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TitleThe concept of dwelling: On the way to figurative architecture
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Page 1

Architectural Documents Electa/Rizzoli, New York


Norberg-Schulz The concept
of dwelling

On the way
to figurative architecture

Page 2


Page 74

67. Imago mundi, The Pantheon, Rome (120).

tistic form that it may embody contents
which are logically contradictory. A
work of art is always a case of “both-
and,” to use again the words of Robert
\'enturi.'^ The artistic explanation in
fact consists in revealing meanings

that are not accessible to logical

analyses. Architectural history, how-

ever, shows that contradictions may
be more or less pronounced. During the
Quattrocento they were generally
minimized in favor of the ideal of an all-

comprehending “harmony,” whereas
the Cinquecento as a reaction against

this simplification excelled in complex

and contradictory solutions. The works
of the Cinquecento were solutions,
however, both in the sense of mean-

ingful syntheses and powerful figures.

Michelangelo’s architecture proves


The following discussion of the mor-
phology and topology of the public

building cannot possibly cover all its

manifestations. Rather we shall use
one major example to illuminate the
problems. Throughout the course of
Western history, the church was a
leading building task.*^ In the church

man’s understanding of the cosmos, as
well as his own life in the world was
kept and visualized. Over and over
again new interpretations of some-
thing general and timeless were of-
fered, and over and over again the
church served to give man the sense of
an existential foothold. Thus the
church illustrates what architecture is
all about, and teaches us how to use its

We have already explained how a built
form embodies a way of being in the
world through its standing, rising and

opening. We have also pointed out that
the embodiment always happens “as
something.” Even if a city hall and a


Page 75

68. The church of St- Mary Magdalen, Vezelay
(eleventh-twelfth centuries).

church belong to the same community,
they will make its basic meanings
manifest in a different way. This is evi-

dent in many medieval cities where
church and city hall are neighbors. We
could also say that the worlds gathered

by the two buildings only in part
overlap; in the city hall the earthly

aspects are emphasized, whereas the
church gives pride of place to more
general, “heavenly” meanings. The
diversity is often expressed by a dif-
ferent treatment of the towers which
signal the presence of the two institu-
tions within the settlement. Since the

church offers a more comprehensive
explanation, it has, together with its

predecessor, the temple, in general

been the main generator of those forms
which characterize the habitat. Through-

out European history, thus, the em-
bodiment of meanings has been deter-
mined from “above. The explana-
tion offered by the church radiated out
to the environment, and made the
other institutions as well as the houses
appear as reflections of the truth it em-

At the outset, the church was primarily
an interior form. The exterior of the
Early Christian basilica, thus, was con-
ceived as a neutral “envelope” around
the articulate, symbolic interior. This

fact already tells us something im-
portant about the world which is here
made manifest. In contrast to the
Greek temple, the church does not take
the natural characters as its point of

departure, translating them into bodily
forms which reveal the understood
landscape,*^ but aims at a more gen-
eral interpretation of the relationship

between earth and sky. The origins
of this interpretation are the first
words of the first chapter of the Ge-
nesis: “In the beginning God created
the heavens and the earth.” That is, in
the beginning a place was given to


Page 147


3 9999 00029 982 4

• '5^ V



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The Date Uue Card in tne pocket indi-
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book should be returned to the Library.

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Page 148

This is a book on human dwelling.
The word “dwelling” here means
something more than having a roof
over our head and a certain number
of square meters at our disposal.
First, it means to meet others for
exchange of products, ideas and
feelings, that is, to experience life as
a multitude of possibilities. Second, it
means to come to an agreement with
others, that is, to accept a set of
common values. Finally, it means to
be oneself, in the sense of having a
small chosen world of our own. We
may call these modes collective,
public and private dwelling.
The word dwelling, however, also
comprises the place man has created
to set the modes into his work. The
settlement, with its urban spaces,
has always been the stage where
collective dwelling was enacted. The
institution or public building has
been the embodiment of public
dwelling. And the house has been
the private retreat where the
individual could prosper. Together,
settlement, urban space, institution
and house constitute a total
environment. This environment,
however, is always related to what is
given, that is, to a landscape with
general as well as particular

qualities. To dwell, therefore, also
means to become friends with a
natural place.

We may also say that dwelling
consists in orientation and
identification. Orientation and

Christian Norberg-Schulz was born
in 1926 in Oslo, Norway. He is Dean
of the Institute of Architecture at
the University of Oslo where he has
been teaching since 1966.
He is the author of many important
books, including Meaning in Western
Architecture, Genius Loci, and Late
Baroque and Rococo Architecture.

identification are satisfied by
organized space and built form,
which constitute the concrete place.
Our introduction of the concept of
place, in contrast to the current

emphasis on abstract space, offers a
point of departure for a return to
figurative architecture. Thus we
leave the “non figurative” approach





of functionalism behind, and open up
for an architecture which may satisfy
the need for dwelling, in the

— ^
existential sense of the word.


ISBN 0-8478-0590-51


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