The Eyes of the Skin (Architecture of the Senses) by Juhani Pallasmaa

  • Haptics: relating to the sense of touch, in particular to the perception and manipulation of objects using the sense of touch and proprioception.
  • Haptic feedback, often referred to as simply ‘haptics’, is the use of the sense of touch in a user interface design to provide information to an end user. When referring to mobile phones and similar devices, this generally means the use of vibrations from the device’s vibration alarm to denote that a touchscreen button has been pressed. For example, the phone would vibrate slightly in response to the user’s activation of an on-screen control, making up for the lack of a normal tactile response that the user would experience when pressing a physical button. “Haptic feedback devices create the illusion of substance and force within the virtual world.”
  • In creative work, a powerful identification and projection takes place; the entire bodily and mental constitution of the maker becomes the site of the work. (p.12, Touching the World)
  • Computer imaging tends to flatten our magnificent, multi-sensory, simultaneous and synchronic capacities of imagination by turning the design process into a passive visual manipulation, a retinal journey. The computer creates a distance between the maker and the object, whereas drawing by hand as well as model-making put the designer into a haptic contact with the object or space. In our imagination, the object is simultaneously held in the hand and inside the head, and the imagined and projected physical image is modeled by our bodies. We are inside and outside of the object at the same time. Creative work calls for a bodily and mental identification, empathy and compassion. (p.12-13, Touching the World)
  • Gestalt: a configuration, pattern, or organized field having specific properties that cannot be derived from the summation of its component parts; a unified whole. “The whole is other than the sum of the parts.” — Kurt Koffka
  • Peripheral vision integrates us with space, while focused vision pushes us out of the space, making us mere spectators. (p.13, Touching the World)
  • The defensive and unfocused gaze of our time, burdened by sensory overload, may eventually open up new realms of vision and thought, freed of the implicit desire of the eye for control and power. The loss of focus can liberate the eye from its historical patriarchal domination. (p.13, Touching the World)
  • Peter Sloterdijk: ‘The eyes are the organic prototype of philosophy. Their enigma is that they not only can see but are also able to see themselves seeing. This gives them a prominence among the body’s cognitive organs. A good part of philosophical thinking is actually only eye reflex, eye dialectic, seeing-onself-see.’ (p.15, Part 1, Vision and Knowledge)
  • […] ocularcentric and obsessively hygienic code of culture.
  • Architecture is our primary instrument in relating us with space and time, and giving these dimensions a human measure. It domesticates limitless space and endless time to be tolerated, inhabited and understood by humankind. (p.17, Vision and Knowledge)

Notes: The eye is a patriarch.

  • The experiences of space and time have become fused into each other by speed (David Harvey uses the notion of ‘time-space compression’), and as a consequence we are witnessing a distinct reversal of the two dimensions – a temporalisation of space and a spatialisation of time. (p.21, Critics of Ocularcentrism)
  • But the world of the eye is causing us to live increasingly in a perpetual present, flattened by speed and simultaneity. (p.21, Critics of Ocularcentrism)
  • The hegemonic eye seeks domination over all the fields of cultural production, and it seems to weaken our capacity for empathy, compassion and participation with the world. The narcissistic eye views architecture solely as a means of self-expression, and as an intellectual –artistic game detached from essential mental and societal connections, whereas the nihilistic eye deliberately advances sensory and mental detachment and alienation. (p.22. The Narcissistic and Nihilistic Eye)
  • The world becomes a hedonistic but meaningless visual journey. (p.22, The Narcissistic and Nihilistic Eye)
  • Tectonics in architecture is defined as the science of art of construction, both in relation to use and artistic design. It refers not only just to the activity of making the materially requisite construction that answers certain needs, but rather to the activity that raises this construction to an art form. It is concerned with the modeling of material to bring the material into presence: from the physical into the metaphysical. Tectonic in geology refers to the structure of the earth’s crust and the large-scale processes which take place within it.
  • Michel de Certeau: ‘from television to newspapers, from advertising to all sorts of mercantile epiphanies, our society is characterized by a cancerous growth of vision, measuring everything by its ability to show or be shown. (p.24, The Narcissistic and Nihilistic Eye)
  • Susan Sontag: ‘a mentality which looks at the world as a set of potential photographs’; ‘reality has come to seem more and more what we are shown by camera’ and that ‘the omnipresence of photographs has an incalculable effect on our ethical sensibility. By furnishing this already crowded world with a duplicate one of images, photography makes us feel that the world is more available than it really is’. (p.30-31, An Architecture of Visual Images)
  • Walter Benjamin: the sense of ‘aura’, the authority of presence – the necessary quality for an authentic piece of art. (p.31, An Architecture of Visual Images)
  • Painting and sculpture also seem to be losing their sensuality; instead of inviting a sensory intimacy, contemporary works of art frequently signal a distancing rejection of sensuous curiosity and pleasure. (p.31, An Architecture of Visual Images)
  • The ceaseless bombardment of unrelated imagery leads only to a gradual emptying of images of their emotional content. Images are converted into endless commodities manufactured to postpone boredom; humans in turn are commoditized, consuming themselves nonchalantly without having the courage or even the possibility of confronting their very existential reality. (p.34, Materiality and Time)
  • The Opening of Vision: Nihilism and the Postmodern Situation by David Michael Levin: two modes of vision – ‘the assertoric gaze’ and ‘the aletheic gaze’ – the assertoric gaze being narrow, dogmatic, intolerant, rigid, fixed, inflexible, exclusionary, and unmoved, the aletheic gaze, associated with the hermeneutic theory of truth, tends to see from a multiplicity of standpoints and perspectives, and is multiple, pluralistic, democratic, contextual, inclusionary, horizontal and caring. Levin is suggesting that there are signs that a new mode of looking is emerging. (p.36, A New Vision and Sensory Balance)
  • The negative development in architecture is, of course, forcefully supported by forces and patterns of management, organisation and production as well as by the abstracting and universalising impact of technological rationality itself. (p.39, Part 2)
  • In the view of René Spitz, ‘all perception begins in the oral cavity, which serves as the primeval bridge from the inner reception to external perception’. Even the eye touches; the gaze implies an unconscious touch, bodily mimesis and identification. (p.42, Multi-sensory Experience)
  • …the task of architecture is ‘to make visible how the world touches us’, as Merleau-Ponty said of the paintings of Cézanne. (p.46, Multi-sensory Experience)
  • Deep shadows and darkness are essential, because they dim the sharpness of vision, make depth and distance ambiguous, and invite unconscious peripheral vision and tactile fantasy. (p.46, The Significance of the Shadow)
  • In order to think clearly, the sharpness of vision has to be suppressed, for thoughts travel with an absent-minded and unfocussed gaze. (p.46, The Significance of the Shadow)
  • The absent-minded gaze penetrates the surface of the physical image and focuses on infinity. (p.46, The Significance of the Shadow)
  • In great architectural spaces, there is a constant, deep breathing of shadow and light; shadow inhales and illumination exhales light. (p.47, The Significance of the Shadow)
  • In our time, light has turned into a mere quantitative matter and the window has lost its significance as a mediator between two worlds, between enclosed and open, interiority and exteriority, private and public, shadow and light. (p.47, The Significance of the Shadow)
  • The sense of sight implies exteriority but sound creates an experience of interiority. I regard an object, but sound approaches me; the eye reaches, but the ear receives. (p.49, Acoustic Intimacy)
  • Adrian Stokes (English painter and essayist): ‘Like mothers of men, the buildings are good listeners. Long sounds, distinct or seemingly in bundles, appease the orifices of palaces that lean back gradually from canal or pavement. A long sound with its echo brings consummation to the stone.’ (p.50, Acoustic Intimacy)
  • Architecture presents the drama of construction silenced into matter, space and light. Ultimately, architecture is the art of petrified silence. (p.51, Silence, Time and Solitude)
  • A powerful architectural experience silences all external noise; it focuses our attention on our very existence, and as well with all art, it makes us aware of our fundamental solitude. (p.51, Silence, Time and Solitude)
  • As time loses its duration, and its echo in the primordial past, man loses his sense of self as a historical being, and is threatened by the ‘terror of time’. (p.52, Silence, Time and Solitude)

Notes: Are we experiencing the advent of the hyperreal? What would it be like when everything in the world is finally replaced by simulacra (including bodily functions, etc.)? *Read about 3D printing of food*

…Dissolution of what we feel nostalgic for; then what?


  • A delicately coloured polished stone surface is subliminally sensed by the tongue. (p.59, The Taste of Stone)
  • Deliciously coloured surfaces of stucco lustro, a highly polished colour or wood surfaces also present themselves to the appreciation of the tongue. (p.59, The Taste of Stone)
  • We behold, touch, listen and measure the world with our entire bodily existence, and the experiential world becomes organised and articulated around the centre of the body. (p.64, Bodily Identification)
  • Melanie Klein: ‘projective identification’; all human interaction implies projection of fragments of self on to the other person. (p.66, Bodily Identification)
  • The melancholy in Michelangelo’s architecture is fundamentally the viewer’s sense of his/her own melancholy enticed by the authority of the work. Enigmatically, we encounter ourselves in the work. (p.68, Bodily Identification)
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