Sublimity, negativity, and architecture. An essay on negative architecture through Kant to Adorno

  • Architecture defines and consumes people. It exposes them to a multitude of varieties of different aesthetic engagements. Architecture becomes a lived experience. However, this lived experience is always caught in the inner workings of the social and more specifically within cultural ideology. In modern capitalism, culture pervades every aspect of our lives. It shows its presence everywhere from our own homes to the public streets. Culture is everywhere, and architecture is a tool used for both the benefit and detriment of the “culture industry”. Kant speaks of the sublime as a profound moment of reason realizing its ability to overcome its own limits. In this experience is it possible to be completely ravaged and descend into hades and melancholy? Is there a beauty in this descent? More specifically, can architecture become banal or pedestrian, uplifting or depressing? According to Theodor Adorno, our subjectivity is defined by the constant dialectical struggle between freedom and unfreedom (among other things). It is realizing our freedom in the face of our unfreedom that makes us truly able to attain some form of resistance. The sublime experience can be transformed into a spirit of revelation and beautifully allow us to in a way resist the one-dimensional tendencies of modern capitalism. Architecture, which is immersed in our societal being and contributes to many of our own subjective unfreedoms, comes to define our lives as inhabited space. When does architecture produce a sublime experience? Can architecture’s authentic “aura” stand out amongst the reproduced city and produce a sublime feeling that can be a form of resistance against the culture industry? Does Grand Central Terminal provide the key to an architecturally sublime experience? Using dialectical experience and examining the sublime feeling (in a critique of the Kantian sublime) as the key to breaking through the culture industry’s banal architectural hold on our subjectivity, this essay will examine the experience of the sublime as a key to unfolding resistance in the face of the banality of modern architecture in the city and opening our minds to the Great Refusal through the exploration of Grand Central Terminal.

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Author:Stephen M. Bourque
Parent Title (German):Rivista di estetica
Publisher:Università di Torino, Dipartimento di Discipline Filosofiche
Place of publication:Torino
Document Type:Article
Date of Publication (online):2015/04/01
Year of first Publication:2015
Publishing Institution:Universitätsbibliothek Johann Christian Senckenberg
Release Date:2020/11/21
First Page:166
Last Page:174
Institutes:Gesellschaftswissenschaften / Gesellschaftswissenschaften
Philosophie und Geschichtswissenschaften / Philosophie
Angeschlossene und kooperierende Institutionen / Institut für Sozialforschung (IFS)
Dewey Decimal Classification:1 Philosophie und Psychologie / 10 Philosophie / 100 Philosophie und Psychologie
3 Sozialwissenschaften / 30 Sozialwissenschaften, Soziologie / 300 Sozialwissenschaften
7 Künste und Unterhaltung / 72 Architektur / 720 Architektur
Licence (German):License LogoCreative Commons - Namensnennung-Nicht kommerziell - Keine Bearbeitung 4.0