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The Hand and the Soul

Aesthetics and Ethics in Architecture and Art
Sanda Iliescu, ed.

BUY Cloth · 320 pp. · 7 × 8 · ISBN 9780813927602 · $60.00 · Apr 2009
BUY Paper · 320 pp. · 7 × 8 · ISBN 9780813927725 · $27.50 · Apr 2009

The essays in The Hand and the Soul explore the question of how ethical ideas guiding the design process--a concern for the environment or for social justice--relate to the beauty of our buildings, cities, and artworks. The book presents a range of viewpoints and does not ignore the perils of an easy association of ethics and aesthetics. Yet the majority of contributors, among them historians, theorists, as well practicing designers and artists, argue passionately in defense of the idea that the good and the beautiful can and should be able to find a common ground in the design disciplines.

The book begins with an exploration of recent difficulties in pairing ethics and aesthetics. Can one effect a philosophical convergence of these elements, or is it dangerous to conflate moral and aesthetic terms? The discussion continues with considerations of the overlap that occurs between the fine arts and the design disciplines, the intersection of aesthetic theory and practice with sustainability and environmental science, and the concept of "open works"—projects whose design processes are flexible, nonhierarchical, and attuned to the unique features of a particular place or cultural situation. The book concludes with a look at several contrasting ideas developed in the essays and examines ethics as a desire for community, as well as a sense of responsibility, an obligation to contemplate not only what buildings offer us but also what they may take away.

In juxtaposing the work of historians and theorists with that of practicing designers and artists, The Hand and the Soul, whose title is drawn from an essay by American artist Philip Guston, seeks to bridge the divide between theory and practice, between abstract ethical or aesthetic concepts and practical ways of making tangible artifacts. In a field dominated by esoteric studies and, at the other extreme, primarily illustrated works, The Hand and the Soul offers a vital discussion that is at once theoretically rigorous and grounded in the practice of art, architecture, landscape architecture, and urbanism.


Richard Shusterman * Joan Ockman * Howard Singerman * Robin Dripps * Nathaniel Coleman * Thomas Berding * Steven A. Moore * William Sherman * Timothy Beatley * Elissa Rosenberg * Phoebe Crisman * Sanda Iliescu * W. G. Clark


This collection is a remarkable series of diversely framed reengagements with the aesthetics and ethical dimensions of architectural design and practice...Historians, photographers, and practitioners will benefit from these effective arguments for the significance of aesthetic/ethical thought and action.


We are living in the age of aestheticization; life styles, architecture, personality, politics and even war are being deliberately aestheticized. At a time when everything is regarded as mere appearance, image, fashion and style, we need to be reminded of the real essence of beauty and its relationship with aesthetic values and judgements, as the thoughtful essays in The Hand and the Soul certainly do.

Juhani Pallasmaa, author of The Thinking Hand: Embodied and Existential Wisdom in Architecture and The Eyes of the Skin: Architecture and the Senses

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