The hermeneutics of architecture as a means for transposing public perception : towards the design of a transport interchange in the Durban Central Business District.
In South Africa today, railways, along with other forms of public transport have lost or in fact never had the same sense of sanguine appreciation that European stations embodied. Instead South African public transport systems, especially its railway networks, are perceived negatively by a large portion of the population and the vast majority of visitors to the country (Donaldson and Ferreira, 2008). The problem with the perceptions and judgments made by people with regards to architecture is that they often stand in contrast to each other. These disagreements are not only limited to laymen, as disagreements among critics often go beyond the mere subjectivity of taste or opinion, even extending to matters of fact (Bonta, 1979: 11). By extrapolating the process by which humans interpret the world around them, Hermeneutics attempts to define the determining factors behind subjective thought when making an accurate interpretation of text. In recent years these same techniques have been applied to the built environment in what can best be described as an investigation into the meaning of architecture, this investigation became known as ‘architectural hermeneutics’ (Bonta, 1979 and Snodgrass & Coyne, 2006). While hermeneutics does provide a method to deal with the problems associated with subjectivity, the tools needed to assess the validity of the resultant interpretations of architecture have not developed. In order to confirm the adequacy of any resultant interpretations the researcher must define and abstract the parts, which contribute to these interpretations, according to quantifiable guidelines that can then be measured and compared. The Guidelines utilised in this study are defined through the work of Norberg-Schultz, Thiis-Evensen, Alexander and Handa. Through the ensuing case studies this paper demonstrated that by designing architecture in accordance with its relationship to the surrounding environment and context, the designer becomes capable of generating a supportive architecture that can reaffirm its associated functions under a positive light. By creating a continuous structure between the new architecture and its context – that is in accordance with the ‘parts’ which make up the meaningful ‘whole’ – an architect of any background can create meaningful architecture in any context.