The Path-and-Place metaphor (Why it doesn't satisfy...)

There's always a danger, when you start into describing the operation of the human mind in order to describe how to get something done (e.g. design a building). It's tempting to reduce the entirety of human perception down to a simple metaphor or process, something that can be readily understood. The problem is, human perception and cognition are fairly complex phenomena, so if you find a good metaphor, you get a good story, and something quite comprehensible, but not a particularly good way of understanding how perception works.

Norberg-Schulz has, I believe, described a good tool for the architect in thinking about and manipulating space, but he hasn't encompassed the entirety of our understanding of design and architecture. That is, while our sense of "place" and our sense of "path" are interesting, and they can be used as a generative/organising principle (e.g. in Casa Andreis), they don't particularly describe the totality of what is needed to understand "good architecture".

The approach can even be seen as a good tool for analysis of designs, but it leaves so much out that it isn't so much a theory of asthetics as a particular practical tool to be applied to the problem of design which has a basis in an observed perception (sense of space and place).

What was particularly interesting to me was that, though I've read about the path-and-place approach to design, I didn't cover it explicitly in my thesis. The general patterns to which it conforms are there, but the particular emphasis was not discussed.


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