Reading Ruskin

Posted on April 30, 2010


I’m currently reading John Ruskin’s ‘The Stones of Venice’. Naturally, I skipped straight to the famous essay, ‘The Nature of Gothic’. I’m sure I will write a more conclusive post on the essay but until then something worth considering: Ruskin observes that Architecture is not received by the public with the same excitement of, say, a new piece of literature or a new painting from a renowned artist. There are two points that can be immediately drawn from this view. Firstly, the image of architecture received and enjoyed with the same intensity of these other arts. I think this is a very pertinent objective for architects, after all, architecture is arguably a larger part of our lives than any other art form, at least it plays a more constant role. The second point, which I see as crucial, is that the measure here is the response of the general public. That huge majority which is all too often over looked in architectural design. It’s the old problem of architecture occupying a position equivalent to an in-joke, a private exhibition unlocked only to those who have had the education to appreciate it. I’m not suggesting some kind of x-factor for architecture, simply that the views of the ‘layman’, as it were, are valid. Pleasing the public should be part of the goal, and where possible why not include them in the design process.

Interesting that these two contemporary issues should raise their heads in a mid-nineteenth century essay, possibly a reflection of the antiquated status of parts of our approach.