Visiting Scholar Seminar: Jorge Otero-Pailos

Against Convention: Norberg-Schulz’s ‘Phenomenological’ Historiography
Seminar, 22 April 2005

Visiting Scholar Jorge Otero-Pailos present in his research the intellectual history of the emergence and career of “phenomenology” as it came to be understood within architectural discourse.

As a theory that privileges “experience” over theory, phenomenology’s rise to currency in the 1970s is as spectacular as its eclipse in the late 1980s. I frame this history through critical analyses of the works of Jean Labatut (1899-1986), Ernesto Rogers (1909-1969), Christian Norberg-Schulz (1926-2000), Charles Moore (1925-1993), and Kenneth Frampton (b. 1930), whose writings came to represent the backbone of the new forms of theorizing made available to architects through phenomenology. Through these authors I expose a much broader social and academic movement which played a central but unacknowledged role in breaking with the aesthetic conventions of postwar Modernism. Although they succeeded in bringing about an aesthetic revolution in architecture, I demonstrate that intellectually this was not the case. Architectural Phenomenology, as I call this movement, in fact consciously returned to the intellectual framework of early Modernism to ground “authentic” expression on the architect’s “original” experiences. By tracing the historic derivation of Architectural Phenomenology’s discursive mechanisms, I expose how many intellectual conventions had to be concealed, or placed out of question, for the Modernist canon to do its work; defeating itself in order to rise from its own ashes as “Postmodernism.”

Jorge Otero-Pailos was a Visiting Scholar at the CCA in 2005.


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