in the correct understanding of certain mental
capacities capacities for experience and judgement.
The nature and value of our interest in arch. (2)
The difference between philosophy of mind and experimental psychology: psych.
investigates facts, philos. concepts. the concept to which it can ascribe a general
significance.
Many writers on the topic of arch. have either failed to make explicit, or failed
even to possess a knowledge of the things which they purport to be discussing.
Questions: (3)
What is to enjoy a building?
What kind of experience is derived from the contemplation of architecture?
What is taste?
Are there rules that govern the exercise of taste?
They concern mental phenomena (understanding, experience and taste), and
the also impute to them a certain characteristic kind of object. It is impossible to
describe a mental state in isolation from its object; the object is of the essence of a
mental state. A theory of arch. appreciation cannot stop short of giving a theory of
its proper object the inquiry into the nature and significance of arch.
Theories of arch. appreciation concentrate not so much on its form as on its
object: function, symmetry and harmony, ornament, space or the play of interlocking
spaces. None of the respective theories provides a satisfactory description, since
each ignores some features, that is both intentional and of the greater arch.
significance.
Distinction between arch aesthetic and arch theory:
1. AT consists in the attempt to formulate the maxims, rules and precepts that
govern, or ought to govern, the practice of the builder. (4)
- the classical theory of Orders,
- most of the precepts contained in Ruskins The stones of Venice and
Seven Lamps
- The nature of arch, success is not at issue
- the question is rather how best to achieve it.
- It impinges on aestheticetics only if it claims a universal validity, for then it must
aim to capture the essence, and not the accidents, of the architectural beauty. It
becomes implicitly philosophical must be judged accordingly: whether it succeeds
in establishing its claim a priori, by a consideration of the phenomena in their most
abstract and universal guise.
- from Vitruvius to Le Corbusier, most of them claim universal validity for their
laws, and that their favoured form of architecture is uniquely authorised by the
rational understanding.
2. There is real subject of architectural aestheticetics, as opposed to general.
- Why is there any special need for a philosophy of arch., other than the purely
ephemeral one that arch. has been misunderstood?
- Is there not one and the same concept of beauty and is there not one
single faculty involved in the appreciation of all arts? (4)
Architecture presents an immediate problem for any such general philos. theory of
aesthetic. interest: through its impersonal and at the same time functional qualities,
it stands apart from the other arts. (5)
- It seems to require quite peculiar attitudes, not only for its creation, but also
for its enjoyment.
- unii filosofi (Kant, Scopenhauer) au spus ciudatenii despre arh!

- Hegel = the most prominent from those who treated arch. seriously:
- He describes the appreciation of arch. in terms inappropriate to the
other form of art.
- A = a medium only half articulate, unable to give full expression to
the Idea, hence relegated to the level of pure symbolism, from which it
must be redeemed by statuary and ornament.
-Collingoods principles (The Principles of Art, Oxford, 1938) has been applied
to architecture by Bruce Allsop (Art and the Nature of Arch., London, 1952). Cs
theory derives from Croces expressionism. Croces theory of art as pure
intuition has been applied to archit. = S. Vitale, LEstetica dellarchitettura, Bari,
1928 (nota/267)
- Representational arts give rise to an interest unlike the interested aroused by
such abstract art as music and architecture.
- Music has expressive, sensuous and dramatic powers in common with
representational arts. The features of A. seem to be distinguished.
The features of architecture:
1. The utility of function (5):
- It is certainly possible to design a bldg. without intending to create an object of
aestheticetic interest.
- Even when there is such attempt, we still find a strong asymmetry with other forms
of art.
- For the functions of the other arts such features are unavoidable (6)
- The possible functions of them do not stem from their essemce.
** Functionalism has many forms:
The aesthetic theory = true beauty consists in the adapting of form to
function,
A = essentially a mean to an end we appreciate buildings as means. The
value of the building is determined by the extent to which it fulfils its function,
not by any purely aestheticetic considerations.
- What is the distinction between valuing something as a means and as an
end?
- Colingood began his exploration of art and the aesthetic. form from a
distinction between arts and craft. arch is a mixture of the two (all arts
are to some extent), but because it represents an almost describable
synthesis of the two. (6)
- Then, he tried to treat arch as a form of art (for him it involves taking a
step toward expressionism. = To see arch as an expressive activity,
deriving its nature and value from a peculiar artistic form. (7)
- Expression is not so much a matter of finding the symbol for a
subjective feeling, as of coming to know, through the act of expression,
just what the feeling is.
- It is part of the inner life, the making intelligible what is otherwise
ineffable and confused.
- It is not an activity whose goal can be defined prior to its
achievement; it is not an activity that can be described in terms of end
and means.
- A is not an artistic medium in the way sculpture is.
The absurdities of the crude functionalism: Thophile Gautier = a theory
which, as perfection of the water closet is the perfection to which all
architecture aspire.
** The value of the building simply cannot be understood independently of its utility.
To have only a sculptural view of arch = to treat buildings as forms whose
aestheticetic nature is conjoined only accidentally to a certain function. (7) Only
some architects attempt to break down the distinction between arch and sculpture:

- Gaudi,
- Andr Blocs inhabitable sculptures,
- Hegel regarded as a paradigm of arch the pyramid, since its monumental
qualities, its solidity, and what he took to be its utter uselessness enabled him to
see its sole function as a symbolic one, divorced from any actual or possible
employment.
- The sculptural view of arch involves the mistaken idea that one can somehow
judge the beauty of a thing in abstracto, without knowing what kind of thing it is
(in partial opposition tp a certain tradition in aesthetic, that finds expression in
18th-c. empiricism, and more emphatically in Kant). (7-8)
Functionalism can be seen as part of an attempt to reassert architectural
against sculptural values.
- form follows, expresses, embodies function Viollet-le-Duc, Sullivan, MM
- Pugin (The True Principles of Pointed or Christian architecture, London,
1841) and the medievalists: the reference to function is necessary as a
standard of taste, a means of distinguishing genuine ornament from idle
excrescence. (9)
2. Its highly localised quality (10):
** The effect of buildings depends in parts of their location.
** Generally they cannot be moved or repeated in other part.
- The reproduction of buildings:
- It is not comparable to the point of reproducing painting, or performing
the same piece of music.
- It is a scholarly exercise (11) !AUTOREFERENTIALITATEA
** The change of place involves changes in the aesthetic character (Via della
Conciliazione destroyed Berninis coup de theatre).
** The sense of place and the consequent impression of the immovability of arch,
constrains the work of the builder in innumerable ways.
- It is a feature that it shares with such pursuits as interior decoration, dress, ad
the many quasi-moral, quasi-aesthetic activities that fall under the notion of
taste.
- All serious arch aims at an effect of unity, and it is tempting to think (with
Schopenhauer) that this unity is nothing more than an effect of style.
- The particular notion of harmony cannot be understood independently of our
sense of style.
- Yet it is clearly untrue to suggest that harmony amounts to nothing but
stylistic unity. (11)
- Things have to fit together; often the ambition of the arch resides in the
preservation of the pre-existing order. (12)
3. The feature of technique:
In arch there are changes initiated quite independently of any change in artistic
consciousness.
- In other arts evolution has followed more nearly a changing attitude to art, and
hence a shifting spirit of artistic creation. (13)
4. Its character as a public object = a more important distinguishing feature.
** The idea of expression as principal aim of art:
- Whatever it means, expression cannot have the significance in such public art as
arch as it may have in the private arts. (13)
- Expressive feature in arch cannot be of the private kind; they consist rather in
the representation of style and manner, in impersonal and unspecific meanings
that speak to us as though from far away and with a public voice. (14)
** MM raises questions that are not raised by the private forms of art.
- In the latter case, modernism has been both self-conscious in its pursuits of an
audience, and determinedly individualistic in its expressive aims. (14)

- In arch it is practically impossible to have the same attitude; it is impossible to


see it either as a form of personal expression or a self-conscious gesture designed
for the modern consciousness. (15)
** A building may stand as the visible symbol of historical continuity, or equally as
the enforced announcement of newfangled demands.
- But it cant take refuge in a kind of complicitous subjectivity.
- It becomes new by creating new expectations, and in general this requires the
modification of some pre-existing style, or else through the imitation of some
previously existing successful manner. (15-16)
- The revivals in arch:
- Even the arch of the future envisaged by Ledoux was based on conceptions
of architectural symbolism, and of architectural detail, that are profoundly
classicist in their inclinations.
- The pervasiveness of this respect for the past is only confirmed by the
hysterical nature of recent attempts to break with it.
5. Its continuity with the decorative arts, and the corresponding multiplicity of
its aims, is the most important feature. (16)
** Arch is primarily a vernacular art: it exists first and foremost as a process of
arrangement in which every normal man participate. (16)
- It is a natural extension of common human activity, obeying no forced
constrains, and no burden of an artistic conception, of anything that might
correspond to the romantics Kunstwollen, or to the Hegellian Idea. (17)
- The existence and predominance of an arch vernacular is
- an inevitable consequence of the distance that separates arch from the other
arts,
- and that arch simply is the application of that sense of what fits which
governs every aspect of daily existence.
** One must say that in proposing an aesthetic of arch, the least one must be
proposing is an aesthetic of everyday life. How inappropriate is our post-romantic
conception of art to the description of the normal aesthetic judgement of the normal
man, and how obscure are all the concepts, such as the concept of expression, which
have been used to elucidate it.
For the most part, it is almost impossible for someone without a specialised
education to express in words the beauties of arch; if terms like proportion,
harmony, space, atmosphere spring to mind, it is not as a rule because any clear
general idea is associated with them. (18)
Although we may have reasons to think that we sometimes treat buildings as
aesthetic objects, it does not follow that in appreciating them as buildings we are
appreciating them aesthetically. the aesthetic attitude may be connected only
peripherally with the art of building.
ARCHITECTURE AND DESIGN (23-36)

The idea of a fundamental separation between building as art and building as


craft was wholly inconceivable:
- Alberti describes the joining of lines and angles as being the most important and
difficult of the architects task; it is clear that he was referring to a problem that is at
once one of constructions and of aesthetics. (B.X)
It was left to the practitioners of the late Gothic revival to make the distinction
between arch and building vivid in the popular mind.
- Ruskin gave its final expression to it, in The Seven Lamps of Arch/1st ch. He
confined the name of arch to whatever is useless, unnecessary, or mere incrustation

- Alberti, by contrast, wrote of a single universal art of building, which consists in the
design and the structure. It is the property and business of design to appoint to the
edifice and all its parts an appropriate pace, exact proportion, suitacle disposition and
harmonious order, in such a way that the form of the building should be entirely
implicit in the conception. (B.I/ch.1)
It is fair to say that the idea of aesthetic as opposed to functional
considerations is largely a philosophical invention.
- For Alberti, the pursuit of aesthetic excellence (which is placed at the heart of the
builders activity) is not properly speaking detachable from the other elements of
aesthetic interest.
Now, design is not what it was for Alberti, a process through which aesthetic
values permeate the entire conception of the architectural task, but rather a
complex, quasi-scientific mode of functional experiment. Aesthetic
considerations are most often admitted not as part of the aim of design, but
as its unpursuable by-product. (25)
- Bruno Taut (Modern Architecture, 1929) and others: Beauty is a consequential
thing, a product of solving problems correctly. It is unreal as a goal. Preoccupation
with aesthetics leads to arbitrary design, to buildings that take a certain form
because the designer likes the way it looks. No successful arch can be formulated
on a generalised system of aesthetics.
- The first task in design, therefore, is to understand the needs of a potential client.
(25)
Constructivism aimed to discover an ideal of an architecture which, in
expressing the complete economy of means to ends, would be appropriate to
the revolutionary spirit in which it was conceived. It will give to the work a
comprehensive utility that would be both satisfactory to the user and
apparent, as a kind of abstract beauty, to the passer by.
- It is a pursuit of the reasonable looking back to the French Enlightenment.
- By contrast, for those architects, Reason was an end in itself, made manifest in arch
and worshiped not only as a moral and aesthetic inspiration but as a quasi-religious
ideal. With his arch, Ledoux sought to make intelligible and to embellish, by means of
an overmastering aesthetic conception, the blasphemous rationalism of arch. (26)
Face o simulare a ce ar fi o proiectare bazata pe rationalitate stiintifica si fara
scop estetic The fulfilment of a rational agent what the Greeks called
eudaimonia and we happiness comes only when the agent has that which he
values, as opposed to what that which he merely desires. And perhaps the
most striking aspect of the arch of human needs is that it seems so often to
conceive the world as a world in which there are no values, but only animal
needs. (31)
We must then search for that core of experience, for that surplus in which we
find ourselves reflected, not as creatures of the moment, consumed in the
present activity, but as rational beings, with a past, a present and a future. We
must try to re-capture what is central in the experience of arch. We can do
that only if we reinstate aestheticetic values at the heart of the builders
enterprise, and allow no question of function be answered separately of the
question of the appropriateness of a building, not just to its function, but to a
style of life. (36)
HAS ARCHITECTURE AN ESSENCE? (37-70)
Analizeaza: functionalism, space, Kunstgeschichte, Kunstwollen, proportion
- These doctrines have a certain rhetorical affinity that enables them to be used
together, and to be combined into what has become a compelling critical standpoint.
Their very vagueness has well adapted them to this end. (37)

Functionalism
* The popular functionalist theories that have surrounded it have been used not to
condemn, but to articulate aesthetic values.
- In its most influential form, F purports not to deny the priority of aesthetic
values in arch, so much as to provide a comprehensive theory of their nature.
- According to some versions, the aesthetic exp is the exp of F as it appears. In
the ideal building, form follows F.
1* An essential property may not suffice to define the nature of the thing that
possesses it. (face paralela intre muzica lui Wolf, master in fitting words and music,
dar care ramine sub nivelul muzicii lui Schubert pt ca nu putem spune ca esenta
muzicii este numai aceasta) (39)
2* There is a more serious objection: What is meant by the term function? The F of
the building or of its parts? (40)
- faptul ca centrul Pompidou is exprima partile si functiunile partilor
(escalatoare) nu inseamna ca isi exprima functiunea.
- The idea of F is far from clear, nor is it clear how any particular F is to be
translated into arch form.
- Far from providing a comprehensive aesthetic of arch, F must depend on
some such aesthetic if it is to be understood.
* There is no way of using the idea of function to cast light on the nature of arch,
since it is only if we know what architecture is that we can understand the function.
The theory is simply vacuous.
3* Another difficulty comes from the term express. (41)
** As a weak doctrine its pretensions are not philosophical but critical.
- Ruskins form of functionalism held up as the Lamp of Truth = the structural
honesty of the appearance.
- The mark of a critical doctrine, as opposed to a principle of AE, is that it cannot
be established a priori. If it lays claim of universal validity, then inevitably it must
appear arbitrary and uncompelling.
- More than one form could follow a single structural function the question of
style.
Space
* Ever since the work of Wolfflin and Frankl, the idea has been prevalent of a
connection between arch and space.
- The emphasis has been essentialist that is what arch is essentially is space,
spatial relations and the play of interlocking voids are the true objects of arch
experience.
- Sir Denys Lasdun/1977: Space is the most difficult aspect of arch, but it is its
essence and the ultimate destination to which arch has to address itself.
- !! (esecul lui Zevi de a explica arh greceasca prin prisma spatiului interior)
- It is an attempt to find the merit of arch elsewhere than in its function.
The theorists are premature. They try to arrive at abstract principles of arch
success before giving a proper description of the experience that it qualifies.
In Scholastic language, we must define not the material but the formal object
of architectural interest and appreciation; we must find the description under
which an object must be seen and appreciated if it is to appreciated as
architecture. None of the theories provides such description, for each ignores
some feature of arch that is both intentional and centrally significant.
Moreover, each pretends to an a priori status that it cannot justify, pretends,
that is, to characterise the essence of arch and the core of our experience.
(70)
PART III
SUMMARY (259-263)

CHAPTER 1.
Explored the most fashionable concept in AE, the concept of art, as it has
been formed under the pressure of romantic and post-romantic thinking.
This concept is inadequate to the discussion of arch. Like all decorative arts,
arch derives its nature not from some activity of representation or dramatic
gesture, but from an everyday preoccupation with getting things right, a
preoccupation that has little to do with the artistic intentions of romantic
theory.
The thesis has been that the aestheticetic sense is an indispensable part of
this preoccupation, and that the resulting AE of everyday life is as
susceptible of objective employment as any other branch of practical reason.
The discussion that followed:
- PART 1: A theory of the experience of arch.
- PART 2: The application of this theory to arch practice and criticism
- In conclusion, the answer to the question posed by the introduction
concerning the value of aestheticetic judgement in arch.
CHAPTER 2.
Explored the attempts to detach aesthetic from arch, to see aesthetic
preoccupations as subordinate to some more important aim. Arch is seen as
a species of problem-solving, and beauty as at best as a consequence, and
not an aim, of the ideal solution that the arch requires.
This approach shows confusion about the nature of practical reason: the
reader is therefore introduced to the philosophy of rational action which was
elaborated in the later chapter.
The demonstration is made that there is something very important left out of
account. It is tentatively suggested that this most important ingredient is
aestheticetic experience, and the values it implies.
What is this aesthetic exp? How is it execised, what is its object, by what is it
guided?
CHAPTER 3.
Proceeded to consider certain influential doctrines concerning the nature of
building, which attempt to describe the experience of arch in terms of some
conceptions of the essence of arch. These ruling concepts function, space,
historical meaning, proportion are undermined as being inadequate, along
with the intellectual rhetoric of arch theory.
It emerged incidentally that the theories that have surrounded and given
support to the MM are intellectually vacuous.
CHAPTER 4
Presented a positive account of the experience of arch, and introduced one of
the most important concepts in aesthetic: the concept of imagination.
It means not merely that architectural experience is inherently interpreted,
but that it can be modified through argument, remains free of literal-minded
preconceptions, and acquires a status wholly unlike that of common
perception, namely the status of symbol.
We can now describe the unity of our experience in arch, and the felt unity of
its object.
It becomes also possible to distinguish building of ornament and to show that
the romantics contrast between the sublime world of the imagination and the
pettifogging world of taste is totally misguided.

It is because of aesthetic discrimination that imaginative experience acquires


its interest and meaning.

CHAPTER 5.
Analysis the notion of taste. It is argued that, in imaginative experience,
reasoned reflection, critical choice and immediate experience are inseparable.
It is argued that in the exercise of taste, experience is transformed into a sign
of deeper value, by being brought into relation with procedures of critical
reflection and comparison.
Experience, reason and preference each lay their separate constraints on
aesthetic judgement. In spite of that, however, it maintains an ideal of
objectivity, and manoeuvres a continuity with the moral life.
All arch experience contains the intimation of an objective validity, of a true
critical standard, of a right and a wrong way to build.
CHAPTER 6.
Analyses Freudian and Marxist theories (+ their intellectual antecedents) in
their claim of being able to provide methods for understanding not only
artistic but every other human activity.
They asked questions that must be answered by any satisfactory theory of
aesthetic taste: about the relation between criticism and psychological
analysis, between aesthetic and moral or political judgement.
They are considered largely irrelevant to the understanding of arch. Yet, both
of them contain residues of truth.
CHAPTER 7.
Explored the suggestion that arch is a language, or something like a language,
and must be understood accordingly.
The influential semantic and semiological theories, and their understanding
of arch as a form of quasi-linguistic symbolism, turned out to be vacuous,
having neither theoretical basis, nor critical application.
Meaning enshrined in aesthetic understanding is in some way sui generis, and
also that it is more obvious, at the surface than the advocates of these
conceptions are prepared to accept.
Nevertheless, a sense of the ordered achievement of meaning, rather than its
random accumulation, remained as a principal characteristic of arch, as of
every aesthetic enterprise (not the concept of syntax), as an analogy with
language.
CHAPTER 8.
Explores the kinds of meaning that are proper objects of aesthetic
understanding, and the two important concepts in AE: the concepts of
representation and expression.
The first one does not apply to arch. The second applies only in a special
sense, which creates an important distinction between fine and decorative
arts.
It emerged that to analyse the relation between a building and its meaning,
the two should first be described genetically rather than analytically.
Explores the genesis of aesthetic judgement in the practice of the builder.
CHAPTER 9.
Pursues this point and argues that it is inseparable from the sense of detail.

All the major concepts employed in it the concept of the appropriate, the
proportionable, the expressive, the beautiful take their meaning from the
exercise of that sense.
It becomes clear that style is an indispensable adjunct to arch knowledge,
and that the cultivation of a sense of appropriate detail is immensely more
significant than any pursuit of pure proportion and form.
Only certain approaches to form and detail answer to the demands of
aesthetic sense away from prevailing fashions to some more settled
classical style.

CHAPTER 10
The attempts to subordinate aesthetic standards either to an overriding
function or to the moral rightness of a style, show a confusion that is both
intellectual and moral.

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