A work of architecture extends beyond itself in two ways. It is as much determined by the aim it is to serve as by the place it is to take up in a total spatial context. Every architect has to consider both these things. His plan is determined by the fact that the building has to serve a particular way of life and adapt itself to particular architectural circumstances. We call a successful building a "happy solution," and mean by this both that it perfectly fulfills its purpose and that its construction has added something new to the spatial dimensions of a town or landscape. Through this dual ordering the building presents a true increase of being: it is a work of art.
A building is not a work of art if it stands just anywhere, as a blot on the landscape, but only if it represents the solution of an "architectural problem." Aesthetics acknowledges only those works of art that are in some way worth thinking about and calls them "architectural monuments." If a building is a work of art, then it is not only the artistic solution to a building problem posed by the contexts of purpose and life to which it originally belongs, but somehow preserves them, so that they are visibly present even though the building's present appearance is completely alienated from its original purpose. Something in it points back to the original. Where the original intention becomes completely unrecognizable, or its unity is destroyed by too many subsequent alterations, then the building itself becomes incomprehensible. Thus architecture, this most statuary of all art forms, shows how secondary "aesthetic differentiation" is. A building is never only a work of art. Its purpose, through which it belongs in the context of life, cannot be separated from it without its losing some of its reality. If it has become merely an object of aesthetic consciousness, then it has merely a shadowy reality and lives a distorted life only in the degenerate form of a tourist attraction or a subject for photography. The "work of art in itself" proves to be a pure abstraction.
In fact the presence of great architectural monuments of the past among the buildings erected by the modern world of commerce poses the task of integrating past and present. Works of architecture do not stand motionless on the shore of the stream of history, but are borne along by it. Even if historically-minded ages try to reconstruct the architecture of an earlier age, they cannot turn back the wheel of history, but must mediate in a new and better way between the past and the present. Even the restorer or the preserver of ancient monuments remains an artist of his time.
The special importance of architecture for our inquiry is that it too displays the element of mediation without which a work of art has no real "presence." Thus even where the work is presented in a way other tan through performance (which everyone knows belongs to its own present time), past and present are brought together in a work of art. That every work of art has its own world does not mean that when its original world is altered it has its reality in an alienated aesthetic consciousness. Architecture teaches us this, for it belongs inalienably to its world.
The ontological foundation of the occasional and the decorative / Gadamer, Hans-Georg (2004), Thruth and Method, New York, Continuum Publishing Group, pp. 149-150