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Autonomy and presupposition in architecture: Lebbeus Woods' Berlin and Sarajevo projects

  • Carolyn Fahey

The architectural theories of Lebbeus Woods present a number of philosophical problems. Of particular interest in this paper is Woods' thinking about autonomy and self-determinism in architecture. He claims that the architect should ‘recognise his own autonomy’ before ‘designing for other self-determining individuals’. The logical impossibility inherent in the juxtaposition of these claims is investigated with reference to the philosophy of Ludwig Wittgenstein.

Wittgenstein provides a critique of metaphysics that is based on a strong valuing of socio-cultural context. Woods, on the other hand, proposes theoretical accounts of architecture that contain the fallacious appeal to autonomy. The appeal, however logically false, is critical to the theoretical position cast in terms of ‘heterarchy’. The appeal also supports the presupposition of society and culture that in turn allows for a sense of architectural solution. In the case of Woods' proposals for Berlin and Sarajevo projects, it is shown that the sense of architectural solution cannot amount to a real solution to the socio-cultural problems facing the people of these war torn cities.

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arq: Architectural Research Quarterly
  • ISSN: 1359-1355
  • EISSN: 1474-0516
  • URL: /core/journals/arq-architectural-research-quarterly
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