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Architecture, aesthetics of

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-M004-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 15, 2024, from

Article Summary

The philosophy of architecture is a branch of philosophical aesthetics concerned with various issues arising from the theory and practice of building design. The oldest writings on architecture date from antiquity and link architectural principles to more general, metaphysical elements of form and order. This tradition persisted into and beyond the Renaissance, but in the eighteenth century it began to give way to new philosophies of mind and value, according to which the determining factors of aesthetic experience are the interests and attitudes of informed subjects. Thereby architecture came within the sphere of the theory of taste.

Nineteenth-century revivals of classical and Gothic styles produced renewed interest in the nature of architecture, its place within the scheme of arts and sciences, and its role in society. Following this, twentieth-century modernism offered various accounts of the rational basis of architectural form and combined these with utopian political philosophies. As it had been in antiquity and during the Renaissance, architecture was again viewed as central to and partly definitive of a culture. More recently, however, attention has returned to analytical questions such as ‘What is the nature of the aesthetic experience of architecture?’ and, relatedly, ‘How is it possible for there to be reasoned, critical judgments about the meaning and value of buildings?’

In order to deal with such issues philosophers in different traditions have begun to develop accounts of the social aspects of architecture, recognizing that critical judgments presuppose the capacity to identify buildings as being of various types: public, domestic, formal, informal and so on. The nature of architecture is in part, therefore, a matter of social convention or more generally ‘forms of life’, and this limits the scope for abstract ahistorical theorizing. None the less, the resources of metaphysics, the theories of mind, action, meaning and value are all utilized in contemporary philosophy of architecture.

Citing this article:
Haldane, John J.. Architecture, aesthetics of, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-M004-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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