The place of architecture: an exploration of architectural symbol
Ochsner, Jeffrey Karl
Master of Architecture
This work presents an exploration of the theory of symbol as it applies to questions of architectural creativity. Drawing extensively on the prior writing of philosopher Susanne Langer and essayist Walker Percy, this work first discusses symbolization as a way for man to come to know the world. Symbols, which lead one to conceive their objects, are seen as clearly different from signs which only serve to direct attention or behavior. Symbolization is considered an irreducibly tetradic interpersonal event, requiring a symbolizer and an interpreter as well as the symbol and its object. Through symbolization man is able to assert the existence of that which is symbolized. Beyond this, all symbolization is seen to involve rules of projection which are rules of logical analogy between the form of the symbol and the form of its object. This means that different types of symbols such as language and art must be different in what they may symbolize. Language is an appropriate symbolism for knowing the world; art is the symbolic mode through which man conceives of human feeling. Art is capable of symbolizing any feeling from simple sense experience to complex emotion. Without art, such feelings could only be an undifferentiated part of human process, experienced, but not presented for conception. A detailed exploration of the relation of feeling and form in art includes aspects of illusion, quality, abstraction and organic nature. Architecture is seen as a particular mode of the more general field of art symbol. Each work of architecture may be considered as a unique symbol of the feeling of human functional existence. This position clearly differs with that of much of modern architecture which saw a work as a direct sign of what it enclosed. The theory of architecture as symbolic of feeling may be applied on several levels including the design of furnishings, buildings, cities and landscape. Further exploration of the architectural symbol leads to questions regarding motivation theory, the nature of creative thought and the nature of genius and talent. This work offers a framework through which to approach issues in architecture in a way consistent with the more general approach to symbolic phenomena. While it starts many lines of thought it does not complete, it does present a coherent theory based on the way architects create.