The forced polarity between form and function in considerations of architecture—opposing art to social interests, ethics to poetic expression—obscures the deep connections between ethical and poetical values in architectural tradition. Architecture has been, and must continue to be, writes Alberto Pérez-Gómez, built upon love. Modernity has rightly rejected past architectural excesses, but, Pérez-Gómez argues, the materialistic and technological alternatives it proposes do not answer satisfactorily the complex desire that defines humanity. True architecture is concerned with far more than fashionable form, affordable homes, and sustainable development; it responds to a desire for an eloquent place to dwell—one that lovingly provides a sense of order resonant with our dreams. In Built upon Love Pérez-Gómez uncovers the relationship between love and architecture in order to find the points of contact between poetics and ethics—between the architect's wish to design a beautiful world and architecture's imperative to provide a better place for society. Eros, as first imagined by the early lyric poets of classical Greece, is the invisible force at the root of our capacity to create and comprehend the poetic image. Pérez-Gómez examines the nature of architectural form in the light of eros, seduction, and the tradition of the poetic image in Western architecture. He charts the ethical dimension of architecture, tracing the connections between philia—the love of friends that entails mutual responsibility among equals—and architectural program. He explores the position of architecture at the limits of language and discusses the analogical language of philia in modernist architectural theory. Finally, he uncovers connections between ethics and poetics, describing a contemporary practice of architecture under the sign of love, incorporating both eros and philia.
About the Author
Alberto Pérez Gómez 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.
“It is as if the author has created a gathering of characters from history (Ficino, Vico, Piranesi, and others who advocated a poetic vision of architecture) outside of time. The book's riveting moments stem from the author's intimate rapport with them.”—Canadian Architect
“In this book, as in Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science, Pérez-Gómez rewrites the history of architecture. His aim is not to replace reason with desire; instead, it is to show the insufficiency of the former and the unacknowledged importance of the latter for the making of good architecture. While showing the links between desire, friendship, and responsibility in human affairs, he unveils the ways architecture builds culture by giving material and spatial definition to those relationships. His learning is deep, his writing is passionate, and his message is profoundly humane.” —David Leatherbarrow, University of Pennsylvania
“In Built upon Love, Pérez-Gómez traces the mythological and historical role of eros and philia in the making and experiencing of architecture. He shows convincingly and poetically that architecture arises not from utility and reason, practicality and technique, but from the desire to sensualize and poeticize the human condition. His erudite narrative helps us understand the essence of architectural pleasure and its origins in the longing for beauty. This book is an important antidote to today's over-intellectualized theories of architecture, alienated from life, and to the formalist and self-centered architecture of our time.” —Juhani Pallasmaa, architect, former Professor of Architecture, Helsinki University of Technology, and author of The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses
“Built Upon Love adds yet another footnote to Plato, more specifically to the Symposium. But what a footnote it is! Informed by an extraordinary understanding of both the history of building and the history of ideas, it reminds us that, to the extent that architecture allows itself to be ruled by the material and political realities of our technological world, it loses sight of the bittersweet love that alone can ground both the ethics and the poetics of architecture.” —Karsten Harries, Professor of Philosophy, Yale University
“Alberto Pérez-Gómez is one of that rare and endangered species—the Renaissance intellectual who can draw deeply from the wells of ancient wisdom while critically engaging with the modern humanist sciences. This book is testimony to a brilliant imagination in action, treading a daring tightrope between the competing demands of ethics and poetics.” —Richard Kearney, Charles Seelig Professor in Philosophy, Boston College, and Visiting Professor of Philosophy, University College Dublin