Humans and Monuments: appreciating the human nature of architectural objects, by Christian Hainic

Drawing upon Martin Heidegger’s radical idea according to which it is not humans that had built temples, but the temples that have rather architected human life throughout history, Mikel Dufrenne concludes that all aesthetic objects act as “quasi-subjects”. Every architectural monument imposes its own time and space upon the human beings with whom it comes into contact. Just as we are naturally inclined not to invade someone’s personal space, we are naturally wary of intruding into the monument’s general “well-being” with our presence. We deem repulsive simple gestures such as touching an exposed painting in a museum or, worse, grazing sculptures, etc. It is, thus, not surprising that people often feel privileged to stand before or inside an architectural monument, as if they had been granted the liberty of entering its “comfort zone”. In this paper we attempt to determine the extent to which works of art – particularly monuments of architecture – may appropriate human traits and the extent to which they can receive proper appreciation from the art public within this system of assumptions. The method we use pertains to Martin Heidegger’s project for a hermeneutical phenomenology of art, in so much as we test whether human identities may be constructed in contrast with the (human?) alterity of works of art. Theorizing the way in which we relate to monuments of architecture is quite difficult because monuments are not normally built to prove anything (they are not direct objects of knowledge). Generally speaking, today’s works of art may be beautiful, priceless, imposing and much more, even if what they represent does not share the same fate. In consequence, the intrinsic value of architectural monuments resides beyond what is represented or symbolized, similar to the way in which complex human personalities reside beyond a person’s outfit or lifestyle. Therefore, our working hypothesis is that the purpose of architecture goes well beyond its utilitarian aspect and that it impacts human life in terms of both personal development and social adaptivity.

Christian Hainic, Babeş-Bolyai University of Cluj-Napoca, RO

Harvard Citation Guide: Hainic, C. (2012) Humans and Monuments: appreciating the human nature of architectural objects, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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