Sept 15: Martin Heidegger & Christian Norberg-Schulz

September 20, 2009

The idea of greater expressive figuration and what is figured is something concrete, a specific place, in Martin Heidegger’s sense of the term dwelling. A discussion about place involves the notion of identity of self or of community.

As Heidegger states in his essay “Building Dwelling Thinking” (we might find that the absence of commas in Heidegger’s title is meant to suggest the unity of these three elements): “. . . spaces receive their being from locations and not from ‘space’. . . . Man’s relation to locations,and through locations to spaces, inheres in his dwelling. The relationship between men and space is none other than dwelling . . .”

It was intriguing how Heidegger defined dwelling and the way he started to relate dwelling to humans. He talks about how we activate buildings and without dwelling we are not able to build anything: “The nature of building is letting dwell. Building accomplishes its nature in the raising of locations by the joining of their spaces. Only if we are capable of dwelling, only then can we build. . . . Here [lies] the self-sufficiency of the power to let earth and heaven, divinities and mortals enter in simple oneness into things . . .”(361)

Heidegger also emphasize the importance of language and communication in his article: “ it is language that tells us about the essence of a thing, provided that we respect language’s own essence” ( 348).

His great example of the bridge opens a new gateway for the reader to understand his definition for the value of the landscape in which we build and call it space: “the bridge brings stream and bank and land into each other’s neighborhood. The bridge gathers the earth as landscape around the stream.

Heidegger suggests that natural archetypes can guide our building, Bildung ;  the art of building privileges meditation, not dialogue. Heidegger seeks a true home for us where some inner harmony with our true self identity and deepest needs will be achieved. This profoundly contests the deconstructionist notion of place.

“Man acts as though he were the shaper and master of language, while in fact language remains the master of man.” ~ Martin Heidegger


The Phenomenon of Place, Christian Norberg-Schulz

Norberg-Schulz  article Outlined a vocabulary for reading and interpreting a place through the construction of architecture, landscapes, and cities. His language stemmed from everyday things and phenomena that constituted the character and structure of a place that differentiated a place from a space. The principal proponent of a phenomenology of architecture, Christian

Norberg-Schultz , draws  attention to tectonic aspects of architecture to explain the environment. In addition to a focus on site, phenomenology in architecture is concerned with how things are made with emphasis on dwelling and historical connection. It is here that he points out the importance of a phenomena such as feeling that one has when they experience a place and find out how he feels in that place: “When man dwells he is simultaneously located in space and exposed to a certain environmental character. But he also has to identify himself with the environment, that is, he has to know how he is in a certain place”(417).

Norberg-Schultz argues that from the beginning man has recognized that nature consists of interrelated elements which express fundamental aspects’ of being. Landscape has structure and meaning which he classifies as modes of natural understanding found in “the definition of the character of natural places, relating them to basic human traits.” Structure is described as variations in surface relief which give character and meaning to place. He describes a place in terms of “space” and “character” where “space denotes the three dimensional organization of the elements which make up a place, character denotes the general atmosphere which is the most comprehensive property of any place” (418).

Norberg-Schulz also comments and uses the example of the bridge used by Heidegger to explain that a bridge is a building “which visualizes, symbolizes, and gathers and makes the environment a unified whole.”


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