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Research Interests

Architecture and hermeneutics

The architecture of Álvaro Siza

Research Focus

Meaning, Action and Place in the Work of Álvaro Siza: An Adapted Application of Paul Ricoeur's Theory of Narrative Hermeneutics and Hans Georg Gadamer's Hermeneutic Ontology

Research Statement

This research offers an analysis of the work of Álvaro Siza in the context of architecture as an act of understanding. The analysis is framed in terms of the work of architecture as a reinterpretation of its place and of the particular mode of action that it configures. In this model of architecture, the meaning inscribed in the configured building is actualised in the response of the inhabiter, in its various forms. The research argues that Siza’s work is an example of architecture resulting from a conscious engagement with the structures of meaning that give it context. This results in works that support their inhabiter’s existential examination through providing a forum against which the inhabiter may make-sense-of their position within the larger collective reality or world.

For this analysis, the research has adapted Paul Ricoeur's theory of narrative hermeneutics[1] in combination with Hans-Georg Gadamer's hermeneutic ontology[2]. Where Gadamer’s philosophy provides an account of the world to which interpretation is central, Ricoeur’s philosophy provides an account of the method of interacting with that world – the method of interpretation. The research builds on what Ricoeur refers to as the entanglement of space and time in architecture[3] to provide an account of the built world as a key element of the hermeneutic situation. For example, while Gadamer’s hermeneutics highlights the temporal nature of human existence and “effective[4] history,”[5] this model foregrounds the spatial nature of human existence and “effective place.” Similarly, through the application of this model to Siza’s works, the research further develops Ricoeur’s assertion that where narrative is the configuration of time into human time, architecture is the configuration of space into human space.[6]

[1] Ricoeur, P. (1990). Time and Narrative (Vol. 1). (K. McLaughlin, & D. Pellauer, Trans.) Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press.

[2] Gadamer, H.-G. (2004). Truth and Method (Second ed.). London & New York: Continuum.

[3] Ricoeur, P. (2016) ‘Architecture and narrativity.’ Ricoeur Studies. Vol 7. No 2. pp. 31-42., p.32

[4] “Effective” as the adjective form of “to effect” i.e., to cause something to happen or bring something about – in this case, human understanding.

[5] Gadamer, H.-G. op. cit.

[6] Ricoeur, P. (2016). op. cit.



B.A. Architecture, University of Westminster, 2007 – 2011

B.A. Anthropology and Philosophy, Maynooth University, 2003 – 2006


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