Building about the body : architecture as dress

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Arts & Architecture


The body is the most significant factor in architecture. We foremost build to house people. We mediate external climatic factors with the outermost architectural layer to provide a comfortable interior for human habitation. However, over the centuries, architecture has become less about responding to human need and more about abstract ordering principles and surface articulation. Building skin is archispeak for the outermost architectural layer where this surface articulation predominantly occurs. It also is the most contemporary - and skewed - example of the anthropomorphic building as body analogy that, although is the oldest theme in architectural theory, is deeply flawed. By having buildings be bodies, the true connection with the body of the dweller is lost. Redirecting building as body to building as about the body allows architecture to refocus its emphasis on the true body / building relationship: the original formulating concept and process of the first architecture - the primitive hut. We first wore clothing to protect our bodies. The origins of architecture is the transition between shelter as clothing to shelter as including space. Gottfried Semper's bekleidung - dress principle - acknowledges this. The outermost architectural envelope is a layer of dress - not skin, a comfort extender one degree removed from our clothing and two from the body. Thinking about architecture as dress enforces the base principle of buildings being about the body. Architecture is synergetic shelter; of the body, by the body, for the body.




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