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T-t-t-t-t-t-TOUCH ME!!!

June 24, 2010

This image does not scream, "Noli me sentire"...

Like so many fireflies uniting in evening brilliance – the phenomenon of synchronicity has brightened my day. Or Bader-Meinhoff effect, whichever you prefer. (I’m going synchronicity because it seems more mystical than gangster-y…like it’s made out of glitter…synch-ro-NIC-ity!….something that unicorns experience. But I digress.)

My summer is jam-packed with extra-curricular reading, both fiction and non-fiction alike. This morning on the train I started Juhani Pallasmaa’s The Eyes of the Skin; Architecture and the Senses, a text that I understand has (in the *cough* years since I started architecture school) come to augment and/or replace the classic Experiencing Architecture by Steen Eiler Rasmussen as an architectural primer for first-year students. I’m not even thumbnail deep into it yet, so I won’t try to provide a synopsis here.

This book deals with phenomenology in architecture; the sensing of architecture, building materials, and so on. In short, this book is about touching, man. Right in the introduction, Mr. Pallasmaa nails an issue that plagues me as a student of architecture, namely, the difference between analog and digital reproduction. And thusly begins the synchronicity:

EXHIBIT A (With apologies to all those first-year architecture students who think this is so old-hat, but I missed this particular bus, so lay off.):

“Computer imaging tends to flatten our magnificent, multi-sensory, simultaneous and synchronic capacities of imagination by turning the design process into a passive visual manipulation, a retinal journey. The computer creates a distance between the maker and the object, whereas drawing by hand as well as model-making put the designer into haptic contact with the object or space. In our imagination, the object is simultaneously held in the hand and inside the head, and the imagined and projected physical image is modelled by our bodies. We are inside and outside of the object at the same time. Creative work calls for a bodily and mental identification, empathy and compassion.”¹

I’m trying to get this published over lunch, here, so I won’t go into a giant rant….suffice it to say that I think most of my compatriots in architecture school are frighteningly out-of-touch with manual production. Hand drawing is seen as an unusual and pompous(?) method of representation in a primarily digitally oriented school. Seriously, though – what’s more exclusive – a MacBook or a pencil? (Update: I realize that I’m equating a type of representation with the means used to produce it…but maybe there’s a legit analogy there.)

EXHIBIT B (I’m starting to feel like this might be a bit too much build-up for relatively little payoff):

“HAPTIC” is the word of the day on



¹Source: Pallasmaa, Juhani. “Introduction: Touching the World.” The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses. Chichester: Wiley-Academy, 2008. 9-14.

NEXT DAY UPDATE: Just read this book – it is a profoundly quick read, I mean, the kind where you could read this book several times in as many days. Pallasmaa’s call for emotional depth and humanity in the cold, hard world of architectural design (I say with a wink…) is inspiring. Read Experiencing Architecture, too. Then we’ll have two books in common, at least.

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