The 'Space' between History and Philosophy?
Author: Dana Arnold,
Centre for Studies in Architecture and Urbanism, University of Southampton.
Panel: Plenary Session II, Friday 9 July, 18.00-19.30.
I am interested in the intellectual structures that drive Architectural History
as a mode of enquiry and that hold it between Philosophy and History. In this
paper I want to begin by thinking about architecture as being timeless, the ‘beauty’ of
its aesthetic having meaning, significance and appeal to humankind across the
ages. At least this usually applies to our ideas about polite architecture,
in other words architecture with a ‘known’ architect and designed
in a recognisable ‘style’. This kind of visual material can have
an autonomous existence – we can enjoy looking at it for its own sake
and enjoy it independent of any knowledge of its context, although of course
viewers from different periods or cultures may see the same object in contrasting
ways. But, for architecture to have a history we expect not only a timeless
quality but also some kind of sequence or progression, as this is what history
leads us to expect. Our history books are full of events in the past that are
presented as part of either the continual movement towards improvement, or
as stories about great men or as epochs of time that stand out from others.
As the coming together of the two separate strands - architecture and the forces
of history - we see how history re-orders visual experience to give us a history
of architecture. Yet, architecture is also a lived experience containing the
imprint of social rituals and cultural practices from the past and the present.
And it is the spaces of architecture that connect with philosophical enquiry
which can in turn de-historicize Architectural History. Nevertheless, it must
be remembered that History is informed by Philosophy. Can we, then, see Architectural
History as the space between History and Philosophy?