The Aesthetics of Atmospheres: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Aesthetics of Atmospheres

1st Edition

By Gernot Böhme

Edited by Jean-Paul Thibaud


218 pages | 1 B/W Illus.

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Interest in sensory atmospheres and architectural and urban ambiances has been growing for over 30 years. A key figure in this field is acclaimed German philosopher Gernot Böhme whose influential conception of what atmospheres are and how they function has been only partially available to the English-speaking public. This translation of key essays along with an original introduction charts the development of Gernot Böhme's philosophy of atmospheres and how it can be applied in various contexts such as scenography, commodity aesthetics, advertising, architecture, design, and art.

The phenomenological analysis of atmospheres has proved very fruitful and its most important, and successful, application has been within aesthetics. The material background of this success may be seen in the ubiquitous aestheticization of our lifeworld, or from another perspective, of the staging of everything, every event and performance. The theory of atmospheres becoming an aesthetic theory thus reveals the theatrical, not to say manipulative, character of politics, commerce, of the event-society. But, taken as a positive theory of certain phenomena, it offers new perspectives on architecture, design, and art. It made the spatial and the experience of space and places a central subject and hence rehabilitated the ephemeral in the arts. Taking its numerous impacts in many fields together, it initiated a new humanism: the individual as a living person and his or her perspective are taken seriously, and this fosters the ongoing democratization of culture, in particular the possibility for everybody to participate in art and its works.

Table of Contents



Part I. Theory: Aesthetics and aesthetical economy

1. Atmosphere as a fundamental concept of a new aesthetics

2. Atmosphere as an aesthetic concept

3. The art of the stage set as a paradigm for an aesthetics of atmospheres

4. Kant’s aesthetics: a new perspective

5. On beauty

6. On synaesthesiae

7. Contribution to the critique of the aesthetic economy

Part II. Aesthetics of nature and art

8. Aesthetic knowledge of nature

9. Nature in the age of its technical reproducibility

10. Body, nature and art

11. Nature as a subject  

Part III. Architecture

12. The atmosphere of a CITY

13. Atmosphere as the subject matter of architecture

14. Staged materiality

15. Architecture: a visual art? On the relationship between modern architecture and photography

16. Metaphors in architecture–a metaphor?

Part IV. Light and sound

17. Acoustic atmospheres

18. Music and architecture

19. The great concert of the world

20. Seeing light

21. The phenomenology of light

About the Author/Editor

Gernot Böhme (Author) was Professor of Philosophy at TU Darmstadt, Germany between 1977 and 2002 and has been director of the Institute for Practical Philosophy in Darmstadt since 2005. His research interests include the philosophy of science, theory of time, aesthetics, ethics, and philosophical anthropology.

Jean-Paul Thibaud (Editor), sociologist, is CNRS Senior Researcher at CRESSON/UMR Ambiances Architectures Urbanités. His field of research covers the theory of urban ambiances, ordinary perception, and sensory ethnography of public places. In 2008 he founded the International Ambiances Network.

About the Series

Ambiances, Atmospheres and Sensory Experiences of Spaces

Ambiances, Atmospheres and Sensory Experiences of Spaces

Research on ambiances and atmospheres has grown significantly in recent years in a range of disciplines, including Francophone architecture and urban studies, German research related to philosophy and aesthetics, and a growing range of Anglophone research on affective atmospheres within human geography and sociology.

This series offers a forum for research that engages with questions around ambiances and atmospheres in exploring their significances in understanding social life. Each book in the series advances some combination of theoretical understandings, practical knowledges and methodological approaches. More specifically, a range of key questions which contributions to the series seek to address includes:

  • In what ways do ambiances and atmospheres play a part in the unfolding of social life in a variety of settings?

  • What kinds of ethical, aesthetic, and political possibilities might be opened up and cultivated through a focus on atmospheres/ambiances?

  • How do actors such as planners, architects, managers, commercial interests and public authorities actively engage with ambiances and atmospheres or seek to shape them? How might these ambiances and atmospheres be reshaped towards critical ends?

  • What original forms of representations can be found today to (re)present the sensory, the atmospheric, the experiential?  What sort of writing, modes of expression, or vocabulary is required? What research methodologies and practices might we employ in engaging with ambiances and atmospheres?

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SCIENCE / Earth Sciences / Geography