Wednesday June 13 2018
- 18.30–19.30Keynote Lecture by Christine Stevenson
Buildings in Bits: Lessons from the English Baroque
Christine Stevenson, The Courtauld Institute of Art
How can we think about a building in a way that helps us to look at it and acknowledges the contingencies of construction? This lecture offers some suggestions by showing how parts of buildings were commodified, and described, in England between 1660 and 1700.
The ‘English Baroque’ was a social and economic phenomenon more than a stylistic one. Construction was the second-biggest industry in London, and much went on elsewhere, too, but few people made their livings as architects in our sense. Design was an activity, an ad-hoc role. Many figures today identified as carvers, masons, and so on turned their hands to it in the course of shifting and varied production affiliations, which commentators agreed were driven by individual self-interest. This competition was identified as a powerful driver of progress in the building trades, and so was the emulative, conspicuous architectural consumption that demanded equally conspicuous production and producers. The carver Grinling Gibbons, for example, was a famous man. The ways in which his ornaments were described suggest that what is called ‘qualitative self-differentiation’ formed part of artisanal career strategies. In terms of both money and praise, this is, Gibbons’s work was valued for what it was, but also because he had made it.
Is a building, then, only the sum of its parts, an accumulation of the products of many more-or-less skilled and famous hands, both local and far away? Yes, early modern England would have answered: that is how one assessed, or valued, a building. Suggestively, it used architecture metaphorically, to explain economic order as the cumulative result of individual human strivings, not of design or regulation. Very soon, however, the country arrived at something approximating the modern condition. English architects became author-architects, and ambitious artisans were no longer subjects of interest.
Professor Christine Stevenson teaches students at The Courtauld Institute of Art, University of London, about the history of architecture, and of monuments and memorializing. She grew up in Canada, where her fascination with the architecture of the Baltic and Nordic countries began when she was an exchange student in Finland, and then in Denmark. Her PhD dissertation was about the prisons and asylums designed by the Danish architect C. F. Hansen. Since then she has published two books – Medicine and Magnificence: British Hospital and Asylum Architecture 1660–1815 (2000) and The City and the King: Architecture and Politics in Restoration London (2013) – and is working on another, about famous building craftsmen in early modern England.
Friday June 15 2018
- 12.00–13.00Keynote Lecture by Krista Kodres. Main Conference Hall
The House of a Tallinn/Reval Wealthy Burgher in the Early Modern Period: Self-Representation and Social Aesthetics
Krista Kodres, Estonian Academy of Arts
A dwelling is a complex unity, where the layout as well as the physical, aesthetic, and iconographic features are conceived through the intertwining of space and time, the social and the cultural, the desires of the clients, and the skills and knowledge of the designers and builders. In my paper, I will attempt to unpack this ‘entanglement’, in order to understand how the social, cultural, and aesthetic contexts ‘took form’ in the early modern period in the houses of the Tallinn elite (merchants, burgher masters). What was the agency of the houses and things themselves, and how did they perform in the urban context of Tallinn? Among other things, I will ask why the architectural regeneration of dwellings in Tallinn was comparatively slow. How did the plan of the house and the function of the rooms change in these circumstances? Why were the same architectural and decorative features used in the interior and exterior design of dwellings for over two centuries? What did the iconography of the decor and the interiors ‘speak’ about? More generally, I will ask how the decisions regarding the aesthetics and comfort of the dwellings were made and why was the need for self-representation—clearly apparent in the designs of the dwellings—so important among the Tallinn elite?
Krista Kodres is a professor at the Institute of Art History and Visual Culture of Estonian Academy of Arts in Tallinn/Estonia and a senior researcher at University of Tallinn, Institute of Humanities. Her fields of research are history and theory of art and architecture in Early Modern period, history and theory of art history writing, history of Estonian/Soviet art history. She is the editor-in-chief of six-volume edition of “History of Estonian Art” and an author of the books “Beautiful House and Room” (2001), “History of Estonian Art, vol. 2, 1520-1770“ (2005, editor and main author); “Presenting Oneself. The Early Modern Tallinn (Reval) citizen and his house” (2014). Kodres is the author of a chapter in the book „Art History and Visual Studies in Europe. Transnational Discourses and National Frameworks. (eds. M. Rampley et al. Boston: Brill Academic Publishers, 2012).
Saturday June 16 2018
- 15.00–16.00Closing Keynote: Reinhold Martin. Main Conference Hall
Reinhold Martin is Professor of Architecture in the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning, and Preservation at Columbia University, where he directs the Temple Hoyne Buell Center for the Study of American Architecture. At Columbia, Martin also chairs the Society of Fellows in the Humanities, and is a member of the Committee on Global Thought as well as the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society. A founding co-editor of the journal Grey Room, Martin’s books include The Organizational Complex: Architecture, Media, and Corporate Space (MIT, 2003), Utopia’s Ghost: Architecture and Postmodernism, Again (Minnesota, 2010), and The Urban Apparatus: Mediapolitics and the City (Minnesota, 2016). He is currently working on a history of the American university as a media complex.