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International Collaborative Research Project 

Hermeneutics of Architecture:

Dwelling in the Horizon of Finitude

The International Institute for Hermeneutics, the Faculty of Arts and Humanities, the University of Coimbra, and the Faculty of Artes Liberales, the University of Warsaw, have the pleasure to announce the International Collaborative Research Project:

Hermeneutics of Architecture: Dwelling in the Horizon of Finitude.

Current Seminars

The Dialectic of Seeing

Reading Buildings

Principal Investigators

Prof. Dr. Prof. h. c. Luís Antonio Umbelino, Department of Philosophy, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Prof. Dr. Dr. Prof. h. c. Andrzej Wierciński, Faculty of Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw, Poland


Professor Luís Antonio Umbelino's philosophical work has been devoted, for over 20 years, to philosophical approaches to body and space, crossing the fields of Biranism, contemporary phenomenology, and the hermeneutics of architecture. His perspective is, in a way, inscribed in the vigorous micro-tradition of topological thought that tries to resist the prevailing devaluation of space regarding time in the history of philosophy. In his latest book, Memorabilia. O Lado Espacial da Memória [Memorabilia. The Spatial Side of Memory (Santa Cruz: Editus, 2019). Such a topological perspective is illustrated by the subject of “spatial memory”. It must be underlined that one of the main axes of the book deals precisely with the hermeneutics of architecture. The IR has published extensively about the hermeneutics of space and architecture, has hosted, in Portugal and abroad, 28 scientific meetings and attended, with communication, 89 scientific meetings. In recent years the IR has further elaborated his phenomenological hermeneutic approach to space and architecture. This is clear in the above-mentioned book, but also in several papers published on the subject, such as: “On the Ricoeurian Project of a Hermeneutics of Space”, in Wiercinski, A. Hermeneutics - Ethics – Education (Zurich: Lit Verlag, 2015), 199206; “Memory, Space, Oblivion,” in Davidson, Scott; Vallée, MarcAntoine, Hermeneutics and Phenomenology in Paul Ricoeur (Springer, 2016), 115-122; “Herméneutique, architecture et humanisation de l’espace,” in Revue d’histoire et de philosophie religieuses 91, 1 (2011), “L’étoffe spatiale de la mémoire. Lectures de M. Merleau-Ponty et P. Ricœur,” in Studia Phaenomenologica 13 (2013): 325-334; “Memory of the Body, Temptation of Space,” in The European Legacy 20, 8 (2015): 84-85; “On Paul Ricoeur’s Unwritten project of an Ontology of Place,” in Critical Hermeneutics 1, 1 (2017):  233-246.


Furthermore, Umbelino has initiated in recent years a scientific partnership with some of Coimbra’s emerging architects, as he was invited to write on their work. The first achievement, in this context, was the following text: “I’m home. Reflections on a house” in Jorge Teixeira Dias Works 2008-2019 – comprehensive monography of the work of the architect (Uzina, 2020).

The importance of Umbelino's work on the hermeneutics of architecture was recently internationally acknowledged by leading architect and scholar Josep Muntañola (University of Barcelona) in the presentations of the 19th International online conference architectonics: mind, land, and society

Professor Andrzej Wierciński, the co-IR, is a distinguished and renowned researcher in Philosophical Hermeneutics. He is President-Founder (2001) of the International Institute for Hermeneutics ( with the very strong presence of philosophers of architecture and architects (Beatriz Colomina, Princeton University, Karsten Harries, Yale University, Daniel Libeskind, Studio Libeskind, Juhani Pallasmaa, Helsinki University of Technology, Finland & University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Josep Muntañola Thornberg, Barcelona Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Babette Babich, Fordham University, Jeffrey Andrew Barash, Université de Picardie, Nicholas Davey, University of Dundee, Donatella Di Cesare, University of la Sapienza, University of Freiburg, Richard Kearney, Boston College, John Sallis, Boston College, Bernhard Waldenfels, University of Bochum). These colleagues build strong support for the project beyond the more direct and immediate involvement of the team of consultants.


Wierciński has been a Research Professor in Hermeneutics at the University of Toronto (2002-2008), Professor extra numerum of Philosophy of Religion, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität in Freiburg i.Br. (2007-2016), and Professor of General Education and Philosophy of Education, Faculty of Education, University of Warsaw (2015-2021). Currently, Wierciński is a Professor of Liberal Arts at the Faculty of Artes Liberales, University of Warsaw,, and an External Member of the Institute of Philosophy, University of Augsburg, Germany. Wierciński held Visiting Fellowships/ Professorships at distinguished Universities: Boston College, University of California at Berkeley, University of Toronto, Philosophische Hochschule, München, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, Barrett, The Honors College, Arizona State University, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Canada, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and the University of Augsburg, Germany. In 2022, Wierciński is a Visiting Professor, Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada.


Wierciński’s extensive CV includes 12 published books focusing on different hermeneutic subjects, 18 edited high-impact books in the field of hermeneutics, and the authorship of over a hundred papers. Wierciński pays special attention to the dialogue between philosophy, theology, literature, rhetoric, education, law, medicine, and architecture. As the art of interpretation and the art of being in the world, hermeneutics largely overcomes the divisions between university departments, disciplines, cultures, languages, and religious traditions. As such, it promotes an interpretive approach to the diversity and complexity of human experience in the world.


Hermeneutics’ vital concern of reaching out for seeking understanding is both rooted in and transcending Tradition, dwelling in the hermeneutic in-between of the past and the present, experiencing our being as finite, contingent, and provisional, continually invites and engages us to face the challenges of understanding. We partake in Being’s disclosing itself to us in the back-and-forth movement of the concealed (das Verborgene) and the unconcealed (das Entborgene), enacted in and through language. Wierciński affirms that the imperative to understand and interpret, which is embedded in our embracing and dynamic responding to the dialectic of familiarity and strangeness, indicates the unfolding of human existence as existentia hermeneutica, i.e., existentia interpretativa. In the overwhelming struggle to make sense of our being-in-the-world, we attempt to describe, re-describe, and interpret reality as profoundly stranded between finitude and infinity. The task of interpretation encompasses lived experience and, thus the possible risk of misinterpretation and misunderstanding. Locating understanding in the practical dimension of life, in our situatedness, Wierciński revives the significance of phronesis for hermeneutics, sensitizing us to the intimate connections between the unique unrepeatability of the self, his/her existential situation, and radical responsibility (re-spondeo). Pondering hermeneutics’ endeavor to position us in the horizon of thinking about what happens to us and in us when we understand, Wierciński contributes to the disclosure of the hermeneutic space of understanding.


His more recent work concentrates on uncovering the hermeneutic character of architectural discourse by reading architecture in its Wirkungsgeschichte. Wierciński’s hermeneutics of architecture aims at overcoming the division between architects who build and talk about architecture and architectural theorists who theorize and talk about philosophy. Gadamer left us with the powerful legacy of the hermeneutic reading of poetry while reading Celan. Similarly, we can read architecture and thematize what happens to us and in us when we dwell in the horizon of finitude, particularly when we relate to buildings interacting with the landscape. By addressing the art of our dwelling, we discover our growing ecological concern through the hermeneutics of architecture.



The International Team of Consultants


The project will highly benefit from the excellent panel of international consultants in philosophy and architecture.


Prof. Dr. Prof. h. c. Günter Figal

Professor Günter Figal’s (University of Freiburg) notion of hermeneutic objects is phenomenological. He conceives the correlation between hermeneutic objects and interpretation, respectively understanding as a structure, in which the appearing is prior to its experience. He also shows that and how appearance is enabled by space. He discusses the spatial foundation of appearance in Gegenständlichkeit but elaborates it further in Unscheinbarkeit. Der Raum der Phänomenologie (2015). Space is the “inconspicuous” that allows things to appear and thus to become objects of intentionality. To conceive and describe the very status of such objects more concretely, Figal, develops his version of philosophical aesthetics, predominantly in his book Erscheinungsdinge (2010), in English, Aesthetics as Phenomenology: The Appearance of Things (2015). One character of art is particularly relevant for phenomenology: artworks are primarily perceptible and, as such, primary, primordial appearances because as such, they withdraw from easy ascriptions of meaning and allow experiencing the primordial perceptibility of things, which mostly is concealed by everyday life in a world dominated by meaning. Figal elaborates his hermeneutic, phenomenological, and aesthetic philosophy by concentrating on the problem of primordial appearance and exploring more concretely the spatiality of such appearance. This has led him to an in-depth occupation with artworks, the spatial character of which is particularly distinctive, namely vessels and buildings. He has published a book on Japanese ceramics, Gefäße als Kunst (2019), and three books on architecture, Ando. Raum Architektur Moderne (2017; English version as ebook), Japan und der Westen. Kengo Kumas Meditation House im Kranzbach (2020), and Ästhetik der Architektur (2021).


Prof. Dr. Prof. h. c. David Leatherbarrow

For Professor David Leatherbarrow (University of Pennsylvania), two hermeneutic challenges orient his teaching and scholarship: first, how the architectural site (variously rural or urban, remote or familiar) can be interpreted and transformed in response to contemporary and local concerns, and second, how architectural construction can acknowledge both traditional practices and new opportunities for meaningful building. Architecture is a practice that results in designs that are sited and built for the enactment and expression of human purposes. He has addressed the first of these challenges in a few of his books, specifically Uncommon Ground (2000), Topographical Stories (2004), and Architecture Oriented Otherwise (2009). The term topography figures prominently in these works, naming the spatial and material domain that endows experience with durable dimension. The matter of orientation is also key, for it raises an architectural equivalent to the philosophical problems of being situated and intersubjectivity. The second interpretative task his works address, translating inherited buildings practices into contemporary possibilities of construction, has been studied in Roots of Architectural Invention (1993) and Surface Architecture (2002) especially. The third area of study he has pursued in his scholarly articles and books is the problem of architectural temporality. In On Weathering: The Life of Building in Time (1993), a simple technical problem faced by all buildings was interpreted as a key to understanding the ways that buildings acknowledge and represent human finitude (an ethics and phenomenology of stains). His most recent book, Building Time: Architecture, Event, and Experience (2020), presents hermeneutic readings of the time of the world, of the human body in movement, and of the architectural project--concurrent but non-synchronic times of all built works. And Three Cultural Ecologies (2018) examines how modern architects have explored intersections between a building’s cultural content and representations of the natural world, as presented in the literature of the environmental sciences. Leatherbarrow illuminates topics that remain central to architectural practice and experience, not despite but because of changing demands and expectations for their creative transformation and appropriation. Thus understood, writing is a form of service through which words render works intelligible and transmissible. Leatherbarrow’s books and articles have been translated into 14 languages.


Prof. Dr. Prof. h.. c. Jeff Malpas

In Professor Jeff Malpas’s (University of Tasmania) reading of philosophical topography or topology, the notion of “localism” is a necessary element in any holistic or relational account in which the idea of the “local” is being taken up in the idea of “place” or topos. The focus on place has been the central element in Malpas’ work since the publication of his 1999 book Place and Experience (originally with Cambridge University Press, and in a new and revised edition with Routledge in 2018) and it has opened up into engagements that extend well beyond philosophy alone— including in architecture, art, communication, ecology, geography, medicine, and sociology. Working for the University of Tasmania, Malpas has deepened issues of place and topology—the very character of the island, reinforcing both the engagement with place and the interdisciplinary character of that engagement. Malpas’ topological or topographical approach (the two terms being used more or less interchangeably in his work) directly applies in his reading of hermeneutics. Malpas’ claim is that what characterizes twentieth-century hermeneutic thinking is the fundamental insight that, far from being a barrier to the possibility of knowledge or understanding, situatedness or being placed is what makes it possible.


Moreover, Malpas also argues for place and being placed as sui generis notions that are therefore not reducible to, even though they are connected with, the ideas of space and time. Space and time are themselves argued to be derivative of or embedded in place. Adopting a position that is strongly resonant with contemporary ideas of extended cognition, Malpas argues for a view of self and mind as topologically or topographical shaped and so as inextricably bound to the environmental contexts in which agents are situated. The emphasis on place, and so also on the ideas of topology or topography, is something Malpas takes directly from literary sources no less than philosophical, as well as drawing on the empirical scientific literature. But Malpas also reads Heidegger’s work as centrally oriented to the topological – the very idea of topology being taken from Heidegger’s characterization of his own thinking as taking the form of a “topology of being” (Topologies des Seyns). The topological reading of Heidegger has been developed by Malpas in Heidegger’s Topology (MIT, 2006) as well as in subsequent volumes in which the Heidegger’s work is explored alongside other thinkers and in relation to a range of themes and domains – works such as Heidegger and the Thinking of Place (MIT, 2012), Rethinking Dwelling (Bloomsbury 2021) and in the Brightness of Place (SUNY, 2022).

Prof. Dr. Prof. h. c. Alberto Pérez-Gómez

Professor Alberto Pérez-Gómez’s (McGill University) Architecture and the Crisis of Modern Science (MIT Press, 1983) won the Hitchcock Award in 1984. Later books include Polyphilo or The Dark Forest Revisited (1992), Architectural Representation and the Perspective Hinge (co-authored with Louise Pelletier), and Built upon Love: Architectural Longing after Ethics and Aesthetics (2006). His most recent book, Attunement (MIT Press, 2016), examines connections between phenomenology, recent enactive cognitive science, and emerging language, seeking attunement in architecture and the urban environment, and examining the issue of architecture as atmosphere. He has also recently published Timely Meditations (RightAngle Intl., 2016), a collection of essays in two volumes. Pérez-Gómez is also co-editor of the seven-volume series CHORA: Intervals in the Philosophy of Architecture.


Prof. Dr. Wendy Pullan

Professor Wendy Pullan (Cambridge University) has published widely on European and Middle Eastern architecture and cities, examining the processes of urban heritage, conflict, and change, both historical and contemporary. Her recent publications include: Locating Urban Conflicts (2013), The Struggle for Jerusalem’s Holy Places (2013), and Architecture and Pilgrimage 1000-1500: Southern Europe and Beyond (2013). Pullan currently works on the nature of the urban conflict. She addresses the development of nomos with respect to everyday life and customs in contested cities.


Pullan’s Conflict in Cities and the Contested State focused on divided cities as key sites in territorial conflicts over state and national identities, cultures, and borders. Divided cities in Europe and the Middle East were analyzed to understand better how they have been shaped by ethnic, religious, and national conflicts and, conversely, how such cities can absorb, resist and potentially play a role in transforming the territorial conflicts that pervade and surround them. The project sought to understand cities as arenas of intensified ethnonational conflicts, particularly with respect to the role that architecture and the urban fabric play as a setting and background for everyday activities and events. The multi-disciplinary initiative included architecture, urban studies, politics, geography, and sociology in Jerusalem, Belfast, Beirut, Berlin, Mostar, Nicosia, Sarajevo, and Kirkuk.


Pullan investigates the urban conditions that are critical in ethnonational and religious conflicts. She considers the particular features of contemporary cities as the primary loci for such hostilities and probes the long-term role of conflict within everyday life. Rather than proposing a means of reconciliation or management, she focuses on the question of agonistic space, where conflict is considered part of the urban condition with precedents for constructive dispute.



The International Research Team


As the project will (a) tackle the hermeneutic horizon and some of its central concepts, (b) unfold the possibilities of a hermeneutics of architecture, and (c) study the cultural, social, and political implications of architecture on the human dwelling (in the face of the climate crisis, of the need to consider sustainable development models and industries, and the necessity to consider migrations and new experiences of exile) the team is ideally suited to the task. The Portuguese members of the project are eminent scholars in phenomenological hermeneutics. Among them is a Portuguese leading scholar in the field of phenomenological hermeneutics (Portocarrero), a specialist in Heideggerian philosophy and political thought (Franco de Sá), an FCT-funded researcher on environmental hermeneutics (Soares), and a specialist in critical hermeneutics (Marcelo). The project further counts on the collaboration with nine influential researchers in contemporary hermeneutics and hermeneutics of architecture at some of the leading Universities in the world. The research team forges and fosters the collaboration of both philosophers (Wierciński, Umbelino, Figal, Malpas, Weber, Utsler) and architects and architectural academics (Leatherbarrow, Pérez-Gómez, Pullan, Barac, Karamercan, Frost, Goffi, Temple, Dougherty, Snell, Sternberg).

The claims of the ‘universality’ of hermeneutics, developed in the writings of Hans-Georg Gadamer, Jean Grondin, and others, have prompted debates among academics today about how such assertions can be assumed (indeed sustained) in a world increasingly driven by technological determinacy and forms of scientific abstraction. As a broad methodological approach, hermeneutic inquiry in the Renaissance informed theological, juridical, philosophical, and philological pursuits, providing fertile terrain for interpretative discourse before the emergence of disciplinary boundaries and their subsequent ‘specialisms.’ The challenges we face in the modern globalized world, in ensuring that we are attuned to the spaces we occupy and to one another (as Gadamer describes) – a task essential to hermeneutics - have become especially apparent in the built environment. Here, the deep-rooted traditions of ‘city-making,’ expressed through the communicative dimensions of buildings, urban spaces, ceremonies, and festive events, are being transformed into homogenous real-estate, emptied of civic presence, and defined by little more than space-planning criteria. If we construe hermeneutics to entail forms of translation through interpretation, then the built environment constitutes, historically at least, its most visible (and visceral) barometer of change through the situational contexts of citizens and their participatory relationships. This background ‘tradition,’ moreover, of civic space also provides the context for hermeneutical thinking of the wider environment, in which urgent questions of ecological balance between urban and rural settings have been much debated and contested. Indeed, recent scholarly studies in environmental hermeneutics have demonstrated how the emergence of the city throughout history has been inextricably related to changing perceptions of landscape and the ‘rhythms’ of the natural world.


The crucial aspect of the project is to bring together in a unique and original way philosophers, architects, historians, and theorists of architecture to address the conflict of interpretations and the fusion of horizons that distinguish the hermeneutic task.


The international team members make the project genuinely global. Researchers from the University of Warsaw (Poland), London Metropolitan University (UK), University of Cambridge (UK), University of Cape Town (South Africa), and University of British Columbia (Canada), University of Tasmania (Australia) will work together on the experience of dwelling in the horizon of finitude.


All the team members will elaborate on the critical aspects of the hermeneutics of architecture: “space, spatiality, and place” (Umbelino; Utsler; Frost) “dwelling, embodiment, praxis, conflict and belonging” (Weber, Barac; Pullan; Snell; Sternberg), “language and dwelling spaces” (Wierciński; Dougherty); ontology, technology and poesis (Sterneberg; Franco de Sá; Soares); memory, narrativity, and politics (Weber, Umbelino; Marcelo; Franco de Sá; Snell; Soares); ontology, topology and topography (Karamarec; Dougherty, Umbelino), sacred spaces, and religious life (Wierciński; Frost; Portocarrero).





Prof. Dr. Christian Frost, London Metropolitan University, UK

Professor Christian Frost, Ph.D., qualified as an architect in 1990 following the completion of his studies at the University of Cambridge. He worked in practice, at home and abroad for over ten years before becoming a full-time academic when he also began research into the history of the foundation of Salisbury, which resulted in the publication of his book Time, Space and Order: The Making of Medieval Salisbury (Peter Lang, 2009). His research relies heavily on modern hermeneutics. As such, this approach to interpretation and understanding is evident in all of his work, including his continuing research into the relationship between festivals and architecture - past and present - particularly in relation to the city of Florence. Since 2019 he has been Head of Architecture at London Metropolitan University. 


Dr. David Utsler, North Central Texas College, USA

David Utsler received his PhD in Philosophy at the University of North Texas where he specialized in hermeneutics and environmental philosophy. He has published several articles in peer-reviewed journals concerning hermeneutics, environments, dwelling, and identity. Dr. Utsler co-edited Interpreting Nature: The Emerging Field of Environmental Hermeneutics (Fordham 2014), which was the first book dedicated to the intersection of philosophical hermeneutics and environmental thought. His work in environmental hermeneutics focuses not on only the “natural world” but dwelling generally and our understanding of any kind of “environs.” Dr. Utsler’s current research in environmental hermeneutics aims to explore the role of architecture in the formation of selfhood and identity, construed both individually and collectively (politically, culturally).


Prof. Dr. Prof. h. c. Barbara Weber, University of British Columbia, Canada

Barbara Weber, University of British Columbia, Canada, is Professor and Chair of the Interdisciplinary Studies Graduate Program (ISGP) as well as an Adjunct Professor in the Philosophy Department at the University of British Columbia. Before her arrival at UBC in 2012, she held the Professorship for Civic Engagement and Values Education at the Philosophy Department at the University of Regensburg. Her work focuses on using phenomenological and hermeneutical theories in order to re-think the notion of public space. Embodiment becomes the foundation of the modern agora and political interaction, disclosing its contemporary struggles. 


Weber has worked as a performance artist, choreographer, and dancer of ballet, German expressionist dance, Bharatanatyam, and Butoh. Her performance works combined poetry and philosophical aphorisms with embodied “answers” conveyed through the dancer’s movements, starting a bodily conversation around existential states of being in the world and what it means to have fallen into time and space. Space arises between one human and another in movement.


Dr. Justin Snell, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Dr Justin Snell is an architect and academic based in Cape Town. After completion of his undergraduate studies (UCT) and Rome Scholarship (British School at Rome), Justin did his MPhil in Philosophy and History of Architecture at the University of Cambridge under the direction of Dalibor Vesley. He subsequently undertook his Ph.D under supervisor Professor Peter Carl on the planning of late Renaissance Rome. Upon completion of his studies at Cambridge, Justin returned to South Africa, where he worked as an architect and director for a number of prominent practices. Here a key focus of his work and practice has been on understanding how democratic principles are embodied in architectural-urban environments from the Constitutional Court to Freedom Square. During the course of his doctoral dissertation, Justin became interested in the key role played by Counter-Reformation epideictic rhetoric and specifically its deployment in orations which expound upon the moral reform of the city. In 2016, he was awarded an AWMellon postdoctoral fellowship in rhetoric studies under Distinguished Professor Philippe-Joseph Salazar to explore the dialogue between rhetoric and space, a key issue in South Africa from Apartheid planning to its post-1994 democratic transformation. In 2019 he became a Honorary Research Affiliate (HRAf) at the Faculty of Law at UCT. His current research sits at the intersection of architecture, law, rhetoric, and hermeneutics and examines amnesties and tribunals from Greece to Nuremberg and contemporary truth commissions such as the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC). Situating these phenomena in respect of questions of forgiveness, public memory, and understanding, a central question concerns how conflict is addressed through urban and institutional order.

Dr. Onur Karamercan, University of Tasmania, Australia

Dr. Karamercan completed his doctoral studies at the University of Tasmania under the supervision of Jeff Malpas and Ingo Farin (thesis title: Heidegger’s Topology of Language: Language and Dwelling) in 2018. He spent research periods at the University of Crete and University at Buffalo (SUNY) as a visiting PHD scholar. His research focuses on Martin Heidegger’s hermeneutic phenomenology, with a specific concentration on his topological philosophy of place and language and cross-disciplinary connections to comparative literature and language studies. His most current work focuses on the place of philosophy in higher education system and the phenomenological tension and links between topological philosophy and environmental thought. His recent publications include articles on philosophy of education, technology and space colonization, East-West philosophical dialogue, and digital humanities.

Prof. Dr. Matthew Barac, London Metropolitan University, UK


Matthew Barac is Professor of Architecture & Urban Culture at London Metropolitan University, and a UK-registered architect. His primary research addresses the play between formal and informal orders of urban change in the global south, and has won plaudits including the RIBA President's Award for Research and the International Bauhaus Award. Work on this topic investigates the spatially constituted structure of the life world of home making in conditions of urban informality, considering questions of orientation and personal disposition in relation to the future, especially in African cities. Relevant publications include “Changing Places: Navigating Urbanity in the Global South” in Sternberg, M. & H. Steiner (eds) Phenomenologies of the City (2015, Ashgate), “Place Resists: Grounding African Urban Order in an age of Global Change”, Social Dynamics 37 (1): 24-42 (2011) and, in the context of post-disaster reconstruction, “Technologies of Belonging” in edited volume Building Owning & Belonging (UN-Habitat/European Union, 2019). Honorary positions have included editorial board roles for Architecture & Culture and the Architectural Review, jury member for the Global Architectural Graduate Awards and RIBA Research Awards, and chairing the board of charity Architecture Sans Frontières-UK. 

Prof. Dr. Nicholas Temple, London Metropolitan University, UK


Dr. Alex Dougherty, Architect


Prof. Dr. Maximilian Sternberg, University of Cambridge, UK


Prof. Dr. Martinho Soares, University of Coimbra, Portugal 

Prof. Dr. Prof. h. c. Maria luisa Portocarrero Ferreira da Silva, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Dr. Gonçalo Nuno Falcão de Bettencourt Coutinho Marcelo, Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, Lisboa, Portugal

Prof. Dr. Alexandre Guilherme Barroso de Matos de Franco de Sá, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Hermeneutics of Architecture puts forward the following major goals: charting the main possible directions of Hermeneutics of Architecture that is being unfolded in present times, and reflecting on the important philosophical, but also the cultural and social significance of these new directions, including for bringing about deepened and alternative approaches, namely, to human dwelling, built spaces, sustainable urbanism, cosmopolitan encounters, inclusive, safe and resilient cities. In line with the goals of the 2030 agenda, the project is an innovative one, precisely because it addresses the subject of architecture from a hermeneutic point of view, thus positioning itself in a fertile new theoretical frontier. Specific topics, dealing with fundamental interrelations between “space, spatiality, and place,” “dwelling, embodiment, praxis and belonging,” “language and dwelling spaces,” “ontology, technology and poesis,” “memory, narrativity, and politics,” “ontology, topology and topography,” “sacred spaces, and religious fife,” will help configure the range of the project. The fundamental aim of the project is to bring key philosophical studies on phenomenology, hermeneutics and dwell into dialogue with contemporary scholars in view of elucidating the ongoing significance of hermeneutics of architecture for philosophical studies and architecture. There is a major insight of a hermeneutic approach (one implicit in terms of expressing the experience of finitude, or fragility) that condenses our main philosophical starting point as it reaches out to dialogue with architecture: that boundedness and belonging, far from being hindrances or blockages to the possibility of appearing, thinking, knowing, understanding, interpreting, or meaning, instead constitute their very foundation and ground. The world begins in place and so too does all engagement in and with the world. This is a simple, yet the crucial idea that has enormous implications, both for philosophy and for architecture. The research project aims at trying to draw out some of those implications that require, on one hand, to overcome the tendency toward the oblivion of the spatial fabric of “being-in-the-world” and, on the other, to consider topics such as ways of dwelling, the special grounds of belonging, the house as a reference of health and wellbeing; of safety and interpersonal encounter; of availability and sustainable management of resources; of affordable, reliable and sustainable access to energy; of built resilient spaces and infrastructure that promote inclusive and sustainable ways of life.


The significance of architecture in respect of philosophical hermeneutics arose through the work of Heidegger, Gadamer, and Ricoeur. Within the evolution of contemporary phenomenology, the question of dwelling and its relation to technology was brought to prominence by Heidegger with Bauen Wohnen Denken and Die Frage nach der Technik which established the terms of reference for both philosophy and architecture itself. Heidegger’s fundamental ontology, framed in terms of understanding itself, was brought into relation with the hermeneutic tradition by Gadamer. For Gadamer, the historical and lingually constituted nature of understanding provides the ground, setting, and articulation through which culture (Bildung) is itself made possible. Alongside Gadamer, Ricoeur’s investigations into the ontological foundations or ground of morality used memory and mimesis to demonstrate how architecture is key to selfhood and formation of individual and public narrative identity – see, for example. The ontological bias of Heidegger’s interpretation of dwelling was contested by figures such as Löwith and Levinas, in turn, engaged by Derrida. Building upon and engaging with this tradition, architectural hermeneutics emerged as a key field of study through the work of Norberg-Shultz, Harries; Vesely, Carl, and other scholars. The broad scope and application of hermeneutics to architecture ranged from representation and its ethical functional to dwelling, politics, recovery of meaning, the cultural significance of architecture, and the nature of urban order. Studies in hermeneutics and phenomenology by Wierciński, Wrathall, Malpas; Casey, Bégout, Grotz, Muntañola, Trigg, and others have opened new dimensions in respect of disclosure of meaning and understanding regarding the phenomena of the human way of dwelling and being emplaced.


The challenges we face in the modern globalized world, in ensuring that we are attuned to the spaces we occupy and to one another (as Gadamer describes) – a task essential to hermeneutics - have become especially apparent in the built environment. Here, the deep-rooted traditions of ‘city-making,’ expressed through the communicative dimensions of buildings, urban spaces, ceremonies, and festive events, are being transformed into homogenous real-estate, emptied of civic presence and defined by little more than space-planning criteria. If we construe hermeneutics to entail forms of translation through interpretation, then the built environment constitutes, historically at least, its most visible (and visceral) barometer of change through the situational contexts of citizens and their participatory relationships. This background ‘tradition,’ moreover, of civic space, also provides the context for hermeneutical thinking of the wider environment, in which urgent questions of ecological balance between urban and rural settings have been much debated and contested. Indeed, recent scholarly studies in environmental hermeneutics have demonstrated how the emergence of the city throughout history has been inextricably related to changing perceptions of landscape and the ‘rhythms’ of the natural world (in this regard, see D. Utsler).


The groundwork of the project will consist of cutting-edge hermeneutic research on the following topics: “Hermeneutics, Ontology, Finitude;” “Space, Spatiality, Place;” “Dwelling Being Belonging;” “Language Dwelling Space;” “Ground, Embodiment, Praxis;” “Ontology, Technology and Poesis;” “Memory, Narrativity, Politics;” “Dwelling, Topology, Topography”. To the above mentioned philosophical and conceptual crossroads will correspond a set of online sessions of an “International Permanent Seminar” that will count on the participation of the members of the research team and of invited international renowned scholars.


The work in progress will first be discussed in the “International Permanent Seminar” and developed in two major “International Congresses on Hermeneutics of Architecture.” The first one of these congresses will be held, at the end of the first year of the project, in one of the Institutions where team members are based. The second one, to be held in the final year of the project, will take place at the University of Coimbra. That is to say, the research of Hermes&Lares will be carried out throughout the whole duration of the project, with provisional results being delivered sequentially along with the sessions of the international permanent seminar. However, all these constant efforts and scientific outputs will be further developed and discussed in two major moments of the project, corresponding to the international congresses already mentioned. In each one of these international congresses, all team members will be invited to present their contributions to the project.


Because of their unquestionable expertise, as leading and renowned scholars in the field of the hermeneutics of architecture, the consultants will be invited to attend the international congresses as a specific organizational and scientific meeting will be held with the core group of the project (aside from the program of the international congresses). In the first of these two occasions, and in view of the presentation of the first sediment results of the project, the consultants’ insights on whether the project is progressing in an original, vigorous, and essential way will be taken into account in view of the operationalization and scientific coordination of the second year of the project. In the final moment of the project, The consultants will thus have key input regarding the way the project is achieving its goals, thus offering critical insights on how to manage scientifically the last period of the project.


Brill International, Hermeneutics in Enactment: International Research in Hermeneutics and Phenomenology 


Luis Antonio Umbelino, Justin Snell, and Andrzej Wierciński, editors

Hermeneutics of Architecture

Dwelling in the Horizon of Finitude

volume one



Andrzej Wierciński, University of Warsaw, Poland

The Eventing of Dwelling in the World with Others: Human Finitude and the Opening of Openness



The Spatiality of Understanding


Andrzej Wierciński, University of Warsaw, Poland

The Hermeneutic Space of Understanding


Alberto Perez-Gomez, McGill University, Canada

Architectural Discourse as Hermeneutics


Josep Muntañola Thornberg, Barcelona Universitat Politecnica de Catalunya, Spain

Architecture as a Human Interlocation: A Dialogical Interlocution between Ricoeur and Bakhtin



Architecture as a Metaphor


Jeffrey Andrew Barash, Université de Picardie, France

Architecture and the Metaphors of Dwelling



Ground Embodiment Praxis


Christian Frost, London Metropolitan University, UK

The Hermeneutics of Architecture and Festival


Alex Dougherty, Independent Scholar, and Maximilian Sternberg, University of Cambridge, UK

World as Play, World as Picture: Architectural Hermeneutics in 20th-century Germany


Diogo Ferrer, University of Coimbra, Portugal

Vision and Emotions in Architecture


Justin Snell, University of Cape Town, South Africa

The Hermeneutics of Dwelling and Urban Order


Dwelling Being Belonging


Karsten Harries, Yale University, USA

In Search for Home (1998)


Luís Umbelino, University of Coimbra, Portugal

I am at Home: A Hermeneutic Approach to Human Space


David Utsler, North Central College, Texas, USA

Flesh and Place: A Carnal Hermeneutics of Dwelling


Henriette Steiner, Universdity of Copenhagen, Denmark

Justice in the Post-Pandemic City: Learning from Copenhagen



The Historical Movement of Contemporary Architecture


Paul Kidder, Seattle University, USA

The Horizon of Architectural Modernism


Ecology Topology Topography


Nicholas Temple, London Metropolitan University, UK

Here Below - Except there is no up above? : Confronting Architecture’s New Horizons in the Age of Climate Change


Constantinos V. Proimos, Hellenic Open University and Metsovion National Technical University of Athens, Greece

Martin Heidegger and Marc Augé: The Notion of Non-Place

Poetic Measuring. Martin Heidegger’s Philosophy and Hermeneutics of Architecture


Wendy Pullan, University of Cambridge, UK

The Nature of Urban Conflict: a development of nomos with respect to everyday life and customs in contested cities


Ingrid Stefanovic, University of Toronto, Canada

School Design and Pedagogical Place


Lucy Elvis, National University of Ireland Galway, Ireland

Texts without Readers: Pandemic Imagery of Abandoned City Spaces


Space, Spatiality, Place


Gabriela Świtek, University of Warsaw, Poland

The Visible and the Latent: The Horizon in a City 


Matthew Barac, London Metropolitan University, UK


Jeff Malpas, University of Tasmania, Australia


Onur Karamercan, University of Tasmania, Australia


Randall Lindstrom, University of Tasmania, Australia

Approaching Philosophy from the Architectural Perspective


Kenneth B. Frampton, Columbia University, New York, USA


Forrest Clingerman, Ohio Northern University, USA


Federica Goffi, Carleton University, Canada


Mari Hvattum, The Oslo School of Architecture and Design, Norway




Justin Snell, University of Cape Town, South Africa


Luis Antonio Umbelino, Justin Snell, and Andrzej Wierciński, editors


Hermeneutics of Architecture

Between Fragility and Resilience

volume two

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