The Ethical Dimension in Architecture: a constant variable, by Lara Schrijver

The ethical dimension in architecture is often discussed in relation to specific variables, such as the professional conduct of the architect, the implications of a specific program, or the  socio-political conditions surrounding either client or institution. The envisioned ethical dimension of the object itself is a relatively rare topic of discussion in contemporary discourse. While Classical Antiquity held stock in a more or less naturalized relation between ‘beauty’ and ‘the good’, an increasingly relativist discourse in architecture has severed this intuitive connection.

This paper highlights a few explicitly ethical questions in architecture history (such as the ‘sound judgment’ of Vitruvius and Alberti, and Ruskin’s Lamp of Truth) in order to seek out how we might approach a synthetic ethical dimension today, which addresses more than simply isolated aspects within practice. In exploring the tacit dimension of ethics-within materiality, this paper seeks to shed light on some of the friction we see between ideal principles and their effects in reality. Building on the supposition that the object itself (building, drawing, urban plan) incorporates a ‘moral appeal’ that is weakly defined by virtue of its tacit dimension, this paper revisits the relation between ethics and material form.

Lara Schrijver, Delft University of Technology, NL

Harvard Citation Guide: Schrijver, L. (2012) The Ethical Dimension in Architecture: a constant variable, International for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

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