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The Sound of One Hand Opening: Architecture as a Door of Perception

Part 2 Dissertation 2021
George Mackellar
Newcastle University | UK
The term ‘doors of perception’ was coined by the renowned writer and philosopher Aldous Huxley in his 1954 essay of the same title. His essay explores his experience taking a psychedelic drug known as mescalin, through which Huxley discusses the more broad subject of transcendental experiences in which psychedelics are just one of many ‘doors’ leading to altered states of consciousness.

This paper investigates how architecture can be perceived - experienced - as a door to alternative ways of perceiving the world and its contemporary society, and elaborates on what these experiences might look like or mean. The discussion is framed through the lens of two schools of thought running parallel to each other. Zen Buddhism and its accompanying meditative practices is used to clarify ontological phenomena that arise during the experience of space, while the application of architectural theory aims to analyse ‘doors of perception’ in their most concrete form: within the built environment.

Referring to the work of Le Corbusier, Carlo Scarpa and Aldo van Eyck along with a range of historical sources in Zen discourse, the paper develops a closeness between the two disciplines, showing the effect that this perspective can have on architectural practice and use.

George Mackellar

Dr Nathaniel Coleman
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