An Atmospheric Approach to Urban Aesthetics.

  • Wang Zhuofei


Usually, our aesthetic experience in urban environment is oriented towards the picturesque tradition which focuses on the visual image of an aesthetic object as well as its form-related qualities. In this respect, the elements of the urban environment are visually selected, highlighted and combined. A unified urban space is thus split apart. However, what aesthetically appeals to us in a city should not be solely related to its pictorial image, due to the fact that our relationship with environmental conditions primarily exists in a multi-sensually perceptible way which is essentially atmospheric. Here, the term atmosphere has gone beyond the physio-meteorological scope and become an aesthetic concept which was initially developed by German scholars in the past decades. As the primary sensuous reality constructed by both the perceiving subject and the perceived object, atmosphere is neither a purely subjective state, nor an objective thing, but essentially a quasi-thing pervaded by a specific emotional quality. As a ubiquitous phenomenon, atmosphere forms the foundation of our life experience. It is impossible to free ourselves from its power. In this respect, urban scenes which we experience cannot be reduced to a pictorial image as well. Rather, they are atmospheric phenomena which are primarily grasped through a co-present body-being. Starting from this point of view, the central focus of urban aesthetics should therefore not be on the question of how to see and assess the physical form and spatial structure of a city, but on how to perceive their characteristics through the whole body, namely of how we are bodily disposed in urban space.

[Keywords] atmosphere, urban environment, body, smellscape


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Zhuofei, W. (2018). An Atmospheric Approach to Urban Aesthetics. MÓDULO ARQUITECTURA CUC, 21(1), 161-180.
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