The body as a subject (not object) of the built form : engaging architecture and the senses : a proposed winery facility in the Natal Midlands.
Nightscales, Dieuwke Lennon.
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Today, our Western world faces a paradoxical situation - at the height of technological mastery, architects often misinterpret the body as an object of architecture, which considers the body an unresponsive physical entity, that does not existentially engage with space. This dissertation draws attention to a generalised problem within the realm of architectural practise; the presupposition that in our age of massive industrial production, surreal consumption, euphoric communication, and simulated digital environments is promoting objective and standardised thought patterns. Twenty-first century ideals are moving away from tangibility, physicality, and meaning towards an age of hyperreality and ethereal superficiality whereby our bodily senses are becoming objects of ceaseless commercial manipulation and exploitation. Pallasmaa (1993), a phenomenological theorist whose ideologies make a large contribution to the body of this dissertation, questions whether further technological advancements are pre-empting our growth – or our inhibition – perceptually. He believes we live our lives in constructed spaces, surrounded by physical objects. “[but], born into this world of ‘things,’ are we able to experience the phenomena of their interrelation, to derive joy from our perception” (Pallasmaa, 1993: 40). This study was, therefore, motivated by notions of the subjective body; the body that moves, the body that feels, and the body the senses - in order to explore dialogue in architecture which is often disregarded; concepts such as beauty, essences, embodiment, and relationship (to name a few). The research, therefore, introduces an architecture which transcends fixed notions of style and emerging technologies; it emphasises the lived experiential realm of the built environment which places the human body and its sensations at the forefront of the design conception. Through both qualitative and quantitative research, this study focuses on the need to encourage and illustrate the pursuit of design - not as a project, imposing preconceived ideas upon a situation, but as a process evolving from the inside – from movement, sensation, surrounding, and dialogue between body and architecture. The aim of the research was essentially to investigate the relationship between architecture and the senses. The emphasis was, therefore, placed on the human embodied experience of sensory space. Three parameters of the sensory body were identified, namely: the ‘flesh’ body which introduces the universal role of the traditional five sense modalities in architecture; the environmentally sited body, which broadens the scope and palette of the senses by introducing environmental variations; and the culturally sited body, which identifies the notion of a ‘sixth sense’ - that which is culturally conditioned in order to understand concepts of meaning, memory, and cultural identity. Overall this dissertation identifies an attitude to architecture that recognises the value of the human body not only as an inspiration for design, but as the very reason for architecture to exist at all. The principal conclusion of this dissertation realises that conceiving of the body as a subject of architecture helps architects to appreciate that they build primarily to stimulate the subjective body, and gives credence to corporeal architecture which intensifies spatial experiences.
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