Historicism as an aspect of a pragmatist theory of architecture

21 Jul 2010

In this essay an attempt is made to validate the historicist theories that architectural practices change over time and that architecture can be interpreted as manifestations of the beliefs existing in particular communities at a specific time. To support these theses comparisons are made between the philosophy of Hegel and the architectural theories of Pugin and Ruskin. The aspect of Hegel's philosophy that is studied is his conviction that arbitrary and contingent aspects of a particular historical existence influenced human beliefs. Pugin postulated that the beliefs and customs of the communities that architectural designers worked for influenced their designs. Ruskin also theorised that architecture was informed by local beliefs of a particular time. The results of the comparisons between the theories of Hegel, Pugin and Ruskin are used in the essay to formulate guidelines for present-day architectural practices and for interpretations of current architecture. It is suggested that designers and interpreters of architecture should value regional and cultural differences. It is observed that the beliefs and habits of life at a particular time and place inform architects and that architecture could be interpreted as the products of regional and temporal interests. Lastly the ideas are advanced that interpretations of architectural practices vary according to the purposes of various communities and that the aims of architectural practitioners are conditioned by the goals of the communities that they work for.