David Kolb

Has Architecture Lost its Bearings?

Publication: A Companion to Hegel’s Aesthetics, Cambridge University Press, 2007.

A survey of Hegel’s ideas about the nature of architecture and its place in the development of the human spirit and art. “The first of the particular arts. is architecture” (VA 1:116/A 1:83).1 For Hegel, architecture stands at several beginnings. It is the art closest to raw nature. It is also the initial art in a progressive spiritualization that will culminate in poetry and music. The drive for art is the spirit’s drive to become fully itself by encountering itself; art makes the spirit’s essential reality present as an outer, sensible work of its own powers (VA 1:453/A 1:351).2 If Hegel’s narrative of the arts creates a hierarchy, architecture stands lowest, yet it nonetheless plays a unique and necessary role in the spirit’s development. In this essay, I will first describe Hegel’s views on the nature of architecture and its three stages (symbolic, classical, romantic). Then I will indicate some problems with Hegel’s narrative. Finally, I raise the question of whether Hegel’s theories might be adapted to our present architectural situation.

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