Encountering the Other: Phenomenology in Architectural Discourse and Its Underplayed Theme of Intersubjectivity

Liu, Qing (2024). Encountering the Other: Phenomenology in Architectural Discourse and Its Underplayed Theme of Intersubjectivity. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0001752b


Looking into what can be termed a tradition of architectural phenomenology and the criticism it encountered over the last several decades, this dissertation contends that given the recent attempts to transform and reinvent architectural phenomenology, it is of urgent necessity to thematize intersubjectivity in the development of a phenomenological understanding, when theorizing the meaning of architecture. Contrary to the popular interpretation that architectural phenomenology deliberately endorses a specific way of life, a specific account of the body, a specific conception of subjectivity, therefore unable to take alterity and novelty into consideration, the dissertation tries to demonstrate that architectural phenomenology has underplayed the theme of (inter)subjectivity and underestimated its importance, that a phenomenological investigation of (inter)subjectivity contains many philosophical insights into alterity and novelty constructive to architectural theory and practice.
The dissertation provides a genealogy of architectural phenomenology, assesses the coherence of its discursive practice, and clarifies the notion of intersubjectivity to be further investigated with the newly available support of contemporary phenomenology. It traces the underplayed theme of intersubjectivity in the tradition, choosing two prominent figures as the anchors for contextualization—Dalibor Vesely and Ernesto Nathan Rogers. Through a critical examination of their theoretical contributions along with the relevant philosophical problems, it reveals the overlooked potential of architectural phenomenology to talk about other subjectivities and new works concretely situated in the environment and in history, thus proposing an alternative approach that can address socio-political issues. It concludes by pointing out how this approach, formed on a phenomenological sensitivity to alterity and novelty, indicative of a significant turn in theorizing the communication and creation of meaning, sheds light on the ongoing polemics revolving around architectural phenomenology.

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