The essays included in Encounters 1 range from considerations of identity and intention to technology and nature, from standardized systems of construction to phenomenological approaches to architecture. With references to anthropology, psychology, sociology, and philosophy alongside images drawn from literature, theater, music, and the visual arts, Pallasmaa delineates an architectural landscape of active, deep, humanistic cultural engagement. By turns idealistic and somber, skeptical and persuasive, Encounters is a passionate and precisely phrased set of arguments addressing “the task of architecture” at hand.
Encounters binds together a highly selective collection of essays, lectures, and articles in an edited, thematically comprehensive format. Several essays, previously given as lectures, are published here for the first time. Important essays, with previously limited availability – “The Geometry of Feeling,” and “Hapticity and Time,” for example – are included, as are lesser known articles addressing specific architectural works, the figures of Aulis Blomstedt and Alvar Aalto, and the consequences of a contemporary culture obsessed with materialism and consumption. An equally careful selection of images accompanies the essays.
“Architecture is fundamentally existential in its very essence, and it arises from existential experience and wisdom rather than intellectualized and formalized theories. We can only prepare ourselves for our work in architecture by developing a distinct sensitivity and awareness for architectural phenomena.” With these declarative words, Finnish architect, educator and critic Juhani Pallasmaa resounds the call of his 2005 volume, Encounters: Architectural Essays, in this newly edited second volume of essays, Encounters 2. The essays comprising this new volume are drawn from an intensive decade of teaching, lecturing and writing in the new millennium, as well as from a lifetime of biographical and critical observations on both architects and artists.
A new, extended interview, “Poetics and Life,” introduces and frames the concerns and character of Encounters 2. Essays reflecting on architectural essences, meanings and boundaries expand upon Pallasmaa’s commitment to an authentic architecture of existential depth and phenomenal appeal. New intellectual territories are explored, focusing on concepts of “vagueness” and “atmosphere.” Importantly, a series of artistic and architectural “portraits” are nested inside the thematic structure and amongst the more abstract contemplations. These specific critical commentaries and personal appreciations have a distinct and prominent place in the author’s repertoire, and provide an intimate particularity to Pallasmaa’s thought and expression. Portraits are drawn of prominent Finnish artists such as Kain Tapper, Juhana Blomstedt, Maaria Wirkkala, Jorma Hautala, and Raimo Utriainen and notable Finnish architects such as Alvar Aalto, Reima Pietilä, and the partnership of Mikko Heikkinen and Markku Komonen. These are all leavened by further commentaries on Steven Holl, Fred Sandback, and Rachel Whiteread – and the great Finnish designer Tapio Wirkkala as well as the award-winning Finnish film director Aki Kaurismäki.
“I see the fundamental task of architecture,” Pallasmaa states, “as the mediation between the world and ourselves, history, present and future, human institutions and individuals, and between the material and the spiritual. This is nothing short of a poetic calling … Architecture can strengthen and maintain our grasp of the world and ourselves, and support humility and pride, curiosity and optimism.” Encounters 2 maintains and amplifies these ambitions, providing rich insight and bracing support in the contemporary moment for students and professionals, artists and architects, critics and citizens alike.