The Judicious Eye

For summer reading CiA recommends Joseph Rykwert’s “The Judicious Eye: Architecture against The Other Arts” (Reaktion 2008). Provoked by the discontinuity between the contemporary architectural environment and artistic practice Professor Rykwert charts the history of the relationship between architecture and the fine, decorative and applied arts over the past two centuries.

He discusses the many proposals to produce a total aesthetic experience, from Percier and Fontaine’s delicate neoclassicism to the various products of the Bauhaus. Despite the optimism of this synthesising project and the critical acclaim with which each attempt was received, his conclusion is that this process has failed in its purpose. He paints the following dispiriting but familiar picture:

Object-buildings, whether high-tech or Emirate style, occupy the soil in the same way and make the same demands on their users. They are similarly separated by atrophied and wind-swept semi-public spaces that seem to cry out for some garnish, some tonic to articulate the ground level. That is usually provided by an out-of-scale and arbitrarily-shaped sculptural object.

Despite this contemporary scenario, after the weaving of a magisterial history of the relationship between architecture, art and design Rykwert holds out a guardedly optimistic hope that “they will, of course, continue to weave into other unpredictable patterns which will be conditioned by pressures at which, like my reader, I can only guess.”

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For how this synthesis might effect The City, The Building, The Room watch this space.

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