A Phenomenology of Architectural Space

By: Clara Gross '16

Advising Faculty: Bailey, McDowell, Morash and Feldman

The most basic and primary purpose of a building is to provide shelter, so that you may continue to live unhindered by the threats of the outside world. But how often do you think of a building in this way? The structures that we inhabit become so familiar that they are all but forgotten.

To clarify this point, it is helpful to think of the instances when one does notice the building. Often, the building attracts attention when it is not doing its job. For example, I would take notice of the roof when it is leaking or the windows when there is a draft. I might also take notice if I am in an especially spectacular work of architecture, for example a cathedral or other highly designed space. In both cases of malfunction and design, there is something about the building that captures my attention. However, I am not interested in these instances that so obviously attract attention.

I am interested in the everyday, the mundane. Who notices the hallway that’s just a hallway, or the stairwell, or the generic room that they are in? There is no reason to notice them; they are unexceptional. Yet they shape our world. I want to draw attention to this experience of being in built space as a basic lived experience. I have spent much of my life immersed in the built environment. As a city dweller this context is particularly salient, but I do think that, considering the proliferation of infrastructure and the necessity of shelter, this is a relatable experience for many other people.

In my discussion I will use the term ‘architectural space’ to refer specifically to the portion of the built environment that is the space created by and within buildings. What follows is a discussion of the philosophies and theories that have informed my thinking and a description of how they have manifested in my artistic practice. I have been particularly influenced by Karsten Harries’ The Ethical Function of Architecture, and Alex Potts’ The Sculptural Imagination: Figurative, Modernist, Minimalist.

View this honors thesis in its entirety at Digital Commons.

Related Fields: Art