George Mackellar

Newcastle 2021

The Sound of One Hand Opening: Architecture as a Door of Perception

The term ‘doors of perception’ was coined by Aldous Huxley in his 1954 essay of the same title. Huxley develops the subject of transcendental experiences, in which his experiments in psychedelics are one of many doors leading to altered states of consciousness. This dissertation sets out to identify how architecture can be perceived as a door to alternative ways of perceiving the world and its contemporary society, and elaborates on what these experiences might look like. The discussion is framed through the lens of two schools of thought running parallel to each other. Zen Buddhism and its accompanying meditative practices is used to clarify ontological phenomena that arise during an immersion in space, while the application of architectural theory aims to analyse ‘doors of perception’ within the built environment. Referring to the work of Le Corbusier, Carlo Scarpa and Aldo van Eyck along with a range of historical sources in Zen discourse, the dissertation examines the potential closeness between the two disciplines, showing the effect that together, they can have on architectural design.


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