Sarah Vukalovic, Contributing Editor
Last Tuesday morning, University of Dallas senior philosophy majors visited downtown Dallas for an architectural tour of the city. Professor emeritus of art Lyle Novinski led the city walk.
The students welcomed the good weather and the opportunity to observe the concretization of the architectural theories they had been studying in class. This year, Senior Seminar for philosophy majors will require research and reflection upon the relationship between philosophy and architecture.
Dr. Philipp Rosemann, the head of the philosophy department and director of Senior Seminar, selected the topic with great care.
“It seems to me that architecture is something like lived philosophy, or philosophy built in stone. The great architects all have philosophical theories – often very explicit theories – that underpin their work,” Rosemann said.
Rosemann went on to highlight the importance of understanding the philosophy behind the architecture.
“Unlike philosophers, who only talk about their theories, architects have the ability to make us live their visions of what it means to worship, dwell in the city or live in a family home. They shape our physical, social, intellectual and spiritual lives by habituating us to move in certain types of environments. It is therefore very important to understand the philosophical and, in particular, anthropological implications of architectural designs,” he said.
For this reason Rosemann tasked the seniors with discovering the philosophy behind the architecture of the city in which they live.
Novinski commenced the tour at the Dallas City Hall, a modernist structure designed by the renowned architect I.M. Pei in the 1970s.
He then called the students’ attention to the iconic, red Pegasus that adorns the top of Dallas’ Magnolia Hotel, which was built in the 1920s by the Magnolia Petroleum Company (later known as Mobile Oil). The Magnolia was once the tallest building west of the Mississippi.
Novinski then led the students to the historic Neiman Marcus flagship store before heading to the Arts District.
In the Arts District, the students considered the architectural theory behind the Dallas Museum of Art, the Crow Museum and the Belo Mansion.
Before ending the tour at the Cathedral Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Novinski pointed out the unique Chase Tower, which features a seven-story gap in the center that allows visitors to enjoy the aerial view.
The tour encouraged all of the students to think about the philosophy of architecture and how it relates to the city’s character.
“Dallas has always been a fashionable city. It has basically erased its past, and, for better or for worse, doesn’t hesitate to remodel something more fashionable,” Novinski said.