Architecture is an art rather than a science because, contrary to what proponents of art for art’s sake have repeatedly said, the former is dedicated to aesthetical rather than ethical ideals. Whether or not we agree with the latter idea, it would be a mistake to ignore how distinct architecture is from other forms of art due to its role in creating the environments in which social life occurs. The influence of architectural works on human behavior is so significant that the emergence of a new field devoted to studying issues arising from this influence does not seem improbable.

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Ethics vs. Aesthetics: Urban Design_©Dezeen

The meaning of Ethics vs. Aesthetics

The word “ aesthetic ” is sometimes used interchangeably with the words “beauty” and “liking,” leading many to believe that the topic of aesthetics only pertains to issues of simple beauty. For instance, someone may use an object’s “aesthetics” to justify why they like the way it looks. It’s interesting to note that aesthetics are frequently discussed in terms of an object’s outward look, even within the highly specialized language of architecture.

Any aesthetician with philosophical knowledge will challenge this constrained perspective by asserting something like “the aesthetic is everything. “To overcome this discursive restriction in architecture and related fields, the aesthetic discourse beyond inquiries about solely visual phenomena includes those generated from all parts of the human experience.

Questions of ethics frequently arise when the aesthetic is approached in a way that elevates its considerations above those of simple beauty. Questions about the reasons behind, for example, a structure’s shape raises more than just traditional aesthetic ones. Problems regarding why, for example, a building’s design takes the shape that it does raise more traditional aesthetic questions and queries about what function or meaning the building provides beyond merely aesthetic appeal.

The frequently ignored aspect of architecture brings philosophers’ attention to the ethical role architecture plays and the honest function architects perform. The intention is to advance the conversation beyond the constraints of a simple visual understanding of the architectural experiences by challenging both philosophers and architects to consider issues relating to architecture’s ethical and aesthetic characteristics.

Case Study

The first and most significant factor influencing formal urban aesthetics is “character and identity. “Green design, incompatibility between design and identity, a lack of protection for continuity and the environment, towering buildings, plan-based vs. project-based development, harmony between building groups, and interior building design come after this aspect.

The Development Law (Turkish: mar Kanunu) has specific essential articles, and its requirements on size, mass, facade design, color harmony, and ecological landscape are all connected to Factor 1. (character and identity). The Directive on the Preparation of Spatial Plans contains some additional criteria, referred to as “design guidelines.”The administrative laws, special-purpose laws, and other legal instruments all include similar allusions.

Urban elements that have changed due to neoliberal policies and goals have come under fire for lacking aesthetic value. Because the identity and texture of these regions were not taken into account in the design, this circumstance, particularly in the 2000s, has impacted the recently developed environments.

Thus, the idea of urban aesthetics has grown significantly in significance throughout time. Although there is considerable research on urban aesthetics , there are few studies on formal urban aesthetics concerning recently constructed surroundings. In this study, the characteristics that have the most significant impact on formal urban aesthetics have been identified using factor analysis, demonstrating which issues the law fails to address.

Comparing these elements in the context of Istanbul reveals inconsistent provisions in several laws about urban aesthetics and that some aspects of the legislation suffer from grave flaws.

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The view of Istanbul city _ ©lonelyplanet

An architect’s skill might be questioned if their creations make their consumers feel hopeless and depressed. Indeed, the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington and the Jewish Museum in Berlin by Daniel Libeskind were praised for the negative and horrifying emotions they evoke, but this kind of impact is regarded as ethically appropriate for structures of this type. If these museums had been created such that visiting them was too enjoyable an experience, their designers would have come under fire for failing to elicit the proper moral responses.

The view of Jewish Museum _ ©Archdaily

Frank Gehry’s masterwork: The Guggenheim Museum , proves that architects don’t have to choose between ethics and aesthetics, even if the sustainable building has traditionally placed more emphasis on environmental effect than aesthetics. Together, sustainability and beauty may create something unique that will last a long time.

Conclusion

Architecture’s “quasi-identity” of aesthetics and ethics is a false identity. In actuality, it’s merely another method to underline how ethics and aesthetics are fundamental to Urban design. If this is the case, the term “internal” suggests that ethical issues must be resolved by architectural choices that also consider aesthetic matters.

However, these issues may be conceptually described in quite different ways. A facility that, for whatever reason, satisfies the senses and the mind is not the same as a space that enables people to discover who they are, where they may feel at home, and fosters genuine interpersonal relationships.

Undoubtedly, it is theoretically possible (and relatively likely) for someone to feel completely at home in an unattractive location or for an aesthetically pleasing structure to cause unpleasant emotions from an ethical perspective.

The key is that architecture does not consist of creating beautiful products that are contrary to the ideals of its users or unattractive Public spaces for people who may find happiness in them. The critical point for the current discussion is that, for architects, aesthetical and ethical problems corresponding to the fulfillment of these requirements could never be solved independently from one another. 

References: 

  1. Conference, E., University, N., University of Wales, C., Pennsylvania, U. and Pennsylvania, U., 2022. Ethics and Aesthetics of Architecture and Environment Conference . [online] Philevents.org. Available at: [Accessed 1 July 2022].
  2. Aia.org. 2022. The ethics of architectural practice . [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 July 2022].
  3. Witpress.com. 2022. [online] Available at: [Accessed 2 July 2022].
  4. Iranarze.ir. 2022. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 July 2022].
  5. Harvard Graduate School of Design. 2022. Ethics of the Urban . [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 July 2022].
Author

Sakshi Jain is a fifth-year architecture student at the Mysore School of Architecture in Mysuru. She believes in creating experiences and exploring - big and small - which explains her love of language. With a rekindled love of reading and a desire to travel, she intends to go places and share her experiences.

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