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The Eyes of the Skin

These are either Reading Notes, or quotes as assembled by Cocky Eek - 19 Jan 2007

The Eyes of the Skin, Juhani Pallasmaa, 2005, ISBN 0470015780

Juhani Pallasmaa; the dominance of the visual realm in our culture has pervaded architectural practise and education. While our experience in the world is formulated by acombination of five senses, much architecture is produced under consideration of only one – sight. The supression of the other sensory realms has led to an impoverishment of our environment, causing a feeling of detachment and alienation. Today the depth of our being stands on thin ice.

The way places feel, the sound and th smell of places has equal weight to way things look. The book is written because he became increasingly concerned about the bias (neiging) towards vision, and the suppression of the other senses, in the way architecture was conceived, taught and critiqued.

He writes that our skin is actually capable of distinghuishing a number of colours. Refers to heling plasters pasters put on the meridianen on the skin. They reflect the colour and it has healing effects. He says that all the senses, including vision, are extensions of the tactile sense, al sensory experiences are modes of touching and thus related to tactility. Our contact with the world takes place at the boundary line of the self through specialised parts of our envelopping membrane.

Computer images tend to flatten our magnificent, multi-sensory, simultaneous and synchronic capacities of imagination by turning the designprocess into a visual manipulation. The computer creates a distance between the maker and the object, wheras drawing by hand as well as model-making puts the designer into a haptic with the object or space. When working the artist or crafsman are directly engaged with their bodies and their existencial experiences rather than being focused on an external and objectified problem. Creative work calls for abodily and mental identification. At the other side computer design can give us new insights in archtecture bv computer examples of the snotty vase and the model we saw at materio in paris;new models for architecture… The inhumanity of contemporary architecture and cities can be understood as the consequence of the negligence of the body and the senses, and the imbalance in our sensory system. Merleau-pontly writes; my perception is not a sum of visual, tactile and audible givens; i perceive in a total way with my whole being, which speaks to all my senses at once. Creative work calls for abodily and mental identification. vision seperates us from the world whereas the other senses unite us with the world.

Transparancy and sensations of weightlessness and flotation are central themes in modern art and architecture. In recent decades, a new architectural imagery has emerged, which employs reflection, gradations of transparancy,overlay and juxtaposition (naast elkaar plaatsen) to create a sense of spatial thickness, aswell as subbtle and changing sensations of movement and light. This new ensibility promises an architecture that can turn the relative immateriality and weighlessness of recent technological construction into a positive experience of space, place and meaning.

The problem arise from the isolation of the eye outside its natural interaction with other sense modalities, and from elimination and suppression of other senses, which increasingly reduce and restrict the experience of the world into the sphere of vision. This separation and reduction fragments the innate complexity, comprehensiveness and plasticity of the perceptual system, reinforcing a sence od detachment and alienation. Every touching experience in architecture is multi-sensory; qualities of space, matter and scale are measured eually by the eye, ear, nose, skin, tongue, skeleton and muscle. The psychologist James J Gibson categorises the senses in five sensory systems; visual system, auditory system, the tsate-smell system, the basic orienting system and the haptic system. (The word “haptic” means “of or relating to or proceeding from the sense of touch”)

The eye is the organ of distance and separation, whereas touch is the sence of nearness, intimacy and affection. the eye surveys, controls and investigates, whereas touch approaches and carresses.

In historical towns and spaces, acoustic experiences reinforce and enrich visual experiences. Sight isolates, whereas sound incorporates; vision is direcional, whereas sound in omni-directional. The sence of sight implies exteriority, but sound creates an experience of ineriority. A space is understood and appreciated through its echo as much as through its visual shape, but the acoustic percept usually remains as an unconscious background experience. Hearing architecture; she refers to the acoustic percept of the underground tunnels in vienna orson welles film the third man; your ears perceives the impact of both the lengt and the cylindrical form of the tunnel.. The most persistent memory of any space is often smell. Bv underground in paris where i was with lina 2 weeks ago; it hit me and called back instantly flashbacks. Fishing towns are especially memorable because of the fusion of the smells of the sea and of the land. The experience of home is structured by distinct activities – cooking, eating, socialising, reading, storing, sleeping, intimate acts- not by visual impacts. Architecture initiates, directs and organises behaviour and movements. Consequently basic architecture experiences have a verb form rather than being nouns. Autehntic architectural experiences consist then, for instance, of approaching or confronting a building, rather than the formal apprehension of a facade, of the act of entering and not simple the visual design of the door; of looking in or out through a window, rather than the window itself as a material object. Modern architectural theory and critique have a strong tendency to regard space an an immaterial object delineated by material surfaces, instead of understanding space in terms of dynamic interactions ans intrrelations.

During the design process, the architect gradually internalises the landscape, the entire context, and the functional requirements as well as his/her conceived building; movement, balance and scale are felt unconsiously through the body as tensions in the muscular system and in the positions of the skeleton and inner organs. As the work interacts with the body of the observer, the experience mirrors the bodily sensations of the maker. Consesquently, architecture is communication from the body of the archtict directly to the body of the person who encounters the work, perhaps centuries later. Like for me the kite and the fashion show for the rietveld in de oude kerk in amsterdam were good works; as i drank the environment on forhand what was ther on the spot; what is there what want to come alive. All the space i just went with my prepared work and just instlled it tin the space was sort of dead.

The forest enfolds us in its multisensory embrace. The mulitplicity of peripheral stimuli effectively pull us into the reality of its space.

the_eyes_of_the_skin.txt · Last modified: 2007/07/16 14:26 by nik