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  • Writer's pictureDavid Hauser

Phenomenology and the Crafting of Experience in Architecture

Phenomenology is a philosophical approach that focuses on the study of human experience. It is concerned with how we perceive and interact with the world around us. In architecture, phenomenology can be used to design buildings and spaces that are responsive to the needs and experiences of their users.


What is phenomenology?


Phenomenology was founded in the early 20th century by the German philosopher Edmund Husserl. Husserl believed that the traditional way of studying philosophy, which focused on abstract concepts, was flawed. He argued that we should instead start by studying our own experiences, and then use this knowledge to develop a better understanding of the world around us.


Phenomenology in architecture


Phenomenology has been influential in architecture since the 1960s. Architects who take a phenomenological approach to design are interested in how people experience buildings and spaces. They consider factors such as the movement of light and air, the use of materials, and the overall atmosphere of a space.


Crafting experience in architecture


When architects craft an experience, they are thinking about how people will feel and interact with a space. They consider factors such as the following:

  • Movement: How will people move through the space? Will they be able to move freely and easily, or will they feel constrained?

  • Light and air: How will light and air be used to create a certain atmosphere? Will the space be bright and airy, or dim and intimate?

  • Materials: What materials will be used to create the space? Will they be rough and textured, or smooth and sleek?

  • Overall atmosphere: What kind of overall atmosphere do the architects want to create? Do they want the space to feel warm and inviting, or cold and impersonal?

Examples of phenomenological architecture


Some examples of phenomenological architecture include:

  • The Fallingwater House by Frank Lloyd Wright: This iconic house is cantilevered over a waterfall, creating a sense of lightness and airiness. The use of natural materials such as stone and wood connects the house to its surroundings.

  • The Pantheon in Rome: The Pantheon is a Roman temple that was built in the 2nd century AD. It is known for its massive dome and its central opening, which allows light to flood into the building. The Pantheon is a space that inspires awe and wonder.

  • The Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, Spain: The Guggenheim Museum is a contemporary art museum that was designed by Frank Gehry. The building's unique shape and use of materials create a sense of dynamism and movement. The Guggenheim Museum is a space that is both challenging and inspiring.

Phenomenology is a powerful tool that can be used to design buildings and spaces that are responsive to the needs and experiences of their users. Architects who take a phenomenological approach to design create spaces that are both functional and beautiful.

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