In his essay “The Pleasure of Architecture” (1977), Bernard Tschumi laments that “any architect who aimed for or attempted to experience pleasure in architecture was considered decadent” (Tschumi 1994, 81). He posits that the problematic of pleasure arises from an opposition internal to the discipline, between “architecture as a thing of the mind, a dematerialized or conceptual discipline,” and “architecture as an empirical event that concentrates on the senses, on the experience of space” (83). Furthermore, Tschumi contends that architecture is most pleasurable when the dialectic of concept and experience is exceeded through the movement of desire, when architecture “sets in motion the operations of seduction” (96), thus evoking the thought of Georges Bataille (1897-1962). However, instead of concluding with Bataille’s work on “eroticism”, we might — as a point of departure — look as well to his writings on “expenditure” and “sacrifice” in order to recover a link between Tschumi’s “architectural acts” and what Bataille venerates as the “ritual acts” that give life meaning. With words still poignant today, Bataille writes: “Acts undertaken with some rational end are only servile responses to a necessity. Acts undertaken in pursuit of seductive images of chance are the only ones that respond to the need to live like a flame” (Bataille 1985, 231, emphasis added). With architecture as its catalyst, pleasure conceived along these lines may have an ethical role to play within our built environments.
Keith Guiton Ragsdale, McGill University, CA
Harvard Citation Guide: Guiton Ragsdale, K. (2012) A Reappraisal of the Pleasure of Architecture or The Taste for Burning: architecture and an ethic of pleasure beyond utility, International Society for the Philosophy of Architecture, [blog] 06 May 2012, Available at: https://isparchitecture.wordpress.com. [Accessed: 01 June 2012].