UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Architecture and communication Bernholtz, Allen Irving


In dealing with Architecture and Communication it will be necessary to establish initially the different thought patterns in oral and visual cultures. Once this has been determined, we can more readily assess the paths which the newer systems of communication are taking. The Middle Ages afford the bridge whereby we can scan the Western world in both its oral and visual manifestations. The mass media, in the broad sense, deal with the systems of communication which play an important role in determining "the things to which we attend". It has been suggested by various scholars, writing on the effects of the media of communication, that they have played a significant part in shaping political, religious and economic institutions. For the architect, an enquiry into the role of communications in determining spatial concepts may be of great value, for it may be equally true that changes in communication alter "the things to which we attend". Despite the pervading concern today with this field, architects have yet to undertake an investigation of the role of structures as messages of archetypal forms of human concern, influenced by oral, written, printed, telegraphic, photographic and electronic systems of communication. Using the distinctive bias of these media, one may find it possible to formulate a new and valid space concept for our age. Even if this is not as yet possible, it may at least indicate new paths to be taken in a re-assessment of concepts of architecture based on perspective and the printed page. Marshall McLuhan's Gutenberg Galaxy has been the motivating force of this approach and the inspiration for the mosaic pattern of the thesis. In the section dealing with symbolism, it will be useful to attempt to determine the province of art and language. Through a treatment of some of the basic anthropological, philosophical and psychological conditioning affecting our perception of the world, we can formulate ideas about man's symbol-making processes. Some of the basic ideas underlying art and the symbolic process and how these vary with different civilizations may suggest new departures for our existing spatial biases. There are today trends in language and communication study which fall under the general heading "area of meaning." Do parallels exist in recent Western architecture? For example: are the concepts of "area of meaning" as advanced by S.I. Hayakawa in Language in Thought and Action and "universal space" as exemplified by traditional Japanese architecture and the recent work of Mies van der Rohe the same things in different contexts? McLuhan has suggested that our departmentalized approach to viewing things is the outcome of five hundred years of print culture. I should like to suggest that perspective (which is more or less contemporary with Gutenberg's invention) is the analogy of print culture. Can we then extend this parallelism to the more recent media of communication? That is, does Ronchamp represent a way of constructing space similar to, say, television, or is it a throwback to the 15th century? Is Henry Moore's concept of working from the centre of gravity of the solid sculptural block a prophetic statement of TV which derives its light from within itself in contrast to the printed page which requires light upon it? These questions, if answered, can lead to new insights for the architect. Due caution must be exercised when undertaking studies of architecture as messages of forms of human experience, religious, political, economic and social. Too often there is a tendency to place undue emphasis on early sources. Certainly the study of historical precursors can be a provocative and satisfying adventure in assessing the image man was attempting to project at a given historical period. Yet the inherent, but not always obvious dangers in such a study are many. I will attempt to point out some of these pitfalls. A spatial concept, to be valid for our age, ought to emphasize the relationship of man to man. The concept of architecture in a world, theoretically at least, of equals, is irrelevant without its social context. As we are products of all that has gone before us, it is inevitable that we derive architectural points of departure from what has gone before. It is equally true that never before have there been so many new forms of communication combining to help establish a contemporary spatial metaphor. To create a compatability between the past and the present, we ought, in the words of Marshall McLuhan, to "take a fresh look at tradition considered not as the inert acceptance of a fossilized corpus of themes and conventions, but as an organic habit of re-creating what has been received and is handed on." This thesis will attempt to examine the necessary "fresh look."

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