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Report from Ole Fischer (ETH, MIT) on : “A dialogue between the arts: Architectural descriptions in literature”

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Report from Ole Fischer (ETH, MIT) on : “A dialogue between the arts: Architectural descriptions in literature”

Posted by swissnex boston administrator at Sep 21, 2010 05:49 PM |
This conference convened by Barbara von Orelli-Messerli (University of Zurich) brought together a group of researchers from various backgrounds of humanities: art historians, architects, literary critics and historians alike. The speakers followed the invitation of Mrs. von Orelli-Messerli from various countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, Russia, and United States. And this variety of backgrounds showed in their topics as well: the architectural descriptions in literature discussed were from Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, or Russia.

Report from Ole Fischer (ETH, MIT) on : “A dialogue between the arts: Architectural descriptions in literature”

Sep 21, 2010 05:49 PM

 

       

Since the formation of architectural history as a proper academic subject in the second half of the 19th century the main focus of its research has been on inventory, classification and formal description of key architectural projects with the means inherited from art history. Even if this apparatus has proven to be very powerful, it seems somehow incomplete and reductive: architectural history proper excluded for instance subjective perspectives and creative writing from further consideration. Literature, however, has developed a wide range of architectural descriptions since the 18th Century: topics like the metamorphoses of buildings over time, migration of architectural forms, the specifics of material objects and their contexts, or the psychology of spaces, to name but a few. Architecture, at times, turns even into a protagonist of plots. This is especially evident in the literature of the late 19th and early 20th century, with authors like Victor Hugo, Charles Baudelaire, Émile Zola, Marcel Proust, etc. Sabine Frommel (Paris Sorbonne) addressed this specific French tradition of architectural novelists from Stendhal on in her keynote lecture on Friday evening.
This conference convened by Barbara von Orelli-Messerli (University of Zurich) brought together a group of researchers from various backgrounds of humanities: art historians, architects, literary critics and historians alike. The speakers followed the invitation of Mrs. von Orelli-Messerli from various countries: Switzerland, Germany, France, Russia, and United States. And this variety of backgrounds showed in their topics as well: the architectural descriptions in literature discussed were from Switzerland, Italy, Germany, France, United Kingdom, or Russia.

The presentations addressed next to various regions also different time frames: the mostly young and emerging scholars traced the development of architectural descriptions in literature from travelogues of the Renaissance via the grand tour of British gentlemen in 18th Century to the novelists of the 19th and 20th century up to recent postmodern literary production and its references to architecture and urban space. A few excurses to the architectural metaphors at work in poems, utopian texts and philosophy (such as the presentation of the author, following Friedrich Nietzsche’s account of the villas and gardens of Genoa and the effects of this architectonic motive on the artistic practice of his reader, the Flemish artist and architect Henry van de Velde) showed the broad field of the dialogue of the arts to be scrutinized further. This might have been a first session of stock taking of this new field between architecture, art history and literary criticism, since the organizers are planning ahead with a follow up in 2011, to continue the dialogue between the art as well as between the historians and critics of the arts.

Ole W. Fischer, Harvard GSD

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