RELATED TERMS: Branding; Interaction Design; Sculpture; Urban design; Narratology; Sir John Soane Museum; Architectuul

Rowan Moore (2014) argues that it is a terrible misconception to think that architecture is a visual art. To the extent that you do indeed see architecture, it is still not a purely visual experience. When you look at something, you interpret it, you make associations, find memories evoked, gain a greater or lesser sense of the physical efforts and skill that went into making a structure. Architecture does not work with one sense alone, but with synaesthetic hybrids. Such synaesthetic hybrids can be understood as narrative environments.

Philip Johnson thinks that it is the modern perversion of photography that freezes architecture to three dimensions or, in some buildings, to two dimensions. However, Johnson argues, architecture is surely not the design of space, certainly not the massing or organizing of volumes. These are auxiliary to the main point which is the organization of procession. Architecture exists only in time.

At the dawn of the 21st century, Charles Jencks (2003) perceived the beginnings of a new paradigm emerging in architecture. It related, Jencks thought, to a deep transformation going on in the sciences, which, in time, will permeate all other areas of life. The new sciences of complexity, which concern such notions as fractals, nonlinear dynamics, the new cosmology and self-organising systems, have brought about this change in perspective. We have moved from a mechanistic view of the universe to one that is self-organising at all levels, from the atom to the galaxy. Illuminated by the computer, this new worldview is paralleled by changes now occurring in architecture.

Sam Jacobs (2012) argues that, “Through re-enactment, architecture rewrites itself, making fictions a part of the real landscape that surrounds us.” Understanding architecture in this way opens up the path to the ways in which the materialities of narrative environments operate as real-fictions and fictional-realities at once, but with a critical element that draws attention to the constitution of the real, not to any simple acceptance.


Derrida, J. (1986). Point de Folie – maintenant l’architecture. Available from 8/DerridaPointdeFolie.pdf [Accessed 1 June 2017].

Jacob, S. (2012) Make it real: architecture as enactment. Moscow, RU: Strelka Press.

Jencks, C. (2003). The New paradigm in architecture. Hunch. Available from [Accessed 8 October 2011].

Johnson, P. (1965). Whence & whither: the processional element in architecture. Perspectiva, 9/10 167–178. Available from http://www.jstor.or/stable/1566915 [Accessed 8 June 2011].

Moore, R. (2014). A masterclass in spatial awareness. [Sensing Spaces : Architecture Reimagined – review]. Observer, 26 January, 33. Available from [Accessed 30 January 2014].