Doing Things with Buildings: Architecture, Meaning, and Use, by Stefan Koller

This paper contests Wittgenstein’s assertion that architecture is a gesture, and argues that his assertion is either false or misleadingly expressed. In the presentation’s first part, I explain the assertion by reference to Wittgenstein’s gloss on ‘gesture’ in the Investigations, as a purposive act that draws expressive attention to itself. The second part fleshes out this related notion, of drawing expressive attention to itself. I enlist Davidson’s theory of metaphorical statements as linguistic phenomena that in their use manage to direct their audiences to something quite beyond the statements’ literal, intrinsic meaning. This understanding of gesture as directed action makes architecture, not so much itself capable of gesture, as a tool we can draw on, like metaphor, to express all sorts of things. It is not architecture’s use, but our use of it, wherein meaning resides. In part three my presentation outlines how the philosophical merits of this view corroborate a historical thesis we find in Vitruvius on which architecture and language have a shared origin point, in communal cooperative action.

Stefan Koller

Harvard Citation Guide: Koller, S. (2015) Doing Things with Buildings: Architecture, Meaning, and Use, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 9 August 2015, Available at: [Accessed: 9 August 2015].

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Log In or Sign Up

Skip to toolbar