Classicism and symmetry

Eugène Viollet-le-Duc: ‘Alas!’ said M. de Gandelau, ‘there are too many people in our country with whom considerations of vanity take precedence of everything else, and that is one of the causes of our misfortunes. Appearance is the great object. Every retired bourgeois who has a country house built wishes to have his turrets regularly … Continue reading Classicism and symmetry

Form & spatial legibility

What shape should a building have? Should it have a simple shape? From what should the shape be derived? And should the shape be comprehensible, or have precedent: does a building need to be ‘legible’? John Summerson, in his 1941 essay ‘The Mischievous Analogy’, writes that 20th century architects have become obsessed with the “relation … Continue reading Form & spatial legibility

Functionalism & inhabitability

I’ve written here a bit about arguments for tradition in architecture, and also tentatively worked at some strands of current architectural theory. But now I want to sketch out what I think modernism in architecture is. I think modernism has a central concept which is essential to it. Alongside it we can put a number … Continue reading Functionalism & inhabitability

Arguments for tradition in architecture: 3

I wrote earlier about David Watkin’s criticism of Pevsner in 'Morality & Architecture'. Watkin says much less about another advocate of modernism: Sigfried Giedion. But with Giedion, Watkin’s general thesis—that modernists have all signed up to an unreflective Hegelianism and a ‘belief in progress’—comes closer to the mark. In ‘Space, Time & Architecture: The Growth … Continue reading Arguments for tradition in architecture: 3

Architecture school theory: authenticity

The word ‘authenticity’ carries multiple senses. Something that is authentic is true, but not quite in the sense of being a true report or description of something. But like truth as correspondence, authenticity is relational. When something is authentic it is correctly or properly related to other things. A forged or reproduction artwork, for example, … Continue reading Architecture school theory: authenticity

Architecture school theory: instrumentality

A repeated message in current architectural writing is to warn against ‘means-end thinking’, or ‘instrumental thinking’. For example, we might decide that we want to live in a home that has a constant temperature of 22 degrees centigrade, or that has a view to the south-east, and with these ends in mind, we go about … Continue reading Architecture school theory: instrumentality

Architecture school theory: introduction

So, what is architecture school theory? Take Scruton’s ‘Aesthetics of Architecture’, which I blogged about earlier. This is a book written by a non-architect, for non-architects (mainly), about architecture. From the perspective of architecture schools, it is almost counter-cultural. How did this happen? In the UK, Oxford University has no architecture school at all (although … Continue reading Architecture school theory: introduction

Arguments for tradition in architecture: 2

Watkin’s ‘Morality and Architecture’ (1977) is still fairly well known, although I suspect it's starting to lose currency. It has been described as a ‘polemic’. Its most favourable reading—its best hope, even—is as a call for some space for the practice of the traditional in architecture, and beyond that, for architectural aesthetics to recover priority. … Continue reading Arguments for tradition in architecture: 2

Arguments for tradition in architecture: 1

‘Aesthetics of Architecture’ (Scruton, 1979) is presented as an introduction to “the subject of aesthetics [for] those who have an interest in architecture”. It also advances a theory of aesthetics, where the designer’s stylistic choices are connected to individual flourishing; some stylistic choices, it is argued, will support such flourishing while others will hinder it. … Continue reading Arguments for tradition in architecture: 1