As Found Attunement: Architectural Meaning in the Age of Ecological Crisis

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Historically, Western cultural heritage has been perceived as singular monuments – and strategies for their preservation have been defined along a spectrum from maximalist to minimalist interventions.(1) Values and meanings were understood as attributed to the ‘original’ material matter and conceived as rather static. Today, the concept of cultural heritage is in rapid development. For instance, it has been argued that heritage is in fact a cultural and social process where values, meanings and identities are continuously created and recreated.(2) Critically, the accelerating climate, resource and biodiversity crisis calls for a renewed understanding of the values and meanings of the existing building stock – both listed and non-listed. Aiming at contributing new perspectives on cultural heritage theory and practise, this paper investigates the values and meanings of the ‘as found’ – seen through a phenomenological-hermeneutic lens. It is asked what characterise the experienced values and meanings in everyday, non-pedigree architecture. How may existing concepts and strategies in heritage theory and practise be supplemented? And what are the perspectives of this regarding the accelerating ecological crisis? In a philosophical perspective, ‘attunement’ characterise the fundamental existential structure that indicate how one feels.(3) Using a phenomenological approach,(4) architectural ‘motives’ found in selected, non-listed buildings characterised by a certain ‘mood’ – for instance the ‘assemblage’ quality of a utility building structure (Fig. 1) – are described and analysed. It is argued that architecture is not (only) defined by formal concepts, historic narratives or stylistic features, but rather values and meanings are ‘coming to presentation’ through attunement. In continuation, it is proposed that the concepts of place, matter and use – under the influence of time – may serve as meaning-generating constituents. Finally, the concept of attunement is discussed in relation to the accelerating ecological crisis. Asserting that art and architecture may overcome temporal distance by virtue of its own meaningful presence,(5) it is proposed that strategies for future sustainable building cultures include reinforcing the experienced values and meanings of the ‘as found’ – balancing minimum material intervention with maximum experiential effect.

1. Jukka Jokilehto, A History of Architectural Conservation (London: Routledge, 2017).
2. Laurajane Smith, Uses of Heritage (London: Routledge, 2006).
3. Martin Heidegger, Being and Time (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996), 126-130.
4. Nicolai Bo Andersen, “Phenomenological Method,” in Formation – Architectural Education in a Nordic Perspective, eds. Elise Lorentsen et al. (Copenhagen: Architectural Publisher B, 2018), 74–95.
5. Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method (London: Continuum, 2004), 158.
Antal sider2
StatusUdgivet - 2023
BegivenhedAs Found: International colloquium on adaptive reuse - Hasselt University, Hasselt, Belgien
Varighed: 5 sep. 20237 sep. 2023


KonferenceAs Found
LokationHasselt University


  • Kulturarv
  • Transformation
  • Restaurering
  • Bæredygtighed
  • Bygningskunst

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