Audiovisual. Phenomenological methodology. Philosophy and Architecture. Multisectoral Phenomenological Methodologies Course (MPhM).
[ Audiovisual duration: 11 ‘ 17 ‘ ‘ ]
[ Reading: 25 ‘ ]

Architecture is a paradigmatic place where to exercise the dynamisms of subjectivity in its desire to constitute space, place, locality and our habitability in the world. Architecture and phenomenology philosophy converge in its exercise, as we have exposed on other occasions when developing the relationship between philosophy and architecture.

Next, we present an audiovisual that aims to be a playful and educational proposal. Eight representative authors from the history of contemporary architecture have been selected: Frank Lloyd Wright, Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, Oscar Niemeyer, Lúcio Costa, Álvaro Siza Vieira, Frank Owen Gehry, Norman Foster and Zaha Hadid. The selection criteria have been exclusively intrinsic: aesthetic and phenomenological. Other extrinsic criteria have not been taken into account: ideological, moral, economic, political or gender.

The document is presented as a didactic proposal. In its margins you will find a selection of concepts and categories common to phenomenological philosophy and architecture. In this way, each notion corresponds to the descriptive analysis of phenomenology and architectural practice. This conceptual parallelism is intended to be an invitation to the current panorama of architecture and a challenge for contemporary aesthetic theory. In their terms they will be able to find the necessary keys to understand the way we build places and the way we inhabit the world.

Arquitectura contemporánea

[Phenomenology, physics and artistic vanguards].

At the beginning of the 20th century, an interesting phenomenon occurred in the world of knowledge and the arts. On the one hand, philosophy was being renewed and expanded through the development of phenomenology, a current that proposed a new way of understanding human experience and its relationship with the world. At the same time, physics was also undergoing a revolution, with the rise of quantum physics, which challenged classical conceptions of the universe and opened new possibilities for understanding.

In the artistic field, important changes and revolutions also took place, with the emergence of currents such as expressionism, cubism, futurism or surrealism, which expanded and questioned the limits of classical art and its traditional forms of representation[1].

[The enlargement of the classical model].

These three currents, phenomenology, quantum physics and the artistic avant-garde share a common element: they all propose an enlargement and questioning of the traditional paradigms in their respective fields of knowledge. Phenomenology proposes a new approach to understanding the human experience, quantum physics challenges classical conceptions of physics, and artistic revolutions question and expand the limits of classical art.

In addition, these currents also share a critical and exploratory attitude, which leads them to question established truths and seek new ways of understanding and representation. In this sense, phenomenology, quantum physics and the artistic avant-garde can be seen as expressions of the same concern and the same desire to explore new territories of knowledge and creativity[2].

[Theory, current and method].

Phenomenology is a theory, a philosophical current and a descriptive method, whose origins go back to the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century with the German philosopher Edmund Husserl. It is characterized by its focus on the description and understanding of human experience and consciousness as it is presented directly, without presuppositions or preconceived interpretations.

As a theory, phenomenology holds that reality manifests itself through conscious experience. Husserl argued that we should direct our attention towards phenomena as they appear in our consciousness, instead of speculating about their external existence or resorting to scientific theories or abstract concepts (psychologism, positivism, historicism, naturalism, etc.). Phenomenology seeks to understand phenomena as they appear to us, as they appear, and in their very appearance, exploring their structure, their relationships, and their meanings.

As a philosophical current, phenomenology has influenced various fields of thought, such as philosophy of mind, philosophy of perception, aesthetic theory, philosophy of language, and social philosophy. In addition, its developments have been transferred to the various practical fields of application: technology, health sciences, design, architecture, etc.

As a descriptive method, phenomenology seeks to access the essential structure of phenomena through the «epoché» or phenomenological reduction[3]. This consists of suspending prior judgments and beliefs, as well as scientific theories and assumptions, in order to observe and describe phenomena impartially. Phenomenology also uses eidetic intuition, which is a form of careful and detailed observation of phenomena in order to capture their essence and meaning.

Architecture is a discipline that deals with the design, urban planning, planning and construction of living spaces and buildings. However, architecture can also be approached from three different perspectives: as an aesthetic theory, as an artistic current, and as a technical method.

As an aesthetic theory, architecture is concerned with the beauty and aesthetic appreciation of built spaces. In this sense, architecture seeks harmony, proportion, composition and other aesthetic elements to create habitable and visually pleasing buildings and environments. Aesthetic theory in architecture encompasses concepts such as form, space, light, color, and materiality, and seeks to understand how these elements influence the aesthetic experience of users.

As an artistic current, architecture can express ideas, values ​​and emotions through its design. Architects may use different architectural styles, such as Gothic, Renaissance, Modern, or Postmodern, to convey aesthetic, cultural, or social messages. Architecture as an artistic current focuses on the creativity, originality and personal expression of the architect, and can be influenced by broader philosophical and artistic movements of his time.

As a technical method, architecture implies the mastery of technical knowledge and skills to design and construct buildings. This includes an understanding of construction materials, engineering techniques, safety regulations, and functional aspects of spaces. Architects use tools such as technical drawings, three-dimensional models, and computer-aided design (CAD) and AI software to develop and communicate their ideas. The technical method in architecture is based on design principles, structural calculations, coordination with other construction professionals, and supervision of project execution.


[Phenomenology and architecture as enlargement].

Phenomenology is presented as a philosophical current that seeks a deep and detailed understanding of human experience, both in its subjective and objective aspects. This current arises as a criticism of the traditional philosophy that focused on the study of reason and abstract logic, leaving aside the concrete experience of the human being in the world.

Just as complex numbers are an extension of real numbers, making it possible to represent certain mathematical situations that real numbers cannot explain, phenomenology is presented as an extension of classical philosophy, allowing the exploration of certain aspects of human experience that classical philosophy could not adequately address it.

On the other hand, in the 20th century there was an important revolution in architecture, which questioned the established paradigms and sought new forms of relationship between the construction and its environment, as well as between the construction and the people who inhabit it.

In the 1950s, Brutalism was characterized using raw materials and an austere aesthetic. This current was looking for an honest and unpretentious architecture that reflected the «brutality» of modern society. The style was popularized in the construction of government and university buildings. Later, in the 1960s, Postmodernism emerged, characterized by the combination of styles and the use of ornamental and decorative elements. This current was looking for a more playful and expressive architecture, which questioned the rigidity of modernism. Some of its best known exponents were Robert Venturi and Frank Gehry.

It was from the 1980s when Deconstructivism developed the use of fragmented and asymmetric forms. This current was looking for an architecture that challenged convention and logic, and that questioned the idea of ​​a stable and solid structure. Some of its best known exponents were Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas[4].

[Phenomenology and Architecture].

In this sense, phenomenology and architecture share the same concern for the human experience in the built world. Phenomenology, through its method of detailed analysis of experience, seeks to discover the essential aspects that make an experience what it is, and how these aspects relate to reality and subjectivity.

For its part, architecture, through its interest in the relationship between construction and its environment, seeks a more harmonious integration between man and nature, and a better adaptation to the needs and experiences of the people who inhabit it.

In this context, phenomenology can be a useful tool for architecture, as it can provide a deeper understanding of the human experience, which in turn can help design buildings that are better suited to people’s needs and their around. Phenomenology can also help architects understand how the material and aesthetic aspects of a building affect the experience of the people who inhabit it.

On the other hand, architecture can also be seen as a form of “constructed phenomenology”, insofar as it deals with the creation of spaces and places that allow the developments of human experience. In this way, architecture can be seen as a form of practical understanding of phenomenology, as a phenomenology in practice, in which theoretical concepts are translated into concrete spaces.


[Exercise and Representation].

Phenomenological philosophy, as an extension of classical philosophy, and the contemporary revolutions of art at the beginning of the 20th century have highlighted an old question, which is the critical nucleus of the so-called Phenomenological Aesthetics: the medieval distinction in actu signato and in actu signato; the inevitable oscillation between exercise and representation. Both in phenomenology and in architectural practice there is an insurmountable oscillation between its exercise and its representation, between what the scholastics called signation (in actu signato) and what they called exercise (in actu exercito). What does this mean?

Phenomenology, since its founding by Edmund Husserl at the end of the 19th century, from his attempts at systematization and his research manuscripts, has set in motion, in exercise (in actu exercito), a series of mechanisms, dynamisms, to those who have not had sufficient representation (in actu signato). This apparent paradox coincides with the implementation, without sufficient representation, of the mechanisms of contemporary physics and the artistic avant-garde in the general space of the arts. The effective always overflows, due to overabundance, what is intentionally intended.

From the producer-receiver dialectic, architecture has exhibited an exceptional mastery to exercise purely phenomenological resources without the need to explicitly thematize them. This “walking blindly” is common in the entire general space of the arts, especially in architecture. The producer is the first receiver of the work and this first reception guides and directs the practice, without the need to know in a predicative way the phenomenological dynamisms that intervene in the experience of space, time, the body, affectivity and symbolization. The explicit thematization of these dynamisms, their reflective and conscious knowledge, can direct the practice with greater effectiveness. Contemporary architecture can broaden its production horizons, incorporating the resources of phenomenology in architectural practice.

[Extreme phenomena].

The extreme character of design in architecture lies in its proximity to the artistic experience, without detaching itself from its purely functional and imaginative functioning. On the border between objectivity and fantasy resides the condition of this marginality, understood as dividing between two architecturally adjacent regimes: that of objective, imaginative perception, and that of perception in fantasy, or perceptive fantasy[5].

It is in the artistic context of architecture, as a paradigmatic field, where this extreme character is clearly exhibited, although the features of this diffuse demarcation also appear in other areas such as engineering, technology, fashion, dance or art. graphic design[6]. In architecture, perception is anchored to habitability and usability (effectiveness and objectivity) and, nevertheless, it generates a unique image of the place that can be reproduced virtually in a repeatable way, in the form of style, artistic current or trend (not objectified and with identity).


[Spatiality, temporality, corporality and affectivity].

In architecture we witness an original conflict, one that confronts the space of human experience with the space of nature[7]. We live, at the same time, the space around us and the space on the earth, and in all cases we make space. This spatialization is simultaneous to our experience of topological spatiality, where we generate orientation, locality, and exteriority. In turn, this spatialization is simultaneous and different from the metric spatiality of points and distances[8]. However, both the making of space and its topology and metrics take the body, corporality [Leiblichkeit], as zero point or spatialization cell[9], with its fantasy kinesthesias, with the kinesthesias of the lived body [Leib] and with those that characterize emotional affections (corporeal kinesthesia)[10].

The interiority of the Leib is nothing but its place: the immobile limit, although unplaceable in space, that surrounds the ‘Leibkörper‘. That «interior» place surrounds the body «exteriorly». The interiority-exteriority of the space of distances and the interiority-exteriority of the space of places intersect. That absolute here that the body represents, as a privileged place, provides us with the space of the place, after orientation and locality, interiority. This space is blindly reconstructed by architecture. Husserl speaks of the unification in a single place-soil of a multiplicity of places-soils, of places-homes.

The metric spatiality of points and distances, that which occurs in an objective temporality is constituted by objective percepts and is part of the effectiveness of the world of objects and their objective constructions. That other spatiality, which is not three-dimensional, in which there are neither points nor distances, nor a space in the Euclidean sense, is orientation spatiality, where interiority is manifested in the face of a dimensioned exteriority. It is a spatiality that does not need the anchoring of fixed distances. That space is place, tópos, locus, and for this reason we can call it topological space, or situation space (from sinere, to assign a place), with its two basic functions: orientation and exteriorization. The reduplication of this phenomenological topology is mathematical topology, with its precise notions of open environment, neighborhood, limit or accumulation points, closed sets, closure, border, etc.

Although metric spatiality is dominated by objective perception and imagination, in its phenomenological meanings, nevertheless, orientation spatiality «recreates» space, now perceived in fantasy through the experience of the internal body [Leib] and of their corporeal kinesthesias[11]. This is the main difference.

Consequently, the syntheses and dynamisms used in the constitution of metric spatiality are active, objective syntheses, while in orientation spatiality these syntheses are passive, non-objective syntheses of apperception, not objectifiable, but with identity, that is, fantasies. perceptive [perzeptive Phantasie]. Husserl will define these syntheses in text 18 of volume XXIII of the Husserliana, the one dedicated to intuitive presentifications: fantasy, image consciousness and memory. Art will be the domain of fantasy [Phantasie] in perceptual form[12]. However, architectural design, which should have been limited to the domain of objective perception and imagination, at the level of what is effective, will venture in an extreme way into the field of perception in fantasy. In this way, such a phenomenon can be reproduced and, in turn, be the object of artistic experience.

The architectural space shows samples of the interior space of the human experience. Through the extreme tendency of design to invade the phenomenological regime of fantasy, the space of experience abandons its objective configuration and becomes virtually universal as art, reproducing itself as an object or construction. In this reproductive virtualization of the architectural image, what happens on the phenomenological scale is technically controlled on the macroscopic scale of objective praxis[13]. In this way, architectural design, without being art, and in a contradictory and extreme way, aspires to project the world beyond imagination.

Only when phenomenology was able to stop, to suspend, the continuity of the natural series, naturalism, and to invert it as a phenomenological series, did it become possible to analyze the spatial and temporal levels. The greatest difficulty was found in the same place where architecture had blindly exploited its resources, in that strange configuration of temporalized spatiality without distances and spatialized temporality without presents, that central and mediating spatiality/temporality, where orientation and where interiority is distinguished from exteriority. The space and time of architecture.



Symbol (Symbállô, Symbolê, Sýmbolon) has an etymological meaning of “meeting”, “contract”, “join”, “agree”, “meet with”. Symbolizing implies organizing through some activity, composing the separate. The symbol does not try to substitute, but to organize what is rather indeterminate, that is, it has a practical function of determination. The subjective action that takes place through the symbol perfects the object of the symbol[14].

The instance of symbolization characterizes the architectural design, in all its manifestations. In this phenomenological regime, typical of objectivity, the experience of spatiality and temporality are determined in the process of constitution. Place and duration are exhibited at their different levels of phenomenalization. Affectivity is between the level of practical emotions and the level of feelings. The orientation space is constituted between a lived temporality and a world of operations, the world of the effective.

The symbolic nature of design objects and architectural constructions modifies our experience of time, space and affectivity. It is the experience of the body that makes it possible to stabilize this symbolic nature. That is why we say that design is lived with the body, which is point zero: the passage from objective affections, or practical emotions, to feelings at the artistic level. An orientation center whose absolute here is a topos, a place that takes the body as the absolute here, as an internal body, as a kinesthetic Leib, which is no longer just the natural subject, the subject of praxis in the objective world[15].

When the architectural practice is symbolized, it expands the dynamisms of subjectivity in the genesis of meaning. We do not know the limits of this expansion and its relationship with the mechanisms of our experience. This dynamic is typical of the dynamics of experience. The stability provided by the symbolization process is generating meaning, and this meaning is going to be shared intersubjectively. Any lack or symbolic debt can be compensated by the construction of a world at hand, to the body, which makes room and guides in a space of situation.

Architectural design can currently function as a compensation device that responds to the loss of symbolization typical of contemporary society. However, it can lead to cacophony, redundancy, uselessness, junkspace, tome, noise, or insubstantiality. It can also be used as a propaganda tool and as a universal link of a community.

Humanity has designed and built the world with a symbolic character. As in art, architecture is a device for diversion, subversion, emancipation and reaction, but it is also an instrument of boredom, investment, domination and submission. It is an expression of stability and transcendence. The symbol does not try to replace, but to organize what is rather indeterminate. As we said at the beginning, it has a practical determination function.


[Phenomenology of architecture].

The phenomenon of architecture reactivates the old problems of a so-called «phenomenological aesthetics»[16], but also exhibits the current difficulties of a renewed phenomenology as a philosophical reformulation of the evolution of contemporary philosophy, from the dawn of the 20th century to the present. It works like a strange “black light” that highlights those aspects that classical philosophy has not fully elucidated, being an endurance test for all the systematizations that have tried to approach the nature of the image and its configuration as an image of the world.

Today demands a timely reflection on the phenomenon of architecture, among other phenomena, from aesthetic and philosophical categories. The urgent need for a «Phenomenology of architecture» is justified both from the real practice of the world of life and from the philosophical foundation. Behind the phenomenon of architecture we find a whole warp and weft of the human, as a starting point where to exercise the mechanisms that make our encounter with the constitution of reality possible.

Distancing, estrangement and de-objectification join the closeness, familiarity, habitability and usability of the constructions, arrangements, buildings and images of contemporary architecture. A fecund contradiction within this phenomenon as a phenomenon endorses the artistic avant-garde of the 20th century and the changes in our perception of daily life.

Philosophy, and in this case, phenomenological philosophy, must know how to transfer its conclusions to the great challenges of today and of the time to come. The phenomenon of architecture today represents this extraordinary challenge. Knowing how to transfer the results to theory, in the understanding of our contemporary image, expanding this understanding, and going beyond the limits of our thought, are the ultimate objectives of a phenomenology of architecture.


[1] Álvarez Falcón, L. (2007), “La indeterminación en el arte”, en Astrolabio, Revista internacional de filosofía, nº 5, Barcelona: Universitat de Barcelona.

[2] Álvarez Falcón, L. (2013), “Arquitectura y fenomenología. Sobre la arquitectónica de la indeterminación en el espacio”, en Eikasia, Revista de filosofía, nº 47, Oviedo: Eikasia ediciones.

[3] Álvarez Falcón, L. “La necesidad de un pensamiento fenomenológico y los presupuestos de una estética trascendental: reducción estética y reducción fenomenológica”, en En los márgenes de la sensibilidad y del arte. Aportes para una estética fenomenológica y una hermenéutica-ontológica de lo artístico. Román Alejandro Chávez Báez, Ricardo Gibú Shimabukuru (Coordinadores). Fides Ediciones, Benemérita Universidad Autónoma de Puebla (BUAP), México 2021.

[4] Álvarez Falcón, L. “El lugar en el espacio. Fenomenología y Arquitectura”, en FEDRO, revista de estética y teoría de las artes, Universidad de Sevilla, 2014.

[5] Richir, M. (2004), Phantasia, imagination, affectivité: phénoménologie et anthropologie phénoménologique. Grenoble: Editions Jérôme Millon.

[6] Álvarez Falcón, L. (2020). “Fenomenología del diseño: la reproducibilidad y el diseño de las imágenes, de los espacios, de los tiempos y de los afectos”, en Cuadernos del Centro de Estudios en Diseño y Comunicación. Ensayos, nº. 109, (Ejemplar dedicado a Creatividad, emoción y espacio), Buenos Aires, pp. 153-161.

[7] Pedregosa, P. (2019), “Sandalias, muros y casas, o cómo armonizar el cuerpo con la naturaleza”, en Escribano, X. (ed.). (2019), De pie sobre la tierra: caminar, correr, danzar. Madrid: Editorial Síntesis.

[8] Sánchez Ortiz de Urbina, R. (2014). Estromatología. Teoría de los niveles fenomenológicos. Madrid: Brumaria-Eikasia.

[9] Álvarez Falcón, L. “Body, art and spatialization. Ten theses on a phenomenological approach to corporeality in art and politics”, en Laocoonte. Revista de Estética y Teoría de las Artes. Vol 1, No 1 (2014): Número 1. Editada por SEyTA con la colaboración del Departamento de Filosofía y el Institut de Creativitat de la Universitat de València, el Departamento de Filosofía de la Universidad Autónoma de Madrid y el Departamento de Estética e Historia de la Filosofía de la Universidad de Sevilla.

[10] Álvarez Falcón, L. “O corpo intermediário. Uma aproximaçao fenomenológica”, en Revista Filosófica de Coimbra. Universidade de Coimbra. Coimbra, Portugal 2019. “El cuerpo intermediario. Una aproximación fenomenológica”, en Investigaciones Fenomenológicas sobre la Corporalidad. Coordinadores: Rubén Muñoz, Jorge Medina Delgadillo, Roberto Casales García. Editorial Tirant lo Blanch, Colección Plural, México, julio 2020.

[11] Richir, M. (2010), Variations sur le sublime et le soi, Grenoble: Editions Jérôme Millon.

[12] Husserl, E. (1980), «Zur lehre von den anschauungen und ihren modis», en Phantasie, Bildbewusstsein, Erinnerung. Dordrecht-Boston-London: Kluwer Academic Publishers, pp. 498-523.

[13] Álvarez Falcón, L. (2019), “Ampliación fenomenológica de la imagen en los nuevos medios”, en López Sáenz, M.C. y Trilles Calvo, K.P. (2019), A las imágenes mismas. Fenomenología y nuevos medios, Madrid: Ápeiron Ediciones.

[14] Sánchez Ortiz de Urbina, R. (2021). Orden oculto: ensayo de una epistemología fenomenológica. Oviedo: Eikasia ediciones.

[15] Álvarez Falcón, L. (2022). “Sobre una fenomenología del diseño”, en Cuadernos del Centro de Estudios en Diseño y Comunicación. Ensayos, nº. 167, (Ejemplar dedicado a Creatividad, emoción y espacio II), Buenos Aires, pp. 131-144.

[16] Álvarez Falcón, L. (2009), Realidad, arte y conocimiento: La deriva estética tras el pensamiento contemporáneo, Barcelona: Editorial Horsori.