Design Studio SS 99

GO WITTGENSTEIN – Philosophy in three-dimensional space

Background of thought

Architecture and the “philosophy” that underpins it have always appeared as almost inseparable players in the battle over the appearance of built structures. In this way, such a “philosophy” legitimizes many a bizarre creation. At times, philosophy, which is supposedly in the background, gains the upper hand and pushes pragmatic approaches largely into the background. Rudolf Steiner created the Goetheanum in Dornach as a manifestation of his world view. Ludwig Wittgenstein left us the later so christened House of Wittgenstein. Philosophers thus occasionally become active as architects. The actual utility value or the effective meaning of such buildings will probably continue to occupy generations of theoreticians. It is easier to deal with the “philosophizing” architects. In this context, Peter Eisenman and Daniel Libeskind appear to be merely the tip of such a collection of protagonists.

Approach and objective

A detailed 3D data model of the Wittgenstein house, which is to be created jointly, serves as the starting point and entry into the work. It functions as a basic substance by means of which the work is to be carried out. In this way, the virtual house is transported from its familiar context into the anonymous “undefined” space of the computer. It is no longer subject to the constraints of natural physical conditions, and thus becomes entirely a three-dimensional formulation of philosophically supported thought processes. In this way, architecture becomes entirely “theoretical”, walls no longer require any strength to support what lies above them; the structuring function of the supporting elements takes precedence over their load-bearing behavior. An attempt will now be made to reinterpret the appearance that has been distorted and rendered almost unrecognizable over the years. The means of manipulation, distortion and mapping are to be seen here merely as first steps in the direction of a re-evaluation. In this context, the distortion of the all too familiar partial relationships could yield entirely new connections or insights. The question of the relationship between mathematical systems and the demands of a human being on physical space must certainly be considered, as well as the general environment within which architecture usually settles. Questions concerning the general topic of stability and instability will become more explosive and weighty, especially with respect to the “mere” appearance in virtual space. Nevertheless, special attention must be paid to the fact that such changes in the basic architectural substance or building elements are not made merely for their own sake. Architectural manipulation becomes a “sustainable” action only through a correspondingly “philosophical” train of thought. Consequently, the context ultimately develops out of the house. The architectural object becomes the center of his world, the core statement of his world view.


It must be assumed that extensive research has already been done on this subject. A considerable number of documentations, which guarantee a sustainable foundation for this work, have long since been published in generally accessible form. It should be noted, however, that the mere consumption of such information is of limited value; therefore, it should be handled with care. The creation of a common 3D data model together with the execution of individual work processes should ultimately result in a design performance. The mediation can take place by individual pictures or Walkthroughs and/or animations etc.. However, these serve to explain the elaborated design performance and to make it generally understandable.


Högel, Klaus-Peter (1993), Ludwig Wittgenstein, Architekt. Tradition und Zukunft [Bd. 5], Wien: Publikationsreihe des Instituts für Baukunst und Bauaufnahme der Technischen Universität Wien.

Janik, Allan/ Stephen Toulmin (1972), Wittgensteins Wien; Deutsche Übersetzung von Reinhard Merkel, Wien: Döcker 1998,

Janik, Allan/ Hans Veigl (1998), Wittgensteins Wien. Ein biographischer Streifzug durch die Stadt und ihre Geschichte, Wien und New York: Springer.

Wijdeveld, Paul (1993), Ludwig Wittgenstein, Architekt; Deutsche Übersetzung von U. Kremsmair und T. Heigelmaier, o.O.: Wiese Verlag.