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The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

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Since the book's first publication, interest in the role of the body and the senses has been emerging in both architectural philosophy and teaching. This new, revised and extended edition of this seminal work will not only inspire architects and students to design more holistic architecture, but will enrich the general reader's perception of the world around them. The Eyes Since the book's first publication, interest in the role of the body and the senses has been emerging in both architectural philosophy and teaching. This new, revised and extended edition of this seminal work will not only inspire architects and students to design more holistic architecture, but will enrich the general reader's perception of the world around them. The Eyes of the Skin has become a classic of architectural theory and consists of two extended essays. The first surveys the historical development of the ocular-centric paradigm in western culture since the Greeks, and its impact on the experience of the world and the nature of architecture. The second examines the role of the other senses in authentic architectural experiences, and points the way towards a multi-sensory architecture which facilitates a sense of belonging and integration.

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Since the book's first publication, interest in the role of the body and the senses has been emerging in both architectural philosophy and teaching. This new, revised and extended edition of this seminal work will not only inspire architects and students to design more holistic architecture, but will enrich the general reader's perception of the world around them. The Eyes Since the book's first publication, interest in the role of the body and the senses has been emerging in both architectural philosophy and teaching. This new, revised and extended edition of this seminal work will not only inspire architects and students to design more holistic architecture, but will enrich the general reader's perception of the world around them. The Eyes of the Skin has become a classic of architectural theory and consists of two extended essays. The first surveys the historical development of the ocular-centric paradigm in western culture since the Greeks, and its impact on the experience of the world and the nature of architecture. The second examines the role of the other senses in authentic architectural experiences, and points the way towards a multi-sensory architecture which facilitates a sense of belonging and integration.

30 review for The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

  1. 4 out of 5

    Clif Brittain

    "Please don't lick the art." Sign at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. There is no such sign on the IDS building or Crystal Court inside. Some art you want to consume, other art makes you want to run the other direction. This book helps you understand why. This book explores a lot of stuff we take for granted. Or more usually, ignore. In contemporary society, vision is our primary sense. It is also probably our most impersonal sense. You are reading this with your eyes. Before we were literat "Please don't lick the art." Sign at the Minneapolis Institute of the Arts. There is no such sign on the IDS building or Crystal Court inside. Some art you want to consume, other art makes you want to run the other direction. This book helps you understand why. This book explores a lot of stuff we take for granted. Or more usually, ignore. In contemporary society, vision is our primary sense. It is also probably our most impersonal sense. You are reading this with your eyes. Before we were literate, I would have been telling you this. We spend a lot of time looking at pages, absorbing information on a two-dimensional scale. Many contemporary buildings are designed from the point of view of how they will look on a printed page, not how they will feel when you walk in. Cities are designed as a two-dimensional grid, with efficiency of transport, not pleasure in being transported, as the goal. With few exceptions, natural beauty is obliterated as an obstacle. Vision is instant. Television has displaced print as our primary information and entertainment media. I am constantly amazed at the speed of the images on the screen. I'll bet 100 images a minute is not unusual in television production. Our other senses are not so kaleidoscopic. Touch, smell, and taste are slow and sensuous. The book is full of such insights (reminders?). Our relationship to architecture is so important and yet so mindless. This book helps bring us back to appreciation of our constructed environment. Why only four stars? I found the book pretty disjointed. I was constantly re-reading to see if I missed something. The author constantly quoted from other authors. I found it very distracting. I have no doubt that I will re-read this book many times, if only to see if I can't make more sense of it.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Mon

    Everyone loves this book. Well, at least all the architects I know. But then my only 'friends' seem to all be designers, so not that much diversity of opinion there. Not that I don't try, but people tend to not respond well to 3am 'Maxwell just crashed at 17% The end is nigh!!!' texts. I guess I should address my Goodreader friends as well. We're friends right? Ok, so there isn't much I can say that hasn't been said or better yet, practiced by the likes of Zumthor and Holl. But, as if I actually Everyone loves this book. Well, at least all the architects I know. But then my only 'friends' seem to all be designers, so not that much diversity of opinion there. Not that I don't try, but people tend to not respond well to 3am 'Maxwell just crashed at 17% The end is nigh!!!' texts. I guess I should address my Goodreader friends as well. We're friends right? Ok, so there isn't much I can say that hasn't been said or better yet, practiced by the likes of Zumthor and Holl. But, as if I actually need to convince you to read this, it's like saying 'No don't bother with Ulysses, it's pretty dismissible compared to, I don't know, every single work of literature out there or something.' The Eyes of the Skin is also incredibly short. Really - look at it, it actually fits in my bag. Pallasmaa: 1; Koolhaas: 0 I'm quite reserve about the computer bit (in fact, most of his writings on technology). There seems to be a misunderstanding of computer imaging as a purely evil Cartesian flattening of our souls, but digital representation can also be considered in non-visual terms or serves as a transformation of bodily boundary. As for the distance between the object/subject in a virtual dimension - well, I would like to cite Grosz in saying the body and its environment are mutually defining blah blah. Wow, I sound pretty cynical here, maybe because I've met the guy and his speech was rather redundant. Anyway, great book, highly recommended for quotes and references with that essay you've been putting off for weeks. Also highly recommended for optometrists. Glasses are so overpriced.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Tara Brabazon

    A beautiful book and inspirational. Pallasmaa is a remarkable writer and each sentence is evocative and can be the springboard for further analysis and thought. The short book investigates how the senses are activated in and through architecture and the built environment. Logging the ocularcentric nature of most architecture theory, Pallasmaa evokes sound (and silence), but also scent and texture in a profoundly moving and effective way. Most significantly, there is attention to memory, passion a A beautiful book and inspirational. Pallasmaa is a remarkable writer and each sentence is evocative and can be the springboard for further analysis and thought. The short book investigates how the senses are activated in and through architecture and the built environment. Logging the ocularcentric nature of most architecture theory, Pallasmaa evokes sound (and silence), but also scent and texture in a profoundly moving and effective way. Most significantly, there is attention to memory, passion and imagination and how they are summoned, triggered and enhanced through architecture. But the quality of the writing alone is inspiration for readers and writers.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Kio Stark

    total nonsense but full of evocative, useful phrases

  5. 5 out of 5

    Valdimar

    http://arts.berkeley.edu/wp-content/u... possible 5. beautiful.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Afra Anan Saba

    This is my first architectural read which purely deals with philosophy. And I am pretty sure I will re-read this book soon.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Andrew Fairweather

    With it's repeated condemnation of so-called "Western" sensibilities, this book is sure to tickle the fancy of many of today's readers—add a dash of Goldsmithian "Deserted Village" lamentations, and you've got yourself a hit! Essentially, Pallasmaa enframes his practical prescription for the 21st century architecture as up against a Western "visual bias" which he is able to trace back to ancient Greek philosophy all the way to Modern Western thought. Never mind that Plato in 'Phaedrus' warns of With it's repeated condemnation of so-called "Western" sensibilities, this book is sure to tickle the fancy of many of today's readers—add a dash of Goldsmithian "Deserted Village" lamentations, and you've got yourself a hit! Essentially, Pallasmaa enframes his practical prescription for the 21st century architecture as up against a Western "visual bias" which he is able to trace back to ancient Greek philosophy all the way to Modern Western thought. Never mind that Plato in 'Phaedrus' warns of written culture as fostering a forgetfulness of the soul whose reliance on external (visual) reference is a "conceit of wisdom," or that visual metaphors are primarily used to illustrate antinomies in Kant's 'Critique of Pure Reason.' OK, forget I said anything up until now. Let's say that the WEST HAS AN OPTICAL BIAS. Does this properly account for the poverty of architecture today? I was not swayed by Pallasmaa's argument. I'd say that what marks architecture these days is an offshoot of a control society, its attempt to control the senses and passions of its citizenry. Yes, this is distinctly alienating in a visual sense. Structures, though built, seem to tear at their surroundings, destroying context, insisting on shallow recognition of presence above all else. Pallasmaa is entirely correct when he states that, "The narcissistic eye views architecture solely as a means of self-expression, and as an intellectual-artistic game detached from essential mental and societal connections [...] disengag[ing] the body, and instead of attempting to reconstruct cultural order, it makes a reading of collective signification impossible." Pallasmaa goes on to say this this is a result of the essentially "detaching sense of vision", and that this nihilistic attitude would be impossible to imagine in a sense of touch. I just don't understand this. I think that an architectural project which seeks to either control by atomizing its inhabitants or merely flatter the self-expression of the architect will result in an isolation of ALL the senses. Surely our visual culture also suffers as a result. Truly, the real danger is a reification of categories. In a society of mass produced space the entire cocktail of senses are reinforced and predictable. How is the visual significantly different? The search for instantaneity and immediate impact has withered all of our senses—but more importantly, it has reified categories of thinking which serve to quell the furnaces of imagination. A proper architectural philosophy would, in my humble opinion, never operate out of context. It would be one which would inspire a creative/redemptive relationship with the past and an optimistic sense of the future. More than anything though, it would seek to address the needs of people with a belief in the integrity of the human spirit, rather than cynically attempting to control people or try to prevent societal variables. Architecture, more than anything, is these days either an exercise in paranoia or the self gratification of the designer. Rectifying this would surely be a great first step in creating an architecture 'for all the senses.' I believe in the good intentions of this work! But like many treatises on art it remains far too academic. Talk about detachment. The book is nevertheless well written and clear. Ironically, a book which addresses the crisis in architecture that I could recommend would be Reinhold Martin's, 'The Organizational Complex'—a book very poorly written, but insightful. For a book about the phenomenological exploration on the beauty of space, Bachelard's 'Poetics of Space' will suffice.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Hind

    Beautiful fusion of architecture and philosophy

  9. 5 out of 5

    Nana

    Beautifully written book! Starting from the vision hegemony dominating western culture since Classical Greece and the Cartesian abdication of the remaining senses projecting onto our ways of experiencing and understanding of the cosmos, Pallasmaa discusses the impact on space production and architecture. In his second part he goes on to describe architecture as a multisensory, rather than a simply ocular experience, and talks of the subjective ways and other senses beyond the 5 known ones it is Beautifully written book! Starting from the vision hegemony dominating western culture since Classical Greece and the Cartesian abdication of the remaining senses projecting onto our ways of experiencing and understanding of the cosmos, Pallasmaa discusses the impact on space production and architecture. In his second part he goes on to describe architecture as a multisensory, rather than a simply ocular experience, and talks of the subjective ways and other senses beyond the 5 known ones it is perceived. In just very few pages Pallasmaa elaborates on issues of phenomenology difficult to be expressed. As Steven Holl points out in the preface of the book, its significance lies not only within its influence on phenomenology but also in the fact that its author is an architect incorporating and portraying all his ideas into his built work.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jane Pontiñela

    Insightful. I'm not a student of architecture but the points highlighted are clear amd distinct. It seems that it provided me a new perspective regarding art that is not entirely visual.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Carlos Clorth

    In such a small amount of pages there's so much from ocularcentrism and the loss of senses to Pallaasma's take on arquitecture. It embraces an interesting philosophy way beyond my expectations.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Zack

    In this rather slim, easy-to-read volume, Pallasmaa makes a convincing case for architecture and space as more than just visual treat, but as something that is inevitably, inherently lived in, experienced with the whole body of the person inhabiting such spaces. This seems somewhat obvious when one reads it, and yet it is easy to see how this gets lost in ideas of visual appeal for physical spaces. Again and again Pallasmaa returns to the form and function of space as assisting in providing meta In this rather slim, easy-to-read volume, Pallasmaa makes a convincing case for architecture and space as more than just visual treat, but as something that is inevitably, inherently lived in, experienced with the whole body of the person inhabiting such spaces. This seems somewhat obvious when one reads it, and yet it is easy to see how this gets lost in ideas of visual appeal for physical spaces. Again and again Pallasmaa returns to the form and function of space as assisting in providing metaphors and guiding principles for how human beings live their lives. This is not a straightforward relationship, mind you, but one of back-and-forth understanding, in which life influences space and space influences life. The prose here is eminently readable, and for such a complex subject, Pallasmaa does an incredible job of simplifying and synthesizing thinkers into an easy to read manuscript that will really make you stop and think about your relationship to the space around you. This will inevitably be a good thing, particularly as you ponder and understand more fully just what "home" is to you, as understood through the tactile, sensory world of your body and memory.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Anna S.

    The subject of metaphysics of architecture is rather personal, but he seems not confident in sharing his own perspective. The book is very short and most of it are expert citations, that ends up outshine him. Look at this word by Tadao Ando in the book: "I like to see how far architecture can pursue function and then, after the pursuit has been made, to see how far architecture can be removed from function. The significance of architecture is found in the distance between it and function" I think The subject of metaphysics of architecture is rather personal, but he seems not confident in sharing his own perspective. The book is very short and most of it are expert citations, that ends up outshine him. Look at this word by Tadao Ando in the book: "I like to see how far architecture can pursue function and then, after the pursuit has been made, to see how far architecture can be removed from function. The significance of architecture is found in the distance between it and function" I think Ando will be a better author to this book. Apart from his bizarre marble-licking action to make a case for architecture and oral sensations, I think it is rather insensitive of him praising Villa Savoye - good in the eyes but bad for inhabitants' lung. It does have a few inspiring words so it wouldn't hurt to read, it is pretty short, only 62 pages.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Brian Sullivan

    This book helpfully challenges the medusa like gze that petrifies our attention. The computer has perhaps drawn us away from the artists experience of his artistic vision through his body awareness. Te hegemoy of sight is forgetting the importance of "The Preconscious, perceptual realm, which is experienced outside the sphere of focused vision seems to be more important than the focused image". What of the realm space and collective behavior? For so long the art of story was the unifier of commun This book helpfully challenges the medusa like gze that petrifies our attention. The computer has perhaps drawn us away from the artists experience of his artistic vision through his body awareness. Te hegemoy of sight is forgetting the importance of "The Preconscious, perceptual realm, which is experienced outside the sphere of focused vision seems to be more important than the focused image". What of the realm space and collective behavior? For so long the art of story was the unifier of community. A wonderful collection of essays.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Pascal

    Very short book, but quite lovely. Transitions from some ocular centric critiques to discussing space and feeling. Quite good, I will need to make this book a priority again, as it makes a link clear for me in my own work... on space versus place. Thanks Pallasmaa!

  16. 4 out of 5

    Anna Keating

    A thousand times yes.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tasnim Hussam

    it's that kind of beautiful things which carry you far away and recalls all your senses experiences together all at once in a very easy format of words .. very recommended YOU NEED TO HAVE IT !!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    reading this book was a journey. i got distracted and lost a lot by the amount the author described small and simple details.. sometimes frustrating but overall i think it was a great book.

  19. 5 out of 5

    g

    The main argument in the first part of the book is that intellectualism and abstract thought, having developed together with stress on the eye, have led to the disappearance of a physical, sensual and embodied essence. Thus, having concentrated on looking -and in relation to reading rather than listening to stories- we have lost our humanness, and have transformed into a form that is no longer capable of relating to the world without letters, signs, an alphabet, tools that are considered to be t The main argument in the first part of the book is that intellectualism and abstract thought, having developed together with stress on the eye, have led to the disappearance of a physical, sensual and embodied essence. Thus, having concentrated on looking -and in relation to reading rather than listening to stories- we have lost our humanness, and have transformed into a form that is no longer capable of relating to the world without letters, signs, an alphabet, tools that are considered to be the seeds of abstract thought by the author. The book presents a literature review on senses without deeply and critically engaging with the material, and the first chapter transforms into a list of memorable quotes from different anthropologists, philosophers and architects, beginning with Sloterdijk and continuing with Le Corbusier, Bachelard, Walter Benjamin and Ashley Montagu. The second chapter is about the 'other' senses, and is focused on explaining the absence of such experiences from the modern city: 'The programmed record music of shopping malls and public spaces eliminates the possibility of grasping the acoustic volume of space. Our ears have been blinded'. Here the idea of 'transformation' or replacement of sounds with others appears to be alien to the author - he does not recognize the sound of the contemporary city as being 'authentic' enough, or satisfactory in anyway, and thus falls back onto past examples of echoes and Helen Keller like figures. This is not to negate his argument for the prioritization of the visual in our everyday life, yet his approach is simplistic and perfunctory, especially given the richness of the subject matter. And his conclusion, with a quote from Wright, is also not convincing, and stands out as a paragraph that has not been thought over much: 'Stand up for integrity in your building and you stand for integrity not only in the life of those who did the building but socially a reciprocal relationship is inevitable'. So one should inject integrity to the building, and the building, being the powerful medium it is, will provide integrity to society? This assertion makes claims to a top-down modernity, an is less believable than explanations which provide more agency to society -such as The Soundscape of Modernity or Railway Journey. However, I should add that his insights regarding bodily memory and the significance of peripheral sight are very interesting, and his bibliographical references have definitely been useful in taking me to the library.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Helen

    One of the most startlingly perceptive books I've ever read. The haptic world as experienced within the completely overlooked, misunderstood (and utterly relevant) boundaries of peripheral vision. Pallasmaa writes so articulately, the expression 'masterpiece' is, for once, entirely deserved. One that leaves my jaw wide open every time I go back to it, which is often, because the beauty and skilfulness in his observations and philosophy staggers me. Pallasmaa seems to find exactly the right balan One of the most startlingly perceptive books I've ever read. The haptic world as experienced within the completely overlooked, misunderstood (and utterly relevant) boundaries of peripheral vision. Pallasmaa writes so articulately, the expression 'masterpiece' is, for once, entirely deserved. One that leaves my jaw wide open every time I go back to it, which is often, because the beauty and skilfulness in his observations and philosophy staggers me. Pallasmaa seems to find exactly the right balance -- he tends to sway towards a nostalgia, a hankering after the way things once were, but he never loses his grip on the 'now', providing the solutions to counter the mind-numbing, dumbing-down of the senses that today's plethora of mediocre architecture inflicts upon us -- built for the masses and enjoyed by none. The Eyes of the Skin is the antidote to that unexplainable malaise, brought about by time spent in shopping centres, hotels, leisure centres, airports, hospitals, etc, etc. It's positively brimming with optimism for new ways of experiencing and defining our civic buildings, and the built world as a whole. This would make an interesting reading companion to John Berger's 'Ways of Seeing'.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Jonathan

    Pallasmaa's incredibly short but hugely influential essay that reminds architects that in our society of the spectacle (to steal Debord's title) we cannot afford to neglect all human senses. Vision, we are correctly (and thus somewhat arbitrarily) informed, is our primary sense. We have developed communications and technologies around this for millenia, from cave paintings to the iPad, but when we live in a world that sanitises the other senses - where everything we touch has the same cool, life Pallasmaa's incredibly short but hugely influential essay that reminds architects that in our society of the spectacle (to steal Debord's title) we cannot afford to neglect all human senses. Vision, we are correctly (and thus somewhat arbitrarily) informed, is our primary sense. We have developed communications and technologies around this for millenia, from cave paintings to the iPad, but when we live in a world that sanitises the other senses - where everything we touch has the same cool, lifeless plasticity, the thermal environment is regulated to prevent even slight fluxuations in temperature and every breath draws in 'fresh' yet unscented air - we deny ourselves a great deal of the human experience.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Zane

    An excellent read to awaken the senses. Pallasmaa makes challenges the visual dominance in architecture and calls for an architecture that encorporates all the senses. I love that he calls architecture of today a visual advertisement. One of many qoutes I loved, “instead of being a situational bodily encounter, architecture has become an art of the printed image fixed by the hurried eye of the camera.” I love thinking about the world in new ways, and this read really has a lot packed into it. I An excellent read to awaken the senses. Pallasmaa makes challenges the visual dominance in architecture and calls for an architecture that encorporates all the senses. I love that he calls architecture of today a visual advertisement. One of many qoutes I loved, “instead of being a situational bodily encounter, architecture has become an art of the printed image fixed by the hurried eye of the camera.” I love thinking about the world in new ways, and this read really has a lot packed into it. I do wish he would have gone more in depth with his writing. This reading brings up a ton of good thoughts and ideas and leaves them to be pondered. Great read!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Brian

    In a world dominated my optical sensations, it becomes clear that architecture is also trending towards the visual and not the spatial. Throughout this read Pallasmaa investigates how architecture formally, currently, and futuristically could use the other senses of sound, taste, smell, and touch. In doing so, architecture becomes a device to understand oneself in time and space. Referencing ones own memories, architecture and art could have meaning and serve as an evocative trigger for past exp In a world dominated my optical sensations, it becomes clear that architecture is also trending towards the visual and not the spatial. Throughout this read Pallasmaa investigates how architecture formally, currently, and futuristically could use the other senses of sound, taste, smell, and touch. In doing so, architecture becomes a device to understand oneself in time and space. Referencing ones own memories, architecture and art could have meaning and serve as an evocative trigger for past experiences. My five star downgrade comes because Pallasmaa's poetic tone goes unexplained, and often times is repetitious in idea.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Andrew

    Pallasmaa's writing is unquestionably fascination, thought-provoking, and poetically beautiful. He writes with care and passion about our built environment, and it sticks enough that you wind up contemplating the ramifications of his ideas as wander through the spaces of your day-to-day life. And at the same time, a book like The Eyes of the Skin proves how intellectually limp so much phenomenology is. Pallasmaa's writing is gorgeous, provocative, contemplative, and completely lacking in rigor. T Pallasmaa's writing is unquestionably fascination, thought-provoking, and poetically beautiful. He writes with care and passion about our built environment, and it sticks enough that you wind up contemplating the ramifications of his ideas as wander through the spaces of your day-to-day life. And at the same time, a book like The Eyes of the Skin proves how intellectually limp so much phenomenology is. Pallasmaa's writing is gorgeous, provocative, contemplative, and completely lacking in rigor. This doesn't make it valueless, as many positivists would have it, though. Rather, it means that it's something that should jab and prod, like a good creative essay.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Rachel

    I have been meaning to read this ever since we read an excerpt in undergrad. It's a lovely little book, in which Pallasmaa discusses the problems with contemporary architecture in relation to the hegemony of vision and the suppression of the other senses in today's technologically focused culture. Succinct and clear, it's a pleasant read and I agree with most of Pallasmaa's arguments.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Marie

    This is a gem of a book that I'm sure I will have reason to return to time and again. Written by the architect and architecture critic Juhani Pallasmaa, who in this and his other works, essays and lectures comprised, gives evidence of also being a wonderful philosopher with a profound understanding of the human psyche.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Marija

    This is by far one of the most inspiring books I have ever read. Every paragraph was studded with gems (it was also nice to see where the person before me had underlined and circled because they seemed as enthused as me) and I sat in the middle of the aisle at my school's Science and Engineering library reading it for over an hour.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Eliza

    more of an introduction into the subjet aimed at students rather than more advanced readers. it's rather an essay than a proper book flanked by lenghty introductions and biography of the author. loved the first part where he denounces our ocularcentric society, felt a big less convinced about the second. good book to get you started.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Stephen Temple

    a remarkable written text about what is difficult to write about because we do not have word or phrases within language that easily or clearly address the sensual or the body. Pallasmaa has for some time taken steps toward inclusion of the pre-language into our dialog and practice of architectural design.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Mariana Hummel

    Simply the best book I've ever had the pleasure to read. Everyone, architecture student or not, should at least try to read this sincere and passionated review about how we have eyes but we can't trully see anything that surrounds us, because we simply stopped hearing to our senses, relying on nothing more than our eyes.

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