The Eyes of the Skin

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Sophomore (College 2nd year) ・Architecture ・MLA ・1 Sources

Pallasmaa's article is mostly concerned with ocularcentrism. The word essentially refers to a vision-centered view of reality, facts, and wisdom. The article firmly opposes the supposed superiority of hearing over all other senses. Pallasmaa clearly prefers the sense of touch first and foremost. The author discusses the fundamental essence of architecture in terms of human perception and life. Pallasmaa believes that an ideal or true experience of being is one in which a person integrates all five senses to achieve a profound sense of self. The general focus on the sense of sight has led to subsequent suppression of the alternate sensory realms. Consequently, Pallasmaa asserts that this has impoverished the environment in which we live. The resultant effect of this impoverishment is a feeling of alienation and detachment. “The dominance of the eye and the suppression of the other senses tends to push us into detachment, isolation and exteriority. The art of the eye has not facilitated human rootedness in the world” (Pallasmaa & Holl 19). Ostensibly, Pallasmaa perceives that this contradicts the human nature. In essence, people are supposed to feel attached to their surroundings and to one another. This therefore constitutes a meaningful existence.

Pallasmaa proposes the sense of touch as the most reliable way for one to feel connected to one’s environment. “My body is truly the navel of my world, not in the sense of the viewing point of the central perspective, but as the very locus of reference, memory, imagination and integration” (Pallasmaa & Holl 11). By engaging the entire body into one’s entire life experience, an individual is able to unlock certain aspects of oneself that vision alone cannot enable. Basically, Pallasmaa seemingly advocates for people to see less and feel more. By feeling through the sense of touch one is able to trigger the rest of the senses and ultimately acquire the ideal human experience of integration, imagination, memory and reference.

Additionally, this relates to Pallasmaa’s inferences concerning focused vision and peripherial vision. Essentially, in the essay Pallasmaa proposes that a lack of clarity and a relatively larger amount of bewilderment, uncertainty or ambiguity of the senses could actually enhance the human experience, particularly with regards to vision. He suggests that the suppression of focused vision can actually lead to more clarity through the activation of the rest of the senses. Focused vision suppresses the power of the other senses; its suppression creates an even ground for all the senses to combine their efforts in enhancing the human experience. “Focused vision confronts us with the world whereas peripheral vision envelops us in the flesh of the world” (Pallasmaa & Holl 10).

The entire essay centers on the integration of all the senses for the purpose of enhancing the human experience. Manifestly, Pallasmaa perceives that the greatest advantage to be accrued from merging all the senses is an enlightened sense of self. Through the sense of self one is able to comprehend certain profound elements concerning one’s existence. “The sense of self, strengthened by art and architecture, allows us to engage fully in the mental dimension of dream, imagination and desire” (Pallasmaa & Holl 11). Pallasmaa perceives that without a sense of self one’s leads a meaningless existence encumbered with confusion and detachment.

The contemporary Western culture is dominated by technology. The culture fails to nurture heightened experiences of identification and individuality. The effect of this is an impoverished sense of self since individuals are not grounded in themselves. Essentially, human rootedness escapes humankind. Human rootedness is equivalent to a solid sense of self; this is only accomplished through the integration of all the senses without the hegemony of vision. While vision and hearing are largely celebrated in the modern culture, the rest of the senses are collectively repressed. An imbalance is created, which hinders the absolute human experience.

Pallasmaa asserts that life-enhancing architecture is designed to incorporate all the senses concurrently and combine people’s self-image with their experiences of the world. Importantly, substantial architecture has the ability to make one experience oneself as an absolute spiritual and embodied being. Naturally, this relates to an enhanced self-awareness which is the key to a meaningful existence. “It offers pleasurable shapes and surfaces molded for the touch of the eye and other senses, but it also incorporates and integrates physical and mental structure, giving our existential experience a strengthened coherence and significance” (Pallasmaa & Holl 12).

Conclusively, Pallasmaa holds that an ideal or authentic experience of being is one whereby an individual combines all the five senses to attain a deep sense of self. A human being is given five senses of which all must be used equally to attain the complete human experience. The integration of all five senses results in a solid sense of self; one is able to comprehend oneself and the environment in which one exists. Basically, human rootedness is attained and individuals actually become active participants in their own lives as opposed to mere observers (Pallasmaa & Holl 13). An experience such as this is authentic for the human condition.

Work Cited

Pallasmaa, Juhani & Holl, Steven. The eyes of the skin: architecture and the senses. Great Britain: John Wiley and Sons Ltd, 2005. Print.

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