Experiencing Architecture

 

Steen Eiler Rasmussen was a Danish architect, a planner and a Professor at the School of Architecture in Copenhagen. He travelled widely including to China. Om at oplev arkitektur was published in 1957 and the edition in English, Experiencing Architecture, came out in in 1959.

His book is about as far as it is possible to get from a linear history of architecture: humane and gentle, in a scholarly way, he includes discussions on subjects from the baskets of a Cherokee Indian reservation to not being able to sing in the bathroom at the Faculty Club at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology when he was teaching there because the acoustics were muffled. He analyses how we piece together our impression of a building by using our experience of other buildings or our appreciation of materials or what we understand about certain forms of construction.

Along the way, there is sharp and perceptive analysis - so for instance on the differences between the buildings by Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe: Rasmussen thinks it is because of the very different ways they appreciated how planes define a space. And there are some pithy observations such as his view that …

"Architecture is not produced simply by adding plans and sections to elevations. It is something else and something more. It is impossible to explain precisely what it is - its limits are by no means well-defined. On the whole, art should not be explained; it must be experienced."

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