On the Interpretation of Architecture
Theory of Interpretation
Vol. 12, No. 2, December 2008
Giordano Bruno: de imaginum compositione, Frankfurt 1591 (liber II, Kap VI, S. 240)

Conceptional design and editing

  Eduard Heinrich Führ, Robert J. Miller

editorial assistant and layout:

  Ehrengard Heinzig



The Determination of the Architectural as a Subject of Interpretation
Matthias A. Amann   Architectural Work without Use
Sabine Ammon   Interpreting, Understanding, Knowing –
Cognitivity of Architecture
Stefan Hajek   "You dare! This will kill that."
Alban Janson   Turn! Turn! Turn!
On the Architectural Image
Roland Lippuner   Objects and Locations –
A Systems Theory Interpretation of Space and Architecture
Stefan Meißner   Objects – Discourse – Interpretation
Robert J. Miller   architecture is what blows off in a hurricane

Interpreting of Interpretations
Martin Düchs   thin and thick conceptions of morality – A Discussion in Moral Philosophy as Analogy for Architecture and its Interpretation
Thomas Hackenfort
& Stefan Hochstadt
  Architecture that I mean –
How Architectural Reality is Constructed through Interpretation
David Kolb   Public Exposure: Architecture and Interpretation
Anna Valentine Ullrich   Effects of Media:
Reception between Architecture, Language and Image

Theories of Interpretations
Burkhard Biella   Architecture in Context
Hermeneutical Notes on the Interpretation of Architecture
Nathaniel Coleman   Elusive Interpretations
Monika Grubbauer   Interpretation of Architecture: Photographic Images of Architecture and the Visual Mediation of Architectural Knowledge
Lex Hermans   The Rules of Rhetoric as Manual for Reading Architecture
Rixt Hoekstra   Lost in Translation?
Tafuri in Germany, Tafuri on Germany: A History of Reception
Jonna M. Krarup   Interpretation as Doing
Maria Lorena Lehman   Interpretation and Evolution: A Scenario
Sandra Lippert-Vieira   Towards a “Reader-Response” Criticism in Architecture: The Implied Llife of the Built World
Klaus Rheidt   The Mystery of the Gigantic Ashlars
Oliver Schmidtke   Sociological Interpretation of Architecture by the Method of Objective Hermeneutics – Exemplary Analysis of the Urban Home for F. C. Robie, Architect: Frank Lloyd Wright 1906-09 in Chicago, USA
Jörg Schnier   The Silence of the Houses
M. Reza Shirazi   ‚Genius loci’, Phenomenology from Without
Irina Solovyova
& Upali Nanda
  Embodied Intuition
Ulrike Tillmann   The Apartment Buildings “Romeo und Juliet” by Hans Scharoun

On the Distinguishing of Interpretations
Myriam Blais   Understanding and Interpretation:
The Work of Architecture as Image and Representation
Markus Breitschmid   Between Object and Culture

Analysis versus Interpretation
Harald Deinsberger   Interpretation or Analysis of Housings – Contradiction or useful Completion ... and what about the Theory of Housing?
Nassir Zarrin-Panah   Constructing a Building by Interpretation


The Determination of the Architectural as a Subject of Interpretation
___Matthias A. Amann
Architectural Work without Use

We face a theoretical problem when identifying an unoccupied building with a work of architecture – except on the condition that we are taking on a historian‘s perspective. Since Vitruvius a work of architecture must be destined for a certain use; use (utilitas) is one of its indispensable preconditions. The relationship between a work of architecture and its intended use is established by means of conventional criteria, which are borrowed from a historical and/or practical background. Patterns of human activities are to correspond to spatial patterns of geometry.
But still it proves impossible to evaluate a building‘s intended use focussing on its geometric properties, only. If a geometrical pattern significantly diverged from established models – we call this an original solution – wouldn‘t this mean we could only speculate about how it would be used? ‚Use‘ exists in present continues only, in the future it appears as mere potentiality. The only way to give positive demonstration of the quality of a building‘s ‚use‘ is to use it. Thence the dilemma of an unused building becomes evident.
Thus this Gordian knot can just be resolved assuming there is a superordinate context of concealed ‚use‘, which then would qualify the vacant building as a work of architecture. This would mean vacant buildings are still in use. But their ‚use‘ seems to lie in fields, which are hidden to the usual gaze.

Paper in German

___Sabine Ammon
Interpreting, Understanding, Knowing – Cognitivity of Architecture

Theory of symbols enables to study the cognitive dimension of architecture. Investigating architecture as symbol systems and its underlying symbol processes expose manifold ways how interpretation influences architecture – not only, as one could expect, when we interpret buildings, but also when we plan, design or use them. The article examines the function of interpretation in designing, constructing, using and reading architecture. By following a line of thoughts developed by Nelson Goodman, it can be demonstrated that dealing with architecture is determined by processes of interpretation. Additionally, the cognitivity of architectural symbols explains its interdependence with knowledge and understanding. Theory of symbols makes plausible why symbol systems in architecture can count as a form of knowledge and why they further our understanding.

Paper in German

___Stefan Hajek
Au am Inn
"You dare! This will kill that."

Dieser Satz aus Victor Hugos „Der Glöckner von Notre-Dame“ ist dabei Leitgedanke der Überlegungen.
„Dieses“ – die Buchdruckerkunst – steht für den Verlust der Kontrolle über Inhalt und Interpretationshoheit. Das Gebäude verliert seine Funktion als Buch der Menschheit und damit eine Interpretationsebene. Dieser Verlust verändert die Interpretation der Architektur und die Architektur an sich.
Der Beitrag versucht zu analysieren, was der Akt des „Interpretierens“ an sich bedeutet, und was die Interpretation eines Objektes beim Objekt verursacht. Interpretation wird dabei als Vorgang zur Nutzbarmachung von Information verstanden, wobei jede denkbare Interpretation als zulässige Interpretation eines Interpretationsraumes behandelt wird.
Was passiert nun, wenn das Objekt interpretiert wird? Wie verändert sich der „Interpretationsraum“, der alle denkbaren Interpretationen umfasst, und wie verändert sich die Beziehung zwischen Objekt und Interpretation?
Diese Fragestellungen werden als wesentlich für das Interpretieren angesehen und bilden die Grundlage des hier skizzierten Beitrages.

Paper in German


___Alban Janson
Turn! Turn! Turn!
On the Architectural Image

Für kulturelle Phänomene werden in den Kulturwissenschaften unter der Bezeichnung cultural turn unterschiedliche Interpretationsrahmen verwendet. Je nach eingeschlagener Richtung (turn) lässt sich auch Architektur verschieden interpretieren. Ist insbesondere das Bildparadigma geeignet, Architektur angemessen zu erklären? Bilder sind keine Architektur. Aber man kann Bauwerk und Stadt alternativ als Architektur oder aber als Bild betrachten. Um Bauwerk und Stadt als Architektur und gleichermaßen als Bild aufzufassen, braucht man einen architektonischen Bildbegriff. Er wird hier – gestützt auf Beobachtungen von Graf Karlfried von Dürckheim – hergeleitet aus dem Zusammenwirken der persönlichen Raumsphäre mit gegenständlichen Raumeigenschaften struktureller und gestischer Art. Im Unterschied zu anderen Bildern repräsentiert das „architektonische Bild“ keine andere Wirklichkeit, sondern ist Artikulation der aktuellen Realität; es ist ein szenisches Bild. Abschließend wird gefragt, in welchem Verhältnis das „architektonische Bild“ zur sonstigen Art von Bildern in der Architektur steht.

Paper in German

___Roland Lippuner

Objects and Locations –
A Systems Theory Interpretation of Space and Architecture

The social sciences’ engagement with the interpretation of architecture is generally directed towards the daily use and social appropriation of the built environment. By way of contrast, this entry attempts to describe architecture as a social system on the basis of Luhmann’s systems theory. The programmed production of the built environment (architecture) should be understood within systems theory as the processing of observations (decisions and descriptions). From there, I begin a functional analysis of architecture that inquires into the medium and the forms that architecture produces through its observations.

Paper in German

___Stefan Meißner
Architecture – Discourse – Interpretation

For the interpretation of architecture, it has to be known first, what architecture is. The following essay argue the thesis that architecture can't be understood without their describing comment, because our conception of architecture is constituted by texts, models, photographs and films over this architecture – and not only by their "physical" representation. Architecture depends always of social discourses. A discourse analysis tries to reconstruct this relationship. To that extent a discourse-analytically trained interpretation of architecture could say something to the specific, historical knowledge that makes possible both, the process of building and the perception of architecture.

Paper in German

___Robert J. Miller
Charleston, SC
architecture is what blows off in a hurricane

The interpretation of architecture hinges on what we mean by interpretation and what we take to be Architecture. This article will argue that Architecture does not exist as an autonomous physical entity, the significance of which is subject to the interpretation of variously-qualified interpreters. It will argue, rather, that Architecture is a non-physical (but not entirely intellectual) construct; that this construct must be activated to come into being; and that, while the interpreter’s competence will condition the reading, there are more- and less-correct activations, their significance and depth being a function of the construct’s rigor.
My argument is advanced as a thought experiment, working through a logical series of issues and drawing on thoughts by John Dewey, Antonio Gramsci, Raymond Williams, and Marco Frascari. Briefly citing Renaissance and Baroque theory, the argument is situated historically. Finally, it adapts Umberto Eco’s semiotic notation to provide a more accurate method of articulating the ideas.

Paper in English

Interpreting of Interpretation
___Martin Düchs
thin and thick conceptions of morality –
A Discussion in Moral Philosophy as Analogy for Architecture and its Interpretation

In moral philosophy there is a long-standing debate about thin and thick conceptions of morality.
Important elements of the thick conceptions are the assertion of inseparability of fact and value as well as the view that axiologies are multifarious and flexible. In contrast, the thin conceptions separate fact from value and refer to one central value or to a small number of values in their axiologies.
Analogous to these competing conceptions in the realm of philosophy, one can make a distinction between thin and thick conceptions concerning both the production of and the interpretation of architecture.
The thin conceptions find a dichotomy between fact and value while giving priority to certain aspects of architecture whereas thick conceptions emphasise the unreducible richness of architecture.
The discussion about thick and thin conceptions in moral philosophy can help us better understand architecture and its interpretation.

Paper in German

___Thomas Hackenfort
& Stefan Hochstadt

Architecture that I Mean –
How Architectural Reality is Constructed through Interpretation

Investigating the semantic content of architecture and the subsequent conveyance and explication of the attained perceptions doesn’t just start out with its reception, but at the latest with the selection of what is deemed to be interpretable and conveyable. The therefore necessary attribution of architectural reality as a sui generic-measure of value becomes the real act of interpretation, being the constituent point of origin of what has to be understood as architecture.
In this process, thematic concerns are far more significant than examinations of the content of possible architectural interpretations themselves. This is supported by the variety of the miscellaneous communication organs – trade journals, consumer magazines, features, travel magazines with their respective target audience and their custom-tailored systems of preferences and values, the semantic holism in architecture (“The whole is more than the sum of its parts”) as well as the absence of a fundamental architectural character repertoire.
Besides the regularisation of architecture, parts of the society have nevertheless developed codes and symbols as efforts of differentiation that are followed up collectively through constant offers of interpretation. Against this background, architectural hermeneutics with the intention to argue “supra-diastratically” has great difficulties to be convincible.
This is to emphasize the functional-systemic aspect of the interpretation of architecture, that extensively consists in the fact that, depending on the social perspective, architecture is not only described, but first of all declared as such – including which is similar, excluding the unlike.

Paper in German

___David Kolb
Eugene, Oregon
Public Exposure: Architecture and Interpretation

Architecture stands distinctively exposed to the community, yet architecture maintains a distinctive resistance to interpretation. Many theories of interpretation treat buildings according to a scheme of passive text and active interpreters, but the building, and its context, are not definite and passive, waiting to receive a general categorization by active subjects or communities who are themselves already totally definite. Buildings and interpreters both act on each other within public exposures and causal constraints. Interpretations need to be responsive within dimensions of meaning that are not under the control of either the architect or the interpreter.

Paper in English


___Anna V. Ullrich

Effects of Media:
Reception between Architecture, Language and Image

How is architecture to be interpreted in contexts of science or everyday life? Besides somatically and spatial adoptions, we approximate architecture in linguistic and visual representations. This paper describes these different procedures of interpretation as medial practices; using this approach I emphasise their functions of producing meaning and creating ways of accessing the world. Following my perspective, the reception of architecture, but also its production, is always involved in medial relations. Therefore, interpreting might be regarded as actions of recipients, who generate sense and readings of architecture in performative acts.
My aim is to sketch a re-conceptualisation of architectural interpretation between using and reading in terms of ‘media’ and ‘performance’.

Paper in German

Theories of Interpretations

___Burkhard Biella
Architecture in Context
Hermeneutical Notes on the Interpretation of Architecture

Interpretation of architecture is like any interpretation of signs mediated by language. The fundamental approach to our world, occurring by thinking and talk, is as well coincidently mediated by communication as the condition of communication. Individuality can be asserted as the constitution of sense in any interpretation. So also architecture is translated into individual sense by everyone who uses or reflects upon buildings. Interpretation asks questions about architecture, about architects – and opens the way to criticism. But architecture itself depends on interpretation – the architect’s interpretations of his world, which become part of each of his plans: There are material references to building materials, regional or not, to landscape, the town and its area or streets, in which the building takes place, to the building-site, to the climate, references which are integrated in a texture of formal or ideal references like ideology, aesthetics, politics or religion. All those references might be accessible in the – new – interpretations of those who use or reflect upon architecture.

Paper in German


___Nathaniel Coleman
Newcastle upon Tyne
Elusive Interpretations

Interpreting architecture is a particularly fraught endeavour. An overview of the variety of methods for comprehending buildings reveals just how unpromising any one of them is on its own. For example, any method that attempts to either limit or fix meaning once and for all or is dependent on a fixed point of reception will be of limited use to opening up perspectives on architectural meaning, experience or making. As a corrective, this paper examines the prospect of interpretative modes dynamic and multi-dimensional enough to account for the degree to which architecture both causes change and is affected by it: meaning continually shifts through time according to circumstances.
Nevertheless, the persistence of certain works through time, in the imagination, as objects of inquiry, usefulness or value within a culture, suggests that some interpretable aspects of architecture are stable enough to persist, while others must be supple enough to be shaped by change.
Ruskin’s theories of architectural interpretation as outlined in The Seven Lamps of Architecture will be considered.

Paper in English

___Monika Grubbauer
Interpretation of Architecture: Photographic Images of Architecture
and the Visual Mediation of Architectural Knowledge

Architectural objects are widely used as motifs of visual communication in today’s mass media. This article draws attention to the role of ordinary photographic images of architecture as they are used for editorial purposes, journalistic coverage and commercial advertising. I argue that these images, even though they often appear unremarkable und don’t draw our attention, contribute to the construction of architectural meaning and shape the interpretation of architecture by non-professionals confronted with architecture and its images as part of everyday life. Drawing on the analysis of visual examples I show how architecture is used for different strategies of visual representation and how visual typification has a key role in these strategies. In consequence, I posit that the power of these kinds of photographic images lies in their ability to present generic and seemingly “typical” images of building types which tend to be repetitive and lasting. Thus, architectural knowledge is not only mediated but also constructed by means of photographic images in mass media and a closer look at the processes of image production, distribution and perception is necessary to understand these processes. 

Paper in German


___Lex Hermans
The Rules of Rhetoric
as Manual for Reading Architecture

From the mid-fifteenth through to the mid-nineteenth century rhetoric has been the backbone of education. The rules for persuasive speech, analysed in Antiquity by Aristotle and laid down by Cicero and Quintilian, were taught in the whole of the early modern Western world. Moreover, these rules were adapted to other disciplines than the art of speaking, such as painting, sculpture, and indeed architecture.
Rhetoric required of buildings that they expressed the status and the character of the patron, owner or user. Over the centuries theorists developed an ever more refined syntax and vocabulary of architectural expression, which in the eighteenth century made architecture an ‘architecture parlante’.
Speaking as an act of communication assumes there will be an audience to speak to; it also supposes that the audience will understand what is being said. In the early modern period this was the case. Viewers used the same rhetorical skills to interpret a building as the architect in designing it. Rhetoric, then, was the main tool for interpretation.  

Paper in English


___Rixt Hoekstra
Lost in Translation? Tafuri in Germany, Tafuri on Germany:
A History of Reception

My contribution deals with the notion that the interpretation of architecture has a proper history. This history consists of thinkers and conceptions that throughout time have influenced the way we perceive of architecture. For example, where we once thought of architecture as an aesthetic object to be known only by an élite of conaisseurs, today we might be more apt to think of architecture as a means of communication, to be appreciated by a wide arrange of people. By focussing on the history of interpretation we may contribute to the intellectual history of the discipline: a history that is based on subjects rather then on objects. The objectivity of knowledge about architecture is in this way not exclusively founded upon the object, but is also a consequence of the scientific debate that is held within the discipline. The interpretation of architecture is actively constructed, by using certain criteria, parameters and so on, just as much as it is the result of a reconstruction. Within this framework my contribution deals with the position of the Italian architect and historian Manfredo Tafuri (Rome, 1935 – Venice, 1994). Although the work of Tafuri is not so well know in Germany, he was one of the most dominant thinkers of architecture and society in the final third of the 20th century. Being both influential and controversial, Tafuri received fulsome praise as well as trenchant critique during his lifetime. Tafuri was responsible for a fully revised standard of how architectural history might be written. My thesis is that in the final three decades of the 20th century Tafuri brought about a fundamental change in the way we perceive of and think about architecture; this change has substantially influenced the discourse that came after him. For Tafuri, architecture was no longer a success story created by heroes. Equally, it was no longer about isolated monuments and aesthetic objects. During his lifetime, Tafuri actively searched for new methods and new insights upon which to base the understanding of architecture. In my paper, I describe this methodological journey, which went from the Marxist critique of ideology, to the microhistory of Les Annales, and to the history of mentality. Finally, Tafuri regarded architecture as a ‘technique of control’ of the physical environment and an element of power in a field where also other elements of power are active. Architecture becomes the story of the powers and authorities that shape our built environment. It may be interesting to conclude with the influence Tafuri has had on the architectural discourse that came after him.

Paper in English

___Jonna M. Krarup
Interpretation as Doing

The intent of the paper is to address and discuss relationships between the aesthetic perception and interpretation of contemporary landscape architecture. I will try to do this by setting up a cross-disciplinary perspective that looks into themes from the contemporary art scene and aesthetic theories, and relate them to observations in contemporary landscape architecture.
It is my premise that investigating the relationship between modes of aesthetic perception and examples in contemporary art, and landscape architecture, will enable us to better understand characteristics of a contemporary concept of landscape and design in landscape architecture, and hereby address the question of how interpretation might be processed.
It is also my premise that a key point in this is the interplay between different sensory experiences of both material and non-material aspects, and that it is this interplay that the individual collects into an entity – an interpretation – through an intellectual process.

Paper in English

___Maria Lorena Lehman
Medford, Mass.
Interpretation and Evolution: A Scenario

As architecture evolves into complex adaptive systems, form and function become more transient and less apparent while beauty redefines itself; thus, becoming more elusive to interpret. Furthermore, this architecture has a nervous system with memory to help it learn, adapting with each interaction to improve upon the next. In doing so, it gives voice to its architect and its occupants by recording their adapting interactions. Referred to as the collective, this record of interactions becomes the key to the interpretation of adaptive architecture.
With input from the collective, critics gain behind-the-scenes access into fleeting architectural events. Sensory Design states that “an event is usually far richer in nuance than the language used to describe it” (Malnar, Joy Monice and Frank Vodvarka. Sensory Design. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2004). For this reason, critics need a collective intelligence to set free architectural meaning, concealed within its behavioral fabric.
Collective wisdom helps to interpret a building’s overall impact on architectural evolution as well as political, educational and other cultural influences. In addition, the collective helps evaluate how well an adaptive architecture learns over time, revealing its prior significance and future potential. Effectively, the means to interpreting adaptive architecture is in the collective, allowing critics and architects to deconstruct perception, yielding interpretation and ultimate expression influencing future works. 

Paper in English


Stuttgart / Cottbus
Towards a "Reader-Response" Criticism in Architecture:
The Implied Life of the Built World

In the framework of an optical-aesthetical thinking, which launches the principals of architectural beauty in optical harmony, Ralf-Peter Seippel denotes 1989 the importance of a "viewer-response criticism" in architecture, for architecture involves not only the user, but also implies the viewer. Based on Achim Hahn's definition of architecture as "Lebens-Mittel", i. e. as a means for life, the following text points out the incompleteness of this argument, as far as architecture implies here living. It discusses methods that enable the theoretical determinations of the implied life of the build world: a framework to communicate individual behaviours – life performances – to others.

Paper in German

___Klaus Rheidt
The Mystery of the Gigantic Ashlars

Der überwiegende Teil der Bautätigkeit findet heute ‚im Bestand’ statt. Wer Architekt wird und in den historisch gewachsenen Baubestand verändernd eingreift, soll dies verantwortungsvoll tun. Er soll sich analysierend, kritisch und verständnisvoll mit den Werken seiner Vorgänger auseinandersetzen. Jede Baufuge, jeder Wechsel im Steinformat, jede Richtungsänderung einer Bauflucht kann ein Hinweis auf Umbauten, Planungs- und Nutzungsänderungen sein und Informationen über die Planer und Bauherren preisgeben, die oftmals erst die historische Überlieferung zu verstehen helfen. Die Methoden der Bauforschung haben sich trotz immenser Fortschritte in der Messtechnik nicht verändert: am Anfang steht die detailgetreue Dokumentation des Objektes mit konventionellen oder modernen, automatisch scannenden Verfahren. Doch alle Messtechnik ersetzt nicht den geschulten Blick des historisch forschenden Architekten – des Bauforschers, der das Bauwerk durch seine Beobachtungen und Interpretationen zur Geschichtsquelle macht. 

Paper in German

___Oliver Schmidtke
Frankfurt am Main
Sociological Interpretation of Architecture by the Method of Objective Hermeneutics – Exemplary Analysis of the Urban Home for F. C. Robie, Architect: F. Lloyd Wright 1906-09 in Chicago, USA

Die Objektive Hermeneutik ist von Ulrich Oevermann im Zuge der soziologischen Ausdeutung verschrifteter Tonbandprotokolle von Interviews und von familialen Interaktionen entwickelt worden. Sie hat also ihren Ausgangspunkt zunächst in der soziologischen Hermeneutik sprachlicher Ausdrucksgestalten. Diese Methode der Interpretation geht von einem weiten Textbegriff aus, bei dem auch nicht-sprachliche Protokolle von Praxis als Ausdruck von Sinnstrukturen ausgedeutet werden können. Das Verfahren hat sich bei verschrifteten Interviews, Kunstwerken, Protokollen, edierten Texten bewährt. Die Interpretation mit Hilfe der Methode der objektiven Hermeneutik erfolgt als Sequenzanalyse. In dem Beitrag erfolgt zunächst eine kurze methodische Skizze der Prinzipien der Sequenzanalyse, und es wird die Frage behandelt, wie sich das Interpretationsverfahren auf den Gegenstand Architektur anwenden lässt. Anhand des gut dokumentierten Beispiels des Robie-House wird schließlich exemplarisch herausgearbeitet, welche Chancen die Methode der Objektiven Hermeneutik für die Architektursoziologie bietet. 

Paper in German

___Jörg Schnier
Buffalo, New York
The Silence of the Houses

An analysis of specific aspects inherent to the production, marketing, and perception of buildings and their effect on the interpretability of – as well as the public discourse about – architecture. 

Paper in German

___M. Reza Shirazi
‚Genius loci’, Phenomenology from Without

‘Genius loci’ is originally an ancient Roman belief, but Christian Norberg-Schulz has used it as the base for his ‘phenomenology’. For him, ‘genius loci’ alludes to the special character of the given place. To catch the ‘genius’ of a place implies identification with it. Moreover, Norberg-Schulz is essentially Heideggerean. He refers to the phenomenological ideas of Heidegger, gives them architectural meaning and employs them to establish a kind of ‘phenomenology of architecture’.
In this essay, I want to present an introduction to his understanding of ‘genius loci’, concentrate on his ‘phenomenology of architecture’, and have a review on his Heideggerean thoughts to show that the way he understands Heidegger and the way he analyzes buildings suffer from some shortcomings that leads to a partial phenomenology, that is, to a ‘phenomenology from without’. 

Paper in English

___Irina Solovyova
& Upali Nanda
San Antonio, Texas
Embodied Intuition

In the paper we will argue that architecture is an intuitive interpretation of our previous spatial experiences. We will investigate such concepts as intuition, sensory and emotional perception of space that result in embodiment of space experience, and re-introduce a term of Embodied Intuition. Embodied Intuition can be defined as sensitivity that one develops through perception of space and its embodiment. Sensory and emotional understanding of space and space-related concepts, an emplaced and embodied sensitivity, and our intuitive process is what makes architecture meaningful and distinguishes it from mere buildings. We will found our argument on the theory of how body experience and perception become material for design by considering how we interpret and transform embodied experience to a symbol and then remake that experience into a different object. Without an emplaced and embodied sensitivity, our intuitive interpretation becomes disembodied and weak, and the creation of architecture becomes mere simulation.

Paper in English
Paper in Russian

___Ulrike Tillmann
The Apartment Buildings "Romeo and Juliet" by Hans Scharoun

The author attempts to conceptualize the interpretation of architecture as a dialogue between designers. This approach is illustrated with reference to research into Hans Scharoun’s “Romeo und Juliet” apartment buildings in Stuttgart.
Who is trying to understand what, which is to say: Who directs which decisive questions toward the work, and from which perspective? As the design process proceeds, the designer’s questions and those of the recipient enter into a dialogue. The interests of the recipient emerge in tandem with those of the designer. This dialogic reflection involves a pair of interlocutors, one of whom – the recipient – assumes the presence of a common interest: the question he finds thematized in the work of the designer. Our temporal distance from the work demands consideration of the historical context and its influence. Nonetheless, the interest is primarily on the design performance and on the questions that have shaped the individual work.

Paper in German

On the Distinguishing of Interpretations
___Myriam Blais

Understanding and Interpretation:
The Work of Architecture as Image and Representation

According to the philosopher Hans-Georg Gadamer (Truth and Method), understanding is applying meaning to the present; understanding is a guide towards interpretation. In such a theory of knowledge, works of art, including works of architecture, take on a privileged status as embodiments and bearers of truth since they open new worlds. It is in being real and tangible “images”, Gadamer suggests, that works of architecture perform their essential task of representation, that is, presenting anew, and enhancing our understanding and experience of ideal situations. This paper argues for the relevance of thinking of, building, offering, and understanding works of architecture “as” and “through” images, as a means for reconciling various traditions of interpretation in architecture, thus establishing a genuine sense of place. It mainly draws from images presented by Philibert de l’Orme (1510-1570) and Gottfried Semper (1803-1879), whose representative richness helps illustrate what can be expected from our discipline.

Paper in English

___Markus Breitschmid
Blacksburg, Virginia
Between Object and Culture

The essay first questions the validity and limits of an “unmediated experience” advocated by adherents who speak against the interpretation of architecture. While the essay defends interpretation as a key characteristic of modern humanist man’s aesthetic mentality, the second part of the text questions hermeneutic theories declaring all understanding as being interpretive. Taking a middle ground position between “what it is” (the building as object) versus “what it says” (the building as a communicative cultural signifier), the essay subsequently argues, by siding with Nietzsche, Heidegger, and Wittgenstein, for a functional differentiation between a relatively fixed understanding and interpretations that revise that prior understanding. In the last part, the essay argues that more recent postmodern hermeneutic theories, by declaring all understanding/interpretation as being based in linguistics, grossly limit the ways of how man can understand architecture. It is argued that non-discursive understanding that is not based on explicit interpretation is supplying the “cultural” meaning-giving ground that makes subsequent interpretation meaningful in the first place. 

Paper in English


Analysis versus Interpretation

___Harald Deinsberger
Interpretation or Analysis of Housings: Contradiction or
Useful Completion ... and what about the Theory of Housing?

From a scientific point of view the analysis of housings would have to fulfil the task to find out knowledge about the respective housing objects and to present the results in a verifiable, checkable form. But what purpose could be assigned to the interpretation of housings? According to the original mediatorial function, the purpose would be to explain or "translate" the facts won by scientific analysis. Thus it becomes clear that only a combination of both could generate a practical and comprehensible instrument.
From all building tasks housing is supposed to have the strongest and straightest relations to the human being. An analysis which tries to reach the core of the housing task has therefore got to feature a wholistic human scientific orientation. Which means, that a residential building must not only be seen as a building or design object but always in relation to the whole context, to the respective housing environs as well as the human being. Thus the whole "system" human-housing-environs has to be considered including the internal and external interchanges and interrelations.
But how can such a methodology of housing analysis look like? Which criteria and parameter could be defined? And how can the results of such an analysis be communicated or interpreted?

Paper in German

___Nassir Zarrin-Panah
Constructing a Building by Interpretation

Some architects like Adolf Loos have excluded buildings from the domain of art, emphasizing on “function” as the distinguishing quality of architecture compared with other plastic arts. From this non-artistic point of view, it can be argued that the evaluation of architectural works is strongly user-oriented, as buildings cannot exist independently of their users and any good architecture should be individually identified by its so called “inhabitants”. Therefore the criteria for judging architecture are contingent to user’s interpretation and “function” is the most determined constituent element of architecture which ascribes meaning to the work. Functional analysis captures the essence of an architectural work in its materiality optimally satisfying user’s utilitarian “needs” and links conventional meaning to buildings. In this regards, architecture becomes a coherent entity, a unity where every element is perfect and nothing is redundant in it. But can we fully understand a building referring to its functionality and arrive at a correct interpretation by its material properties? Should the architect always attribute his work to what his/her client intends? Can’t architecture remain open in reference to newer readings?

Paper in English


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