Category Scepticism in Architecture Theory, by Reidar Due

In this paper I argue that we have come to take for granted a quasi-natural relationship between construction, use, style, and the ideological implications of buildings. As a consequence, the question of a building’s overall purpose becomes difficult to articulate as it tends to dissolve between different categories or is taken to be a mere synthesis between them. I argue that purpose is to architecture what meaning is to language. We should therefore exercise the same caution and scepticism concerning architectural purpose as Wittgenstein urges in the realm of linguistic meaning in the Philosophical Investigations. I will look at how Wittgenstein seeks to undermine the apparent naturalness of meaning categories in order to see if a similar sceptical procedure can be applied to architectural categories. I will then discuss how purpose is handled in two cases, in Alberti’s Ten Books of Architecture, and in the book Delirious New York by Rem Koolhaas. In these texts ideological purpose is foregrounded and this explicit emphasis on ends that are not exhaustively described by categories of practical use, construction principles or aesthetic quality throws light on the more general problem in architecture theory of how construction, style, use and ideological context are thought to be correlated. If ideological purpose is deduced from construction principles the building is seen as self-justifying. If on the other hand, style and prospective use are dictated by an ideological theory, the building will seem to be a mere illustration of a theory. I will argue that only successful buildings, and not theoretical arguments can demonstrate a balance between the categories of construction, style, use and ideology.

Reidar Due

Harvard Citation Guide: Due, R. (2015) Category Scepticism in Architecture Theory, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 21 June 2015, Available at: [Accessed: 21 June 2015].

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