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Experiencing Architecture

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Profusely illustrated with fine instances of architectural experimentation through the centuries, Experiencing Architecture manages to convey the intellectual excitement of superb design. From teacups, riding boots, golf balls, and underwater sculpture to the villas of Palladio and the fish-feeding pavilion of the Peking Winter Palace, the author ranges over the less-familiar byways of designing excellence.At one time, writes Rasmussen, "the entire community tool part in forming the dwellings and implements they used. The individual was in fruitful contact with these things; the anonymous houses were built with a natural feeling for place, materials and use and the result was a remarkably suitable comeliness. Today, in our highly civilized society, the houses which ordinary people are doomed to live in and gaze upon are on the whole without quality. We cannot, however, go back to the old method of personally supervised handicrafts. We must strive to advance by arousing interest in and understanding of the work the architect does. The basis of competent professionalism is a sympathetic and knowledgeable group of amateurs, of non-professional art lovers."

245 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1959

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Steen Eiler Rasmussen

46 books18 followers

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378 (20%)
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83 (4%)
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 72 reviews
Profile Image for Marc.
3,109 reviews1,176 followers
December 11, 2021
Getting older, I don't really have a bucket list, but delving into the native language of architecture is definitely something that would be on it. I especially find modern architecture challenging and enticing. Unfortunately, I do not (yet) have the knowledge and especially the analytical tools to ‘read’ architecture in a proper way. This booklet has the merit of providing a key. It is what is called a classic, published in 1959 and long used in architecture schools. To today's reader the writing style certainly seems old-fashioned, and its age (now over 60 years) and its many references to antique, Renaissance and Baroque buildings in Italy makes it no doubt dated.

But the booklet compensates for that with that reading key, which – I think – is still valid. Rasmussen puts it concisely: “If we believe that the object of architecture is to provide a framework for people's lives, then the rooms in our houses, and the relation between them, must be determined by the way we will live in them and move through them.” In other words: architecture must first and foremost be 'lived' and 'experienced'.

The author therefore offers a kind of phenomenology of the way we experience spatial structures, with aspects such as hard and soft surfaces, concave and convex shapes, light incidence, the role of color and even sound in architecture. The chapter on 'rhythm' particularly appealed to me: indeed, the shape of a building, the distribution of the windows or rooms exude a rhythm that appeals, through their regularity or precisely because of their disruptive asymmetry. For instance, I was not aware at all that the design of the Spanish Steps in Rome (early 18th century) was based on the movements and rhythm of the polonaise. Not everything in this book appeals anymore (the quality of the photographs is really substandard nowadays), and - as said - its references are undoubtedly outdated, but Rasmussen has set me on the road to enjoy the architectural language (even) more.
Profile Image for Fred Putnam.
15 reviews17 followers
March 19, 2014
I have read about two dozen books on architecture; this is the most helpful by far. "Daylight in Architecture" (ch. VIII) not only explains light and buildings, but explains Vermeer's use of light in his paintings--a double bonus! "Hearing Architecture" (ch. X) is a brilliant introduction to buildings and sound, with another bonus: the effect of architecture on church music, specifically how building styles led to the change from monodony to polyphony (e.g., chant to fugue). The rest of the book is just as enlightening. I read it because Witold Rubczynski said that it was the single most influential(?)/helpful(?) he had read, and I find his books illuminating (e.g., "Home", "How Architecture Works", "The Perfect House"--all of which I recommend as well). Rasmussen, however, stands atop the heap.
Profile Image for Anima.
432 reviews55 followers
October 26, 2018
"Form can also give an impression of heaviness or lightness. A wall built of large stones, which we realize must have required great effort to bring to the site and put in place, appears heavy to us. A smooth wall seems light, even though it may have necessitated much harder work and actually weigh more than the stone wall. We intuitively feel that granite walls are heavier than brick ones without having any idea of their respective weights."
"There are monumental structures of the greatest simplicity which produce only a single effect, such as hardness or softness. But most buildings consist of a combination of hard and soft, light and heavy, taut and slack, and of many kinds of surfaces. These are all elements of architecture, some of the things the architect can call into play. And to experience architecture, you must be aware of all of these elements."
" Just as we do not notice the individual letters in a word but receive a total impression of the
idea the word conveys, we generally are not aware of what it is that we perceive but only of the conception created in our minds when we perceive it"
"Understanding architecture, therefore, is not the same as being able to determine the style of a building by certain external features. It is not enough to see architecture; you must experience it. You must observe how it was designed for a special purpose and how it was attuned to the entire concept and rhythm of a specific era. You must dwell in the rooms, feel how they close about you, observe how you are naturally led from one to the other. You must be aware of the textural effects, discover why just those colors were used, how the choice depended on the orientation of the rooms in relation to windows and the sun."
"Here you have all the advantages of a deliberately planned
view because you see reality as through a telescope, from a fixed point—and nothing interferes to distract your attention. The view has only one direction and what is behind the observer plays no part in it. But this is a rare exception. Ordinarily we do not see a picture of a thing but receive an impression of the thing itself, of the entire form including the sides we cannot see, and of all the space surrounding it. Just as in the example of the girl in jeans, the impression received is only a general one—usually we do not see any details. Rarely can a person who has "seen" a building give a detailed description of it."
Profile Image for Oguz Akturk.
280 reviews494 followers
June 9, 2019
Bu kitabı kesinlikle okumalısınız: https://youtu.be/6Rj5biqp83M

Mimarlıktaki doku, renk, ritm ve tasarım kuralları konularında pek bilinmeyen detayları öğrenmek için kesinlikle okunması gereken bir kitap.
Profile Image for Vesa Ferizi.
40 reviews23 followers
August 12, 2020
I never thought much about architecture in the past and now wonder why... I was recommended ‘Experiencing Architecture’ by an architect, and I was hesitant to grab it because of my lack of knowledge on the field. I can now say that this book is an essential for art lovers, and you will understand why shortly after having started reading the preface.
“It is possible to get as much pleasure from architecture as the nature lover does from plants.”
The book elaborates on this idea by giving mind-blowing examples from our daily lives and drawing comparing analogies with activities and elements we can all relate to. Not only can you see, touch and hear architecture, but through these senses you can also feel it.
“In Dickens’s novels, buildings and interiors acquire souls in some demoniacal way corresponding to the souls of the inhabitants.”
The author indirectly touches upon literature quite a few times, and after reading this sentence I immediately remembered how Mr. Dickens’s descriptions of scenery and buildings feel vivid and real, so much so that I feel anxious when the time a character spends there is elongated. So, it is Mr. Dickens himself that EXPERIENCED architecture in the first place and then used his craft of storytelling to make the readers experience it through words.
I highlighted so many parts of this book that it’s impossible to summarize them in a short review, but I will conclude this with my very favorite quote from the book: “If we believe that the object of architecture is to provide a framework for people’s lives, then the rooms in our houses, and the relation between them, must be determined by the way we will live in them and move through them.”
Profile Image for Wei Cho.
212 reviews31 followers
August 6, 2012
I was given this book for my first design class, we were supposed to write an essay of our thoughts about the book and if it changed our way to experience architecture, or the lack thereof. We had several projects going on, and competitions as well, that my professor lost focus on the book and dismissed the paper. Which I think was a shame because I could have learned so much from it.

After four semesters (2 years) I decided to pick it up again since I saw it lying in the bottom of my drawer and read it. It was new and a sort of philosophical way to look at architecture. Buildings were no longer monuments that marked this person existence in Earth. Buildings had life and function and we can experience them through our senses. Very poetic, in my opinion.

Going back to my little story about not reading the book during my first semester in Architecture. Yeah, it was a shame. I was focused on the functional and engineering part of Architecture that I totally forgot the more philosophical and social duty attached to a building, be it a house, a hospital, or a museum. All of these buildings have different colors, textures, sounds, light, etc. that allows the visitors and inhabitants to experience differently.

Say, most people are able to discern between the lighting of a museum and that of a church. Or could also discern between a stadium and an opera house by the sound each building type allows.

Useful book. Recommended to all beginning Architecture students. Architecture is a very dynamic and encompassing field. You learn a little bit of everything.
Profile Image for Elif Sena.
88 reviews4 followers
November 4, 2021
Kitabın amacı güzel. Herkesin anlayabileceği bir dille mimari çalışmaları anlatmak. Ama örnekler hep Batı'da kalmış. Kısa bir Japon kesiti hariç. Bu biraz beni sıktı.

Lisans hayatımın ilk yılında okduğumda sevmiştim kitabı. İlgi çekici gelmişti. Şimdi okuyunca biraz sıkıldım. Ama bu tamamiyle benden kaynaklı. Çünkü zaten okulda bu kitapta anlatılanları bir milyon defa konuştuğumuz ve dinlediğim için sıkıcı geldi. Yoksa kitap güzel. Bakış açısını sevdim yazarın. Mimariyi farklı noktalarından bakarak incelemiş. Kütleler, boşluklar, ölçek, gün ışığı, renk, ses...

Kaynak kitap olabilecek nitelikte. Çok fazla örnek var kitapta mimarlıkla ilgili. Görsellerinin de olması anlaşılırlığı arttırıyor. Mimarlıkla ilgisi olmayan biri de gayet rahat anlayabilir kitabı.

Bir de son olarak kitap 1962 yılında basılmış. Bu sebepten kitaptaki örnekler biraz eski kalıyor artık. Yeni bir bakış açısı ile benzer bir çalışma yapılsa çok daha değişik bir kitap ortaya çıkar diye düşünüyorum.
Profile Image for Wyatt Reu.
102 reviews13 followers
October 28, 2020
Grounded exploration of architecture’s (and really much of art and design’s) fundamental principals — insofar as those principles are grounded on, as the title suggests, our experience of architecture. In many ways the writing is a phenomenology of space, form, texture.

I had the thought reading through that the poet and the architect seem to share a common element to their work: to give the world a human shape (in Blake’s words); to make the world habitable.

This book is concerned with these ‘poetic’ values of space and the meaning of our occupation of it. It tries its best not to be classist and snobby (though wavers at some points) and ultimately succeeds at giving articulation to architecture that resonates with the Everyman — or at least the Everyman who sees.

Profile Image for Marija.
35 reviews3 followers
May 16, 2012
I would give this 3.5 stars if I could. This is the first book I have read on architecture and it has introduced me to a number of exciting ideas, such as the effects of acoustics in architecture and use of light and color. The author writes in a casual style which makes it very easy to follow along, but also means he makes several unsupported claims (it is a "well known fact" that seeing riding boots produces a sense of honor and royalty in the viewer, and that tennis rackets produce feelings of vitality). The numerous jabs at "primitive people" also made me cringe a bit. Overall, this was a good introduction.
Profile Image for Ben.
26 reviews2 followers
December 28, 2018
Amazing introduction to architecture. Full of light and compassion. Very inspiring.
Profile Image for Jurijs.
11 reviews
December 22, 2021
Not impressed. Well, impressed partly by architects' ability to pull the stuff out of their asses. Also, language is strange for 2020.
Profile Image for Pavol.
29 reviews8 followers
February 20, 2021
This book really changes the way you look at the buildings and how you perceive light, sound, texture inside. You will also end up planning trips to Rome, Venice, Copenhagen and few other places.
Profile Image for Maciej Wasilak.
40 reviews
January 24, 2019
Amazing eye-opening book. Author describes high-level concepts in architecture: form, void, light, sound, and does that in a very accessible way - that even art-resistant engineer can understand. Book contains many photos illustrating mentioned concepts.

My absolute favourite is the first chapter about form - the idea that little children learn to understand materials as hard or soft, heavy or light, and apply this knowledge in later life to architectural objects. I also liked the chapters on light and sound. Some chapters were less obvious to me - especially the one about contrast of empty volumes and blocks. Nevertheless I consider this book a very good intro to understanding architecture.
Profile Image for Sümeyye  Yıldız.
138 reviews9 followers
August 25, 2019
"Karanlık bir gecese yakılan kamp ateşi, çevresi karanlığın duvarlarıyla çevrili bir ışıktan bir mağara oluşturur." s.211
Profile Image for Weronika.
100 reviews
August 3, 2023
Bardziej dla kogoś kto dopiero wchodzi w temat czym jest architektura niż dla osoby która już trochę siedzi w temacie. Dobra na start
Profile Image for Douglas Murphy.
Author 3 books12 followers
November 10, 2021
very clear, convincing account of what is actually good about good architecture. Some old fashioned prejudice that you wouldn't hear now ("primitive peoples" etc), but a warm, friendly tone that's very endearing.
Profile Image for Marie.
Author 2 books12 followers
March 5, 2018
I did enjoy this little volume, and will be content to have it sit among the other books on architecture on my shelves, but almost more for the crisp yet creamy black-and-white photos (of walnut chairs, teacups, bricks), for the silken sheen of the paper they have been printed on, and for the lovely library smell of the book, than for the text itself, which in a number of ways has not stood the test of time as well as one might have wished. There is much contrasting of the "civilized" people of Europe with "primitive" peoples and cultures elsewhere, much exclusive use of "he" not just for architects (architecture no doubt having been a uniformly male arena in the late 1950s) but indeed for humans of any description, and much expositing on what "one" naturally or automatically thinks or likes or feels.
That being said, this classic is obviously far from being without value even as a text. The central tenet, which is that architecture is primarily something to be experienced, by and with the body and its senses, and not something to be coldly and formally analysed and criticized, is one I heartily agree with.
If used as a class text, or in serious private study, it can benefit from being read together with Susan Sontag's excellent little essay "Against Interpretation." It can also be paired with Juhani Pallasmaa's equally concise and beautiful volume "The Eyes of the Skin" and Peter Zumthor's wonderful "Atmospheres," both of which owe an acknowledged debt to Rasmussen's book.
116 reviews10 followers
September 13, 2020
Quite interesting look at how we experience architecture (as it says on the tin). Combines theory and history in a useful way; I thought the chapter on solids and cavities as they predominated in the Gothic and the Renaissance respectively was a very cogent and engaging take on a subject that can sometimes come across as dull or unnecessarily abstract. Likewise, there was good stuff about textural effects, daylight, and rhythm. A couple of the chapters weren't as compelling (I've never found persuasive the argument that we have an intuitive appreciation for the harmony of simple geometric ratios in architecture), and I felt that the chapter on color got short shrift, but overall this was a good, readable introduction to some significant architectural concepts.
Profile Image for ainsley boyd.
50 reviews1 follower
September 24, 2022
so boring. i could not get myself to read this and i hated every minute of it. i did not in fact want to experience architecture that bad. the author tried i’ll give him that. i had SOME interest at the beginning but that all went out the window about four chapters in. hope i never have to touch this book again
Profile Image for Bonita Harris.
60 reviews
March 1, 2014
I took Deaf Studies: Deaf Spaces. This was applied to this book and helped us to understand how the architecture works. It applied to our project for Deaf Space course. Teacher's concepts and the book guided our ideas to remodel early 1900's houses on row at Gally University.
Profile Image for Pinar G.
651 reviews18 followers
February 16, 2015
Mimarlikla ilgili hicbir sey bilmiyorum o yuzden bu kitap bana zor geldi. Yorumlarda aksini soylese de konuya yabanci olanlar icin okumasi o kadar kolay degil. Son zamanlarda populer bilim konulari cok iyi kaleme aliniyor, tabii bu kitap eski oldugu icin o anlatimi bulamadim.
Profile Image for maha.
108 reviews68 followers
March 2, 2010
نستشعر العمارة والامكان من خلال حواسنا الخمس:المكان له صوت، يتأثر بالاضاءة النهارية، بحاسة اللمس وغيره.
Profile Image for Sophy H.
1,325 reviews67 followers
August 23, 2022
A bit obvious and rambling, and why oh why are good quality pictures put in there......... in black and white?!! So annoying!

A bit of a half arsed architecture book this.
Profile Image for Michał Józef Gąsior.
84 reviews7 followers
April 17, 2018
Genialna książka dla wszystkich osób, które chcą się dowiedzieć co mogą nam, obserwatorom, zaoferować budynki znajdujące się wokół nas. Jest to niezwykły przewodnik, który pomaga nam zrozumieć myśl jaka jest zawarta w każdym z projektów. I choć czasem wydaje się, że takowej nie ma, warto przeczytać tę książkę, by przekonać się, że najpewniej bardzo się mylimy. Autor wskazuje w dziesięciu rozdziałach kluczowe elementy, które pozwalają zrozumieć to niezwykłe zjawisko jakim jest architektura. Na koniec mały urywek na zachętę:

"Nikt nie interpretował lepiej sposobu życia Japończyków niż Lafcadio Hearn, anglo-amerykański pisarz, dla którego Japonia stała się drugim domem. W tomie esejów zatytułowanym Kokoro (1896) opisał „geniusz cywilizacji japońskiej”. Charakterystyczną cechą kultury Japonii – mówi – jest niezwykła mobilność Japończyków w każdym znaczeniu tego słowa. Biały człowiek zawsze szuka stabilizacji. Jego dom musi być trwały. Uzależnia się od różnego rodzaju dóbr doczesnych. Natomiast w Japonii wszystko jest w ruchu. Nawet sama ziemia nie jest trwała. Rzeki, linia brzegowa, równiny i doliny nieustannie się zmieniają. Przeciętny Japończyk nie jest przywiązany do żadnego konkretnego miejsca. Hearn pisze: „Zdolność życia bez mebli, bez drobiazgów, z najmniejszym możliwie zapasem czystych ubrań, nie tylko świadczy o wyższości japońskiej rasy w życiowej walce; ukazuje także prawdziwą naturę niektórych słabości naszej własnej cywilizacji. Zmusza do refleksji nad bezużyteczną wielością naszych codziennych potrzeb. Musimy mieć chleb, masło i mięso; szklane okna i ogień; kapelusze, białe koszule i wełnianą bieliznę; buty i trzewiki; walizy, torby i pudła; łóżka, materace, pościel i koce. Bez tego wszystkiego Japończycy mogą się doskonale obejść. Pomyślcie przez chwilę, jak ważnym elementem zachodniego ubioru są chociażby białe koszule! A przecież nawet lniana koszula, zwana «oznaką dżentelmena», jest właściwie bezużytecznym elementem ubrania. Nie daje ani ciepła, ani wygody. W modzie stanowi przeżytek czegoś, co niegdyś wyróżniało pewną klasę, ale dziś jest tak pozbawione znaczenia i bezużyteczne jak guziki przyszyte po zewnętrznej stronie rękawów marynarki”."
25 reviews
January 25, 2022
Experiencing architecture is great for those wanting to get an introduction to architecture theory. I definitely appreciated the use of images and the consistency in the accessibility of the language. Rasmussen doesn’t resort or lean on architecture jargon, which the author calls attention to.

Otherwise, the book does reinforce the pretty standard canon of “great” architecture. Perhaps at the time it was forward thinking but at this point it’s definitely an introductory work for other very interesting topics like phenomenology in architecture (Eyes of the Skin by Juhani Pallasmaa is one I’ve read, there are many others). Their breakdown of architecture and each of the senses is well organized but the lack of diversity in the references holds it back, one of the reasons I think further reading is very beneficial.

In addition the conclusion, I think, doesn’t do the full book justice, maybe cross referencing the chapters or built examples would have been more helpful; or, even, including more examples from the time. There are great lessons from historical examples, but it doesn’t have to be a history book, and the contemporary examples that Rasmussen references are very helpful as they provide a clearer snapshot on the architecture canon in the 1960s.

Overall I would recommend because it is an accessible snapshot of some architecture history and architecture theory, and it leaves the reader with a great provocation.
Profile Image for James Taunton.
14 reviews
December 5, 2019
A great primer for understanding the principles of good architecture and design. This book isn’t the most approachable on the subject, however, and I think it best serves those who are pursuing architecture as a career or someone who has some baseline knowledge of the subject already. Because it relies heavily on example and, at times, implicit analysis, it is easier to fill in the blanks of his writing if you have some prior background.

He is sensitive to what contributes to a meaningful space, and this is felt in the examples he chooses to highlight, as well as the points of view he chooses to inspect. As previously stated, this is a great fundamentals look into architecture as a whole. However, there is a feeling of anticipation with his writing that he never fully fulfills. He leans heavily on his selection of precedents, but doesn’t take the steps necessary for overly compelling analysis of the “why?” Perhaps he assumes certain norms that are questioned today and weren’t as much when he was writing. A fine book that every architect ought to read.
99 reviews1 follower
April 15, 2022
This one was on the shelves at a friend's place, and since I will read anything that could be interesting I started browsing. Classical text on the experiencing in architecture, from lines over light to sound. I would assume it makes a good introduction to architectural thinking, even when it's obviously a bit dated since it can't reference anything that happened after it was written (hah)

However, the concepts and the very accessible writing definitely make this a nice one to absorb, and pick up some ideas (bluff your way through architecture, but then with the 1960s insights?). I'm happy I have friends with books on shelves - I considered "borrowing" this one
Profile Image for Chloé.
78 reviews5 followers
September 2, 2023
I started the book feeling bored by the generalizations and subjective remarks of the author-architect since the discourse ressembled the boring “architecture theory” classes I had in school in 1st and 2nd year where an old male architect showed pictures of buildings he liked and explained to us why such or such building was good or bad.

I continued on reading, and it is good to keep in mind the context of the writing (60s) and the public for which it was written. There are definitely some quite outdated remarks which have badly aged, for example comments on why Japanese people are so simple, or clichés of-course on women… etc. This was also a time when architecture was seen as dépendant on the solid built form whereas today architects question how to think spaces and improve them without having to build monuments or perfect permanent buildings which will never change. ( metabolism for example, post-modernism and now todays contemporary “alternative” architects I’d say who are questioning the limits of the field and the economy around it, perhaps it is just a niche that I am more familiar with, that of social design )

I rather enjoyed the chapter on light, and materiality, texture, hearing architecture, the last chapter was quite sweet as the conclusion which was less so strict in judgments on architecture and design.

If I could suggest an updated version of this, it would be Architecture Depends, by Jeremy Till, maybe Why We Build by Rowan Moore, books for the general public with a less idealist view on the discipline, theories and ills.
Profile Image for Oktay Türkoğlu.
4 reviews5 followers
May 31, 2020
Bu tür kitapların mimarlık adına konuşup yalnızca batı bağlamında sınırlı kalmaları -gerçi bu kitapta uzak-doğu'ya kısa bakışlar var fakat bu batı mimarlığı ile karşıtlıklar veya besleyicilikler yönünden ele alınıp araçsallaştırılıyor- veya en başta böyle yapacaksalar bile bunu belirtmeyip de tamamiyle batı mimarlığı ekseninde konuşmaları hoşuma gitmeyen taraf. Başlık Deneyimlenen Mimari olsa daha iyi olurmuş ayrıca.
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