Excursions into Everyday Spaces: Mapping Aesthetic Potentiality of Urban Environments through Preaesthetic Sensitivities

Dissertation, University of Helsinki (2015)

Abstract

This study examines the complex relation between spatial experience and aesthetic experience. It is argued that spatial experience specifically in the context of everyday spaces makes it possible to experience them aesthetically as well. A wide selection of research ranging from environmental and philosophical aesthetics to architectural theory, psychology, human geography, and other relevant disciplines is employed in order to achieve a more detailed picture of how spatial experience is formed in the first place. This experience is described mainly in terms of phenomenology but is then related to other ways of understanding experiences and their prerequisites. Different notions of space and spatiality and a more comprehensive articulation of the relation of perception to spatial experience, sensory perception, and how senses contribute to spatial experience are in the focus of attention at the beginning of the study. Different experiential layers that can be distinguished within the space which is closest experienced are explored. Interaction with environment is discussed and the notion of preaesthetic is presented to clarify the relation between the two different types of experiences. Following this, the notion of preaesthetic is studied against eminent notions such as aesthetic attitude and aesthetic engagement that show elements that have traditionally been considered to either lead to or define aesthetic experiences. This study shows that the effect that spatial experience has on revealing aesthetic potentialities in everyday environments is far more complicated than has previously been understood. Due to its contingent qualities, spatial experience sometimes leads to "failed" aesthetic experiences even in situations where there is obvious aesthetic potentiality. Even though there are some overlapping qualities in spatial and aesthetic experiences, they cannot thus be equated, as has more or less been done in different branches studying the topics of art and architectural experiences, for example. In the final part of the study, some possible directions for future research are pointed out and the application possibilities of these new developments in aesthetic theory are presented by short case studies, in which a closer look is taken into a chosen set of urban everyday spaces.

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Sanna Lehtinen
Aalto University

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