Home Environmentalism: domestic aesthetics and ethical action, by Jessica J. Lee

Recent shifts in aesthetics consider the relationship between aesthetics and everyday architectures and how our aesthetic experience might contribute to environmentally- and socially-sustainable practices. This paper is an examination of aesthetic experiences in domestic settings and how positive and negative aesthetic experiences shape our approach to domestic practices, sustainable decision-making, and our wider feelings about the home environment. In particular, I consider domestic-aesthetic experience within the kitchen, exploring how both the physical design of the kitchen and bodily schema enacted there constitute aesthetic experiences.

Arnold Berleant’s engagement model provides some guidance as to how aesthetics might be engaged in everyday life, in that he provides a basis for thinking about aesthetics without any requirement of artwork or artistry. Instead, aesthetic experience is constituted by a full-body engagement or sensory-continuity with a landscape or environment, which can easily be applied to a domestic setting in which one is often relaxed, engaging in household chores, and apart from the spectatorship or performance of a traditional aesthetic model. I argue that Berleant’s model provides a good framework for considering the total experience of domestic practices, in which one feels at home in both their bodies and surroundings. I explore whether this re-engagement with bodily experience of a place and practice can be linked to ethical outcomes such as environmental sustainability.

Building on Yuriko Saito’s work on civic environmentalism and aesthetics, I examine the ways in which aesthetic factors affect our decisions and whether calls for sustainable consumption and design can be supported by a renewed attention to the aesthetics of everyday life. Saito observes that the aesthetic engagement of people with certain places can be channelled into ethical outcomes; here, this is applied to everyday domestic practices. For example, the embodied experience of cooking relates not only to what we end up eating, but also to the ways in which the kitchen is designed and maintained and the ways in which food is selected and consumed. Motivations for sustainability are, as a result, intimately linked with both pleasure and displeasure in daily life, demonstrating the subtle significance of domestic aesthetics within environmental aesthetics, architecture, and thinking about environment on the whole.

Jessica J. Lee, York University, CA


Harvard Citation Guide: Lee, J. (2012) Home Environmentalism: domestic aesthetics and ethical action, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: https://isparchitecture.wordpress.com. [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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