Theoretical sweep.MODERN ARCHITECTURAL THEORY: A HISTORICAL SURVEY 1673-1968
By Harry Francis Mallgrave. England: Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). . 2005 [pounds sterling]70
Mallgrave's achievement in trying to sum up the development of architectural theory from the Enlightenment to the revolutions of 1968 is staggering in its sweep, compass and sheer competence. He starts with Claude Perrault's 1763 edition of Vitruvius, as the first architectural example of the use of theorie. (It was a translation of the Roman author's ratiocinatio, which was one of the two pillars of architecture--the other being fabrica, making.)
Mallgrave stresses that 'a history of theory is different from a history of architecture': the stress is on ideas, 'and some major architects have had only a small effect on the course of theory whereas some minor architects have had a large impact'. He is concerned 'to hold on fast as theory evolves through its many guises until at last it reveals its true identity'. I have reservations about the true identity of any theory ever being revealed, but Mallgrave's effort is worthwhile and heroic.
His badger-like grasp of a set of ideas and their development is exemplary, partly (mainly perhaps) because he refuses to use the arcane and intentionally bizarre language that many (particularly American) academics employ when discussing history and theory. Unusually (for an author writing in English), he explores the development of German theory in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, which is set in a weave with already well reported French, British and American strands. He is particularly strong on Semper and his disciples who are often neglected, perhaps because Pevsner intentionally ignored them.
Mallgrave divides history into a narrative of neat and necessarily slightly overlapping chapters, for instance 'The Enlightenment and Neoclassical ne·o·clas·si·cism also Ne·o·clas·si·cism
A revival of classical aesthetics and forms, especially:
a. A revival in literature in the late 17th and 18th centuries, characterized by a regard for the classical ideals of reason, form, Theory', 'British Theory in the Eighteenth Century', 'Neoclassicism and Historicism' and so on. Architectural thought is always related to contemporary currents of philosophical thinking, which are explained with concision con·ci·sion
1. The state or quality of being concise: "a role made . . . dramatically accessible by the concision of the form" George Steiner.
2. and clarity. On the whole, Mallgrave is remarkably even-handed, though he gets a bit tetchy tetch·y also tech·y
adj. tetch·i·er, tetch·i·est
Peevish; testy: "As a critic gets older, he or she usually grows more tetchy and limited in responses" James Wolcott. with people like Soane, whose 'private feelings are ambivalent and difficult to define'. He loses patience with William Morris, whose recipes for improving life, art and architecture 'are both inadequate and affectedly naive'.
Although Mallgrave says that the book is not a history of architecture, his chapters on Modernism do provide a remarkably succinct and dispassionate dis·pas·sion·ate
Devoid of or unaffected by passion, emotion, or bias. See Synonyms at fair1.
dis·pas overview of the variety and development of the Movement, its main protagonists and the political currents in which they had to swim. For instance, he uncensoriously sums up Corbusier's writhings with the Vichy regime after the Fall of France and his subsequent changes in output and intellectual position. The decay of Modernism and the rise in importance of phenomenology phenomenology, modern school of philosophy founded by Edmund Husserl. Its influence extended throughout Europe and was particularly important to the early development of existentialism. , structuralism structuralism, theory that uses culturally interconnected signs to reconstruct systems of relationships rather than studying isolated, material things in themselves. This method found wide use from the early 20th cent. and semiotics semiotics or semiology, discipline deriving from the American logician C. S. Peirce and the French linguist Ferdinand de Saussure. It has come to mean generally the study of any cultural product (e.g., a text) as a formal system of signs. are carefully woven together, and the penultimate chapter ends with a very sympathetic account of Venturi venturi
a tube with a decrease in the inside diameter that is used to increase the flow velocity of the fluid and thereby cause a pressure drop; used to measure the flow velocity (a venturimeter) or to draw another fluid into the stream. and Complexity and Contradiction.
The final chapter, an epilogue, looks at 1968, the year of revolutions, Tafuri's dismissal of architectural development since the Enlightenment as 'walking in lock-step with capitalism and thus in an insoluble state of crisis', and with the arguments between Kenneth Frampton and Denise Scott Brown Denise Scott Brown, (née Lakofski; born October 3, 1931 in Nkana, Zambia) is an architect, planner, writer, educator, and principal of the firm Venturi, Scott Brown and Associates in Philadelphia. about the nature of culture dominated by capitalist symbols. Mallgrave looks on the year as one of 'exhaustion' after which 'architectural theory would never again be the same. A new (or old) direction had to be found.'
It is a pity that Mallgrave decided to stop so long ago, though the finishing point is doubtless chosen to give historical objectivity. His dispassionate analysis of directions that have been pursued since 1968--critical regionalism re·gion·al·ism
a. Political division of an area into partially autonomous regions.
b. Advocacy of such a political system.
2. Loyalty to the interests of a particular region.
3. , blobismus, Jencks's discovery of essence in the universe and so on--would be extremely welcome. And so would his discussion of responses to the imminent ecological crisis. But he has apparently retreated to Florida, where he 'has returned to architectural practice'. What can his buildings be like? If they are as meticulous and thorough as his book, they must be awesome.
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