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Phenomenology: Significant Notion in the Architecture Field

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Throughout its history, the eye has been called the noblest of the senses and has been epistemologically privileged and other senses thrown into the background. Despite in Greek culture, it was conceived as a prerequisite of wisdom, in other words, as a “vision”; in the Renaissance, this attitude is expressed in the hierarchical arrangement of the senses, where “vision” is at the first and “touch” is at the bottom. The loss of touch in architecture has resulted in discontinuities in the creation process and the loss of sensibility of buildings. This situation increased eye hegemony in that field and led to the discarding of the concept of experience in the background. The existential space theory, which is manifested at this point, in other words, phenomenology, asserts the spaces that can be created by revealing the “pure” reality belonging to the essence can establish a stronger connection with the body. This pure reality can only be achieved -within the framework of this terminology- by incorporating the four senses (touch, hearing, smell, taste) of the human body into architecture and applying the phenomenological reduction method. Architects such as Juhani Pallasmaa, Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor assist in the transition process of phenomenology to architecture by producing works on both theoretical and practical issues. However, this process is not yet complete. Especially the fact that there are some problems at the application point gives a problematic direction to this transition period. In this study, it is aimed to develop a method to increase the applicability of phenomenology in architecture to improve the intelligibility of the term. The effects/reasons/ results of the use of light, sound, texture, and shape terms, which are the basic principles of this concept, are examined through the structures and theories of Peter Zumthor and based on these investigations, a step-by-step method was developed.

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Phenomenology has become a significant notion in the architecture field that has been carried to a practical scale by some architects. The main reason for that is the phenomenology’s approach of looking from the subject’s perspective and being subjective. Because people’s assumptions and interpretations create their World’s reality and social situation; that architects try to perceive the world as independent of all perceptions and beliefs. At this point, they have started to use multi-sensory and phenomenological reduction methods when designing their structures.

The education, production, representation, and understanding of design is a topic that has been discussed in architectural environments for many years. Along with the Cartesian thought, the sense of vision that has a direct relationship with the mind has been given superiority and the body and other senses have been considered deceptive . This acceptance was reflected in the quality perception of the space, and with the eye-centered approach, space has been transformed into volumes that can only be seen from outside like sculpture. The disconnection of the subject’s other senses on the recognition weakened the relationship between user and space. Only vision-oriented designs are increasingly disconnect from the context, therefore structures that have only visual contact with the user have emerged.

Especially this one-way emphasis on the visual and intellectual dimensions of architecture in the 21st century excludes the human body’s features and common sense about the experience of the structure. It is clear in the literature that, it causes the loss of sensory qualities of architecture. The concept of design based on eye-hegemony has led to get monotonous on the macro scale and began to weaken the effect of the other four senses (touch, hearing, smell, taste) of the human body on architectural experience. The existential space theory, which is manifested at this point, in other words, phenomenology, asserts the spaces that can be created by revealing the “pure” reality belonging to the essence can establish a stronger connection with the body.

Nowadays, the sub-headings of the phenomenology term and their transition process to architecture analyzed over some architects like Juhani Pallasmaa, Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor and their theoretical views and structures. These architects who define themselves phenomenologists, design architectural structures with interpreting Husserl phenomenology from different perspectives, from theoretical backgrounds and criticize the senseless space design concept. In short, the sensory experience is at the forefront for Holl , similarly, for “The Eyes of The Skin” author Pallasmaa (Pallasmaa 2012), multi-sensory experience is important. Peter Zumthor defends that perceiving of the space with the senses and recalling of the connotation is possible by going down to the essence of the architectural “atmosphere”.

Peter Zumthor who adopts a phenomenological perspective, believes that the foundation of our architectural experience lies in our memory. According to him, connotations sometimes mediate to establish a link between structure and an object we recognize, a moment we experience, a material we touch. Therefore, multi-sensory designs consistently recalls the architectural experience based on memories and past feelings and emotions, and reestablished the mood of the architectural atmosphere that constitutes the essence of space. For Zumthor, the atmosphere he creates during the design process is the “pure reality” that remains after the epoche phase of phenomenological method. The important point is transmitted of that reality to users with connotations. However, of course, this is a phenomenon that varies on an individual scale .

Both Peter Zumhor and other architects have tried to apply the phenomenology method in their structures. Through their contributions to the literature, the transition of the phenomenology terminology from philosophy to architecture becomes clearer day by day. The sub-headings of the term and the notion of the space perception that starts to change according to these sub-headings are at the top of the topics examined. At this point, researchers tried to relate phenomenology with architecture . Despite these studies, there is no detailed research on how the phenomenological reduction should be applied at the practical scale in the field of architecture. Developing of the methodological approach of that term on a theoretical scale will reduce the pains of the transition of phenomenology to architecture.

The objective of this study is to develop a step by step phenomenological method to increase the intelligibility of the application methods of the term in the architecture field. The effects/reasons/ results of the use of light, sound, texture, and shape based on phenomenological reduction in buildings will be examined through the given examples. After the term is considered philosophically in terms of philosophers, its transition to architecture will be examined. At this point, the theoretical knowledge relationship will be established over the specific architects and their structures. Through these inquiries, a thesis study will be prepared based on the problem of space perceive that based on eye hegemony and void of physical sensation. Afterward, the phenomenological method will be developed step by step by examining case studies on the structures of Peter Zumthor.

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