The Scope of the Book

As regards the question of architectural experience, post-war education in architecture seems to be characterized by a contrast between two extremes. The first is the belief in rational technology and the expressiveness that is inherent in prefabrication and standardization. The second is the belief in a subjective creativity which manifests itself in an ‘anti-pedagogy’ with its attending individualities. The former has led to a disturbingly schematic architecture which has to a great extent dominated new housing; the latter has led to a subjectivity that is especially typical of many expressive’ monumental constructions, and just as disturbing.

These two extremes, however, represent a well-known dilemma found in both architects’ and users’ relationship to architecture. On the one hand, we have the need for something stable and universal — a basis for prediction and recognition — and, on the other, the need for personal and emotional identification.

The question raised in this book is whether or not it is possible to establish a theory based not on technology alone but on the entire phenomenon of architecture itself. Such a study is quite relevant in relationship to the contemporary architectural debate concerning postmodernism and its use of, among other things, metaphors and historical motifs as experiential elements. This debate is the result of a tradition that began as early as the 1960s. Two books are central to this development: Intentions in Architecture by Chr. Norberg-Schulz (1963) and Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture by R. Venturi (1966). The former provided an important contribution to the understanding of architecture as a psychological phenomenon, the latter established a theory of concepts and categories pertaining to architectural form.

The Grammar

The following study attempts to continue this tradition, which is concerned with the subject of form and its expression. We will try to classify a set of particular archetypes which can contribute to an understanding of the universality of architectural expression. This will be done by constructing a grammar comprising the most basic elements of architecture, which are the floor, the wall, and the roof. This system of archetypes on which variations are composed will be illustrated by examples from architectural history.

The Effects of the Grammar

The archetypes can be discussed from various points of view. The present work is limited to the question of how the archetypes affect us psychologically. We will show that these effects are dependent both on the conditions which have dictated an architectural form and on those associations which are the beholder’s. An architectural form can in this way be determined by technical, economic and functional as well by stylistic prerequisites. Similarly, associations can be contingent upon personal and social as well as upon cultural circumstances.

In relation to this, the book will concern itself with the constant phenomena on which these prerequisites are based. In terms of architecture, it is a question of the relationship between inside and outside and the role of archetypes in such a context. This relationship is described as a dynamic dialogue between exterior and interior spaces and represents a problem that will always exist no matter what the project, time or place. Additionally, we will concentrate on the commonalities in our architectural experiences. We wish to show that these things are based on our physical experiences, and that we transfer them to what we see. This means that the archetypes elicit specific meanings, thus influencing one’s experience of the relationship between inside and outside.

The Purpose of the Book

The book has a design-oriented goal. With a more precise knowledge of the archetypes and their variations, it is possible to replace the schematic architecture of recent years without necessarily falling back on and copying motifs from the past. In addition, a more reliable basis for the emotional content of architecture can replace the generally subjective ‘feelings’ about the qualities of buildings.

The archetypes cannot cover all the combinations that give architecture meaning. Consequently, this work is not a recipe for right and wrong. Moreover, its intent is to point out the possibilities which lie at the roots of architecture, and which in the hands of a creative practitioner, can give the art of building a more humane countenance.