Embodiment and Private Languages: the proper task of an articulate architecture, by Nicholas Ray

ISPA 2016 Keynote lecture, 21 July 2016, 9:00 am.

The phenomenological tradition has contributed much to a deeper understanding of how we receive works of architecture, but it provides little clue to architects as to how they might design.

Arts and Crafts architects, such as M. H. Baillie Scott, self-consciously sought to create a “homely” environment, and even attempted to describe how that could be achieved. And, later in the twentieth century, Dutch architects, led by Aldo van Eyck, much of whose professional career was occupied with the design of playgrounds, attempted to “celebrate man’s homecoming” in their work. But the results, in architectural terms, are not as compelling as those works by their more skilled contemporaries, such as (in the case of Baillie Scott) Edwin Lutyens, who was more adept at the formal game of architecture.

How architecture could say, or show, anything (about homeliness, for instance) was one of the questions that pre-occupied Ludwig Wittgenstein, the architect of two very different houses, both of which deserve study. In Vienna, his strenuous search for truthfulness apparently prevents such expression: it has often been cited as an architectural equivalent of the famous final statement in the Tractatus: “Whereof we cannot speak, thereof we must keep silent”.

I hope by means of these and other examples to illustrate that the choices architects make when designing a dwelling – how far to accommodate the homely, or to privilege form – are at root ethical ones.

Nicholas Ray

Harvard Citation Guide: Ray, N. (2016) Embodiment and Private Languages: the proper task of an articulate architecture, [blog] 03 June 2016, Available at: http://isparchitecture.com. [Accessed: 03 June 2016]

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