Theory and Criticism
Thesis: Architectural anthropology
I am taking up my thesis topic as design of an Institute of Anthropological and Ethnographical studies and research in india. I am doing extensive research on architectural anthropology for the same. It is a very controversial topic at the moment, and since I intend to prove and promote its relevance I will design my institute based on the ideology of an anthropological continuum of architecture. It's an extremely challenging task at the moment and one about which I am extremely ambigious at the moment. People are skeptical as to whether such a theorotical approach can work. Any suggestions shall be appreciated.

Architectural anthropology is a subject which tries to follow the evolution of architecture till its origin, define its place in the order of cultural evolution, and prove that architectural is primarily based on a theory which is not subjective or synchronic but it is scientific and based on the similar emmanent instincts of man the world over.
Eram Ansari
Thesis: Architectural anthropology
Hi Eram,

I wonder if you have read the works of Roxana Waterson. She is an anthropologist who looks at things from an architectural point of view as well. In fact, a couple of students whom I know of did a thesis regarding architectural anthropology at the School of Architecture, Ahmedabad. Of course, I must say that the thesis at Ahmedabad is a research thesis and not a design thesis. However, I will try to get you the email addresses of students who wrote them.
Vishwanath Kashikar
Thesis: Architectural anthropology
Dear Eram Ansari,

First, I must ask your pardon for the terrible delay, and second, that I dare to write with such a gigantic delay.

But, in spite of that: I appreciate highly what you had written and I now wonder what had come out of your work.
Did you finish the thesis? Were there problems with evaluation? How do you see the approach now? If this reaches you, please send me an e-mail to

Warm regards,
Nold Egenter
Thesis: Architectural anthropology

The need for all humans to seek shelter from the elements is a basic survival instinct and technique. This instinct and technique is not science. The moves from (a) seeking naturally-ocurring shelter, (b) adapting natural shelter and (c) creating artificial shelter again are not scientific but thousands of practical evolutionary steps which gradually develop into the coherent use of different materials.

This is called the "trial and error" method which is how all humans learn to build using locally available materials.
Science starts when all the properties (physical and chemical) of materials are defined and "rule of thumb" laws are derived and applied thereafter.

Given that the majority of humans throughout history (and pre-history) were unable to read or write, then any specialised proven survival techniques were handed down from father to son by word of mouth, observation and use.

The "trial and error" method was used throughout history and pre-history as a proven survival technique, if you choose to call this "scientific", then yes, all humans can use instinctively scientific thought processes.

But (yes, there is usually a but), the real division between science and instinct is that proven traditions of thought based upon the evolutionary instinct are not used abstractly.
Frank John Snelling
Thesis: Architectural anthropology
Hi Eram

In my opinion, be it anthropology or ethnography, sociology or psychology, politics or religion—all are among various aspects of architecture.

Architecture reflects the way of thinking and the style of living of the inhabitants of any particular area.
Its really very interesting topic u have selected for your thesis. I suggest you to choose architectural elements from various cultures in India. The building form and spaces should represent various ethnic societies of India.

Please refer to following books for further study: "House Form and Culture" by Amos Rapoport and "Evolution of the House" by Stephen Gardiner. Although these books are about impact of cultures on house forms and spaces but will help you to understand how the cultural concepts can be transformed in to an architectural language.

Inam Ul Haq
Thesis: Architectural anthropology
quite a stretch of time........! But, maybe just that might be particularly interesting: what came out of your intense initial interest for the topic?
With warm regards,

Nold Egenter

P.S. : I am thinking a lot about Tourism these days. Where are the roots of this tremendous energy which manages to move practically the whole European society to some traditional or vernacular environments of the world? So much energy! Just for a "happy time" of 2 or 3 weeks! Is this, in its deeper strata in fact a result of *mis-architecture*? A humanistically mistaken [post-]modernism? That is to say the incapacity of architecture to relate its forms, its environmental qualities, to mental imprints or 'archetypes' recorded in the human brain as "the wellness centre of the past", "the need for categorical polarity"! Categorical polarity, in fact, the world-harmony-principle which still today is the common basis of art, architecture, music etc. but also of religion and (originally) social structure. Is this so because this principle allowed humans to understand the world as a harmonious unity? And now this polar unity broke apart into an endless multitude of results of defined and specialised analytic processes? (the climate reacts! "Holy-day" changes into 'tsunami'). Should we therefore start to study this world assuming two competing order principles, polarity and analytics? The primary one basically being "created" by early humans creating their place? More on this see:
Nold Egenter


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