Humanness and Architecture: Latent Value Systems in Architectural Theory

Jun 14, 2017

Complexity of information in architectural design methods requires an understanding of the underlying process frameworks as a point of access to the structure of information and priorities, encouraging both greater success and more relevance to the outcomes. However, in addition to designer selected priorities and disciplinary requirements (environmental forces, social interaction, cultural projection), there are embedded values which are used to make many judgments within the system but are not recognized.

This paper explores an aspect of this issue through the application of Conceptual Metaphor Theory (CMT) to a corpus of architectural theory. CMT and conceptual metaphor analysis is one of the strongest tools to examine knowledge sources as it is based on the transfer of knowledge across domains. The paper uses a corpus of contemporary architectural theory and criticism texts to analyze the source domains, conceptual metaphors, primary metaphors, and image schema used in architectural cognition through Cognitive Linguistic and Discourse Analysis methodology. The analysis highlights a fundamental way architects operate in pursuing their discipline is through the projection of being human – both as an act of formal design as well as in interpretation of our environment. Source domains of HUMAN ACTIONS, HUMAN INTERACTIONS, HUMAN MOTION and other types of ACTIONS and MOTIONS dominate discussions when talking about buildings, building elements and architectural ideas. These are organized through larger, more complex gestalts of human agency and personification. The interesting point of this analysis is that while the current research utilizes textual analysis, it is highly relevant to other modalities of production within architectural design. This is due to what is known as the cognitive commitment, a theory that positions the human mind as a single system and fundamental in any discussion of embodied cognition. As such, the content of criticism and discourse would be indivisible from issues of design generation and span multiple modes of communication and interpretation. This paper examines the notion of projected humanness in more detail, addressing nuances in situatedness as present in architectural discourse.

keywords: cognitive systems; source domains; conceptual metaphor theory; architectural theory

Philip D. Plowright (Lawrence Technological University)
Presented at: 
ARCC 2017 Conference – Architecture of Complexity (Salt Lake City, UT)
Published & professionally reviewed by: 
Architectural Research Centers Consortium (ARCC)
University of Utah

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