SE AT3 - The Truth about Architecture

Seminar 4 SWS / 6 ECTS Diplom/Master level

 ”In those arts which are not purely mechanical
it is not sufficient to know how to work;
it is above all important to learn to think.

Abbé Laugier, 1755

What does it mean to understand architecture? Is it to decipher what a work of architecture means? Or maybe to examine what a building does? 

To find out how it came into being? Figure out what the designer intended? Or what the architect did without even knowing it? Can we understand a building in the same way as we understand a theory or a formula of physics? What do we become experts in when we study architecture ­ or architectural theory?

In architectural theory and criticism, four paradigms of understanding have had the most followers. One originally comes from art history, others from phenomenology, psychoanalysis and semiotics. In this seminar, these paradigms in their classical formulations and well as their later metamorphoses are applied on seven famous works of architecture. Examining the objects from viewpoints as different as formalism and feminism with explanatory concepts as different as actor networks and the Zeitgeist, alternative readings of each building are offered and critiqued.

To make it easier to see the contributions of each interpretive system, the examples have been chosen from the same period, the decade of heroic modernism. The buildings are:

  • Haus am Horn, Weimar, 1923, by Georg Muche
  • Gut Garkau, Scharbeutz, 1924, by Hugo Häring
  • Bauhaus, Dessau, 1925, by Walter Gropius and Adolf Meyer
  • Villa Müller, Prague, 1928, by Adolf Loos
  • Palais Kundmanngasse, Wien, 1928, by Paul Engelmann and Ludwig Wittgenstein
  • German Pavillion, Barcelona, 1929, by Ludwig Mies van der Rohe,
  • Villa Savoye, Poissy, 1930, by Le Corbusier

The monographic analyses of these buildings will also prompt general questions concerning the discipline of architecture, its theory, history and criticism. Topics discussed include the concepts of influence, precedent and resemblance; teleological historiography; biographical criticism vs. Wölfflin’s Kunstgeschichte ohne Namen; Warburg’s iconography vs. Panofsky’s iconology; Freudian readings in cultural studies; Ricoeur’s hermeneutics of the sacred vs. the hermeneutics of suspicions; Foucault and the critique of authorship; Paul Forman’s thesis of Weimar culture and quantum physics; analogies between architecture and philosophy or physics; formalism and the burden of proof; asignifying devices, such as diagrams; radical constructivism and the end of theory.

Vertretungsprofessor 2007-2010
Professor für Architekturtheorie an der TU Wien

Dipl.-Ing. Kristian Faschingeder

Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter 2008-2010