Author(s): Alberto Perez-Gomez
Architecture remains in crisis, its social relevance lost between the two poles of formal innovation and technical sustainability. In Attunement, Alberto Perez-Gomez calls for an architecture that can enhance our human values and capacities, an architecture that is connected -- attuned -- to its location and its inhabitants. Architecture, Perez-Gomez explains, operates as a communicative setting for societies; its beauty and its meaning lie in its connection to human health and self-understanding. Our physical places are of utmost importance for our well-being. Drawing on recent work in embodied cognition, Perez-Gomez argues that the environment, including the built environment, matters not only as a material ecology but because it is nothing less than a constituent part of our consciousness. To be fully self-aware, we need an external environment replete with meanings and emotions. Perez-Gomez views architecture through the lens of mood and atmosphere, linking these ideas to the key German concept of Stimmung -- attunement -- and its roots in Pythagorean harmony and Vitruvian temperance or proportion. He considers the primacy of place over space; the linguistic aspect of architecture -- the voices of architecture and the voice of the architect; architecture as a multisensory (not pictorial) experience, with Piranesi, Ledoux, and Hejduk as examples of metaphorical modeling; and how Stimmung might be put to work today to realize the contemporary possibilities of attunement.
Alberto Perez Gomez directs the History and Theory of Architecture Program at McGill University, where he is Saidye Rosner Bronfman Professor of the History of Architecture. He is the author of Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science, Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics (both published by the MIT Press), and other books.