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Architecture

This category contains 80 posts

Indexical architecture

The idea of evidence is obviously important in a juridical context. Evidence comes to the fore when architects deal with compliance (codes and regulations), and get caught up in legal matters, such as contract disputes, liability and compensation claims, and as witnesses. Evidence is also important in any kind of research context, as in the … Continue reading

Signs in architecture and music

Architecture is an art of signs. C.S. Peirce introduced the idea of the sign vehicle, that encourages the architectural scholar to think beyond standard architectural elements as channels of communication. The communicative elements of a building are not restricted to components such as columns, chimneys, windows, staircases, and doors, but the aspects and qualities of … Continue reading

What’s wrong with iconic architecture

Described as “iconic, ambitious and sustainable,” the V&A in Dundee by Japanese architects Kengo Kuma & Associates will open September 2018. As I’ve been studying semiotics of late, in particular C.S. Peirce’s concepts of the icon, index and symbol, I can’t resist a brief reflection on the concept of the icon in architecture. See my last … Continue reading

Invisible icons

An icon is a likeness; something that resembles the thing it refers to — its referent. Iconography is a branch of study that deals with such resemblances, i.e. drawings or other pictorial representations of things. That’s the OED definitions, but in spite of such generality, we mostly reserve the word icon for use in particular … Continue reading

Hermeneutics and logic

Winfried Nöth’s highly useful Handbook of Semiotics has a chapter on hermeneutics. There I saw a cogent account of something I suspected all along — a statement about the similarity between Peirce’s description of abductive inference and hermeneutics (the art of interpretation as discussed by Hans-Georg Gadamer). “For [] hermeneutics, textual understanding (and human knowledge in general) … Continue reading

Speak truth to power

“It sounds a dreadful thing to say, but these are things that don’t necessarily need to be true as long as they’re believed.” These are the words of Cambridge Analytica chief executive, according to a recent Guardian article. See the fascinating undercover recording of a sting within a sting. Is truth really under siege? Speak … Continue reading

A brief history of signs

“As his speech deteriorated, Hawking learned to make every sentence count” (597) wrote theoretical physicist Kip Thorne. A complete history of speech synthesis and semiotic systems has yet to be written. I formulated the following reflection before news broke of Stephen Hawking’s death this week. Signs in time Plato was suspicious of signs (or names). … Continue reading

What is pansemiotics?

Pansemiotics has not yet made it into the Oxford English Dictionary. The term crops up several times in Winfried Nöth’s expansive 1990 book, The Handbook of Semiotics. The term provides a means of describing the theological view that “the whole universe became [in the Middle Ages] signs of divine revelation” (382), as in the Old Testament statement, … Continue reading

When is a building like a bang?

There’s some theoretical support for the idea that a building is a kind of shock, or at least belongs in the same semiotic category as a sudden noise emitted from a machine. Articles by philosopher and semiotician Elisabeth Walther-Bense (1922-2018) are in German — unfortunately, not yet available in English translation, or even online in German … Continue reading

Shadow of a doubt

In his book In Praise of Shadows, novelist Junʼichirō Tanizaki recaptures what is otherwise lost under the glare of modernity. As indicated in the title, he favours the half light, shadows and darkness of recesses, verandahs and outhouses, and with them the patina and ambiguity of materials worn over by time: old wood, stone, moss, … Continue reading

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