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Forms in Architecture
Philosophical arguments for classification system
There are many ways to study architecture and the forms that are created by
architects. Two classification systems emerged out of the debate between
Modernism and Postmodernism. On one hand is the idea of the Archetype:
walls, doors, columns, etc. The other theory was put forth as an extension
of Kant and Heidegger's theory of Relative Homelessness, or the idea of
relative values and icons in the world. Both theories serve architecture
well as a construct of discourse. Yet both theories taken to extremes tend
to muddy the picture for classifying and categorizing architecture.
In the theory of Archetypes, small elements that are universal truths are
combined and arranged in a coherent, holistic building. This tradition
extends from the Platonic/Pythagorean tradition of primary elements. A
recent champion of this notion was Frank Lloyd Wright. His designs relied on
the punning notion that ?Home is where the Hearth is?, with the hearth as
the symbolic and literal center of the house and family. The archetype
relies on the notion of universal truths or building forms. Many
architectural treatises from Vitruvius, to Claude Perrault, to Gottfried
Semper, to John Welborn Root, to even Le Corbusier rely on the idea of
archetypes to some degree.
At the other end of the spectrum lies a concept entirely foreign to
archetype. A simple, unofficial title could be Relative Homelessness. The
logical ideas are complex and very convoluted. A short, and very simplified
explanation follows. Disclaimer: I am not a philosophy student; therefore
this synopsis might have some small errors. I have studied this extensively
in school and on my own, but a true student of philosophy could explain
these ideas better.
This idea has roots in the work of Martin Heidegger, who was very interested
in language and its effect on human beings, and his protˇgˇ Derrida, and the
idea of relative truth. A synopsis of the logical chain goes like this.
Heidegger is interested in the idea of Hermeneutics, or the study of the
methodological principles of interpretation. Everyone is Hermeneutic;
therefore everyone is interpreting life/world as he/she encounters it.
Therefore there is no final truth, everything is relative and nothing is
absolute. To be human is to interpret. Along with this logical chain goes
the idea of context. Heidegger states that you cannot discover anything
without using your predetermined context: social, place, area, age, etc. You
cannot decide upon an issue without using your already existing content.
Therefore the idea of the universal, and the idea of Archetype are void.
Another assault on Archetype states that since human beings value systems
are based on context, therefore are relative voids Archetype. The final
assault also comes from context: the idea that physical forms somehow have
intrinsic values. Values that somehow transcend space, time, and physical
location are voided by Heidegger's idea of context.
Contemporary architect Peter Eisenman champions this theory. If Frank Lloyd
Wright would say, "You can always go home", Peter would say, "Oh no you
can't". This distinction of absolute to relative distinguishes the two
philosophies. Current philosophical and architectural discourse oscillates
between these two diametric entities. Movements such as Regionalism and the
so-called ?New Urbanists? [who are neither urban nor new, but that is
another debate] rely heavily on the Archetype as a design element. Then
there are architects such as the aforementioned Eisenman, Thom Mayne lead
Morphosis, and a host of others who view the world as relative,
interchangeable space. In actual practice architecture and architects
generally fall within one camp or the other, with many distributed between
two poles. It is helpful to think of this diagram a segment with two points
and ideas, views and people as a continuum between the two views. For
Wikipedia we will classify architecture using a modified Archetype. This
makes sense because Wikipedia as a dictionary likes elemental ideas and
classifications. We will break the elements of architecture down into
archetypical elements, so as to understand architecture as a whole. The
argument of whether or not these elements have basic intrinsic values that
are universal to all can be set-aside in the quest to understand