Charles University in Prague, Czech Republic
Phenomenology in architecture — and in theory of architecture in particular — is a result of reaction to late modernism after WWII and fatal crisis of the modernism. Christian Norberg-Schulz, one of world leading theoretician of his days (but today his theories seem to be mostly abandoned), proposes in his theories new basis for modern architecture. At the beginning it was structuralism and semiotics in his first book, “Intentions in Architecture”, but very soon he shifted his interest to phenomenology (and Heidegger) and started building his phenomenological theory. His first book on the theme was “Existence, space and architecture”, and he went on developing phenomenology in architecture for his whole life.
My first aim is — working from the point of view of a theoretician of architecture much informed by philosophy — to show the basis of his theory and problems that can be seen in it. My entry will derive predominantly from the book “Existence, space and architecture”, but taking into consideration his whole theoretical work. I would like to focus on the role of modernity (or lack of its role) in Norberg-Schulz’s theory. That is paradoxical, since his aim was to provide new basis for modern architecture, but that basis was constructed on hypothetical pre-modern experience of architecture. The key question to debate is if modernity was a break from tradition (as modernists believed) or a form of continuity (as proposed by Norberg-Schulz) and if it’s possible to base contemporary architecture on the same basis as before modern time. Norberg-Schulz’s attitude towards modernity shows limits of his theory and makes him a problematic source of ongoing phenomenological project in architecture. As his theory influences new architecture even today it is important to understand it well, so I would like to interpret him as part of historical turn and thus as a prototype of our situation today.