Call for papers: Studia Phaenomenologica XIV (2014): Place, Environment, Atmosphere

Dossier editors: Madalina Diaconu and Ion Copoeru

Studia Phaenomenologica invites phenomenologists, theorists of architecture and other scholars committed to the phenomenological body of thought to reflect on the legacy of phenomenology in interpreting issues of lived space, building space and commitment to the environment at present.

The history of phenomenology testifies a constant and multifaceted interest in the exploration of the lived space. This interest has begun already with Husserl’s analysis of the constitution of space through movement and Heidegger’s critique of the uniformity of the abstract space in the modern science. Later on, Bollnow specified from an anthropological perspective Heidegger’s reflections on the existential dimension of dwelling, whereas Erwin Straus elaborated on the structures of spatiality which correspond to different senses. Merleau-Ponty enriched this body of thinking stating the primacy of depth as the third dimension of space and emphasizing the importance of the imaginary in the experience of the “anthropological space”. To sum up this brief and selective overview, while Gaston Bachelard focused on the positive value of intimate inhabited spaces, Bernhard Waldenfels disclosed the inescapable intrusion of alterity into one’s own place and the responsive  structure of being Here in an ethical context.

In addition to this, the phenomenological interpretations of dwelling, building and producing spaces exerted a fertile influence upon the architectural thinking after the failure of the functionalist architecture and urban planning. In the wake of the phenomenological thinking of space, theorists of architecture rediscovered the geographic and historical “genius loci” which confers character to a place. Regional traditions concerning the use of materials, the language of architectural forms and the relation to the natural environment are opposed to universal solutions in the international architecture (Christian Norberg-Schulz, Juhani Pallasmaa, Kenneth Frampton). Also the phenomenological “topology” has inspired the architects’ concern with sustainable natural and built environments as an alternative to the postmodern instant environment machine (Christopher Alexander, Edward Relph). Moreover, the commitment to a life-enhancing and multisensory architecture is indebted to the phenomenology of an embodied subject (Juhani Pallasmaa) and Heidegger’s and Hermann Schmitz’ phenomenology of moods inspired the aesthetic theory of atmospheres, conceived as emotional qualities of spaces (Gernot Böhme).

The phenomenological approach to qualitative, non-measurable and heterogeneous places may raise a new interest after the “spatial turn” of the human sciences. Sociologists and postmodern cultural geographers investigate lived spaces which are entangled with embodied subjects’ social practices. At the same time, the traditional phenomenology of space has to face multiple challenges at present, when places compete with non-places and the inhabited physical space with the virtual one. The modern antinomy between the private and the public space and the traditional primacy of stability over mobility have become subject to critique due to the spread of nomadic life forms and new means of communication in a global and digital age. In addition, cultural and social practices of emplacement, as well as new types of dwelling(s) are still awaiting phenomenological descriptions and interpretation, which would call for taking into consideration economic and socio-political developments.

Under such conditions it is legitimate to raise the question how the phenomenological disclosure of particular local spatial characters, lived places and atmospheres would be able to provide a viable alternative to the invasion of uniform and sterile non-places and landscapes in a globalised world, can make humans inhabit the virtual space without falling into escapism and alienation and enhance the liveability of natural and built environments.

Deadline: 15.05.2013

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