Access

You are not currently logged in.

Access your personal account or get JSTOR access through your library or other institution:

login

Log in to your personal account or through your institution.

How Do Buildings Mean? Some Issues of Interpretation in the History of Architecture

William Whyte
History and Theory
Vol. 45, No. 2 (May, 2006), pp. 153-177
Published by: Wiley for Wesleyan University
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/3874104
Page Count: 25
  • Subscribe ($19.50)
  • Cite this Item
How Do Buildings Mean? Some Issues of Interpretation in the History of Architecture
Preview not available

Abstract

Despite growing interest from historians in the built environment, the use of architecture as evidence remains remarkably under-theorized. Where this issue has been discussed, the interpretation of buildings has often been likened to the process of reading, in which architecture can be understood by analogy to language: either as a code capable of use in communicating the architect's intentions or more literally as a spoken or written language in its own right. After a historiographical survey, this essay, by contrast, proposes that the appropriate metaphor is one of translation. More particularly, it draws on the work of Mikhail Bakhtin to suggest that architecture-and the interpretation of architecture-comprises a series of transpositions. As a building is planned, built, inhabited, and interpreted, so its meaning changes. The underlying logic of each medium shapes the way in which its message is created and understood. This suggests that the proper role of the historian is to trace these transpositions. Buildings, then, can be used as a historical source, but only if the historian takes account of the particular problems that they present. In short, architecture should not be studied for its meaning, but for its meanings. As historians we are always translating architecture: not reading its message, but exploring its multiple transpositions.

Page Thumbnails

  • Thumbnail: Page 
[153]
    [153]
  • Thumbnail: Page 
154
    154
  • Thumbnail: Page 
155
    155
  • Thumbnail: Page 
156
    156
  • Thumbnail: Page 
157
    157
  • Thumbnail: Page 
158
    158
  • Thumbnail: Page 
159
    159
  • Thumbnail: Page 
160
    160
  • Thumbnail: Page 
161
    161
  • Thumbnail: Page 
162
    162
  • Thumbnail: Page 
163
    163
  • Thumbnail: Page 
164
    164
  • Thumbnail: Page 
165
    165
  • Thumbnail: Page 
166
    166
  • Thumbnail: Page 
167
    167
  • Thumbnail: Page 
168
    168
  • Thumbnail: Page 
169
    169
  • Thumbnail: Page 
170
    170
  • Thumbnail: Page 
171
    171
  • Thumbnail: Page 
172
    172
  • Thumbnail: Page 
173
    173
  • Thumbnail: Page 
174
    174
  • Thumbnail: Page 
175
    175
  • Thumbnail: Page 
176
    176
  • Thumbnail: Page 
177
    177