The following Short Note on environmental aesthetics was guest-edited by Tom Baugh.
as a matter of aesthetic appreciation, has a very long history. For as long as
we know, through writing and symbols humans have expressed aesthetic concepts.
Since prehistoric times, ‘secret’ geometries have been embedded in the writing
and symbols... geometries that established proportions to enhance visual
harmony. Over the millennia, humans built structures with aesthetic intention
guided by these geometries. Coming to relatively recent times, empathy theory
introduced the concept of form-feeling, emphasizing the direct connection
between what is seen and what we feel….between the objective and the embedded geometries.
what is beyond the seen: “imaginative vision” or “new vision/visibility” has
not always been discussed as part of the larger perceptual field since it
required admitting or recognizing the existence a scale that is beyond
immediately accessible to the humans. More
than a decade ago, architectural theorist Anthony Vidler (2004) asked for an expanded field of ecological
aesthetics that would show new process-oriented spatial formations and new inter-disciplinarity.
Vidler maintained that some of the most important notions of ecological
aesthetics are not in the sphere of “vision,” or the seen, thus calling for a careful
“reorganization” of the world as we perceive it.
consciousness and “new vision” as the artist, writer, and educator Gyorgy
Kepes described it, are therefore
the starting points for the aesthetics
of relationships rather than aesthetics of objects. Ecological consciousness
requires seeing things below and above the mezzo-scale of nature. It teaches us
that as our understanding of the relationships between “things” grows, so will
the spaces that we will build have an additional ethical dimension.
are two ways in architecture and related fields today in which this aesthetics
of connectedness instead of aesthetics of separation shows itself: on one hand are
projects that insist on visualizing the invisible – such are those visualizing climate
change. It also includes metaphorical use of patterns, what Kepes thought to be
a primary visual source of interconnectedness, in the urban and landscape
design as well as on façade design. Being able to understand things on micro
and macro scale are part of necessary knowledge. On the other hand, and probably
more substantial, is a level of complexity involved in human life that is being
introduced into architecture.
will have to learn to think in terms of relationships rather than objects on
all levels of architectural effort; and that is where ecology is invaluable to
architecture. Ecology teaches us to appreciate the visible in a new way, but it
also teaches us to assume, until the moment we understand the invisible
relationships, that there is more that what we can see. This concept needs to
be included in ecological aesthetics, at least when one discusses architecture.
As a field, architecture has an unlimited potential of creating environments
that propagate beauty as we know it but, at the same time, it has ethical
dimension of creating environments that include a myriad of life functions that
are part of the architectural program. It just seems that beautification of an
architectural object will not be enough anymore; every architectural effort
carries the potential to include life processes and organizational thinking
particular to relational world that ecology offers.
University Nikola Tesla Union
Published on May 24, 2016
G. Kepes, Language of vision (Chicago: P. Theobald, 1967).
A. Vidler, "Architecture's Expanded Field. Finding Inspiration in Jellyfish
and Geopolitics, Architects Today Are Working within Radically New Frames of
Reference," Artforum International 42, no. 8 (2004).