Merleau-Ponty for Architects by Jonathan Hale

By Jonathan Hale

The philosophy of Maurice Merleau-Ponty (1908–1961) has encouraged the layout paintings of architects as assorted as Steven Holl and Peter Zumthor, in addition to informing well known faculties of architectural thought, particularly these round Dalibor Vesely at Cambridge, Kenneth Frampton, David Leatherbarrow and Alberto Pérez-Gómez in North the USA and Juhani Pallasmaa in Finland. Merleau-Ponty urged that the price of people’s event of the area received via their speedy physically engagement with it is still more than the worth of figuring out gleaned via summary mathematical, clinical or technological platforms.

This publication summarizes what Merleau-Ponty’s philosophy has to supply particularly for architects. It locates architectural considering within the context of his paintings, putting it with regards to issues comparable to house, flow, materiality and creativity, introduces key texts, is helping decode tricky phrases and gives quickly reference for extra reading.

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In this small world, each gesture or each perception is immediately situated in relation to a thousand virtual coordinates. (Merleau-Ponty 2012: 131) Both of the above examples hint at the curiously hybrid status of so-called ‘practical knowledge’, which for Merleau-Ponty involved a combination of two ways of knowing, which are often seen in opposition. I am referring here to the distinction made famous by the British philosopher Gilbert Ryle in his book The Concept of Mind, first published in 1949.

In other words, we could say that different forms of embodiment effectively open up different forms of environment. As we saw earlier with the unfortunate case of Schneider – as well as with amputees suffering from ‘phantom limb’ – bodily deficits can radically alter the ability to engage with and occupy space. One of Merleau-Ponty’s best known and perhaps most influential ideas emerged from his analysis of the experience of tools, where he described the process by which they become ‘incorporated’ into body schemas.

Damage to his visual cortex had disrupted the vital link between his visual and tactile systems, preventing the normal interaction that allows the body schema to be consciously adapted to new situations (Merleau-Ponty 2012: 105f). Likewise, Merleau-Ponty also made reference to the phenomenon of ‘phantom limb’, where an amputee experiences pain in a limb that has been surgically removed. In these cases the patient’s conscious visual perception comes into conflict with the body schema, with the result that the explicit visual evidence of the missing limb is overridden by the unconscious body schema that often remains stubbornly intact (MerleauPonty 2012: 101f).

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