Finnish architect Juhani Pallasmaa is one of the most lucid architectural theoreticians and practitioners in the world today, whose many books, writings, exhibitions and buildings are internationally renowned. His “The Eyes of the Skin” has become a classic book of architectural theory all over the world and his exhibitions of Finnish architecture have been displayed in more than 30 countries. He is a former professor of architecture at the Helsinki University of Technology and former director of the Museum of Finnish Architecture, and is currently an acting jury member of the Pritzker Prize, the Nobel Prize equivalent in architecture. He runs his own architect’s office, Arkkitehtitoimisto Juhani Pallasmaa KY, in Helsinki.
During a recent field trip to Helsinki, which UNESCO named as the World Design Capital for 2012, two faculty and six students from VCUQatar’s Interior Design department were able to meet with Pallasmaa at his office. “It was a wonderful and rare opportunity to meet with such an important figure in today’s world of architecture and design,” said Carolyn Freeman, chair of the Interior Design department at VCUQatar. “Pallasmaa is very down-to-earth and approachable. It was apparent that he enjoys talking to students. We are all very much looking forward to his visit and the workshop he will do with our students.”
On 21 March, Pallasmaa will discuss the concept of peripheral perception and emotion in architecture in a thought-provoking lecture.
Architecture is usually understood and taught in terms of space and form as perceived through focused perception, and the significance of the overarching peripheric and atmospheric perception is neglected. Yet, we have an amazing capacity to instantly grasp the overall ambience or atmosphere of a landscape, urban setting, space or place. Even regions and continents have their recognizable atmospheres. Altogether, unconscious peripheral and unfocused perception has a crucial role in our grasp of the existential situation as well as the feeling of being part of “the flesh of the world”, to use a notion of Merleau-Ponty. The creative mind also seems to rely on deliberate suppression of precision, and emotionally we grasp the essence of things from the entity down to details; in the artistic sphere, we often grasp the emotive meaning of the work without understanding at all its constituent parts.
The overall atmosphere is also a unifying characteristic in architecture, and there are architects and artists whose work is based more on qualities of an embracing and haptic ambience than precise and focused formal qualities. A heightened sense of materiality, rhythm, color and illumination is usually characteristic to this atmospheric architecture.
VCUQatar’s Crossing Boundaries Lecture Series reflects the cross-disciplinary nature of the featured speakers who are representatives of excellence in design thinking. Each speaker presents a paradigm of design thinking that seeks to evolve solutions to problems in innovative, creative ways.
‘Space, Place and Atmosphere – Peripheral Perception and Emotion in Architectural Experience’ concludes the series of five lectures and will be presented on 21 March at 6:00 pm at the atrium at VCUQatar. The lecture is open to the public.
Juhani Pallasmaa (photo by Adolfo Vera)
Juhani Pallasmaa (photo by Knut Thyberg)