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Specialised aspects of architectural discourse: Metaphors in the British magazine The Architectural Review

Aspects spécialisés du discours architectural : les métaphores dans la revue britannique The Architectural Review
Claire Kloppmann-Lambert
p. 25-51


Cet article s’intéresse à la diversité des métaphores que l’on trouve dans le genre spécialisé de la critique d’ouvrages architecturaux. Cette étude s’appuie sur un corpus de ce type de critiques, publiées entre 1996 et 2015 dans la revue britannique The Architectural Review, afin de proposer une analyse tant quantitative que qualitative sur la nature de ces métaphores. Après avoir proposé un cadre théorique pour sélectionner ces métaphores spécifiques à l’architecture et les caractériser, nous proposons une description linguistique, conceptuelle et communica-tionnelle de celles-ci. Nous cherchons à expliquer le rôle central des métaphores dans le discours architectural et à répondre aux questions suivantes : que révèlent-elles des stratégies discursives des architectes ? Quelles indications cela nous donne-t-il sur les fonctions d’une critique de bâtiment en architecture ? Enfin, en quoi certaines images sont-elles propres à notre époque contemporaine et reflètent des tendances actuelles en architecture ?

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1. Introduction

1Little attention has been given to architectural discourse as a specialised variety of English so far. To the best of our knowledge, only three previous studies have addressed the language of architecture, either through the lens of terminology (Soneira 2017) or that of metaphors and comparisons (Caballero 2006, 2014; Ubeda Mansilla 2003). The latter have shown that the use of metaphors is quite common in architectural discourse (“AD” from now on), and that architects and other specialists of architecture often refer to buildings, to space or to the city by using images derived from domains as diverse as agriculture, biology, or mechanics for instance.

2Architectural practice relies on three basic operations: conceptualising new buildings is one, producing digital, graphic or scale model proposals of projected buildings is another, and producing oral and written discourse to communicate about their project is the third (Jeudy 2012). Interestingly, as Caballero (2014: 157) underlines, metaphors “inform all the stages of designing a building as well as the language used to discuss it (with clients, colleagues, etc.) before, during and after its construction.”

  • 1 The Royal Institute of British Architecture was created in 1834 for “the general advancement of Civ (...)

3In this study, we focus on the final stage of an architect’s work plan, as defined for instance by the Royal Institute of British Architects:1 the moment when the building is in use, following stage 0 (“strategic definition”), stage 1 (“preparation and brief”), stage 2 (“concept design”), stage 3 (“developed design”), stage 4 (“technical design”), stage 5 (“construction”) and stage 6 (“handover and close out”). At this stage, reviews are produced by architects and architecture specialists to describe and evaluate new buildings ̶̶ usually not their own. This study is based on the metaphors found in a selection of articles written in the last twenty years by architects in The Architectural Review, a British monthly magazine, which has been acknowledged for the quality of its architectural reviews since it was launched in 1886.

4Bernard Secchi claims that “the role of the metaphor, as it is well-known, is just this: to give a meaning to what we are provisionally unable to understand” (Secchi 2014: 125). In architectural discourse, both the discipline of architecture and its objects ̶̶ buildings and cities ̶̶ are difficult to define and open to interpretation: for instance “30 St Mary axe”, also called “the gherkin” in London, is not truly metaphorical in itself, but metaphors appear when spectators, users, critics and especially architects and designers themselves, try to comment on a building’s shape and appearance. Philippe Boudon describes this as the metaphorical effect of architecture (Boudon 2013: 59). However, this would be oversimplifying the role of metaphors for the discourse community of architects: this study aims to show that, beyond the descriptive and explanatory function of these metaphors, there is a highly persuasive dimension to it, as they serve the positive and negative criticisms of the reviewer, as they impose a worldview, but also as they show the reviewer’s compliance with the community’s genre conventions and his creativity.

5Here are the few questions this corpus-based study aims to explore: can we formulate a convincing definition of a “metaphor” that reflects the complexity of metaphors found in AD? What are the specific characteristics and functions of metaphor (structure, nature of the images, recurrence, etc.) used by architects in articles from The Architectural Review over the last twenty years? More importantly, we would like to extend Caballero’s efforts to contextualise the specific use of metaphors in AD. What do these metaphors show about the profession of architects? What do they suggest about their communicational strategies (efficiency, originality, didactics, etc.) in architectural reviews? To what extent are metaphors linked to their context of production?

2. A definition of metaphors in architectural discourse

6Applied linguistic theory has undertaken to combine a linguistic, a social and a cognitive perspective on metaphor (Cameron & Low 1999) and has paved the way for both discourse analysis and ESP-driven analysis of metaphors in their socio-professional context. A basic description of metaphor and its constituents can be found in Cameron & Low (1999: 3): “Metaphor is a device for seeing something in terms of something else (Burke 1945: 503).” This primary description is interesting because it suggests that a metaphor is both a linguistic tool (“a device”) and an intellectual process (“seeing”). Our aim is to explore both aspects of metaphors, verbal and conceptual, and to show that both approaches are legitimate and compatible in a larger socio-professional perspective: architects share both specific ways of writing and talking, and ways of seeing the world around them.

  • 2 ‘Tenor’ and ‘Vehicle’ are part of the terminology of I.A. Richards, in The Philosophy of Rhetoric ( (...)
  • 3 The notion was introduced by Lakoff & Johnson (1980) and can be defined as a coherent organisation (...)
  • 4 Capitals will be used throughout the article when referring to a specific domain, following the con (...)

7On a linguistic level, a metaphor is primarily a device that brings together two constituents: a ‘Topic’ – sometimes called ‘Tenor’– with a ‘Vehicle.’2 For instance, “London is this collage of places”, a sentence taken from text 11 of our corpus (indicated by “[xx]” from now on), brings together the Topic “London” and the Vehicle “collage”. But according to Cameron & Low (1999), the lexical ‘Topic’ and ‘Vehicle’ can be drawn from any word class (noun, adjective, adverb, verb, participle, etc.) and take on several syntactic forms (modifier-head, subject-verb, verb-object, verb phrase, non-explicit topic, etc.). A more conceptual analysis shows that a metaphor brings together two domains3 and enables a better understanding of a conceptual domain thanks to the other. In our example, “London is a collage of places” [11], the target domain of URBANISM4 and the source domain of ART are brought together in the metaphor. If we look at what happens in terms of meaning, we can say that a metaphor is a disruption of isotopy (Ricœur 2004: 217), or semantic coherence (here, a reference to urbanism), which can be reestablished by the expressive power of an “emergent structure” or “blended space” (Fauconnier & Turner 1998; Fauconnier & Lakoff 2009), a new meaning resulting from the interaction of two domains, understood partly in terms of one another: if A TOWN IS A COLLAGE, then the city is to an architect what a collage is to an artist, that is a piece of art made up of many different parts and deliberately assembled.

8Cameron & Low’s analysis is central to understanding how metaphors can be both a phenomenon of language and a cognitive phenomenon. Let us consider a more complex example such as: “buildings, each intent on drawing attention to itself” [5]. Here, the linguistic or “surface” topic and vehicle are (respectively) “buildings” and “intent on drawing attention to itself”, while the conceptual topic ̶̶ the underlying idea ̶̶ and the conceptual vehicle ̶̶ the idea of the term under which the topic is understood ̶̶ are respectively “building” and “person”: the building is seen as a person. When critics refer to Topic and Vehicle, they sometimes refer to the linguistic device, and sometimes to the interacting concepts – both phenomena are intrinsically linked.

9In our example, we could distinguish an explicit Tenor and an explicit Vehicle, but this is not always the case (Bordas 2003). Metaphors can work as ‘metaphors in praesentia,’ when we can find a Topic and a Vehicle, or as ‘metaphors in absentia’, where the Topic is missing. For instance, in “After a long gestation, the Wilsons are now preparing to build their library in Milan” [5], the Vehicle term “gestation” stands for the idea of ARCHITECTURAL CREATION. Shared knowledge between the two speakers and the context enable to elicit the meaning of the image.

10To conclude this approach of metaphors, we should attempt to find some conditions that must be fulfilled to be able to recognise a metaphor in a text – especially because this corpus-based research project relies on a primary selection of metaphors. Cameron & Low (1999: 118) selected three fundamental criteria to decide whether an expression is a metaphor or not:

  • N1: it contains reference to a Topic domain by a Vehicle Term (or terms) and

  • N2: there is, potentially, an incongruity between the domain of the Vehicle Term and the Topic domain and

  • N3: it is possible for the receiver (in general a particular person), as a member of a particular discourse community, to find a coherent interpretation which makes sense for the incongruity in its discourse context, and which involves some transfer of meaning from the Vehicle domain.

11In our case, the Topic will be linked to space, buildings, the architectural process, the discipline, its agents and the city, while the Vehicle will refer to a great variety of domains.

12G. Steen (2011: 87) offers a suitable three-dimensional framework to describe metaphorical expressions used by architects in our corpus of articles:

  1. Linguistic analysis: studying morphological categories, syntax and function of the segment, degree of lexicalisation

  2. Conceptual analysis: determining the concepts, the analogy, the kind of metaphorical process (abstraction, materialisation, animation, personification, etc.)

  3. Communicational analysis: concluding on the degree of creativity of the metaphor, its aims, its efficiency, etc.

13This framework will enable us to better ascertain metaphors as a linguistic phenomenon in our corpus, but also to look further into the reasons for their use by a particular socio-professional group, the effects and the strategies at stake. Interest in metaphor as a resource for professional genres is relatively recent in ESP research (Salager-Meyer 1990; Galonnier 2000; Charteris-Black & Mussolf 2003; Sun & Jiang, 2014); the importance and the functions of metaphors in AD therefore need to be investigated thoroughly (Ubeda Mansilla 2003).

14Research on metaphor should also be more concerned with the context in which metaphors are used. Context can be understood in a narrow sense as the immediate co-text in discourse or as the situational context, but it can also be understood in a broader sense, which means that we will have to investigate the function of metaphors in the specific genre of architectural reviews, but also in the larger social and historical landscape in which the discourse was produced. As Charles Jencks underlines, metaphors on a particular building may vary according to the time period of the discourse, as buildings that were compared to “cheese-grits” in the 1950s could be perceived as “garages” ten years later (Jencks 1974: 40). Bernardo Secchi analyses some historical changes that had a profound effect on the type of metaphors used (medicinal research in the Renaissance period enabled people to conceive the city as a body, the industrial revolution gave rise to a metaphor of the city as a predictable and “banal machine”). We would like to focus more specifically on our contemporary period, which is, according to him, marked by issues of “Environment, mobility, growing social inequality” but also “growing individualisation of the world”, and “growing confidence in technical progress” (Secchi 2014).

3. Corpus and method

15Begoña-Beloso (2015), who also compiled an architectural corpus, insisted on the importance of considering size, subject, coherence, accessibility and sampling procedure so as to have a “well-designed” corpus. Our corpus of 35 reviews taken from The Architectural Review, a journal that architects hold in high regard (Begoña-Beloso 2015: 88), should allow us to conduct targeted analyses on the scale of a review and to draw larger conclusions on the use of metaphors by architects. We selected a review whenever it could answer favourably the question: “Is this a building review written in the last twenty years (1996-2016) by a contemporary architect?” which means that we had to exclude articles concerned with sociology or geography for instance, as well as book reviews or exhibition reviews. We also left out reviews written by non-Anglo-Saxon writers who contributed to the internationally famous journal. We finally excluded articles from The Architectural Review that had been written by journalists, historians and writers who had never been trained as architects so as to constitute a corpus written exclusively by architects ̶̶ which the majority of authors were. Reviews were selected randomly (cf. Appendix) among the reviews that met these criteria.

16We worked through the texts of our small-sized corpus manually and systematically and followed Cameron & Law’s criteria to decide whether an expression was metaphorical or not. For each metaphor, we decided what the source and the target domains were. Of course, one concept may fall under several domains (Faber 2012: 86), which means that some metaphors had to be interpreted thanks to the context. On the whole, we collected 527 metaphors, of which 501 architectural metaphors (referring to rooms, buildings, cities, space, architectural process, architectural experience, agents of architecture) that are included in this study. This number allowed us to conduct both a qualitative and quantitative approach.

4. Results: linguistic, conceptual and communicational description of the metaphors in our corpus

4.1. Linguistic analysis

17Metaphors (Figure 1) were grouped according to the main grammatical category of the vehicle (noun, verb, adjective, adverb). More than half of them (60.3%) are nominal metaphors with some of the following patterns: “N: a N” (“the building: a wet palimpsest” [1]), “N - N” (“it just stands there ̶̶ a white vision” [4]), in appositive patterns (“the rear part, a concrete shell” [6]), in pre-modification patterns such as “NN” (“skin panels” [3]), post-modification patterns such as “N of N” (“the meanders of open-space” [2]), but also in the copular use “A is B” or “A becomes B” pattern (“the university itself becomes the spectacle” [14]).

18However, not all metaphors are nominal. Instead, one finds a significant number of adjectival metaphors (13%) such as “An anonymous door from the pavement” [27], and verbal metaphors (24%), such as ‘the freestanding tower […] again asserting its autonomy” [23]. 1% are adverbial metaphors, such as “it just stands there, […] arrogantly complete” [4]. An additional 2.2% corresponds to mixed metaphors for which it was impossible to determine a dominant grammatical category, as in “Its [the building's] fabric, textured by alternate courses of dressed and split stone” [19].

19Metaphors are rarely isolated features. They are often extended to the whole sentence: the title “the jam in the donut” [2] refers to the qualities that make a building attractive, original, shiny but also functional. According to the author, the architect therefore desires to “create a public jam” [2], in a “well-baked architecture” [2] and not a “lean donut” [2]. The lexical field of food is developed through various adjectives, nouns and verbs.

20We are already integrating conceptual elements into our lexical analysis. This suggests how inseparable these are.

Figure 1: Distribution of different types of metaphors

Figure 1: Distribution of different types of metaphors

4.2. Conceptual analysis

4.2.1. Distinguishing between metaphors in praesentia and metaphors in absentia

  • 5 Readers are architects (73%), students (13%), clients and other architecture-related professions (1 (...)

21Among the 501 metaphors in our corpus, there are 393 metaphors in absentia (78.44%), and only 108 metaphors in praesentia (21.56%), which means that most of the time, the reader has to infer the second underlying concept. It suggests that these analogies are presented as non-problematic for the reader, which is coherent with the fact that the magazine targets a readership of experts and architects.5

4.2.2. Target domains of architectural metaphors

22In our corpus, we can distinguish a few global categories of tenors (in capitals) that are usually associated with a vehicle in AD (Figure 2). BUILDING MATERIAL, BUILDING or PART OF A BUILDING, CITY or PART OF A CITY, LANDSCAPE, SPACE, ARCHITECTURAL PRACTICE (realisation of the project), ARCHITECTURAL EXPERIENCE (experience of discovering the project), AGENT (architect, visitor), ARCHITECTURE, OTHER (colour, furniture, etc.) are the ten categories into which we can classify our topics (be they explicit or implicit). Interestingly, more than 70% of metaphors are product-focused and refer to the material on which architects work (be it SPACE, LANDSCAPE, BUILDING or PART OF A BUILDING, CITY or PART OF A CITY), while the rest is rather process-focused, with about 18% of metaphors used to describe their own domain and around 10% used to describe agents and their activity (be it creating architecture or experiencing architecture).

Figure 2: Distribution of target domains

Figure 2: Distribution of target domains

23This result suggests that authors are trying to describe, define or redefine the discipline of architecture and its objects ̶̶ buildings and cities ̶̶ and to suggest or impose a worldview of what they are or what they could be.

4.2.3. Source domains of these metaphors

  • 6 The domains of ARTS and LANGUAGE were analysed together because they both serve the idea that archi (...)

24Source domains (F(Figure 3) fall into a few major categories: LIVING BEINGS (44%), OBJECTS AND MATERIALS (20%), ARTS AND LANGUAGE (19%),6 SCIENCE AND TECHNIQUES (11%) and ENVIRONMENT (6%).

Figure 3: Distribution of source domains

Figure 3: Distribution of source domains Living beings metaphors

25Living beings metaphors are predominant (Figure 4), with a great number of metaphors referring to human features (33%), anatomy (27%), animals (13%) and movement in general (17%), which means that metaphors are widely used to describe buildings and cities as living beings. This is consistent with the results of Paloma Ubeda Mansilla’s questionnaire, completed by 62 architects, which showed that architects considered and described the city predominantly as body or as an animal, and the city as a living organism or a tree. In other words, BUILDING IS LIFE, and CITY IS LIFE (Ubeda Mansilla 2003: 42).

Figure 4: Distribution of living beings metaphors

Figure 4: Distribution of living beings metaphors

26The majority of these metaphors refers to human features such as behaviour (marry, waiting, hugging, breathes) or character (playful, bawdy, generous, severe, mischievous, smart, mute, sensuous). Interestingly, many images underline the striking presence or discrete presence of a building (extrovert, at ease, arrogant, or on the contrary half-hearted, self-effacing, reticent…). When for instance a building is described as “architecture at ease with the majestic presence of surrounding mature trees” [19] the building’s presence in its environment is understood in terms of social interaction: contrary to being “arrogant” or “reticent”, being “at ease” is a valued social quality in Western countries. Implicitly, the building’s architecture is thereby presented as legitimate and suitable. Personification can go as far as to lend intentions to buildings and cities (“drawing attention to itself”, “the place wants to be”, “knows how to get down its basic strategy”), identity (“asserting its autonomy”, “right to be here”, “justify their existence”, “asserting itself as”), relationships (“mother”, “affiliation”) and even consciousness/unconsciousness (“make conscious”, “town on the couch”). Text [12] for instance depicts urban planning as the psychoanalysis of the “town on the couch” and an attempt to reveal and sublime its unconscious desires (“what the place wants to be”). Anthropomorphism in AD has a long history. “The metaphor of the living being is one of the oldest and most persistent in architectural discourse”, according to Caroline Von Eck (in Gerber & Patterson 2013: 133). Indeed, through personification, architectural projects acquire significance, and architecture as such becomes a discipline of self-expression which, if successful, can produce works of art that have a life of their own. We will analyse the strategic functions of metaphors of cities and buildings as living beings further on.

  • 7 Terms like “skeleton” or “wing” are not synecdoches in that these parts of the building do not stan (...)

27While most metaphors refer to the human being, other metaphors associate buildings or cities with plants or animals. These primary metaphors associating things with living beings seem quite intuitive and can become more elaborate: if a building or city is considered as a living entity (animal, vegetal or human), then a part of it can be described in terms of animal parts (feathers, wings, carcass, shell, vital component), vegetal components (root, seed, petal) or human anatomy (hips, belly, elbow, head, spine, hands, skeleton, nervous system, body, etc.). A few traditional images of heart, skin and face can be characterised more precisely (serene or beating heart, outer skin, external skin, inner skin, translucent skin, thin skin, fair-faced). As Caballero indicates, anatomical metaphors have an explanatory function by highlighting how the subparts relate to a whole (Caballero 2006: 17).7 Text [22] for instance depicts the IPad-run digital system of the “smart app-artment” as its “nervous system”, underlying its central role in connecting the different parts of the apartment. Furthermore, the notion of interface and “skin” seems to play a major role in AD.

28We should not forget that some living beings metaphors aim to describe people positively, valorising architects or people experiencing architecture (collagist, traveller) or negatively, dehumanising other agents such as architects, politicians or critics (fish, fledgling, hawks). These metaphors are clear markers of evaluation. Objects and materials metaphors

29These metaphors associate two physical entities: a city or building with 11% of objects (such as pepper-pot, lantern, mattress, bottle or umbrella), 19% of objects referred to for their function (string, rollercoaster or knot), 18% of containers (box, pocket, vessel), 19% of food (fish and chips, nougat, sweet reward) or 20% of liquid (fluid, liquid, wells, sources, flowing, meanders…), but also occasionally with time, wind, air, fire or jewellery (Figure 5).

30This is an extraordinarily diverse category or metaphors that can be used for their visual characteristics (if a building is “geological nougat”, it has whitish walls with integrated brown stones) as well as for their structural characteristics (if a building as “a palimpsest”, then its façade certainly changes through time). They are for the most part original and unexpected and seem to have both explanatory and entertaining purposes. To describe a striped lighthouse as a “striped pepper-pot” for instance is a daring visual analogy that strikes and makes the reading more pleasant.

Figure 5: Distribution of objects and materials metaphors

Figure 5: Distribution of objects and materials metaphors Arts and language metaphors

31These are more abstract metaphors. They are also commonly used in AD. Here, images are rather diverse, referring to domains such as language (27%), narration (15%), visual art (12%), leisure (10%) but also music, sound, poetry, theatre, dance, pedagogy or 2D representation (Figure 6).

Figure 6: Distribution of arts and language metaphors

Figure 6: Distribution of arts and language metaphors

32In order to refer to city, buildings and architecture in general, architects borrow images from the visual arts (collage, assemblage, palette, sculptural, sharply chiselled…), or from the domains of music and sound, which is more surprising since it is intangible (dissonance, discordant note, rhythmic, loud, deafening, subtle tune, orchestrated). However, the overwhelming majority of metaphors are highly conceptual metaphors: ARCHITECTURE IS LANGUAGE. These expressions suggest that architects express themselves through buildings as they would through language (highly poetic language, complex and contradictory languages, explore language, reassess language), that they think of building elements as words (minimalist vocabulary, self-conscious vocabulary, rigorous but refined vocabulary), and that the building itself becomes an autonomous language (sequential composition, dialogue, conversation, quotations, re-quotation) that can be characterised by linguistic features (punctuation, paratactic logic, tone, rhetoric, understatement, eloquently). This gives rise to more complex metaphors such as ARCHITECTURE IS POETRY (an ode to, a-b-a-b-a structural rhythm, a poetic essay), ARCHITECTURE IS THEATRE (scene, scene-setting, theatre, theatrically, performer, drama, dramatic) or even ARCHITECTURE IS A STORY (narrative, mythical narrative, reading, legible, drama of the development, unfold cinematically, leading protagonist). Describing a building in terms of language is akin to stressing its structural coherence. It also indicates that a building is the expressive result of an architect’s intentions. It finally suggests that the architect who writes the review is able to decode or decipher intentions underpinning an architectural project and which can in some cases be quite hard to understand. For instance, in the lead of a text [24], the author declares that the building’s “sobriety is also undercut by a more complex and contradictory language”, which makes the following explanations all the more necessary. These metaphors therefore seem to have both explanatory purposes and to emphasise the authority of the author. Science and techniques metaphors

33Science and techniques metaphors seem to be secondary in terms of frequency. However, the image of TEXTILE seems central in AD (59% of all science and techniques metaphors), probably because, like architecture, it is a technique of assemblage that creates continuity or discontinuity between parts (as in “its base intricately woven into the brick” [7]). There are other interesting isolated examples of images that must have appeared in the past few decades: they rely on contemporary disciplines such as ELECTRONICS (circuit of connection), COMPUTER SCIENCES (datum, pop-up) and TECHNOLOGY (pixelated surface, network). This clearly indicates that some AD metaphors are the product of our time and of the digital revolution. Language is informed by the way we conceive the world, and this in turn is linked to major technical innovations.

Figure 7: Distribution of science and techniques metaphors

Figure 7: Distribution of science and techniques metaphors Environment metaphors

34Environment metaphors are less numerous, and might refer to geology (29%), agriculture (15%), landscape (15%), astronomy (11%) and travel (11%) as well as building, city, world, and geopolitics (Figure 8).

  • 8 It was decided that “the building is a pantheon” and “the room is an anti-materialist inner sanctum (...)

35Geology metaphors (epicentre, geological formation, crater, crust, erosion, chains, tectonic, glacial), astronomy (crescent, satellite, radiates the energy) and landscape metaphors (meandering paths, crevices labyrinths) associate the man-built building with natural features of our planet, while agriculture (cultivating, fertile, sterile, field) or building metaphors (inner sanctum, pantheon)8 associate two man-conceived entities. These metaphors seem mainly visual, with geological formations and architecture sharing their structure of stone for instance, and very secondary to living, arts and science metaphors.

36Caballero (2006: 16) did not allocate her results to broad categories such as these, but chose to highlight significant images in AD. She underlined the predominance of organic, motion, textile, malleability and language metaphors among others. Metaphors referring to life, movement, textile and language clearly stand out as important target domains in our corpus as well. However, this alternative classification in domains allows us to describe the great diversity of metaphors that may be used.

Figure 8: Distribution of environment metaphors

Figure 8: Distribution of environment metaphors

4.3. Communicational analysis

4.3.1. Metaphors, a special feature of the discourse community of architects

37We have seen that the architectural reviews under study share common characteristics, in particular the extensive use of metaphors. We will now analyse these linguistic features in the light of the broader context.

38Architects are part of a discourse community that shares ways of communicating and ways of conceiving the world around them. According to B. Paltridge (2006: 24), a “discourse community” is:

a group of people who share some kind of activity such as members of a club or association who have regular meetings, or a group of students who go to class at the same university. Members of a discourse community have particular ways of communicating with each other. They generally have shared goals and may have shared values and beliefs. A person is often member of more than one discourse community.

  • 9 Rosario Caballero (2006) differentiates four different kinds of architects: the architectus ingenio(...)

39Architects and more specifically architects who have turned to writing building reviews probably represent a real “discourse community” because they share the same kind of activity ̶̶ they have embraced the roles of the architectus ingenio (who designs the building) and architectus verborus (who speaks about architecture)9 ̶̶ as well as ways of communicating (pictures, plans, verbal descriptions of architectural projects) when they describe and review buildings. Metaphors are a typical pattern in architectural reviews, and can therefore be considered as an important discursive competence for them to acquire during their period of study and training (Caballero 2014: 155). They also show that architects and architecture specialists share ways to manipulate language, and ways to conceive the world around them (Caballero 2006), i.e. schemata (such as ARCHITECTURE IS A LIVING BEING). They also seem to share an aptitude to see “things in terms of something else” more freely than other professional groups and to use an interesting range of new creative metaphors.

4.3.2. What do metaphors reveal about architects’ strategies?

40Architects share purposes as well: metaphors may reflect their desire to communicate efficiently with the reader, to show and explain, to express power and identity. Didactic purposes

41The first main purpose of metaphors in reviews is to describe and explain projects to the reader, suggesting what a building looks like, how it works and what the architect’s intentions might have been. Pictures and sketches certainly play a central role in building reviews, but metaphors are useful especially when “the images are not self-explicit and lack illocutionary force” (Caballero 2006: 15):

The association between words and pictures characterizing architectural discourse in general has been explained both as a means of facilitating communication between architects and lay people, and as a way of compensating for pragmatic weakness of graphic representation. (idem).

42The pedagogical contribution of metaphors can be described with a few parameters expressed in terms of cline rather than in absolute terms, following Caballero’s advice:

  1. Representationality: capacity to activate representational, graphic information.

  2. Structuring potential: capacity to project a part or a complete structure from source onto target.

    • 10 The use of metaphors for their animation potential is not restricted to AD, because, as Lakoff & Jo (...)

    Animation potential: capacity to bring life or movement to the target.10

43The first two parameters were suggested by Caballero (2006: 82), and the third added to offer a complete picture of the metaphors under study. Amongst our 501 metaphors, around 60% have a representational quality, activating information on the shape or general appearance of something: for instance, one is able to infer what a “thistle lamp” [13] looks like without knowing what it is. In our corpus of metaphors, 73% can be considered to have a structuring potential: a metaphor like “at the heart of the plan” [15] maps several characteristics of the heart (centrality, importance and relationship of part to whole) onto the room. Further, 31% have an animation potential, suggesting life and motion, such as “the building […] peels back” [7]. Most of our metaphors have several characteristics as indicated below (Table 1).

Table 1: Examples of metaphors and their structuring, representational and animation potential

Structuring potential

Representational potential

Animation potential

Pure “Conceptual Metaphors” :

Ex. At the heart of

Pure “Image Metaphors”:

Ex. Crescent window

Mixed Conceptual and Image Metaphors:

Ex. Labyrinth, grid, pixelated, network, collage

Motion metaphors:

Ex. Lifting, peels back

Living Beings metaphors:

Ex. Snaking, gaucheness, austere, sensuous

Complex metaphors:

Ex. Light sources, light pours, light is funneled Creative purposes

  • 11 They are not “dead” however, these metaphors we live by are extremely common by definitions (Kövecs (...)

44Paul Ricœur’s distinction between “living metaphors” and “dead metaphors” suggests that the researcher can rate the expressive potential of metaphors. In linguistic terms, living metaphors are more prone to disrupt semantic fields than dead metaphors (Jeudy 2012), although in some cases dead metaphors, or rather “dormant metaphors” (Black 1977: 439) might be revived, giving birth to a new conceptual network. In cognitive terms (Lakoff & Johnson 1980), metaphors can be either literal metaphors, that is “literal expressions structured by metaphorical concepts” (that correspond to the normal way of thinking about things11), imaginative (that derive from a standing, constitutive metaphor), or new imaginative metaphors (that create new meanings outside our usual conceptual system). By applying these criteria to our corpus, we obtain the following results (Figure 8).

Figure 9: Conventionality of architectural metaphors

Figure 9: Conventionality of architectural metaphors

45Literal metaphors (19%) are so familiar that we hardly notice them: THE CENTRE IS THE HEART for instance (“at the heart of the plan”, “the heart of the museum”), or TO SUCCEED IS TO BEAR FRUIT (“the architectural delights of the Münster library can bear further fruit”). Other words have become part of our everyday vocabulary (to be clad in, to be naked, to be embedded in) or of architectural lexis (skin, skeletal frame, cladding, light wells, crescent window, the wing of a building, a steel ring, a satellite town). A “skin” for instance refers to “a non-load-bearing exterior wall; often composed of prefabricated panels” and, similarly, “a skeleton frame” refers to something very technical – “any framework without its covering panels” (Harris 2006). They have lost their figurative potential in AD.

46Imaginative metaphors represent a large majority of the metaphors of our corpus (59%). It clearly indicates that architectural metaphors rely on basic constitutive metaphors such as SPACE IS TIME, A BUILDING IS A LIVING BEING, A BUILDING IS A BODY, A BUILDING IS A TEXTILE, A BUILDING IS A CONTAINER or A BUILDING IS LANGUAGE and that they are widely shared by architects. Architects can then elaborate on these shared schemata, “this framework on which [architects] can lay information” (Walmsley & Lewis 1993: 98 quoted in Ubeda Mansilla 2003: 35) which “define the way they refer to a building”. Metaphors such as “cellular offices”, “chaotic and fragile exoskeleton”, “narrow gutted offices”, “theatre of architecture” or “half-hearted architecture” stand out in the reviews under study as being imaginative, but they rely on constitutive metaphors that have become conventional and accepted among experts (Ungerer & Schmid 1996: 149, quoted in Ubeda Mansilla, 2003: 39). As Ubeda Mansilla points out, they are not used for explanatory purposes, but it is rather part of the way of communicating about buildings, towns and architecture. They are “theory-constitutive metaphors” (Boyd 1979) that point back to theoretical conceptions of architecture (biomorphism, high-tech or metabolism movements for example) without explicitly referring to any theoretical foundation because they have become a traditional way of seeing things in the discourse community.

47New imaginative metaphors represent 23% of our metaphors. Nearly a third of the metaphors of our corpus are creations that are outside the frames of constitutive metaphors. This suggests that authors wish to offer a personal interpretation of the building. “Wet palimpsest”, “giant eggs”, “exploding bombs”, “giant mattress”, “doghouses”, “pods”, “spouting ample landings”, “fish and chips”, “giant upward wave”, “geological nougat” and all the other metaphors of this category are surprising and entertaining, and wouldn’t be expected in a review or architecture at first sight.

48Metaphors found in AD are part of the creative process that gives shape to a building. Being an architect is to imagine or restructure shapes, ideas, semantic fields with new associations (Jeudy 2012). Paul Ricœur (1994: 122) underlines how imagination is the ability to create a semantic collision:

Imagination is apperception, the sudden view, of a new predicative pertinence. […] Imagining is first and foremost restructuring semantic fields. It is to use Wittgenstein’s expression in the Philosophical Investigation, “seeing as…”.

49This definition of imagination as the creation of a new semantic reality corresponds quite well to the creative effort of the architect, who works with shapes, ideas as well as words.

50While the Cognitive Metaphor Theory has tried to show that metaphors may be shared by people of a same culture or discourse community, it may have overlooked processes of metaphoric creation. The reader is likely never to have heard innovative metaphors such as “a perfunctory smudge” [6], a “geological nougat” [10] or “wet palimpsest” building [1] before. These concepts have been thought of as characterising rather complex building designs (Wee 2005: 366) but have no equivalent in the real world. Lionel Wee indicates that an incongruous scenario of octopi squeezing one another has been used to explain a rather technical phenomenon of neural network computation. In that case, the source is created for the purpose of explaining its target. The expression “wet palimpsest” [1] has been used quite exclusively to describe the Giant Interactive Group Headquarters in Shanghai, which, according to its author, exemplifies the “architecture-segueing-into-landscape phenomenon that has been an undercurrent in later 20th-century architecture” [1]. Metaphors, like buildings, may be new made-to-measure linguistic creations meant to suit new ideas and invite discussions.

51Metaphors also mimic, on a linguistic level, how the architect is playing with shapes on a formal level, therefore highlighting the artistic dimension of architecture. Indeed, some passages of our reviews are almost lyrical and clearly participate in the myth of architectural genius and creation. An example can be found in the explicit praise of the revolutionary extension building to the Tel Aviv museum. Metaphors here celebrate the power of true architecture:

We should not express surprise, but use such architects’ architecture (for which there is certainly a cultural and creative role) to attack our predilections, refresh our palates, encourage us to tackle geometries in a creative, rather than procedural way ̶̶ and generally look at methods by which the occurrence of light, shade, direction and expectancy can be given flesh. [3]

52Other reviews are keen on giving an account of space, time and light, on suggesting atmospheres and sensations. The author here recreates his first encounter with the building, which gives rise to quite a poetic depiction:

On a cloudy day, the building takes on the leaden hue of the sky, but with even a ray of sunshine, the glass and aluminium skin becomes an active surface of muted light. By night, the reticent character of the building is transformed. Lighted from within, the museum becomes a lantern – a glowing collage of shades of white created by the many combinations of clear and translucent glass – that promises to be particularly mysterious in the winter snow and fog. [12] Expression of identity and power

53The use of metaphors indicates a sense of belonging in the architectural discourse community and a command of its linguistic codes, as some elaborate metaphors suggest (“We could say that competitions are to everyday architecture what competitive sport is to everyday fitness training” [31]). Some remarks made by Charteris-Black (2004) quoted in Müssolf & Zinken (2009: 100) on political discourse may to some extent be applied to AD, as metaphors can be a powerful way to “sound right” (make humour, explain, suggest) and persuade. Some architectural metaphors are really humorous or absurd (“The town on the couch” [11], “This (the building) was a Christmas stocking” [30], “artificial grass turns parts of the landscape into giant mattresses” [14]), some are rather dramatic (“movement through the building becomes an introverted journey” [12], “the home as a vessel for collecting memories”[22]), and others express judgement and evaluation (“well-baked architecture”[4]).

54Metaphors are often seen as a way to communicate ideology and a sense of truth. They are not right or wrong as such, but they can adequately fit one’s experience of a building and as a consequence “acquire the status of a truth” and “have a feedback effect” (Lakoff & Johnson 1980: 142) on the way people conceive and design new buildings. By commenting on the innovative character of a building (A BUILDING IS A PEPPER-POT), by choosing the language of traditional architecture (TREE, BODY…) or modern architecture (MOTION, ORGANISM, TECHNOLOGY…), metaphors are able to convey larger conceptions of what architecture should be like and act like prescriptive statements.

4.3.3. What do metaphors indicate about the specific genre of architectural reviews?

55“The building review,” as it is depicted by Caballero, is a genre as such that has the following characteristics:

  • Its objective is to describe and evaluate the work of an architect;

  • It is highly structured, with an introduction, a description and a closing evaluation, each of these steps having particular functions;

  • It contains both text and images;

  • It has a professional status. Personal implication is rather scarce;

  • It is aimed both at other architects as well as non-specialists interested in architecture.

56Caballero (2006) shows that architectural reviews are different from other genres that are rather text-centred: they are a subtle balance between text and images (sketches, drawings, models, pictures…), that should be able to fulfil two main objectives – explain how the building works, on the one hand, and on the other hand, present what the building looks like. Readers have to be ready to go back and forth from text to image, and to read both the “scientific” and the “naturalistic mode” of the review. Both Ricalens-Pourchot (2010) and Roldán, Santiago & Ubeda Mansilla (2011) underline the very special status of figurative language in reviews, where visuals already play an important role.

57Review number [7] can be used to show the uses of metaphors according to their position in the text (Caballero 2006: 54). Metaphors are used to introduce the building and give a first evaluation of it in the introduction (“A dark brick box perforated by cool, pale light forms an austere yet serenely numinous setting for Lutheran worship in a suburb of Stockholm”), to enrich the more technical description of the building, its general structure (“The massing is blocky and severe, the volume clad in stark brown brick and capped in a layer of concrete, which also forms the head of the huge windows”), its materials (“However, the stone font is also embedded into the floor, its base intricately woven into the brick in a complex tessellation”) or some parts or components (“the principal liturgical elements stay rooted in its physical fabric as reminders of the purpose of the building”) in the body of the text. Finally, they are used in the closing evaluation (“The church both enriches and is enriched by a Swedish tradition of an austere, ineffably elegant architecture of contemplation and a blending of the humane and the existentially harsh. It comes as no surprise to learn that Celsing is currently working on the Woodland Cemetery, where Asplund and Lewerentz created the tradition in which he is so eloquently operating”). This text relies on the central metaphors A BUILDING IS A BOX, A BUILDING IS A TEXTILE and the metonymy A CHURCH IS A TABERNACLE, which highlight structural and visual aspects of the building, along with the pictures.

4.3.4. To what extent do metaphors reflect current trends in architecture?

58Significant trends in the use of metaphors are linked to the way architects conceive a building and architecture, and we would like to focus on three major tendencies of contemporary AD.

59First, metaphors implicitly convey an idea of what architecture is, or should be. They have been used for two opposite objectives in AD in the past: to emphasise the scientific side of the discipline, so that it may be considered as a precise, exact and respectable knowledge, or on the contrary, to emphasise the artistic side of the discipline in order to stress the role of genius and personal expression (Hale 2000). The results derived from our corpus clearly indicate that the current trend is to present architecture as a discipline of the liberal arts, where personal talent may create wonders with volume, light and colour. The ratio of metaphors presenting architecture as art to those presenting architecture as engineering is approximately 2 to 1: metaphors such as A BUILDING IS ART or A BUILDING IS LANGUAGE that have been used, according to Caballero (2006), since the 17th and 18th century to reveal the beauty of architecture rather than its techniques are more numerous than TECHNOLOGICAL metaphors. The metaphor A BUILDING IS A MACHINE, mentioned by Caballero as a constitutive but rarefying image of AD is fully absent from my corpus, which suggests that we have moved away from the conception of architecture as the symbol of the machine-age, that goes back to the British high-tech tradition for instance, to the Japanese Metabolist group and to antecedents in New Brutalism for instance (Hale 2000: 15). Even the metaphor A BUILDING IS A TEXTILE, that we have classified among technical metaphors is usually presented as craftsmanship rather than mechanised production (seam, seamless, enmeshed in, sewn, textured, dressed, draped over, fashioning, knit, intrinsically woven into…). Apart from a few interesting examples of technological metaphors (circuit of connection, datum, pop-up, pixelated surface, network), the majority of reviewers have a rather romanticised view of architecture and the architect’s role: this is clear in expressions such as “Bocconi is a deft choreography of formal, material and even constructional contradictions” [10], or “The new museum is as much mythical narrative as national monument” [12]. This is in tune with trends in current architecture and the reaction against explicit functionalism “for the right of expression above pure function” (Drew 1972: 32). Postmodernism and Robert Venturi’s writings have marked the end of modernism’s motto “form follows function” and reintroduced an emphasis on form, expression and symbolism in architecture. Metaphors are linked to a very ideological conception of what the discipline of architecture is or should be nowadays, which suggests that they have a clear argumentative function.

60This leads us to the second major discovery in our corpus that might be explained by contextual knowledge: motion is omnipresent in AD. “Flowing openness” [15] and “space flowing into the next” [17] have become usual ways for us to refer to space, if the building is not personified: “buildings, each intent on drawing attention to itself” [6]. According to Caballero, in the article “Form is motion. Dynamic predicates in English architectural discourse” (Caballero 2009), it reflects a trend towards adopting anthropomorphic views of buildings and towards understanding space according to our movement through it. But more importantly, contemporary architecture seems very keen on exploring this fragmentation of the building into dynamic shapes – Caballero mentions the works of Frank Gehry or Zaha Hadid – which might explain why metaphors expressing motion have been such an important feature of AD in the past twenty years.

  • 12 See notion of « modulor » as developed by Le Corbusier.
  • 13 Paradoxically, technology therefore becomes synonymous of sensitivity and life.

61A last element which is worth commenting on is the new uses of the BODY METAPHOR in our corpus. Certainly, the “body-image schema” is a typical human way to think about the world around us (Pallasmaa 2005), but it also reflects characteristic trends in current architecture. Architecture has been concerned with the body in diverse ways: the visual analogy between the proportions of man and that of a building, as was advocated by Le Corbusier in the golden days of modernism,12 has been replaced, in more recent years, by a conception of the building as body, as a sensitive, even sensual whole. This is the program of architects like Juhani Pallasmaa (2005: 39) who “proclaim a sensory architecture in opposition to the prevailing visual understanding of the art of building.” The idea that architecture is linked to the senses is becoming all the more true today as digital techniques enable architects to build sound, light or warmth sensitive architecture.13 The metaphor of skin, which connotes nearness, intimacy and affection, is also omnipresent in our corpus (“The design of this skin is so complex” [2], “the glass and aluminium skin becomes an active surface” [12], “The skin also absorbs and diffuses the sky's light”[15]). The concept was linked with transparency, for buildings of the modernist period. It continued to pervade AD during post-modernism, but was at that time linked to new concepts of meaning, sign and narration. Today, the notion of skin has pervaded very different domains (media theory, cultural studies, biology, design, and philosophy). We now associate this concept with other senses than just vision: touch, smell and taste, for instance, which enriches the metaphor with new concepts of sensuous experience, according to Susanne Hauser (Gerber & Patterson 2013).

62On the whole, language seems to adapt to modern conceptions of architecture, as an art of self-expression that creates independent works of art, sensitive to their environment and suggesting motion. Moreover, metaphors such as “pixelated surface” [8] or “pop-up houses” [21] are unimaginable in reviews that are several decades old but are present in our corpus. The latter refers to the evanescent, easy and quick appearance and disappearance of the pop-up window to describe a short-lived ephemeral building “here today and gone tomorrow” as the author puts it. We may formulate the hypothesis that in the coming years, metaphors referring to the digital world are going to appear in greater number, because we will start to conceive objects in terms of new technologies and because buildings will suggest or explore the potentials of technology in architecture, as on the WGBH headquarters in Brighton, Massachusetts, which displays “digital skins”. In short, metaphors respond to new trends and they also inform our conception of what contemporary architecture should be like.

5. Conclusion and perspectives

63Among the innumerable approaches to metaphor, such as linguistics, psychology, literary scholarship, critical theory, discourse analysis, social theory, anthropology, historical study, neuroscience, aesthetics, ethics, philosophy (Stockwell 2010: 169, in Burke 2014), we believe that ESP can successfully adopt a multidisciplinary approach of metaphors as a textual, cognitive and communicative reality it their socio-cultural context.

64It appears that the use of metaphors is central in architectural discourse and that architects use a great variety of linguistic resources (verbal, adjectival and adverbial metaphors alongside the traditional nominal metaphors) as well as more or less expected conceptual mappings across domains. Typical architectural metaphors include references to TEXTILE, LANGUAGE, MOVEMENT or LIFE, but other domains may be referred to for their visual, structural or animation potentials. In architectural reviews, cities and buildings may be referred to in a traditional way, with literal or conventional metaphors that are part of architect’s shared schemata (“architectural language” [7]), with imaginative metaphors that develop these primary metaphors (“the tower […] lifted into conversation with the wider city” [29]) but also with new imaginative metaphors that do not fit in pre-established schemata and are created ad hoc (“This [building] was a Christmas stocking” [30]) This keen interest in creative, poetic or entertaining metaphors goes alongside a desire to bring up an image, explain and trigger further thoughts, imagination and discourse. It also expresses their membership in the architectural community and their authority to describe and evaluate the building in their own terms.

65The characteristics of metaphors in our corpus have to be understood as an integral part of the architectural review genre, whose images and text aim to describe and evaluate buildings. Metaphors also have to be clearly situated in a socio-professional perspective, as the markers of a discourse community of architects who share activities (writing reviews), expertise (architectural creation) and purposes (show and explain) as well as ways to express themselves and ways to see the world. Thirdly, many of these metaphors reflect trends and interests in contemporary architecture and contemporary thought – motion, new technologies, but also sensory experience and self-expression – which clearly indicates that language and images change.

66Our objective here was modest: to show the central role and the specific characteristics of metaphors in AD based on a medium-sized corpus and to highlight contextual elements. A computer-assisted treatment of a large-scale corpus based on samples from different genres would enable us to draw statistical conclusions from the frequency of metaphors in architectural reviews compared to other genres, such as research articles in architecture, contracts, essays or commentaries of buildings by their architects, and compared to everyday language. Another challenge would be to undertake a diachronic study of metaphors in a specific genre and to demonstrate how very much metaphors are related to specific periods of history and to the type of building which is described.

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Corpus of articles selected from The Architectural Review, 1996-2015

1. Giant campus. Lyall, Sutherland. May2011, Vol. 229 Issue 1371, pp.38–45, 8pp.
2. The jam in the donut. Betsky, Aaron. Jun2013 Supplement, pp.10–15, 6pp.
3. The Tel Aviv Museum of Art delightfully ruffles a few feathers. Cook, Peter. Sep2012, Vol. 232 Issue 1387, pp.23–23, 1p.
4. Peak flow. Cook Peter. Jan2014, Vol. 235 Issue 1403, pp. 23-37, 14pp.
5. Munster library gives cause for great hopes for Bolles-Wilson's Milan project. Cook, Peter. Jul2008, Vol. 224, pp.32–32, 1p.
6. Geological formation. Brittain-Catlin, Timothy. May2000, Vol. 207 Issue 1239, pp. 50-53, 4pp.
7. Nordic light. Heathcote, Edwin, Jan2012, Vol. 231 Issue 1379, pp.26–34, 9pp.
8. Church of Sky. Slessor, Catherine. Feb2010, Vol. 227, pp.74–77, 4pp.
9. Santa Marta Lighthouse Museum. Slessor, Catherine. Mar2010, Vol. 227, pp.70–75, 6pp.
10. Ground and Sky. Slessor, Catherine., Mar2009, Vol. 225, pp.36–43, 8pp.
11. London Calling. Farrell, Terry, Sep2007, Vol. 222, pp.44–47, 4pp.
12. Iconic Kiasma. Lecuyer, Annette., Aug1998, Vol. 204 Issue 1218, pp.46–53, 8pp.
13. Cranbrook continuum. Lecuyer, Annette, Nov1997, Vol. 202, pp.76–81, 6pp.
14. Sextet in the city. Skene Catling, Charlotte. Architectural Review, May2014, Vol. 235 Issue 1407, pp.51–54, 4pp.
15. Light Reid. Weston, Richard. Apr2014, Vol. 235 Issue 1406, pp.56–71, 16pp.
16. Reference library. Prizeman, Oriel, Mar2012, Vol. 231 Issue 1381, pp.26–35, 10pp.
17. Literary Giant. Prizeman, Oriel. Nov2013, Vol. 234 Issue 1401, pp.54–65, 12pp.
18. I'll take the high road. Brearley, Mark. Mar2015, Vol. 237 Issue 1417, pp.20–21, 2pp.

19. Arc of light. Salter, Peter. Apr2013, Vol. 233 Issue 1394, pp.32–45, 14pp.
20. Palladio in the antipodes. Spence, Rory. Feb2000, Vol. 207 Issue 1236, pp.82–85, 4pp.
21. Tokyo Do-mino. Soane, James. Mar2013, Vol. 233 Issue 1393, pp.44–49, 6pp.
22. The future house is here. Teatum, Tom. Sep2013, Vol. 234 Issue 1399, pp.17–18, 2pp.
23. Brick and Mix. Woodman, Ellis. Sep2015, Vol. 238 Issue 1423, pp.87–93, 7pp.
24. Five Fold. Woodman, Ellis. Oct2014, Vol. 236 Issue 1412, pp.84–93, 10pp.
25. The key to the city. Buchanan, Peter. Jan1996, Vol. 199, pp.50–57, 8pp.
26. House of Retreat. Buchanan, Peter., Mar2006, Vol. 219, pp.68–73, 6pp.
27. Subterranean sushi. Wislocki, Peter. Sep1996, Vol. 199, pp.84–85, 2pp.
28. Home from home. Wislocki, Peter,. Jun1997, Vol. 201, pp.58–61, 4pp.
29. Sean O'Casey Community Centre. Rattenbury, Kester. Jun2009, Vol. 225, pp.62–69, 8pp.
30. Pattern Language. Rattenbury, Kester. Mar2014, Vol. 235 Issue 1405, pp.49–59, 10pp.
31. Creative leaps in the arena of architectural competitions. Moussavi, Farshid. Feb2013, Vol. 233 Issue 1392, pp.27–27, 3/4pp.
32. White out. Mead, Andrew. Jan2013, Vol. 233 Issue 1391, pp.44–49, 6pp.
33. Casa das Histórias Paula Rego. Mead, Andrew. Nov2009, Vol. 226, pp.38–45, 8pp.
34. Alice Tully Hall. Kolb, Jaffer. Apr2009, Vol. 225, pp.54–59, 6pp.
35. Pio Pio Restaurant. Kolb, Jaffer. Oct2009, Vol. 226, pp.50–51, 2pp.

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1 The Royal Institute of British Architecture was created in 1834 for “the general advancement of Civil Architecture, and for promoting and facilitating the acquirement of the knowledge of the various arts and sciences connected therewith” <>.

2 ‘Tenor’ and ‘Vehicle’ are part of the terminology of I.A. Richards, in The Philosophy of Rhetoric (1965: 96), in the section "Lecture V: Metaphor.” Black (1955) developed his interactive model on these distinctions.

3 The notion was introduced by Lakoff & Johnson (1980) and can be defined as a coherent organisation of experience

4 Capitals will be used throughout the article when referring to a specific domain, following the convention established by Lakoff and Johnson (1980) in their seminal work.

5 Readers are architects (73%), students (13%), clients and other architecture-related professions (14%). See < Pack_2013_Digital-Version.pdf>

6 The domains of ARTS and LANGUAGE were analysed together because they both serve the idea that architecture is art or self-expression.

7 Terms like “skeleton” or “wing” are not synecdoches in that these parts of the building do not stand for the whole building. The whole building is understood metaphorically as a body, and the metaphor of the body is extended to the parts of the building as well.”

8 It was decided that “the building is a pantheon” and “the room is an anti-materialist inner sanctum” were metaphors that mapped the characteristics of religious buildings onto private buildings; however, the domains are very close, which suggests that these expressions are less metaphorical than others.

9 Rosario Caballero (2006) differentiates four different kinds of architects: the architectus ingenio, who creates the new building, the architect sumptarius who provides the financial means to realise it, the architectus manuarius who takes part in the construction and the architectus verborus who talks about the projects and the finished buildings. The original distinction was made by John Evelin, a prolific English writer of the 17th century.

10 The use of metaphors for their animation potential is not restricted to AD, because, as Lakoff & Johnson (1980) indicate, it is a human tendency to project our own in-out orientation and our ability to move into other physical objects.

11 They are not “dead” however, these metaphors we live by are extremely common by definitions (Kövecses 2010; xi).

12 See notion of « modulor » as developed by Le Corbusier.

13 Paradoxically, technology therefore becomes synonymous of sensitivity and life.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Distribution of different types of metaphors
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Titre Figure 2: Distribution of target domains
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Titre Figure 3: Distribution of source domains
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Titre Figure 4: Distribution of living beings metaphors
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Titre Figure 5: Distribution of objects and materials metaphors
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Titre Figure 6: Distribution of arts and language metaphors
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Titre Figure 7: Distribution of science and techniques metaphors
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Titre Figure 8: Distribution of environment metaphors
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Titre Figure 9: Conventionality of architectural metaphors
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Claire Kloppmann-Lambert, « Specialised aspects of architectural discourse: Metaphors in the British magazine The Architectural Review »ASp, 73 | 2018, 25-51.

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Claire Kloppmann-Lambert, « Specialised aspects of architectural discourse: Metaphors in the British magazine The Architectural Review »ASp [En ligne], 73 | 2018, mis en ligne le 01 mars 2019, consulté le 14 juin 2024. URL : ; DOI :

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Claire Kloppmann-Lambert

Claire Kloppmann-Lambert est élève en Master 2 d’anglais de spécialité à l’École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay et fellow d’ESPRI (École normale supérieure Paris-Saclay’s English for Specific Purposes Research Initiative) pour l’année 2018. Son travail de recherche porte sur l’anglais de l’architecture, plus particulièrement sur la métaphore et sur la caractérisation de genres en architecture, d’un point de vue synchronique et diachronique.

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