Architecture as the receptacle of Mitsein

Temple, Nicholas (2015) Architecture as the receptacle of Mitsein. In: Intersections of space and ethos. Routledge research in architecture . Routledge, London, pp. 138-149. ISBN 9781138783249


This paper examines a dispute between Martin Heidegger and his former student Emmanuel Levinas concerning the nature and meaning of mitsein ('being with'), a neologism that forms a key element in Heidegger's phenomenology ('Being and Time'). I argue that the dispute provides a useful theoretical framework for rethinking the ethical dimensions of space, in the way mitsein serves as a 'receptacle' for collective being. The paper first unpacks the meaning(s) of the term in Heidegger's philosophy, and then examines the dispute in question in which Levinas accuses Heidegger of not developing an ethical underpinning to being-with; specifically with regard to fellow human beings. This 'shortcoming' opens up a field of study about the spatial dimensions between 'face-to-face' and 'side-by-side' relationships in architecture, highlighted by an examination of historical examples, most notably a poetry competition on the subject of friendship ('Certame Coronario') held in Florence Cathedral in the early 15th century. The concluding part of the paper argues that the decline in the meaning and purpose of civic and religious space in the contemporary world (the basis of collective participation in previous ages), requires us to rethink fundamentally the architectural contexts of social interaction, where questions of mitsein can be re-evaluated. A guiding reference in this investigation is Richard Sennett's book 'Together: The Rituals, Pleasures & Politics of Cooperation', that similarly argues that social bonds need to be strengthened in an age of increasing fragmentation and insularity, and that architecture is central to this 'recovery'.

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