Concretism, by Kati Blom

This paper will suggest a paradigm shift in architecture, which is given the title Concretism. To support this argument the paper applies the phenomenological realism of Roman Ingarden. His ontology of art presented in his 1989 text entitled Ontology of the Work of Art, offers a solid system to identify the points of changing ideals in architecture. When applied to architecture, Ingarden’s phenomenological realism assumes a real, physical object as a partly independent object (an architectural work of art), and a cultural, intentional object (an aesthetic object). In his account concretization means an individual aspect or attitude in relation to the concrete, material object.

Paradoxically, Ingarden’s system of architecture uses the concept ‘concrete’ only in the connection with the individual perceptions of the physical object, rather than using the word ‘concrete’ referring to the concrete, physical object (as a concrete realisation of an architectural idea). His view of the system of architecture, as a system of intentionality, is more complex, and instead of using only the concept ‘concretization’, he uses idealisation, actualisation, realisation and concretization(s).

One must note that not all buildings in Ingarden’s system reach a point of highly ordered intentionality of an aesthetic object (concretization). This level requires persuasion, clarification, semiotic interpretations and conscious rhetoric. This paper will discuss the differences of socio—ethical concretists and immaterial concretists in the light of Ingarden’s system of architecture as a work of art. The difference with the previous paradigm is implied in the presence of a new hyper-value based on global interconnectedness.

Harvard Citation Guide: Blom, K. (2010) Concretism, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 25 May 2010, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].

Simulation and Architecture, by Jenefer Robinson

I agree with the premise of this conference that recent architecture has suffered as a result of putting its faith in various – often ill-digested – philosophical theories, but the latest philosophical fad in architectural theory promises to be different. In his influential essay “The Eyes of the Skin” Juhani Pallasmaa embraces the phenomenology of Merleau-Ponty: he attacks “ocularcentrism,” and argues that architecture appeals not just to the eye but to all the senses, and he praises the work of Wright and Aalto because it is “based on a full recognition of the embodied human condition and of the multitude of instinctual reactions hidden in the human unconscious.” What’s exciting about Pallasmaa’s thesis is that many of his claims are borne out by recent research in cognitive science.

The appreciation of architecture relies on moving through spaces, touching surfaces, listening to sounds reverberating (or not), smelling materials and the captive air, and feeling with one’s body the ambiances of the places created. But the appreciator cannot be everywhere at once in a building. The recent discovery of mirror neurons that activate when one performs a certain action (grasping, raising one’s leg etc.) as well as when one watches another person performing that very same action suggests that when we remember a building we have visited, we simulate the movements we took maneuvering through it, as well as the visual, tactile, and auditory sensations we experienced. Philosophers have suggested that simulation theory can explain how we understand and empathize with other minds, including the minds of fictional characters in novels and movies, but it applies much more straightforwardly to architecture, where what is simulated are our own past actions and movements.

Once we understand architecture in this way, we can also see how it can arouse emotions or emotional feelings. It is generally agreed that emotions appraise the environment in terms of its significance to me or mine: as the psychologist Nico Frijda puts the point: emotional experience is the “perception of horrible objects, insupportable people, oppressive events.” But emotions do not just appraise the world; they also ready the person for dealing with the situation as appraised, to attack (in anger), to flee (in fear) to hide (in shame) etc. Architecture presents us with Gibsonian affordances that evoke appropriate actions, movements, postures etc. which in turn induce emotional feelings: this portal is for entering grandly and invites feelings of self-confidence, whereas this dark narrow corridor is for scurrying through surreptitiously and makes me feel uneasy.

Harvard Citation Guide: Robinson, J. (2010) Simulation and Architecture, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 23 May 2010, Available at: [Accessed: 01 June 2012].