The experience of architecture is a tactile amalgam of the senses. Our understanding of the way human consciousness organizes space and is organized by it has continually evolved. Most recently this evolution may be witnessed through a study of the nineteenth century's focus on perceptual empiricism, the development of theories concerning the perceptual dynamics of a body's position in relation to its surrounding architecture, and the realization of the essentially inseparable aspects of speed and spatiality. This understanding both forms and informs the initial organizing principles which influence the way I operate as an architect and the way I interact with architecture as an experiencing subject.
August Schmarsow's theories of space-sense, in challenging the previous historically dominant notion of form in architecture, were important but failed to include the understanding that vision is not only scientifically, but also culturally determined (171). Ornament and movement are the two primary precepts under which this discussion takes form. The phenomenological aspect, as detailed by Husserl's studies into the essences of perception and consciousness, has enlarged sensational knowledge, and this has been further enlarged by current modes of modern architecture and design (42).
Contemporary architecture can only be effectual in the exemplification of the artist's spirit when theories of mass, surface, and plan are considered within the larger conversation about contemporary culture and aesthetic ideology. For the late nineteenth century, the reification of architecture was a revelation in spatial practice: the invention of the movie camera and trains provided the embodied subject with new possibilities for perception. The greater regular variance of possibilities and speeds of movement through space have made it necessary to consider the qualitative changes that technology has brought to bear on the abstract imagination of space/time from which an architect operates.
Though ornament has been simultaneously embraced and derided in many foundational works on the theories of architecture, its involvement within theories of movement reaches an expansive, interrelated and unavoidable argument: each is, on its own, an important consideration, but an incomplete one. Considering motion without ornament treats the inevitability of surface as a kind of homogeneous “render” while considering the surface without render neglects the very fundamentals of the actual experience of moving through space. It is at this intersection of ornament and motion that I locate the next architectural revolution.
To reconnect the experience of architecture with the physical world, the world which in phenomenology always already exists, necessitates the sublimation of layperson, engineer, and artist within the single multiplicity of a licensed architect's body and mind.
The perceptual bond is a referral system between the artwork, its creator and its observer. In terms of movement, ornament and surface become realized only to the extent that an observer gives them consideration. Engaging with the world begins the process of reflection. What one feels when moving through space is inextricably linked to what one sees.
Architecture is, ultimately, a physical practice, not an abstract explanation or analysis. Artistic consciousness is a process of apperception. It is both the search for and the development of the awareness of personal memory and cultural experience that allows an architect to tap into the vast cultural cache of knowledge to produce a work that resonates with its public. We must not ignore tradition, but urge ourselves in the direction of new lines of sensory experience, to develop the kinetic extension of bodily impulses into the space itself, so that our minds and senses can be broadened, and not limited, by experience.
Husserl, Edmund, and William Ralph Boyce Gibson. Ideas: General Introduction to Pure Phenomenology, London: G. Allen & Unwin, 1931. Print.
Schmarsow, August and Roy Malcolm Porter. The Essence of Architecture: August Schmarsow's Theory of Space. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Print.