Rethinking Architectural Foundations. A Reflective Voyage Into the Experiential Roots Of Architecture

Julio Bermudez  (
College of Architecture & Landscape Architecture — University of Minnesota

Master's of Architecture Thesis. 1990 —207 pages and 47 figures. Adviser: Professor Julia W. Robinson)


This work proposes a comprehensive experiential paradigm as an alternative philosophical, theoretical and methodological framework to understand and practice architecture.

The starting point is showing how the architectural community and collective culture condition our view of architecture and reality to the point of accepting as absolutely true that which is actually narrow-minded and arbitrary. As collective culture and its reality are shown to be the main sources of alienation, this work exposes the need to go to the foundations of reality as 'unconditioned' as possible (chapter I)

Experience is argued to be the ultimate building block of our reality and existence and non-dualism is presented as the most appropriate paradigm to organize our world and selves (chapter II). To make this view operational as well as philosophically and scientifically sound, we introduce the 'Interface Theory'. Experience is presented as the interface between object and subject, and between memory and nowness. The basic principles and logic of experience are laid down providing the conceptual foundation for what is to come (chapter III).

Chapter IV studies the common features of human experience and establishes the template and criteria for the development of theories and methodologies based on experience. The importance of form and consciousness in experience are stressed and analogical links between experience, ritual and story-telling are defined. The discussion then turns to investigate the diversity of human experience. The sources and nature of human differences as well as the technologies developed to cope with it are introduced. Four methods and a conceptual framework to deal with experiential diversity are here proposed (chapter V).

Next, this work concentrates in how this experiential paradigm describes our production and consumption of artifacts. Artifacts are argued to be fixed experiences that can only unfold through further experiences and are therefore subject to the criteria and methods described. The issues of purpose, function, form, esthetics and design are discussed at some length (chapter VI).

The last part of this work returns to the architectural field. First the essential elements and conditions characterizing our experience of architecture are presented. The foundational role of direct experience in architecture is argued and some important implications for our existing modes of understanding and practicing architecture presented (chapter VII). Second, architecture is explored in its multi-fold experiential aspects. The depth and breath of this experiential view of architecture proves wrong the usual belief of the superficiality of experiential approaches to architecture. Finally, the possible contributions that this paradigm may have for architecture are discussed.

(c) copyright Julio Bermudez 1990. All rights reserved.