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Perception of Architecture:

A Cultural and Technological Compromise

Graduation Honors Thesis

Danae Cardenas

The notion and impression of experience is one that opens the door into a realm of

understanding that reaches far into the way the individual understands the surroundings that

make up an environment. The development of architecture is experiential and thus

phenomenological occurrences are understood through individual perceptions. How a place

manifests itself is very dependent on the scope through which we view it. This understanding is

phenomenological and therefore cultural; meaning that this interpretation is based on how we

understand subjective and objective stimuli.

In Perez- Gomez’s text “Dwelling on Heidegger: Architecture as mimetic techno-

poiesis,” 1 he proposes that architecture can only be considered poetic if this architecture is

significant to its culture, society, and thus to the people that experience it. Architecture itself,

consequently, becomes a concern that Heidegger views to be very “particular to humans,” for it

is a state that comes forth from interaction or communication between the people and what

constructs their environments. Perez-Gomez considers it to deal with the concept that it is a

cultural discipline that engages the past and present of the environment in which it interacts. It

can therefore be said that architecture with meaning is comprised of varying contexts but at its

core it can only be experienced, analyzed, and understood by the scope through which it is seen.

In the design studio it has become more evident that these components aide in the development

of our modern architectural understanding. Currently the aim of this project is develop an urban

infill for the Shibati area in China. Through this research on context, culture, phenomenology,

and technology it has become an investigation on creating an architecture which lives as a

compromise of these elements.

Contextually this built entity must then be appropriate according to the conditions that

comprise the environment of this work. The indication of this is to think of the physical

1 Alberto Perez-Gomez, “Dwelling on Heidegger: Architecture as Mimetic Techno-Poiesis,” Subject, vol.3,no.2(1998):1

characteristics of the site such as the, “structure, material, space, color, light, and shadow that

intertwine to fabricate this architecture,2 in this it also becomes an issue of how the individual

responds to these characteristics that forms the meaning of the architecture. A primary goal for

the student design proposal in the design studio includes the careful development of a site design

strategy that allows the work to have relationship to the cultural and historical context. The

culmination of these two major components construct how the individual perceives the work,

Steven Holl stated, “we cannot separate perception into a few components…a ‘whole’ cinema of

merging and yielding enmeshed experiences devise this perceived condition.3 The entirety of

the perceived condition Holl is talking about takes on the idea that the intent in this design is to

capture the essence, and thus, the full understanding of the work. He believes there lives a

duality between the, “subjective and objective lives, intertwining inner and outer feelings and

thought into a phenomena.” 4 Intertwining these states of mind develop a deeper and more closely

understood experience and relationship to the occupant as well as to the context within which it

exists.

The compliments of characteristics that are assessed objectively as well subjectively

cultivate a design that allows the inhabitant to perceive adequately enough to have the

completeness of experience. The two cannot be exclusive from one another and cannot be fully

one or the other instead it is a balance between the objective and subjective that makes

architecture understandable and relevant. “Architecture orients, indeed, but its mode of

orientation, and what it says, are inseparable from itself. It orients the body in action, framing the

actions, traditionally formalized rituals that allow humans to participate in the totality, the

2 Steven Holl, “Intertwining,” (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996): 11. 3 Steven Holl, “Intertwining,” (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996): 11,12.

4 Steven Holl, “Intertwining,” (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996): 13.

wholeness of culture.” 5 This “wholeness,” then becomes the phenomenon which is intuitively

ingrained in our contextual and therefore cultural background. This phenomenological theory is

then the manipulation of our perceptual experiences organized to fit our contextual

understanding.

Architecture establishes a space that is cultural, the reality which is constructed through a

person’s experience is translated through it. These inner and outer feelings and thoughts that are

brought together to form a phenomena are a reflection of the product of societal and cultural

influences. The contextual understanding each occupant has is an understanding of the cultural

implications of societies. Architecture can therefore never be a full resolution of no one thing but

instead it is the meeting point at which the components that which structured it come to establish

themselves. “The result should never be a pastiche of the past, but the truly novel, which inspires

awe yet is also recognizable, respectful of our heritage, yet never an act of mere historic

restoration.” 6 It can be described as the evolution of something that already had been established

but has been altered according to the evolution of the people and culture. The culmination

between the effects of time is one that is cultural and therefore also contextual, meaning that with

the passage of time the contextual basis upon which we judge our “world” adjusts and alters to

fit within a new context.

The distinction between spaces or places, is one that becomes an issue of defining how

architecture is achieved through the understanding of culture associated with it. Perception of a

space in connection with the experience associated with this space establishes a character and

attitude towards what then becomes a “place.” This distinction has become a debate which has

found itself in the middle of architectural discourse. The individual experience of a space is

5 Steven Holl, “Intertwining,” (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996): 12.

6 Steven Holl, “Intertwining,” (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1996): 13.

dynamic in form it develops through the perception of a place and how it may be defined as a

space of dwelling. “Place is space to which meaning has been ascribed…if space is an abstract

concept then place is what we know through experience. Space has neither location or context

nor scale nor reference; whereas place does, to dwell is a place defined by an individual

perception…it is the act of dwelling that transforms space into a place.” 7

Modernism emerged as a means to negotiate the new industrialization and technological

interpretation of the world with the old traditional concepts of the classical. The debate

encompassed the new and old or art and technology; their contrasting characteristics would bring

about the deliberate consideration of how architecture should be understood in modern society.

In essence, the phenomenological and contextual understanding began to transect and intertwine

with the new theories of technology. This paradigmatic shift in understanding and view allowed

the technological to disrupt the understanding of space and place, consequently, our

understanding of meaning in architecture.

If modern architecture is a representation of the media, then are our perceptions a

manipulation of our culture. The Colomina Archive discusses the issues of modern architectural

discourse and its relationship to the media. It becomes evident that our interpretation of

architecture in the modern sense is dependent on the way it is presented through the media. “To

enter is to see a static object, a building, a fixed place. Rather, architecture taking place in

history, the events of architecture as an event. The elements of modern architecture are seen

being ‘born’ in front of your eyes. And in so doing they make these eyes modern.” 8 The media is

a technological advancement which has altered and will continue to alter our understanding of

7 Elizabeth Song Lockard, “Habitation in Space: The Relationship between Aesthetics and Dwelling,” Journal of AIAA (2006) 1

8 Colomina, Beatrice. Privacy and Publicity: Modern Architecture as Mass Media. (MA: MIT Press, 1994),

5.

architecture. It functions as a frame, the way it is framed as well as the way it is presented

becomes the contextual understanding we develop in our minds which in turn develops our

understanding.

in our minds which in turn develops our understanding. Liu, Jensen. "Siheyuan: the Chinese Housing Dream."

Liu, Jensen. "Siheyuan: the Chinese Housing Dream." May 9, 2009.http://chinablog.cc/2009/05/siheyuan-the-chinese-housing-dream/ (accessed April 1, 2012).

1. Main gate.

2. Screen wall. Usually has blessing words on it.

3. Reversed rooms. For servants.

4. Outside yard.

5. Secondary gate.

6. Main yard.

7. Main rooms. For the house owner.

8. East rooms. For elder son. Usually these rooms are taller than west rooms.

9. West rooms. For younger son.

10. Side rooms. For maids.

11. Back rooms. For daughter.

An example which develops this concept would be the traditional Chinese garden up

holds many of the principals of the cultural phenomenological contexts that develop architecture

as meaningful “places”. The garden motivates a state of reflection and contemplation by means

of view; in essence it is a form of cultural and phenomenological framing. “The jing is a key

concept in Chinese gardens. It defines the interactive unity between scenic views and the

spectator.” 9 The jing is a component of the Chinese historical context which has maintained its

existence by means of evolving itself. In this evolution it has given a tradition of meaning and

depth to the Chinese garden, in turn representing this “poetical” architecture that Perez- Gomez

spoke about in his analysis of Heidegger’s writing. Much like the idea of framing presented in

the jing, the technological can be discussed in a similar way.

The social and cultural implications that are established by means of a project are seen

through architecture because it relies on the individual perceptions of the social and cultural.

Living in a technology driven world, the technological becomes deeply engrained in the

perceivers analysis of the environment that surrounds them. “Technology substitutes a ‘picture’

for the world of what our primary experience may be, phenomenology discloses it as one where

the universal and the specific are given simultaneously in the mystery of perception, in the space

between Being and Becoming.” 10 In the eve of the developments of the technological

transformations that are becoming part of the definition of architecture itself, it starts to view

technology as a means to begin to unveil the human ideals of perception. The use of technology

in the architectural practice is thus integrated with todays design strategies. The housing project

requires an exploration of the incorporation of a parametric component and digital fabrication

techniques. With these tools students are able to better understand how the technological

movement of our generation has altered the perception of architecture. The use of digital

modeling has become pivotal in the study and presentation of work in the studio. Without these

9 Hui Zou, “Jing: A Phenomenological Reflection on Chinese Landscape and Qing,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy (2008)

353

10 Alberto Perez-Gomez, “Introduction to Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science” in Architecture Theory since 1968, ed. M.K. Hays (Cambridge Mass: The MIT Press, 1998),1.

techniques students and practicing architects alike are given the ability to present work. The

manipulation of which has evolved through the use of the tool, with its use the development of a

new way to study architecture has come about.

of a new way to study architecture has come about. Keck, Jonathan. "Theology 21." July

Keck, Jonathan. "Theology 21." July

20,2010.http://www.theology21.com/2010/07/20/ancient-skyscrapers-language-

cooperation-and-rebellion/ (accessed March 10, 2012).

The compromise between phenomenology and technology is derived from the juncture at

which the manipulation of each meet, this moment is perception itself. It can be said that

technology constructs spaces meanwhile phenomenology builds them. Therefore, the

differentiation between the two is nestled between the fine lines that distinguish “construct” from

“build” as well as between “being” and “becoming”. 11 The way we understand architecture is by

means of the phenomenological input that we receive, this framing mechanism Perez Gomez

11 Alberto Perez-Gomez, “Introduction to Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science” in Architecture Theory since 1968, ed. M.K. Hays (Cambridge Mass: The MIT Press, 1998),1.

argued can be substituted by technology in an effort to understand how we analyze the world

around us 12 . The effects on the structure of a peoples culture is effected by the built environment,

it can be said that, much like the jing, architecture is a way of framing that alters the perception

and understanding of how we view places, our experiences, and even our memories. This

concept of urbanism encompasses the geographical, economic, political, and even social

mechanisms of an area; an example of this would be the Great Wall of China. The built

environment that is established from this work is one that effects and has effected these

components in Chinese culture, tradition, and its urbanism. “The tower failed and was bound to

fail because of the weakness of the foundation. The Great Wall alone would provide for the first

time in the history of mankind a secure foundation for a new Tower of Babel.” 13 The

implications of this comparison narrate the story of how culture and the phenomenology related

to understanding, absorbing, and experiencing the built environment. The foundations of the

Great Wall of China are deeply engrained in the development of the country and its people’s

development. It tells a story of government, economy, culture, and even of the people themselves

and how the Great Wall was a development that today still stands to remind and relive in the

philosophy of a people. This exemplifies how the built environment structures views. The Great

Wall of China, much like the concept of the jing transcended time, it is a development of

centuries of dynasties and have become icons that define a culture.

12 Robert Scharff, Val Dusek, eds. "Defining Technology." Part I and III in Philosophy of Technology: The Technological Condition - An Anthology. (Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2003), 210-212.

13 Franz Kafka, “The Great Wall of China,” The Great Wall of China: Stories and Reflections (New York: Schocken Books, 1960), 153.

Stephenson, Cindy. "Great Wall of China." August 7,

Stephenson, Cindy. "Great Wall of China." August 7, 2008.http://cindystephenson.wordpress.com/2008/08/07/great-wall-of-china/ (accessed July 13,

2011).

In all, the development of meaningful architecture is experiential and thus

phenomenological occurrences that are understood through individual perceptions. These

individual perceptions are now manipulated by the technological effects of the modern world.

How a place manifests itself is very dependent on the person, this understanding is

phenomenological, meaning that the interpretation is based on an individual’s way of

understanding objective as well as subjective stimuli. In this the contextual, cultural, and thus

technological influence becomes increasingly important to the meaning of architecture itself.

Architectural expression in the space of chora, understood as cultural space but also the space of

human appearance, the space of the city beyond classical definitions An architecture to reveal

humanity not in time but made of time, not in space but radically embodied and existing in a

thick, vivid present, between the earth and the sky, as a unique place in the universe, always

subject to forces larger than ourselves that in fact make us human, call us to take measure and yet

always lay beyond the reach of calculation. In order to accomplish this aim, architecture must

understand itself differently.” 14 Therefore, how architecture is expressed is dependent on the

phenomenological and thus cultural influences on the viewer.

The stimulation we receive as a result of the subjective and objective environments that

surround us is interpreted almost instantly, making each perspective predisposed to incline in a

certain direction. A major predisposition in modern society and thus modern architecture is

technology. These stimuli are presented through a variety of different forms.

Technology has become a component that cannot live exclusively from us, it is a logic

that characterizes and somewhat defines the modern world. The framing mechanisms of both

phenomenology and technology are necessary in the effort to understand architecture as a

reflection and component of culture. The efforts of human perception to understand have brought

about a combination between technology and phenomenology that exclusively develop them

while jointly establishing a “full resolution” of thought and view. It can be said that the

perception of architecture is a compromise between the technological and phenomenological

aspects of culture. As is proven, the idea of a compromise is one that stresses the importance of

both components rather than the preference of one over the other. The intersections between the

two overlap and encompass similar topics that together allow for the modern day comprehension

of our built environments.

14 Alberto Perez-Gomez, “Introduction to Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science” in Architecture Theory since 1968, ed. M.K. Hays (Cambridge Mass: The MIT Press, 1998),1.

UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA STUDY ABROAD

CONTENTS OF SELECTED WORKS

Stitching Shiba Ti and the Traditional Chinese Teahouse to adjust the existing structure of this place. Allowing the evolution of a site that re- lates to it cultural and historical influence.

Site Elevation Study & Shiba Ti Community Connections

1

Stitiching an Urban Fabric

4

Solar Analysis & Sectional Urban Analysis

2

Podium Relationship to Larger Urban Context

5

Podium Tower Walkway Spatial Relationship and Organizational Analysis

3

Theintentionof this projectis tocreateaplacethat maintains a historicaland culturalauthenticitywhileallowingtheevolution of a“new”place. After the inititalanalysis andplanningof the major urban fabric of therevisitedShibaTi, thepodiumbegan to becomethecomponent I chose to further develop.Thepodiumand con- nectingwalkwayfunctionsas an urbancarpet. Theyexplorethe idea of entering andexperiencing a spatialitinerary.Theconnection betweentowerand street had a loseconnection whichneededto be betteradjustedto fit the conceptand generalenviornmentof this site. Thepresence of theteahousegives structuretotheharmony of thisconnection between the streetandtower.Theshiftin scale is adjusted according to the experience ofan evolving movement to andfrom this place. The focusisthus, understandingofthis spatial itinerary and its connection to the larger urban context.

Urban Fabric Tower and Podium

to the larger urban context. Urban Fabric Tower and Podium Communal Connections Urban Terrace Cultural Infrastructure

Communal Connections Urban Terrace

urban context. Urban Fabric Tower and Podium Communal Connections Urban Terrace Cultural Infrastructure Cultural Plaza

Cultural Infrastructure Cultural Plaza

urban context. Urban Fabric Tower and Podium Communal Connections Urban Terrace Cultural Infrastructure Cultural Plaza

C U LT U R A L R I T U A L I S M

A REINTERPRETATION OF THE CLASSIC CHINESE TEAHOUSE

CHONGQING, CHINA CRITIC: ALBERTUS WANG & HUI ZOU

Shiba Ti Community Connections

Site Elevation Study Atpresent,thediscontinuitybetweentheelevationswithinthe
Site Elevation Study
Atpresent,thediscontinuitybetweentheelevationswithinthe
siteandthatofitssurroundingsreinforcestheawkwardrelation
betweenShibaTiandthemodernmovementoccuringalongits
peripheries.Theelevationsofbuildingswithinthesitecreate
thepersonable,intimatehumanscaletypicalofancientChinese
culture;however, crossingoneofthemajorhighwaysbordering
thesite,theoccupantisfacedwithamoremonumentalscale
typicalofthemodernwesternmovementwithinthecentralbusi-
nessdistrictofChongqing,withnomeansoftransitionbetween
thetwo.
thetwo. Ourstudyof theChongqingShibatiareabeganasa
thetwo. Ourstudyof theChongqingShibatiareabeganasa
thetwo. Ourstudyof theChongqingShibatiareabeganasa
thetwo. Ourstudyof theChongqingShibatiareabeganasa

Ourstudyof theChongqingShibatiareabeganasa studyofunderstandingtheculturalinfrastructure ofthisplace anditsrelationshiptothesiteasa whole.After lookingatthehistorical contextwithin whichShibati wasformeditbecameapparentthatits foundationdevelopedthroughtheevolutionofthis context.

Solar Analysis Existing Shadow Canopies

9 am

12 pm 3 pm 6 pm
12 pm
3 pm
6 pm

Its fabric is saturated with both historical and cultural components of this places memory. The natural, cultural, and social sceneries of the project were thus crucial in the representation of Shibati’s past in connection with its future and the sur- rounding areas. The meeting place between which we found to be our conceptual basis for the project; the idea of a teahouse. The teahouse functioned as a conceptual anchor through which the new fabric could develop.

Podium Spatial Relationship and organizational Analysis

Podium Spatial Relationship and organizational Analysis The structure of the teahouse culturally was already an
Podium Spatial Relationship and organizational Analysis The structure of the teahouse culturally was already an
Podium Spatial Relationship and organizational Analysis The structure of the teahouse culturally was already an
Podium Spatial Relationship and organizational Analysis The structure of the teahouse culturally was already an

The structure of the teahouse culturally was already an existing compo- nent to Shibati. The tradition, organization, and foundation of a Chi- nese teahouse was arranged as a base throughout which the entire site would be organized to fit the already existing programmatic and cultural features found in the area. There were four main areas found on the site, the CBD, the market, the hybrid circulation, and the residential components of our site cultivated as different types of enviornments all connected through this conceptual basis. They were connected through the components of a teahouse we found to be most important in connecting this projec, the idea of interaction, communication, and congregation.

the idea of interaction, communication, and congregation. S t i t c h i n g

Stitching an Urban Fabric

of interaction, communication, and congregation. S t i t c h i n g a n
of interaction, communication, and congregation. S t i t c h i n g a n
Podium relationship to Larger Urban Context Theenviornmentthatdefinesateahousebecomesa
Podium relationship to Larger Urban Context Theenviornmentthatdefinesateahousebecomesa

Podium relationship to Larger Urban Context

Podium relationship to Larger Urban Context Theenviornmentthatdefinesateahousebecomesa

Theenviornmentthatdefinesateahousebecomesa

programmaticpiecethatisrepresentedthroughthe

spatialandstructuralorganizationoftheproject.

Memoryplaysaroleasaconnectionpointbetween

thispastandpresent,itisrepresentedthroughthe

connectionfromzonetozonethroughtheentiresite.

Itfunctionsasaconnectingpiecethatbringsabout

therecollectionofhowShibatiwasestablishedasa

placeofgatheringwhetheritbeasacommunity,port,

orrefuge.

therecollectionofhowShibatiwasestablishedasa placeofgatheringwhetheritbeasacommunity,port, orrefuge.
therecollectionofhowShibatiwasestablishedasa placeofgatheringwhetheritbeasacommunity,port, orrefuge.

GRAPHIC CONSTRUCT

GRAPHIC CONSTRUCT