The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses Paperback – Jun 20 2005
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From the Back Cover
Architecture has the capacity to be inspiring, engaging and life-enhancing. But why is it that architectural schemes which look good on the drawing board or the computer screen can be so disappointing ‘in the flesh’?
The answer, argues Juhani Pallasmaa, lies in the dominance of the visual realm in today’s technological and consumer culture, which has pervaded architectural practice and education. Whilst our experience of the world is formulated by a combination of five senses, much architecture is produced under consideration of only one – sight. The suppression of the other sensory realms has led to an impoverishment of our environment, causing a feeling of detachment and alienation.
First published in 1996, The Eyes of the Skin has become a classic of architectural theory and is required reading on courses in schools of architecture around the world. It consists of two extended essays. The first surveys the historical development of the ocularcentric paradigm in western culture since the Greeks, and its impact on the experience of the world and the nature of architecture. The second examines the role of the other senses in authentic architectural experiences, and points the way towards a multi-sensory architecture which facilitates a sense of belonging and integration.
Since the book’s first publication, interest in the role of the body and the senses has been emerging in both architectural philosophy and teaching. This new, revised and extended edition of this seminal work will not only inspire architects and students to design more holistic architecture, but will enrich the general reader’s perception of the world around them.
‘Not since the Danish architect Steen Eiler Rasmussen’s Experiencing Architecture (1959) has there been such a succinct and clear text which could serve students and architects at this critical time in the development of 21st-century architecture.’ Steven Holl
About the Author
JUHANI PALLASMAA is one of Finland’s most distinguished architects and architectural theorists. In all aspects of his theoretical and design practice – which includes architecture, graphic design, urban planning and exhibitions – he places a consistent emphasis on the importance of identity, sensorial experience and tactility.
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Juhani Pallasmaa's book makes an excelent argument for retrieving in architecture that which seems to have been lost for a long time: the lived intelligence of the bodilly senses. In his book Pallasmaa gives an overview of the development of the occularcentrism which is dominating architecture (and pretty much every cultural aspect) in the Western world for centuries and goes on to show how this leads to an impoverment of the architectural experience (and with that the impoverment of our daily lifes).
The mix of theory, practice and convincing examples (ranging from architecture, art, cinema to literature and poetry together with the size (80 pages) makes the book easily readable, even for the less theoretical inclined reader. My advice: read it!
For those of you who are as impressed with this book as I am: there's another book by Pallasmaa with the title 'Encounters'(published by Rakennustieto Oy Rati, June 2005). This book features a collection of essay's which were written by the author over the last 20 years. This book is also about the phenomenology of architecture but, due to its size (app. 350 pages), gives a broader overview of the thinking and writing of Juhani Pallasmaa. It seems it is not available at Amazon but I hope they will put is on there list soon!
When we actually walk into a building, we are sensing the building with all of our senses. The smell of the still drying paint, the echo's from unexpected sources and more now have an impact that wasn't there in the plans.
This book consists of two essays:
The first surveys the historical development of the eye-centric orientation of our Western culture that began with the Greeks.
The second begins to lay out a way towards a multi-sensory approach to architecture that forms a sense of belonging and integration.
this bias to make us aware that buildings also need to relate to us not only visually to also all of our human senses. The writing is clear and simple but still academic in flavor. While this is a much needed message I gave only 3 stars because of the following observation. I thought the overall concept was excellent but I did not think the application of the concept was very successful once I looked at the work of the architects being referenced. The author quotes many architects whose work he believes touches all of our senses and are therefore assumed to be less visual and cerebral. My reaction was these architects are doing non-cerebral but from an intellectual place. As a result while their buildings are richer and more interesting to our senses they are nevertheless still very conceptual and dissociative. In other words we still end up with designs that while promoting a fuller sensory experience are still very mental. For me that's the weakness with this book at least based on the specific architects referenced.
Is it good? Sure, but it isn't a dollar a page good. Save your money and order it from your library. Or if you have it assigned for class, go in with a couple of friends, and then scan it and pass it out, and sell the copy back through Amazon. It is black and white, so you won't be missing anything with a scan, plus you can mark up the copy to your heart's delight.
On the same subject of phenomenology and hapticity in architecture, a much better buy, is "Experiencing Architecture" by Steen Eiler Rasmussen which is 237 pages of brilliance at $15 new, not from Amazon, and $3.50 used. This book was written in the 60's. It is a very readable classic discussing design generally and architecture specifically emphasizing the importance of incorporating all of one's senses when creating new designs.
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