Architecture of the Everyday: theorizing the performance of the incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent, by Rumiko Handa

For some time now architects have operated with the notion that the building is complete when the construction is finished, and that any subsequent alterations are degeneration. They strive to make the building perfect and wish to keep it so permanently. But this notion is problematic because it does not reflect the reality of the everyday: People move in, events take place, and alterations inevitably are made. Another, even more serious problem is ethical in nature: We end up neglecting certain architectural values of the everyday. We often find ourselves drawn to a building when we see the vestige of its survival in the incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent state. Architects need to become “everyday experts” (Jürgen Habermas) for the “re-appropriation of the experts’ culture from the standpoint of the life-world,” which requires a diagnosis of the prevailing understanding as well as a prescription. This paper will examine the epistemological root of philosophy and aesthetics, including Renaissance classification of design and execution, the Modernist concept of the new, and Deconstructionism’s skewed take of Poststructuralist deliberation of text into the spectacle. It will also identify a number of counter-theories and practices, of which the history of art and architecture is not devoid, including Michelangelo’s nonfinito, Japanese aesthetics of wabi-sabi, nineteenth-century appreciation of ruins, and what I call palimpsest in the works of Carlo Scarpa or Jean Nouvell. Juhani Pallasmaa once suggested that architecture be thought of as a verb, not a noun – entering for a door, ascending for a staircase, or gathering for a heath –, as a place for human actions and events. My paper will take the discourse even further to examine architecture as it performs, or effects an action, beyond what is intended and way beyond the time of its conception and construction.

Rumiko Handa, University of Nebraska , USA

Harvard Citation Guide: Handa, R. (2012) Architecture of the Everyday: theorizing the performance of the incomplete, imperfect, and impermanent, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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