The Ethical Function of Architecture

The Ethical Function of Architecture

5.0 2
by Karsten Harries
     
 

ISBN-10: 026258171X

ISBN-13: 9780262581714

Pub. Date: 07/03/1998

Publisher: MIT Press

Can architecture help us find our place and way in today's complex world?
Can it return individuals to a whole, to a world, to a community? Developing
Giedion's claim that contemporary architecture's main task is to interpret a way of life valid for our time, philosopher Karsten Harries answers that architecture should serve a common ethos. But if

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Overview

Can architecture help us find our place and way in today's complex world?
Can it return individuals to a whole, to a world, to a community? Developing
Giedion's claim that contemporary architecture's main task is to interpret a way of life valid for our time, philosopher Karsten Harries answers that architecture should serve a common ethos. But if architecture is to meet that task, it first has to free itself from the dominant formalist approach, and get beyond the notion that its purpose is to produce endless variations of the decorated shed.

In a series of cogent and balanced arguments, Harries questions the premises on which architects and theorists have long relied --
premises which have contributed to architecture's current identity crisis and marginalization. He first criticizes the aesthetic approach, focusing on the problems of decoration and ornament. He then turns to the language of architecture.
If the main task of architecture is indeed interpretation, in just what sense can it be said to speak, and what should it be speaking about? Expanding upon suggestions made by Martin Heidegger, Harries also considers the relationship of building to the idea and meaning of dwelling.

Architecture, Harries observes, has a responsibility to community; but its ethical function is inevitably also political. He concludes by examining these seemingly paradoxical functions.

The MIT Press

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262581714
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
07/03/1998
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
424
Sales rank:
899,164
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 10.00(h) x 0.81(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Preface
1Introduction: Postmodern Prelude2
2The Aesthetic Approach16
3The Problem of Decoration28
4The Promise of Ornament50
5The Decorated Shed70
6The Language Problem84
7Representation and Symbol98
8Representation and Re-Presentation118
9Tales of the Origin of Building136
10Building and Dwelling152
11Space and Place168
12The Voices of Space180
13Learning from Two Invisible Houses202
14Building, Dwelling, and Time214
15The Terror of Time and the Love of Geometry228
16Mold and Ruins240
17Death, Love, and Building254
18Architecture and Building270
19The Publicness of Architecture284
20Grave and Monument292
21The Representation of Life312
22Dreams of Utopia326
23Lessons of the Labyrinth340
24Conclusion: The Shape of Modernity and the Future of Architecture352
Notes368
Index396

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The Ethical Function of Architecture 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
. This is simply one of the best books I have ever read. On one level it is a critique of contemporary thinking about architecture. In the first part of the book Harries argues that the aesthetic approach to art doesn't do justice to the meaning and power of architecture. In the second part he argues that the semiotic approach to architecture is based on a model of language that cannot fully grasp and illuminate the symbolic dimension of architecture. In the third and fourth parts Harries tries to show that questions of architecture are ultimately questions of dwelling (broadly conceived), that questions of dwelling are irreducibly ethical and political, and that architecture thus has an irreducible ethical and political function. On a deeper level the book is a critique of modern philosophies of art. Harries follows thinkers such as Heidegger, Gadamer, and Agamben in criticizing the aesthetic approach to art (which regards artworks simply as beautiful or interesting objects) and theoretical approaches to art (which regard artworks as the expression or illustration of ideas that can best be grasped and articulated with philosophical concepts). Harries argues that artworks have the power to illuminate the world and to call us back to what really matters, and that art is a (nontheoretical) way of responding to basic questions of human existence (How should we live? What does it mean to be human?) Unlike Heidegger, Gadamer, and Agamben, however, Harries develops his arguments with a great number of specific, concrete examples drawn from the whole history of Western architecture and art. So while the book is philosophically ambitious, it is also exceptionally clear, sober, and down to earth. Finally, I should note that the writing itself is beautiful--it is simple, precise, and conveys a sense of deep concentration and wonder. The Ethical Function of Architecture won the American Institute of Architects 8th Annual International Architecture Book Award for Criticism. But it is about more than architecture. I recommend it very, very highly to anyone interested in Heidegger, phenomenology, aesthetics, ethics, poetry, literary theory, modernity and modernism, and the history and philosophy of art.