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Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

The architecture of the poetic image the visible and the invisible in the sacred architecture of Sigurd Lewerentz
by Patterson, Paula Anne, Ph.D., University of Washington, 2009, 122; 3377329
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation is situated at the nexus of phenomenology and architecture. It examines the relationship between architectural phenomena and the meanings that animate them by taking up the genealogy of meaning presented in Maurice Merleau-Ponty's The Visible and the Invisible (1964) as a framework for examining the cemeteries, chapels and churches designed by Sigurd Lewerentz between 1914-1966. At the turn of the twentieth century, phenomenology appeared as a new school of thought in Continental Philosophy. Its emergence coincided with architecture's modern transformation. The regularization of scientific methods during the Enlightenment recast the epistemologies of the natural and human sciences. By the late nineteenth century new technologies and modes of production initiated a similar recasting of architectural intentions. As authority shifted from transcendental meaning to scientific explanations, the ideas that connected communities became increasingly secularized.

Through a close reading and comparative study of Merleau-Ponty's text with Jean-Paul Sartre's Psychology of Imagination (1940), this dissertation proposes an expanded model of meaning that asserts imagination as the hermeneutic agent between percept (the visible) and concept (the invisible). The invisible is elaborated through a composite presentation of the poetic image that shows how meaning arises from experiences that permit and encourage participation. These discussions form the basis for a phenomenological examination of Lewerentz's sacred architecture in which site visits and archival research are brought to bear on interpretive readings of the latent imagery in each project.

Merleau-Ponty's philosophy is particularly relevant in the context of architecture because it offers a direct address of the relationship between phenomena and meaning. His genealogy provides a way to understand architecture's potential to orient and organize communities and to reflect and sustain cultural values. Lewerentz's process reveals a hermeneutic approach to the natural features of the site, its history and the programmatic requirements of each project. His work is a fitting illustration of how architecture can incorporate poetic imagery and disclose meaning by engendering embodied and imaginative participation. It reveals an architectural intention that assumes the task of providing existential orientation and views architectural phenomena as a means of offering new possibilities for being-in-the-world.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: McLaren, Brian
School: University of Washington
School Location: United States -- Washington
Source: DAI-A 70/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Philosophy, Architecture
Keywords: Architecture, Imagination, Lewerentz, Sigurd, Merleau-Ponty, Maurice, Phenomenology, Poetic image, Sacred architecture, Sweden
Publication Number: 3377329
ISBN: 978-1-109-39571-6
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