Man, machine and meaning : architecture challenging technology

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Fischbeck, Hauke B.M.
Issue Date
Thesis (M. Arch.)
Department of Architecture
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From the very beginning of architecture, technology as a constituting part of culture and civilization was reflected through buildings, there existed a mutual dependence of technology and architecture. Thus, architecture and technology were always inseparable parts of their cultural background. Until the late nineteenth Century however, technology represented merely the set of tools and devices, that made architecture possible and was therefore viewed as an unspirited and subcultural man-servant in the background. The development of technology and its products, the machines - "devices for producing useful work" -, were therefore mostly welcomed without questioning; for the intention was liberating mankind through the capacity for invention and experimentation. Accordingly, the idea of the device in pursuit of liberation was projected on the early machines.Yet the potential and threat of technology and our perception of it, its implications for civilization had even earlier been a topic of examination by both philosophers and writers. Consequently, industrialization and the mechanization of our daily life promoted a changing of attitude towards technology in general: our bringing-forth of the machine was increasingly perceived with ambiguity, for the more importance it gained, the more obvious became modern civilization's dependence on technology, and the paradox of being highly valued and simultaneousely feared, mirrored the dilemma in which man had maneuvered himself through his own creation.We now live in a world dominated by technological thinking: decisions in any field and any level of human experience, whether political, cultural or social are ever-increasingly required to respond to criteria of efficiency, economy and one-dimensional utility. It is a technocratic world, its moral supplanted by the 'inherently good' implications of free market economy, capitalism. Profit and profitability are the standards of evaluation. Predetermination of and through economic practicability calls the dignifying, the liberating of human experience and experiment into question.After presenting a polemic interpretation of our Being, determined by the relation of man to technology and our misconception of the technological as well as its implications respectively, the potential of architecture as a mediator between technology and culture is discussed. This leads, finally, to the interpretation of a 'new' philosophical approach taken by architects to deal with the relation of man and technology, intellectually engaging the ambiguity and the paradox by revealing the problematic relationship of man and his machine.