A brief addendum on architecture and habituation

Claude Shannon setting
“Theseus” into its rat maze.

Just to clarify, in case my recent post on Bourdieu and de Certeau was misleading, I do not intend to dismiss the role of habituation in art and architecture wholesale:

The human need for shelter is permanent. Architecture has never had fallow periods. Its history is longer than that of any other art, and its effect ought to be recognized in any attempt to account for the relationship of the masses to the work of art. Buildings are received in a twofold manner: by use and by perception. Or, better: tactilely and optically. Such reception cannot be understood in terms of the concentrated attention of a traveler before a famous building. On the tactile side, there is no counterpart to what contemplation is on the optical side. Tactile reception comes about not so much by way of attention as by way of habit. The latter largely determines even the optical reception of architecture, which spontaneously takes the form of casual noticing, rather than attentive observation. Under certain circumstances, this form of reception shaped by architecture acquires canonical value. For the tasks which face the human apparatus of perception at historical turning points cannot be performed solely by optical means — that is, by way of contemplation. They are mastered gradually — taking their cue from tactile reception — through habit.

Walter Benjamin, “The work of art in the age
of its technological reproducibility” (1935)[1]

There is probably more to this, as well. Frampton’s insistence upon the tactile, tectonic dimension of architecture as opposed to the visual, scenographic qualities celebrated by postmodern architects, likely stems from a similar reasoning.


[1]  Translated by Michael Jennings, Howard Eiland, and Gary Smith. Selected Writings, Volume 3: 1935-1938. (Harvard University Press. Cambridge, MA: 2003). Pg. 120.

One thought on “A brief addendum on architecture and habituation

  1. Pingback: An addendum on architecture and habituation | Research Material

Leave a Reply