The Existential Image: Lived Space and Architecture

  • Juhani Pallasmaa Helsinki University of Technology


Walter Benjamin pointed out the affinity of cinema and architecture, and argued unexpectedly that these art forms are both essentially tactile arts. The tactility of the material art of building is not difficult to grasp, but the idea that a cinematic projection could result in fundamentally tactile experience certainly meets objections. However, the philosophical as well as neurological studies of the past few decades in perception, emotion, and thought, as well as in artistic expressions, suggest that these two arts, or poetic images at large, address all our senses, including our synthesizing existential sense, all at once. The arts communicate through the "flesh of the world", to use a notion of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. The acts of perception, feeling, thinking, and memorizing call for the reality and sense of embodiment. We identify ourselves unknowingly with constructed architectural spaces as well as projected cinematic situations with our empathetic capacity. So, Benjamin's argument could be re-formulated: cinema and architecture are embodied arts in which the external and the internal are fully intertwined and fused. "The world is wholly inside, and I am wholly outside myself", as Merleau-Ponty enigmatically argues.

How to Cite
PALLASMAA, Juhani. The Existential Image: Lived Space and Architecture. Phainomenon, [S.l.], n. 25, p. 157-173, oct. 2012. ISSN 2183-0142. Available at: <>. Date accessed: 22 june 2018.
Monographic Section: Phenomenology and Cinema