Language and metaphor in postmodern architectural meaning: an interpretative model




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De Montfort University


Thesis or dissertation

Peer reviewed


The thesis aims to establish an interpretative model of, or mode of response to, postmodern and in particular, poststructuralist architecture. The existing lacuna of interpretation in this area is the result of the disfiguring, but ubiquitous, 'language of architecture' formulation which is formally challenged here as part of the construction of a model of interpretation. Interpretation as a key term is not only dealt with specifically in Chapter Five, but is also illuminated for example by the discussion in Chapter Two of signification and the complex relationship between visual image and language, since language has to emerge holistically as an aspect of architectural meaning. The thesis is divided into two parts. Part One comprises four theoretical chapters which are not necessarily 'about' architecture as such, but which provide the theoretical components of a model of interpretation. It needs to be clearly stated that this model is not epistemologically exclusive or absolute in any sense, but is only one among many other interpretative possibilities. The first chapter deals with methodology and a literature review. Chapter Two establishes the importance of signification and the sign and the semiotics of image and word. Chapter Three deals with ideas of what the postmodern might mean since the architecture principally dealt with is poststructuralist. The fulcrum moment of schism between Modernism and Postmodemism around 1960 is discussed, as is the vitally important allegorical nature of the postmodern. Chapter Four looks at the philosophy of language and meaning since language is indispensably a part of postmodern architectural meaning. Chapter Five discusses interpretation within the development of literary theory which must underpin the reading of buildings as the source of a coherent account of interpretation in general as well as particular architectural meaning. Part Two contains two chapters. Both are specifically about architecture and how it might be read in postmodern and poststructuralist context. The first, Chapter Six, deals with the trace of the development of postmodern architecture as both an aspect of Modernist architecture and a subversive imperative against it. Chapter Seven, the final chapter, puts into practice in an almost Leavisite way the interpretative stances established in Part One. Major works by poststructuralist architects are read in terms of metaphor, especially visual metaphor, rhetoric and allegory. From Part One to Part Two is from theory to practice. The thesis concludes by suggesting that architectural poststructuralist semantics and interpretation can only be deepened by dispensing with 'the language of architecture' in favour of language as emergent from architecture; the language of architecture does not exist.





Research Institute