Cross-cultural significance of connotative meaning in architecture: a comparison of Chinese, British, and American interpretations of meaning in Chinese Gardens
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Before the Industrial Revolution, architecture was considered one ofthe disciplines of the humanities. It was recognized that well-designed buildings contain both denotative and connotative meanings to satisfy physical and psychological needs. The project of modernity and the accompanying search for the universal have "shattered this optimism." Only the importance of physical need is emphasized in architecture today. It embodies the power of science, and legitimizes architecture as a recognizable 'professional' enterprise. Functionalism prevails in architecture which may contribute to a general ignorance of any connotative meaning by the designer and the general public alike. This has created a situation in which much of architecture tends to be merely an object of utility, invoking the outrage of such as Thomas Bernhard; "... every new building they (builders and architects) put up is another crime they commit, a building crime against humanity . We are helpless against the destruction of our global surface by architects." To solve the problems resulting from a fianctionalist only approach to architectural design—sterile image, throw away buildings, glass boxes, etc., is to restore connotative meaning to architecture. The question is can modernity and connotation coexist in architecture? In the author's view, through the inclusion of connotative meaning, much more of architecture can be understood, even by culturally detached viewers, and that its inclusion would provide universality whereby people would enjoy the built environment much more than they do at present. The purpose of this thesis is to test this point of view.