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Architecture and/as Hospitality

Par Klaus Benesch : Professor of English and American Studies - LMU, University of Munich
Publié par Marion Coste le 23/04/2024

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[Conférence] Following Frank Lloyd Wright's famous aphorism, "There is no architecture without philosophy", this talk analyses the links and bridges between the fields of architecture and philosophy. Focusing specifically on architecture and hospitality, Klaus Benesch examines the importance of building in American history and outlines the central argument of his next book, ((Architecture and the Construction of Ideas)), which explores the use of architecture by thinkers and philosophers of modernity as a metaphor for their critique of society and capitalism.

This talk was organised by François Specq (ENS de Lyon) and Klaus Benesch (LMU Munich) as part of a series of lectures entitled "Building, Dwelling, Thinking. A Lecture Series on Architecture and Philosophy" at the ENS de Lyon.

As both an aesthetic and a fundamentally social space modern architecture foregrounds contemporary notions of building, dwelling, and thinking. Insofar as it lends material form to the promises but also the challenges of the modern world, architecture frequently finds itself at the forefront of cultural and social debates. Among the many writers and critics who turned to architecture to forge alternative social concepts are the American transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau and the German sociologist Theodor W. Adorno. Both pondered the social consequences of capitalist building practices, and both came to favor a more humane and hospitable form of design. In this talk, Klaus Benesch argues that Thoreau's unpretentious wooden cabin that withers away and eventually erases the traces of its own making, and Adorno's famous metaphor of an alienated modern life ("kein richtiges Leben im falschen"), which he illustrates by way of the corrupted design of a modern apartment building, bear witness to the crucial role of architecture for both critical theory and modern cultural critique at large.


Introduction  00:00:00
1. The imagery of building and the social and metaphorical role of architecture 00:03:33
  • Architecture as disruptive or reassuring
  • Thoreau's blueprint for an unpretentious cabin: searching for alternative modes of dwelling
  • Thoreau and Adorno: the built environment as an incubator of social criticism
2. Dwelling and building in the US: a historical perspective 00:15:40
  • American architecture of/in transit
  • Architecture and the quest for American identity: the rift between backward-looking and forward-looking forces
  • Thoreau's individual mode of building and dwelling
3. Martin Heidegger: architecture as a form of dwelling in its own right (Building, Dwelling, Thinking, 1971) 00:30:00
  • The geographical, cultural and political meanings of the bridge
4. Henry David Thoreau: the fundamental connection between humans and spaces 00:36:45
  • Thoreau's theory of unconditional hospitality
5. Theodor W. Adorno's views on American culture 00:43:11
  • The homogenising power of skyscrapers
  • Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life (1951)
Conclusion 01:01:23
The Watts Towers by Simon Rodia, 1921-1954 (Los Angeles). Source: Wikipedia © GNU Free Documentation License.
Detail of the Futurama diorama by Norman Bel Geddes, 1939. Source: Wikipedia © Richard Garrison, Public domain.
Henry David Thoreau quote at Walden Pond. Source: Wikipedia © Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International.


ADORNO, Theodor W. 1951. Minima Moralia: Reflections from Damaged Life. New York: Verso Books.

BERRY, Wendell. 1977. The Unsettling of America. Culture & Agriculture. New York: Counterpoint Press. 

DOWNING, A. J. 1850. Architecture of Country Houses; including designs for cottages, farm houses, and villas, with remarks on interiors, furniture, and the best modes of warming and ventilating. University of Michigan Library, https://quod.lib.umich.edu/m/moa/ADQ1020.0001.001?view=toc.

ETZLER, John Adolphus. 1842. The Paradise within the Reach of all Men, without Labor, by Powers of Nature and Machinery: An Address to all intelligent men, in two parts. Paris: Legare Street Press.

FOURIER, Charles. 1822. L'Avenir. Perspective d'un phalanstère ou palais sociétaire dédié à l'humanité. Gallica, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k850954v#

HEIDEGGER, Martin. 1971. "Building Dwelling Thinking" in Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought. New York: Harper Colophon Books, https://www.contentarchive.wwf.gr/images/pdfs/pe/katoikein/Filosofia_Building%20Dwelling%20Thinking.pdf.

JENCKS, Charles. 2005. Iconic Building. The Power of Enigma. London: Frances Lincoln.

LE CORBUSIER. 1923. Towards A New Architecture. Princeton: Architectural Press. 

NEUTRA, Richard. 1953. Survival Through Design. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

RAZ, Guy. "How I Built This". NPR, https://www.npr.org/series/490248027/how-i-built-this

WELLS, Malcolm. 1981. Gentle Architecture. New York: McGraw-Hill.

WRIGHT, Frank Lloyd. 1932. The Disappearing City. New York: William Farquhar Payson.

---. 1945. When Democracy Builds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Pour citer cette ressource :

Klaus Benesch, "Architecture and/as Hospitality", La Clé des Langues [en ligne], Lyon, ENS de LYON/DGESCO (ISSN 2107-7029), avril 2024. Consulté le 25/05/2024. URL: https://cle.ens-lyon.fr/anglais/civilisation/domaine-americain/architecture-and-as-hospitality