Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
thesis_access.pdf (68.95 MB)

Sartre in Space: Rethinking Architecture & Rebuilding Philosophy

Download (68.95 MB)
posted on 2021-11-10, 20:18 authored by Mustard, Jane

This thesis considers spatial and architectural language used in philosophical text to determine the value of a cross-disciplinary relationship between architecture and philosophy. It approaches architectural figure as more than just metaphor for philosophy, and proposes that philosophy relies on the spatial nature of architectural language to constitute itself. The case studies provided elucidate a realm where architecture and philosophy have been explored simultaneously; where architecture is used as a tool to develop philosophical propositions and where philosophical text generates architectural design. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Adolf Loos worked in this way, rethinking how architecture is done while rebuilding philosophical propositions. Wittgenstein’s work as an architect was not a break from philosophy but an exploration in architectural space that developed his philosophical perspective. The house he designed is considered here as an extension of the ‘visual room’, an aphorism about image forming in The Philosophical Investigations. Loos’s writing on an ethics of style is philosophy bound to a body of architectural work. His architecture, in particular the House for Josephine Baker, and its conflicts of modernity and the relationship between interior and exterior, is inextricably linked to his normative theories of how we should live. Maurice Merleau-Ponty defined phenomenology in spatial terms that depend heavily on the experience of architectural space. His description of the ‘phenomenal body’ and its ability to understand the ‘spatiality of a situation’ is evidence for an epistemological link between phenomenology and architecture. The architecture of Steven Holl is analysed for its reconstruction of Merleau-Pontian spatiality in the Residence for the Swiss Ambassador, a commission that offered Holl a generous affordance of space with which to explore this influence. The main philosophical text used in the thesis is the philosophy of Jean-Paul Sartre due to the largely ignored latent spatial nature of it. It is significant that the text relies on spatial relationships to convey its meaning. Sartre’s concepts have been defined, developed and implemented by architecture in the resulting design, ‘A House for Sartre’. The design builds on Sartrean concepts of the self, other people, objects in the world and consciousness. It does this by rethinking and rebuilding on this philosophy, while at the same time rethinking and rebuilding the architecture of the house, a domestic space. The programme of a ‘house’ offers concepts of domesticity as context for the design project, and this adds another dimension to the philosophy. The project pushes the limits of Sartre’s descriptions and tests his examples in the tangible realm of architecture. Through inhabitation of such an architecture, one can better gain an understanding of this philosophy. As Sartre so often appeals to his readers to inspect the state of their own consciousness, then perhaps most significantly, the architecture provides not only a conscious experience of the house, but an experience where inhabitants are conscious of their own consciousness in ‘A House for Sartre’.


Copyright Date


Date of Award



Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Rights License

Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Master of Architecture

Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Research Masters Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Wood, Peter