Extending Skin

Architecture theory and conceptual metaphors

  • Philip Plowright Lawrence Technological University


ABSTRACT: Architects use metaphor constantly in their writing, speech and project development. It is engaged for its ability to transfer meaning and as an aid in orientating design positions (Collins 1971; Seligmann and Seligmann 1977; Alberti 1988; Forty 2000; Hearn 2003; Muller 2009; Libeskind 2012). While architects have acknowledged the general presence of metaphor as part of design theory, there is little understanding of metaphor’s deeper role in architectural cognition and its effect on architectural values (Lakoff and Johnson 1980; Caballero 2006). This paper examines a small aspect of metaphor use in architecture in order to follow a thread from historically grounded applications of metaphorical terms to contemporary and highly conventionalized conceptualization of spatial design. The focus is on the HUMAN BODY as a source domain and, in particular, the concept of skin. Through the discussion, skin (and thus the human body) is shown to be present in architectural discussions not only knowingly used metaphorical expressions but also in highly conventionalized and normalized occurrences. These unrecognized examples of conceptual metaphors allow skin move well beyond simply being an analogue for a building enclosure. Rather, concepts related to skin are extended into interpretations of actions as a projection of human capacity into deep disciplinary examples of architectural concepts and abstractions.


KEYWORDS: conceptual metaphor theory, architectural theory, cognitive linguistics, building as body, conventionalization, cognitive semantics

How to Cite
Plowright, P. (2018). Extending Skin. ARCC Conference Repository. https://doi.org/10.17831/rep:arcc%y552