Arch. Myriam B. Mahiques Curriculum Vitae

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A discussion about the architecture of Romanticism

Frontispiece of Marc-Antoine Laugier. Allegorical engraving of the Vitruvian primitive hut. From

I´m reading Crome Yellow, a book by Aldous Huxley, an ironic novel about the pretentious British upper-class trying to forget what happened at the World War I.
In chapter XI, there is a discussion about an ostentatious villa -Crome Yellow-, where the group is reunited. Supposedly, the house was rebuilt with the grandeur of brick technology, pretty far from the Romanticism of SXIX.
From page 59:

¨The great thing about Crome,¨ said Mr. Scogan, seizing the opportunity to speak, ¨is the fact that it´s so unmistakably and aggressively a work of art. It makes no compromise with nature, but affronts it and rebels against it. It has no likeness to Shelley´s tower, in the ¨Epipsychidion,¨which, if I remember rightly-
¨Seems not now a work of human art,
But as it were titanic, in the heart
Of earth having assumed its form and grown
Out of the mountain, from the living stone,
Lifting itself in caverns light and high.¨
No, no; there isn´t any nonsense of that sort about Crome. That the hovels of the peasantry should look as though they had grown out of the earth, to which their inmates are attached, is right, no doubt, and suitable. But the house of an intelligent, civilised, and sophisticated man should never seem to have sprouted from the clods. It should rather be an expression of his grand unnatural remoteness from the cloddish life. Since the days of William Morris that´s a fact which we in England have been unable to comprehend. Civilised and sophisticated men have solemnly played at being peasants. Hence quaintness, arts and crafts, cottage architecture, and all the rest of it. In the suburbs of our cities you may see, reduplicated in endless rows, studiedly quaint imitations and adaptations of the village hovel. Poverty, ignorance, and a limited range of materials produced the hovel, which possesses undoubtedly, in suitable surroundings, its own ¨as it were titanic¨ charm. W now employ our wealth, our technical knowledge, our rich variety of materials for the purpose of building millions of imitation hovels in totally unsuitable surroundings. Could imbecility go further?.¨

Abtei im Eichwald. Oil on canvas by Caspar David Friedrich. Google images 
Painting by Frank Forsgard Manclark, 'The Leith Artist' - Romantic Edinburgh.

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