Phenomenology of Architecture


This paper examines and reviews three literatures pertaining to architectural matters namely; Primal Therapy, Hapticity and Time and Steven Holl: A Translation of Phenomenological Philosophy into the Realm of Architecture. The three have its own distinct nature of understanding and this paper should then discuss how each context provides the ideas for an architectural review.

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Primal Therapy

Primal therapy is about the thermal baths in Switzerland, Vals specifically. This is marked by the creation of Peter Zumthor which depicts an alluring design. The article describes every single detail of the masterpiece. The bath’s massive stone walls which is composed of layered and completely polished quarried gneiss and captures the natural light that possess the contradicting effect on the winter landscape of the outside environment of the building. The illustration of the blue roof lights makes the ceremonial glow that emphasizes the interlocking spaces of the small chambers and therapy rooms.

As its author, Raymund Ryan describes the work of Peter Zumthor, it fills the imagination of the readers and lets the audience picture out the image of the bath. The illustration of each scene artistically gives the architectural definition of the building and entices the readers to see these words into actions. The part where in the materials are related, “the doors, handrails, grips, suspended and applied signage, the discs of pendant lights, and the tubular contraptions at entry and about the drinking well are all made of bronze” creates an idea that the building is a masterpiece by its architect. Colors, forms, visualizations and other effective techniques are used by the author to write for the design of the building.

Indeed, this can be regarded as an efficient manner in describing art which surely relates to the people and not only with other architects who knows a lot about designs. Even small details are presented in the literature such as the sipping cups and where its parts are made of. Sizes and shapes are explicitly explained which has something to do with how these objects are seen to match with the elements of a good architectural design. The structures that the author presented are developed through the masterpiece of Peter Zumthor which basically attributes the ideas of both theory and practice. The architect’s view on the development of each design is a product of how his own interpretation of what architecture means. Based on the works of Chur and the church of Sogn Benedetg as well, the architect was able to come up with a multifaceted design for a building. (Ryan, 1997).

A strong point that the article showed is that it just did not cater to the designs of the building or its physical appearance and how the making of the building defines intricacy. Significantly, the designs are connected to with how other aspects of architecture should be considered. Outlook of one’s designs should not only point out to how the design is made but also to the recognition of the interpretational aspects. This may mean the feelings or emotion that lies through how this creation would essentially touch and remain to the audience. Thus, primal therapy as how it is entitled, describes how the beauty of the building can make a difference as it may serve as a treatment for illnesses that it covers.

The reading material somehow over explained the descriptions of the designs but this makes a good point because it assures the readers to catch up with how the building looks like and be able to interpret and visualize the subject.

Hapticity and Time

This literature also falls under the architectural sense of how the designs evolve over time and in a contiguous manner. The article is generally influenced by the ideas of Juhani Pallasmaa and includes the idea of haptic or sensuous architecture. Accordingly, the article began through the description of materials and surfaces that constantly evolves and emerges with the development of other architectural innovations in the contemporary world. The concept of the modern designs has affected the people’s visions and greatly became one of the factors on the interpretation of certain masterpieces. The experiences of the architects are important for the consideration of the elements of architecture and it relevantly connects with the senses such as the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. This means that people in the modern era use these factors to view a design. The concept of Merleau- Ponty is applied on the context which focuses on the progression of experience and sensory relations. In accord with the perspective of Merlaeu- Ponty, the idea revolves around the interpretation of the designer’s whole being and not just by a particular sense and looks at the subject in a unique manner. People sometimes are devoured by what the sense of sight delivers and the awareness for the sense of touch is sometimes covered.

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The real meaning of architecture is defined in the context by a Philosophy Professor as a profound protection from the developing time and a space that is controllable. The search for the evidences, the main point of modern architecture has favored materials and surfaces with some forms of art such as flatness, immaterial, abstractness and timelessness. The modern approach is viewed as a theoretical boundary of volume and depicts a more conceptual framework than the use of senses. These accounts for the consideration of shapes and volumes, the matter stays mute and the form is vocal.

However, the development and application of contemporary architecture may apparently be depicted through the architectural designs today; some works still prevail as a product of time which possesses the qualities that can be depicted as having an extraordinary emotive power. Focusing on the visual imagery of and distinguished from the social and contextual considerations is what the modern architects show. Architectural designs nowadays are trying to dominating the center rather than forming a supportive environment for the activities of people and their perception (Pallasmaa, 2000).

Explanations for the sensuous architecture and time relatively give the idea of how the designs evolve through the time with regard to the consideration of senses. Before, designs are viewed completely and takes account for the senses but as time passes, architecture is now more on the visual effects. This article can be referred to as a substantial writing because it details vital information about the subject. Thus, this enables people to compare and contrast how the contemporary architectural designs can be distinguished from the traditional ones. Differences may be vague though but artists and keen observers can point out the senses used in a particular building.

Steven Holl: A Translation of Phenomenological Philosophy into the Realm of Architecture

The third paper discusses how the author evaluates architecture as an example of how phenomenology provides the architect innovations for the areas of architecture. The idea regarding the experience of architecture has considered the perspectives for the architectural area. This is through the substantiations that are made to assess the connection of the artist with the architectural elements. The content pointed out to the development of the thoughts with regard to architecture and its perspectives. This started from the determination of the intellectual and phenomenal certainty in the author’s architecture and clarifies the profound philosophies that lie within Holl’s ideas. Consequently, one of Holl’s philosophies is in relation with the phenomenological position. This can be viewed in either his philosophical background is based on the ideas of Maurice Merleau- Ponty or his architecture is largely connected with phenomenology. Maurice Merleay- Ponty explicitly influenced Holl’s architecture according to his some architectural ideas where in the concepts are more into the area of architecture. The second elaborates more the application of phenomenal aspects in order to accomplish a concept for design and to explain its forms deeply.

Phenomenology can be referred to as a philosophical design in the modern architecture and a particular area of academic research which is based on the material experience of building materials and how they link with the senses. The main point of the paper depicts on how the ideas of phenomenology relates with the concept of Holl in his architecture. Arguments generally fall under Holl’s definition of the main challenge of Merleau- Ponty’s phenomenology in an architectural sense and how Holl’s own ideas and philosophies manipulate his comprehension of architecture. The architectural details, spaces and forms are then analyzed for better understanding the perspectives of Holl. And this specifically caters to the concepts that the architect inhabits on the architectural creation. The examination of the phenomenological structure of how Holl makes architecture highlights his illustration of the connections between the building, site, situation and body, space, movement and time. The concept of haptiscity should also put on a highlight as it depicts the details, spaces and forms. In addition to, Holl contributes to the profound understating of how architecture and phenomenology relates to each other (Yorgancıoglu, 2007).

The ideas of Holl about architecture can be seen as widely important for understanding and relating to the philosophical idea of an architect. The paper showed an interesting point through the definition of the grounds between phenomenology and the architect’s philosophical position. This makes a sensible context where in the readers can apprehend with how the ideas run down and use this material as a reference for further reviews. This possessed clear ideas with regard to the distinction of the frameworks that are discussed within the architectural concepts of Steven Holl in the paper. Thus, this largely builds a substance for the fundamental views that architects should consider. Theories and experience are two important factors that make up a good architecture and basically produce a masterpiece for an architect. Accordingly, this reading should be recommended for the readers to evaluate more and understand how each concept can be applied to their own architectural perspectives.


The three literatures depict the masterpieces in architecture which covers different approaches. Primal therapy is focused on the intricacy of the designs and be able to use it as a therapy. The second one made distinctions with the techniques being used in the contemporary architecture while the third one defines phenomenology from the philosophical positions of the architects.

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Ryan, R. (1997). “Primal therapy”, 2008. Web.

Pallasmaa,J (2000) “Hapticity and time”, Web.

Yorgancıoglu, D. (2007). “Steven Holl: A Translation of Phenomenological Philosophy into the Realm of Architecture”, Web.

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