Essentially, Pallasmaa enframes his practical prescription for the 21st century architecture as up against a Western "visual bias" which he is able to trace back to ancient Greek philosophy all the way to Modern Western thought. Does this properly account for the poverty of architecture today? Yes, this is distinctly alienating in a visual sense. Structures, though built, seem to tear at their surroundings, destroying context, insisting on shallow recognition of presence above all else. Pallasmaa is entirely correct when he states that, "The narcissistic eye views architecture solely as a means of self-expression, and as an intellectual-artistic game detached from essential mental and societal connections [ I think that an architectural project which seeks to either control by atomizing its inhabitants or merely flatter the self-expression of the architect will result in an isolation of ALL the senses.
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Pallasmaa breaks the work into two sections one focusing on the eye, its significance and interaction with the world, the other on the body and the role our senses play in experiencing architecture. I will explore how Pallasmaa differentiates these themes from the concepts of his predecessors, and what the significance of the presentation is. Finally I intend to what extent the text has impacted the way we make and interact with art and architecture. On the most basic level it has practical applications in architecture, while in its broadest interpretation it is a guideline for how we encounter the world.
In this Pallasmaa radically calls for a change to the ontology of architecture. Pallasmaa writes that the work is based upon his experiences, views and speculations as an architect and theorist. He explains a growing concern about the dominance of vision and disappearance of sensory and sensual elements in the manner in which architecture was taught, conceived, and critiqued.
The Eyes of the Skin can in this light be read as a guided tour of the themes of ocularcentrism, hapticity and phenomenology, motivated and directed by the unique vision of Pallasmaa.
It is a process of encoding: the action of writing forces the development of an idea and transforms it into an object for study in its own right, prompting reflection. Pallasmaa describes writing as a mode of clarification; the thinking is in the writing. Phrases are repeated, like his drawing there is a working and reworking of forms, calibrating organically by hand and pencil.
The published book is equally homological to its content. The printed book offers a similar first impression, it is small and thin xxmm, 45gr in proportion to our hands as much as it is for our eyes; this attention to anthropometry is characteristic of Pallasmaa who designs his work in bespoke sketchbooks xmm.
On the other hand his lack of structure leads the argument to meander, and repeat itself. Pallasmaa offers the reader significant texts but not significant facts. Ian Hacking and Richard Rorty explore the further linguistic inheritance from vision. One could go on for pages, the question is whether these latent metaphors pose an obstacle or aid to knowledge? Pallasmaa would suggest not, sight is unreliable. Language subdivides our visual experience and the universality of vision cannot be assumed.
Pallasmaa argues that perspective in singling out the eye, does so at the expense of our other senses. Architecture should ground the body in time and space though all senses not simply the eye, we need an oral or haptic architectural equivalent to perspective.
The eye provides such an overwhelming volume of information that is the only sense we are able to shut-off completely, closing our eyes to think clearly. The eye is an active, signalling emotions from casual glance to fixed glare, to overflowing with tears. Pallasmaa suggests like Ponty that our eye naturally works in tandem with our other senses, but he goes on to add that it can be artificially isolated through language, perspective and technology.
Pallasmaa suggests that there is an unconscious element of touch unavoidably concealed in vision; as we look, the eye touches. This has an interesting application to traditional visual art, not made to be touched but might nevertheless appeal to non-visual senses.
Pallasmaa characteristically has adapted this concept of vision for a fuller experience. Pallasmaa suggests that this transforms the two dimensional to a lived experience. It is so narrow that two persons can only pass by turning sideways.
The feeling of the weight and mass of the stone is incredible…once can have a very strong spatial experience completely without light. Carsten Holler explores comparative ideas in his exhibition at Hayward Gallery, London summer, Pallasmaa also explains the role of gravity in architecture, invisible but crucial when walking across a sloped floor we become aware of the balance and mass of our body.
Pallasmaa also explores the significance of context in this analogy; when we know there are tons of stone above us, our bodily awareness is different our sensations at the top of a skyscraper differ from those at an underground station.
Touch is grounding and in the Renaissance was compared to earth, though less noble it is more reliable than vision. Having worked in a furniture workshop, Pallasmaa addresses his experience of the way craftsman work with their bodies and existential experience. The principle structure of experience is intentionality: being directed towards something, which arises from an object by virtue of its content or meaning.
Phenomenology therefore concerns the relationship between people and objects and their unity. Phenomenology finds a link to architecture through the senses. In the s Erik Gunnar Asplund, Erik Bryggman, Eiler Rasmussen and Alvar Aalto made remarkably parallel moves away from the functionalist aesthetics towards a multisensory architecture.
It is a conversion of the old post bus depot from Collage combines often unrelated fragmented images to convey a meaning independent of original images, while montage is a cinematic technique to join shots to form a narrative whole. Kourundi blends the structures and atmospheres of a utilitarian building with a contemporary concert hall and art museum.
He suggests that modern technology inhibits the interaction of our non-visual senses through constructing a dichotomy between sensory affirmative architecture and modern materials such as scale-less sheets of glass, metals, synthetic plastics and unyielding surfaces. There are two possible solutions addressing time or conceptual differences.
Written from , our technology has developed considerably since the point at which Pallasmaa was writing, and as our perception of technology has changed so has our interpretation of the text. Today, twenty years later keyboard has evolved for the use of our fingertips; a smart phone is designed to fit in the hand and vibrates causing a sensation to the skin to communicate. Our solution to ocularphobia might be found in an enveloping sensual technology as much as haptic architecture.
On the other hand, this solution does not address the conceptual significance of material and process. Knowledge of context changes our interaction with an object; we walk more carefully on a hand knotted rug than the industrial carpet in an airport.
With technological developments human actions to making things: art works, drawings for buildings, door knobs, are being transferred to machines: cameras, photocopiers, computers, factories. Although the two results may even be interchangeable, Pallasmaa argues that there is significance in knowing that an object is authentic.
He is calling for a purer design process that enriches the users experience and interaction through knowledge of a human connection. The text has been republished three times since its publication and has found its way onto an international range of university reading lists and design studios: however it is challenging to quantify this influence.
The Eyes of the Skin offers a global message and its impact such, the text was recently translated into Mandarin and Farsi.
The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
He recalls that occupied by the visual sense we suppress what is utmost important — and that is the spatial experience we are invited to. You probably wonder what this has to do with fishing. But just like architecture provides a space, which is inhabited — fishing means inhabiting a space built by nature, evolving constantly. Sight is our dominant sense. We constantly rely on it as we study and categorize our surroundings.
The Eyes of the Skin- an architectural metaphor