Phenomenological Depths: Surface and Flatness in Architecture and Film

By Robert Hermanson.

Published by The Arts Collection

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Article: Print $US10.00
Article: Electronic $US5.00

With the Enlightenment human endeavor has shifted from a philosophy based on what Mortimer Adler calls First Order questions to that of the empirical sciences emerging as the dominant mode of inquiry. While Positivism emphasizes the sciences as the only knowledge of reality, other movements have emerged that challenge this authority, among them the movement known as Phenomenology. In contrast to the Positivist emphasis on pure objectivity, Phenomenology strives to address events that appeal directly to our consciousness, our sensorial reading of the world. In doing so it strides multiple disciplines and worlds.
Architecture, a synchronic phenomenon, and film, a diachronic one, find mutual correspondences as a result of the experiential and the sensorial. Beginning as separate disciplines, and with specific notions of perception and space/ time based on their particular technologies, the two disciplines have grown increasingly together. As Juhani Pallasmaa observes:
" These two art forms create and mediate comprehensive images of life. In the same way that buildings and cities create and preserve images of culture and a particular way of life, cinema illuminates the cultural archaeology of both the time of its making and the era that it depicts."
These two cultural expressions as mutually related attributes of spatialness and the experiential, form a part of the present cultural condition. Questions emerge. What is surface? Is it the surfaces we see on the film screen that evoke greater depth, literally, but also metaphorically, than even architecture itself? What is depth? Is it the architectural expressions of volume now compressed onto glass screens and surfaces that seemingly deny its depth? Within this milieu I argue that there exist contradictary conditions redefining the meaning of phenomenology itself as they pertain to the present zeitgeist. Such conditions and interpretations of their meaning form the basis for this paper.

Keywords: Film, Architecture, Phenemonology

International Journal of the Arts in Society, Volume 6, Issue 2, pp.39-52. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 2.574MB).

Prof. Robert Hermanson

Professor Emeritus, College of Architecture and Planning, University of Utah, Depoe Bay, Utah, USA

A graduate of the U. of Minnesota and U. of Penn, M. Arch. and as a registered architect I have practiced architecture as well as taught as a professor at the U. of Utah, and the Catholic University of America as a visiting professor. My interest in design, both as built works as well as theoretical constructs has also addressed interdisciplinary studies involving architecture, art, dance, music, film and literature. The relationship between disciplines presently is focused on film and architecture. Consequently I have recently conducted a studio on these issues at the U of Oregon as a Visiting Professor as well as presented several papers at international conferences pertaining to the same.

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