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Translation in the architectural phenomenology of Christian Norberg-Schulz

  • Anna Ulrikke Andersen (a1)

This article offers a step by step analysis of an undiscussed note written by Christian Nor-berg-Schulz 18 April 1979, titled Translation, as I ask what role the notion of transla-tion played in his theory of genius loci. Scholars have recently shown interest in the way the field of translation and architecture intersect and can inform each other. Norberg-Schulz is widely read and researched, but the role of translation in his authorship has to date been undiscussed. Springing from my discovery of the note in the archive, I revisit Norberg-Schulz's phenomenological approach to architecture with a specific focus upon the notion of translation.

I uncover his references from this note and see these in light of his published work, particularly his landmark treatise Genius Loci: towards a phenomenology of architecture (1980). Building upon a long tradition of architectural theory, involving ideas from Vitruvius and Gottfried Semper, I argue that the theme of translation is recurrent throughout Norberg-Schulz's theoretical authorship, appearing in his theory of genius loci, his understanding of continuity and change, accounts of Norwegian architectural culture, and writings about the architecture of Louis Kahn.

Here, translation is seen as a tool for gathering, in the Heideggerian sense, which gives birth to an architecture in which the architectural outcome is not inferior to its pre-cursor, but simply different and from which something constructive might emerge. Seen in relation to the notion of architecture as language, it could even be argued to be a vital core to Norgerg-Schulz's longstanding interest in the meaning of architecture and place and how design must negotiate continuity and change. Understanding the genius loci as vital in architectural appropriation, as design, thus, implies a process of transla-tion, arguably a vital contribution to the ongoing interest in the intersection of architecture and translation.

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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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