Beyond architecturalism: Towards an expanded field. A critical exercise in contemporary Western environmental consciousness

Gholamhossein Oliai, University of Pennsylvania


Modern architects have traditionally viewed architecture as the practice of design for style or function, rather than as a social institution within the general context of human activity. They have concentrated on the building, conceived variously as a container-object, an artwork, or an ideological message. This concentration has, moreover, tended to reinforce the disciplinary separation between architecture as an aesthetic practice of space and social sciences such as geography as conceptual explanations of space's social contours. This set of assumptions about architecture, held by both architects and social scientists, may be termed the "architecturalist" paradigm. This study counterposes to it an expanded field of architecture, situated between social sciences and aesthetics. The expanded field implies an institutional restructuring of the discipline to include other domains of knowledge and technical competence. It would, moreover, necessitate intensified communication within the expanded field and between its technicians and the popular addressees of its action and discourse. The expanded field takes as its object the totality of the constructed environment; that is, the built environment understood as comprised of both the intended and unintended consequences of its social as well as physical constructions. In addition, the constructed environment includes both open space and built space, vernacular architecture as well as "high style," and it implies the historical interaction of human agency and socio-physical locale. Finally, the expanded field would challenge the privileged, foundational status of architecturalist tenets, in favor of more provisional, project-specific assertions of community-oriented values. Such a decentering would allow the discipline range and flexibility to accommodate program and project-specific questions of social justice in the telos of architectural action.

Subject Area

Architecture|Folklore|Social research

Recommended Citation

Oliai, Gholamhossein, "Beyond architecturalism: Towards an expanded field. A critical exercise in contemporary Western environmental consciousness" (1990). Dissertations available from ProQuest. AAI9026620.