The Association of Collegiate Schools of Architecture’s 99th Annual Meeting will be held in Montreal on March 3-6, 2011. I would like to invite members of this listserv to participate in a paper session titled “From Aristotle to Skateboarders: Roles of Hermeneutics in Architecture.” The submission deadline for completed papers is September 15, 2010. Please go to the following website for further detail:
Architectural students, educators, and professionals are all enthused about the recent developments and opportunities afforded by the needs for sustainable design. The cloud of self-doubt seems to have lifted, which has been with the profession ever since Modernism failed to fulfill the promise of a better, richer, and fuller life. After Postmodernism led us to focus on the banality of everyday life and consumerism, and Deconstructionists made us find it futile even to talk about the meanings of built objects, we seemed to be left with little to praise architecture for, other than as a spectacle merely on the basis of the novelty and visual effect. With a clear sense of purpose to fulfill environmental consciousness, the profession seems finally to have revived the raison d'être. Behind this enthusiasm, however, is a danger associated with positivistic clarity. The achievements are easily understood with sustainable design because the conservation of resources, the generation of energy, and the reduction of pollution are all positively measurable. There is nothing wrong in pursuing these goals, and saving the earth in particular is an urgent task. The problem does exist, however, when we limit our pursuits only to those goals we see are attainable and to those whose degree of attainment is clearly measurable. Architecture should contribute to our understanding of the world and the self, even though this is difficult to measure. In order to take architectural discourse beyond the limitations of Postmodernism and Deconstruction, hermeneutics, as a body of knowledge and methodology for dealing with the principles of human understanding, can assist in exploring a participatory interpretation of architecture as a means for understanding the world and oneself. Here “participatory” is to be distinguished from the type of interpretations that attempt to discover the meanings intended by the author. Instead, participatory interpretations suggest architecture’s potential of assisting the viewers and inhabitants with their understanding of the world and the place of the self within that world. While David Leatherbarrow’s recent work lays out intellectual foundation, there still is much to be explored in this area. This session is not intended to demonstrate changes of meaning over time, nor to argue for a text’s contradictory meanings. Instead, this session encourages papers and presentations that illuminate the specific nature of architecture which promotes participatory interpretation, with “the specific nature” possibly being about materials, light, orientation, or procession. Authors are encouraged to draw from diverse thinkers from Aristotle to Martin Heidegger and Paul Ricoeur, even to the recent study on skateboarders by Iain Borden. A hermeneutic of participatory interpretation will look at architecture as a way of contemplating one’s place through architecture. Where Do You Stand?