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TitleRethinking Architecture: A Reader in Cultural Theory
ISBN 139780203975251
File Size2.5 MB
Total Pages413
Table of Contents
Part I Modernism
Theodor W.Adorno
Georges Bataille
Walter Benjamin
Ernst Bloch
Siegfried Kracauer
Georg Simmel
Part II Phenomenology
Gaston Bachelard
Martin Heidegger
Henri Lefebvre
Ganni Vattimo
Part III Structuralism
Roland Barthes
Umberto Eco
Part IV Postmordenism
Jean Baudrillard
Jürgen Habermas
Fredric Jameson
Jean-François Lyotard
Part V Poststructuralism
Andrew Benjamin
Hélène Cixous
Gilles Deleuze
Jacques Derrida
Michel Foucault
Paul Virilio
Selected Bibliography of major writings
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Rethinking Architecture

Rethinking Architecture brings together for the first time the principal writings on
architecture by many of the key philosophers and cultural theorists of the twentieth

These essays contain some of the most insightful observations on contemporary.
architecture, and offer refreshingly original perspectives on the subject. Together they
constitute a body of material which prompts the rethinking of many accepted tenets of
architectural theory from a broader cultural perspective.

The editor, Neil Leach, has grouped writings covering common themes and
approaches into well-defined sections, and has written helpful introductions for each
section and for each author.

Neil Leach is director of the MA in Architecture and Critical Theory at the University
of Nottingham.

Page 206

The trouble is that this geometric code would not pertain specifically to architecture.
Besides lying behind some artistic phenomena—and not just those of abstract, geometric
art (Mondrian), because it has long been held that the configurations in representational
art can be reduced to an articulation, if perhaps a quite complex one, of primordial
geometric elements—the code clearly underlies the formulations of geometry in the
etymological sense of the word (surveying) and other types of ‘transcription’ of terrain
(topographic, geodetic, etc.). It might even be identified with a ‘gestaltic’ code presiding
over our perception of all such forms. What we have here, then, is an example of one sort
of code one can arrive at when attempting to analyse the elements of articulation of a
certain ‘language’: a code capable of serving as a metalanguage for it, and for a number
of other more synthetic codes as well.

So it would be better to pass over a code of this kind, just as in linguistics one passes
over the possibility of going beyond ‘distinctive features’ in analysing phonemes.
Admittedly such analytic possibilities might have to be explored if one had to compare
architectural phenomena with phenomena belonging to some other ‘language’, and thus
had to find a metalanguage capable of describing them in the same terms—for instance,
one might wish to ‘code’ a certain landscape in such a way as to be able to compare it
with certain proposed architectural solutions, to determine what architectural artifacts to
insert in the context of that landscape, and if one resorted to elements of the code of solid
geometry (pyramid, cone, etc.) in defining the structure of the landscape, then it would
make sense to describe the architecture in the light of that geometric code, taken as a
metalanguage.13 But the fact that architecture can be described in terms of geometry does
not indicate that architecture as such is founded on a geometric code.

After all, that both Chinese and words articulated in the phonemes of the Italian
language can be seen as a matter of amplitudes, frequencies, wave forms, etc., in radio-
acoustics or when converted into grooves on a disk does not indicate that Chinese and
Italian rest on one and the same code; it simply shows that the languages admit of that
type of analysis, that for certain purposes they can be reduced to a common system of
transcription. In fact there are few physical phenomena that would not permit analysis in
terms of chemistry or physics at the molecular level, and in turn an atomic code, but that
does not lead us to believe that the Mona Lisa should be analysed with the same
instruments used in analysing a mineral specimen.

Then what more properly architectural codes have emerged in various analyses or,
recently, ‘semiotic’ readings of architecture?


It would appear, from those that have come to light, that architectural codes could be
broken down roughly as follows:

1 Technical codes
To this category would belong, to take a ready example, articulations of the kind dealt
with in the science of architectural engineering. The architectural form resolves into
beams, flooring systems, columns, plates, reinforced-concrete elements, insulation,
wiring, etc. There is at this level of codification no communicative ‘content’, except of
course in cases where a structural (or technical) function or technique itself becomes

Rethinking Architecture 184

Page 207

such; there is only a structural logic, or structural conditions behind architecture and
architectural signification conditions that might therefore be seen as somewhat analogous
to a second articulation in verbal languages, where though one is still short of meanings
there are certain formal conditions of signification.14

2 Syntactic codes
These are exemplified by typological codes concerning articulation into spatial types
(circular plan, Greek-cross plan, ‘open’ plan, labyrinth, high-rise, etc.), but there are
certainly other syntactic conventions to be considered (a stairway does not as a rule go
through a window, a bedroom is generally adjacent to a bathroom, etc.).

3 Semantic codes
These concern the significant units of architecture, or the relations established between
individual architectural sign vehicles (even some architectural syntagms) and their
denotative and connotative meanings. They might be subdivided as to whether, through
them, the units

(a) denote primary functions (roof, stairway, window);
(b) have connotative secondary functions (tympanum, triumphal arch, neo-Gothic arch);
(c) connote ideologies of inhabitation (common room, dining room, parlour); or
(d) at a larger scale have typological meaning under certain functional and sociological

types (hospital, villa, school, palace, railroad station).15

The inventory could of course become quite elaborate—there should, for instance, be a
special place for types like ‘garden city’ and ‘new town’, and for the codifications
emerging from certain recent modi operandi (derived from avant-garde aesthetics) that
have already created something of a tradition, a manner, of their own.

But what stands out about these codes is that on the whole they would appear to be, as
communicative systems go, rather limited in operational possibilities. They are, that is,
codifications of already worked-out solutions, codifications yielding standardized
messages—this instead of constituting, as would codes truly on the model of those of
verbal languages, a system of possible relationships from which countless significantly
different messages could be generated.

A verbal language serves the formulation of messages of all kinds, messages
connoting the most diverse ideologies (and is inherently neither a class instrument nor the
superstructure of a particular economic base).16 Indeed the diversity of the messages
produced under the codes of a verbal language makes it all but impossible to identify any
overall ideological connotations in considering broad samplings of them. Of course this
characterization might be challenged, for there is some evidence to support the theory
that the very way in which a language is articulated obliges one speaking it to see the
world in a particular way (there might be, then, ideological bias and connotation of some
kind inherent in the language).17 But even given that, on the most profound, ultimate
level, one could take a verbal language as a field of (nearly absolute) freedom, in which
the speaker is free to improvise novel messages to suit unexpected situations. And in
architecture, if the codes are really those indicated above, that does not seem to be the

Umberto Eco 185

Page 412

sublime 299
suburbs 171, 380
Suger, Abbot 189
surrealism/surrealists 10, 85
Symbolic Exchange and Death (Baudrillard) 209
symbols 131–3, 169, 257;

erotic 5, 10;
as ornament 10

syntactic codes 193

Tafuri, Manfredo 259, 260
Taj Mahal 139
Taut, Bruno 49, 232
techne 98, 107, 119–20, 378
technical codes 193
technology 9, 16, 48, 98, 378, 390
telephone 30–1
televised images 385–6
temple 98, 119–20, 155
theatre 128, 140, 354
Theory of the Avant-Garde (Bürger) 247
Thoreau, Henri 91
thought/thinking 98, 146
Tiller Girls 51
Timaeus (Plato) 338, 340–3
time 15, 149, 307, 354–5, 383–4, 388
time/space 155, 278;

see also space
topoanalysis 89, 90, 91
‘Towards a Critical Regionalism’ (Frampton) 236
town 308, 313–15
tradition xviii, 236–7, 286–91, 293–4, 296, 300
transgression xvii–xviii
The Trial (Kafka) 310
Tristes Tropiques (Lévi-Strauss) 166
truth 98, 157, 159, 344
Truth and Method (Gadamer) 158
Truth in Painting (Derrida) 147
Tschumi, Bernard 283, 324–36, 338, 341
Turner, J.M.W. 297–8
Turner, Ted 385

unconscious 5, 10, 88, 89, 90, 95
urbanism 267, 268–9
utopia xi, 9, 352, 369
Utzon, Jorn 253

Valéry, Paul 30
Vattimo, Gianni 84, 147–60
Veblen, Thorstein 9, 16
Velasquez 129

Index 390

Page 413

Venturi, Robert 208, 227, 238–9, 242, 250, 251, 260, 389
Versailles, menagerie at 362
Vico, Giovanni 182
Vienna 304
Vietnam 245–6
violence 216–17, 221, 270, 274
Virilio, Paul xvi, 309, 380–90
Visconti, Luchino 251
Vitruvius 368

Wagner, Richard 8
Wahl, Jean 91
wall xix–xx
weak thought 147
Weimar Republic 76
Welles, Orson 264
Werkbund movement 6, 43, 44, 47
‘Why Peter Eisenman Writes Such Good Books’ (Derrida) 318, 336–46
Wigley, Mark 294–5
Williams, Raymond 241, 252
Wittgenstein, Ludwig 150, 260
Wolf, Eric 249
workers 31–2
Wright, Frank Lloyd 46, 228, 238, 249
writing 321–2, 330

Zadkine, Ossip 47
Zola, Emile 35

Index 391

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