Sensory tectonics.

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Sensory tectonics. The relationship between sense and sensuality. Abstract Before we are fully conscious of the World, according to Merleau-Ponty, the World already has meaning for us as we have built up, from the very beginning, a bodily relation to it. This paper sets out to illustrate this concept of Merleau-Ponty by means of the work of Joseph Beuys and Herzog & the Meuron. It turns out that sensory perception, as the most intimate relationship between user and building, constitutes the very foundation for a private meaning in their architecture. First of all this concept will be applied to the work of Beuys. The effect of the expressive elements and means Beuys deploys in his art is not referential but relates to itself. A common characteristic of the means he uses is that the expressive quality of the work is not it functionality, but begins with it materiality. A work of art by Beuys consists not so much of significant images or melodies but of elementary visual material and sound material. Through this, according to Theodora Vischer, neither the mechanically non-reflective, nor the analytically objectifying perception is able to grasp the quality of the materiality of Beuys work. Beuys puts elements out of different fields of sense in correlation by which they are no longer experienced as something incompatible, but through which concealed material properties become visible. The senses are in close contact with each other by being open to the structure of the object. In an artwork entitled ‘Schneefall’, I perceive, through the structure of slender tree trunks and the felt cloth covering them, the acoustic quality of snow. In the architecture of Herzog & de Meuron one can recognize the same interest in the concealed qualities of the material, and the ability to reveal them. According to Herzog, once a material is taken out of its natural context the highest form of expression is reached. In the tectonics of Herzog & de Meurons architecture the same regulative principle is present as in the work of Beuys. Through the structure, the mutual relation of the constructional elements, concealed properties become revealed. The moment I perceive the apparently thin walls of the ´Sperrholzhaus’ as the surfaces of a sound box, as Merleau-Ponty puts it: ‘the senses intercommunicate by opening on to the structure of the thing’ and suddenly I perceive the acoustic quality of the building. This sensory perception, as the most private relation between me and the building, constitutes the basis for this architecture’s meaning to me.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication11. Internationales Bauhaus-Kolloquium 2009, Architecture in the Age of Empire
Place of PublicationWeimar
ISBN (Print)978-3-86068-417-7
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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