How should we view architects and their work? If we think of buildings as purely functional, then we seem to be thinking of architects as means to ends only, forgetting their concern for aesthetics. Conversely, if we see buildings purely as aesthetic objects, we are underplaying the technical - scientific - expertise of architects. Is there a middle ground of judgement here?

There must be a middle ground as far as the status of buildings is concerned -- they can be viewed both functionally and aesthetically. And of course it is a common criticism of a building that one aspect has been overvalued at the expense of the other. Such criticism shows that we can see architects from the same two perspectives, so that we can condemn an architect either for failing to provide us with an effective building (the architect and her skill being viewed almost as mere 'means' to our ends), or for putting up something ugly (in which case we are casting aspersions on the architect's aesthetic capacities). What one must remember also is that one might admire the skills an architect shows in producing a particularly effective building, so that architectural activity can be both an end in itself, exemplifying certain excellences, and directed towards an independent end (a building). Aristotle puts this point especially clearly at the beginning of the Nicomachean Ethics.

I’dlike to add a few points to Roger’s very reasonable remarks. First, thefact that works of architecture can be seen both functionally (i.e., interms of broadly utilitarian purposes) and aesthetically does notdistinguish them from many other works of art. Consider stained glasswindows, Native American pottery, woven rugs, masks used in tribalrituals, etudes—all of these may have both functional and aestheticpurposes. You might also consider artworks that are designed to promote political or ethical change. It might be thought that what is distinctive about architecture is that it is essentially functional. Is it the case that it is not possible for something to be a work of architecture unless it has a utilitarian function? This is tricky, but I would be hesitant to say yes. (Consider architectural follies.) Second, I wouldn’t put too much weight on the idea of an aesthetic object. Works of art may do a range of thing: represent, express emotion, express a view of the world, exhibit form, etc. They may also provide aesthetic experiences (or experiences of beauty), but this does not seem necessary for art status. Hence, a work of architecture may succeed artistically without being an aesthetic object or serving strictly aesthetic purposes. Third,even if a building only served utilitarian functions it wouldn’t followthat we would or should treat its designer as merely a means to someend. (Of course a building that only had utilitarian function might not count as a work of architecture.)

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