Intention and Architecture, by Carolyn Fahey

If ethics and aesthetics can indeed hold the same pursuit as Wittgenstein suggests when he remarks they are “one and the same”, how exactly do ethical concerns come into play with those of aesthetics (and vice versa)? To probe the interrelationship, I look to Stanley Cavell’s investigations into agreement and morality in The Claim of Reason as a framework for analyzing ethical and aesthetical intention in the 1953 Pruitt Igoe housing project.

Stanley Cavell’s investigations into agreement and morality in The Claim of Reason render a position in which both ethics and aesthetics can adequately be accounted for with the same terms: acceptance and agreement. What becomes ethical is determined through a long process of consensus or lack thereof. Similarly, what becomes an aesthetic is deciphered through the same social process of finding agreeability and acceptance. Accepting this account, the question poised toward architecture is this: when the ethical motivations become irrelevant (and none have taken its place) is a building still aesthetically pleasing? If not, is architecture still present? As such, examining ethic and aesthetic intention in the case of the Pruitt Igoe project serves to illuminate a Cavellian understanding of the ethic-aesthetic interrelationship and its impacts on architecture’s status.

Carolyn Fahey, Independent, Netherlands

Harvard Citation Guide: Fahey, C. (2010) Intention and Architecture International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 10 June 2010, Available at: [Accessed: 11 June 2012].

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