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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?

Arts and Humanities Research Board School of Fine Art, History of Art & Cultural Studies University of Leeds