Building plans as natural symbols

Research output: Journal PublicationsJournal Article (refereed)peer-review


At present, there are no hotly debated topics in the philosophy of architecture. One could take this as evidence of the dreariness of the discipline, but one could equally see it as a sign that the discipline has not been caught up in its own internal dialectic and thereby lost touch with issues that matter outside of philosophy. After all, when a (philosophical) discipline lacks a compelling internal dialectic, there is every reason for researchers in the field to look beyond its boundaries, to other, neighboring fields. In the case of the philosophy of architecture, these neighbors include architectural history, architectural theory, architectural criticism, and, last but not least, the practice of architecture itself. It should come as no surprise, then, that the topic of my paper is an entirely self-selected one from the field of architectural history and theory. More specifically, I will focus on a claim about building plans that can be found in the work of architectural historian Carroll William Westfall. The claim has received little attention, perhaps because it is considered implausible, or because it is made by someone whose taste in philosophy (Aristotle) and architecture (Jefferson) seems all too classical. Whatever the case may be, in what follows I will try to argue that the claim is not implausible. I will, however, give my own interpretation to it, one that may not match entirely what Westfall had in mind.1 Still, the claim is supposed to remain sufficiently strong under the proposed interpretation to make it far from trivially true.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)61-80
Number of pages20
JournalArchitecture Philosophy
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2014


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