Volume 5, Issue Part 2, 2010
Selected Essays from North America Part 2
M. Reza Shirazi
The Fragile Phenomenology of Juhani Pallismaa
This essay argues that Finnish architect and phenomenologist Juhani Pallasmaa’s way of architectural understanding involves what might be called a “fragile phenomenology,” by which is meant a style of phenomenological interpretation that is contextual and multi-sensory. Pallasmaa’s fragile phenomenology moves beyond the hegemony of vision to enrich the presence of the body by giving attention to lived experience and replacing one-dimensional vision by multi-sensory perception. This article provides an overview and preliminary critique of Pallasmaa’s fragile phenomenology by evaluating his interpretation of architect Alvar Aalto’s Villa Mairea (1938-39). The article concludes that Pallasmaa’s style of architectural understanding largely involves a “phenomenology from within.” In regard to the Villa Mairea, for example, we gain an in-depth phenomenological understanding of many architectural aspects of the building, though we gain a less clear understanding of the building as a whole and of its lived relationship with site and surroundings.