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Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, 1750-1950

Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, 1750-1950

Foreword: Kenneth Frampton
Copyright Date: 1998
Pages: 365
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  • Book Info
    Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture, 1750-1950
    Book Description:

    This new edition will be of interest not only to those who specialize in architecture and have read the standard works of Hitchcock, Giedion, Pevsner, and Joedicke but also to all those with a general interest in modern history and the philosophy of art.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6705-4
    Subjects: Architecture and Architectural History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Foreword to the Second Edition
    (pp. vii-xiv)
    Kenneth Frampton

    Peter Collins’s hermeneutical classicChanging Ideals in Modern Architectureof 1965 is in many respects a neglected, not to say forgotten, work, and yet even now, after so much of its substance has been elaborated by subsequent scholarship, it remains a pioneering achievement. It still provides an ideological history of the modern movement covering an extremely wide trajectory and one which is animated throughout by a sharp critical bias. Its challenging originality stems from the way in which Collins questions the fundamental role played by structural form in the evolution of modern architecture throughout the last two centuries.

    Collins’s study...

  4. Notes on the Publication of Changing Ideals in Modern Architecture
    (pp. xv-xx)
    Annmarie Adams
  5. Preface
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
    John Bland
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xxiii-xxiv)
  7. List of Illustrations
    (pp. xxv-14)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 15-18)

    The limits of the history of modern architecture are as difficult to define satisfactorily as the limits of any other kind of modern history, since each age has a different idea of what it means historically by ‘modern’. Thus, in the seventeenth century, the architects of the early Renaissance were called ‘modern’ to distinguish them from the architects of Antiquity. Nowadays, modern architecture is usually considered to be the kind of architecture peculiar to the twentieth century, but all recent writers on the subject have recognized that its origins go back much further, even though they may not agree as...


    • 1 Revolutionary Architecture
      (pp. 21-28)

      In the mid-nineteenth century, the general opinion regarding the nature of architectural development could probably best be summarized by a quotation fromThe Course and Current of Architecture, written by Samuel Muggins, a Liverpool architect, and published in 1863. In a chapter entitled ‘The Style of the Future’, he wrote: ‘To me, the whole history of the rise and mutations of styles conspires to show the folly of hankering after a new style. Every style of whose origin we have any knowledge has arisen not from an act of the will, or someone setting about the invention of a new...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 2 The Influence of Historiography
      (pp. 29-41)

      Every student of eighteenth century architecture must have been struck by the number of epoch-making though apparently disconnected events which occurred round about the year 1750. In 1747, Perronnet founded theÉcole des Ponts et Chausséeswhich formed the educational basis of modern civil engineering. In 1750, Walpole began to gothicize Strawberry Hill, the first substantial building of the Gothic Revival. In the same year, Baumgarten introduced the word ‘aesthetics’. In 1751, Stuart and Revett and Soufflot made the first serious attempts to record Greek ruins. In 1752, Blondel published the first modern history of architecture. In 1754, Laugier published...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 3 The Influence of the Picturesque
      (pp. 42-58)

      In each architectural era there is usually one building-type which dominates all others, and which, because of the attention lavished on it by influential patrons, tends to affect the design of buildings contemporary with it. In ancient Greece the dominant building-type was the temple; in mediaeval Europe it was the church; in Renaissance Europe it was the palace. After 1750 the dominant buildingtype is not so obvious, since the variety of different building-types became suddenly more numerous—a development which in itself was yet another characteristic distinguishing the modern age. But in so far as any one building-type could, more...


    • 4 The Awareness of Styles
      (pp. 61-66)

      One of the most popular notions twenty years ago concerning the meaning of the term ‘modern architecture’ was that it meant the twentieth century victory over Revivalism, or, in other words, over the earlier practice of ‘imitating past styles’. Before 1750, architecture was a straightforward matter of building in accordance with established principles, whereby an architect’s imagination and artistic sense could be fully exercised whilst keeping within the limits of certain acknowledged rules. But after 1750 (so the story goes) and particularly throughout the whole of the nineteenth century, architects were no longer content to build in this straightforward way,...

    • 5 Primitivism and Progress
      (pp. 67-69)

      The issues raised by the new interest in Classical archaeology drew attention to two fundamental dilemmas which all modern theorists have had to cope with, namely whether architecture evolves progressively or by cycles, and whether it evolves automatically by environmental influences or in accordance with stylistic determinants chosen by the designers themselves. These issues had never been of importance in any previous revivals, since although Vasari, for example, had observed that the arts of design resembled nature as shown in our bodies, and had, like them, their birth, growth and decay, he, like the other theorists of the period, was...

    • 6 The Roman Revival
      (pp. 70-78)

      Between 1550 and 1750, architects who visited Rome found the sight of the ruins no more attractive than the sight of the debris of a city mutilated by war, and far from trying to draw reconstructions and date them, they simply regarded them as conglomerations of standardized elements, which could provide useful information concerning the details and refinements of the Classical Orders. Even the Italian architects of this period viewed the antiquities of their native country as little more than fragments to be studied methodically in conjunction with the Vitruvian text (of which the original illustrations had been lost), or...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 7 The Greek Revival
      (pp. 79-95)

      Among the many conflicting ideals which have influenced Western architecture during the last two centuries, perhaps none has produced such a variety of expressions as those emanating from the ruins of ancient Greece. This diversity was particularly apparent in the United States, where Greek inspiration was most prevalent, and where later historians have therefore classified the whole period between 1820 and 1860 as ‘Greek Revival’, despite the fact that the number of factors common to all the buildings constructed there at that time were necessarily few, even if we exclude those which were deliberately non-Classical. A similar if not a...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 8 The Renaissance Revival
      (pp. 96-99)

      The term ‘Renaissance Revival’ may seem at first a nonsensical tautology, since the word ‘Renaissance' itself clearly means a revival or, more literally, a rebirth. Yet not only does this title fittingly express the nature of one of the most important aspects of nineteenth century Revivalism; it expresses the very essence of Revivalism as understood by the more progressive, practical, least romantic and least sentimental architects of the age.

      The ideal which created all aspects of Classical Revivalism (if we disregard the work of those many architects and patrons who merely imitated antique forms for the sake of variety) sprang...

    • 9 Gothic Nationalism
      (pp. 100-105)

      Probably the most rational theory of Revivalism formulated during the nineteenth century was that used to justify the Gothic Revival, but it is important to appreciate that rationalism was not the Gothic Revival’s only support. On the contrary, no other stylistic revival drew its strength from so many varied, and at times conflicting, sources.

      It is common for art historians to classify all buildings ornamented with pseudomediaeval details as simply ‘Gothic Revival’, and to catalogue them within a single stylistic group. By so doing, they exemplify to perfection the drawback of studying modern architecture simply as a sequence of forms...

    • 10 Gothic Ecclesiology and Social Reform
      (pp. 106-110)

      If the ecclesiologists’ dream of a Gothic Revival was more lasting, it was probably because, being mainly concerned with churches and the reform of the liturgy, the fulfilment of ideal planning problems formed an essential part of their schemes. These schemes were of course well leavened—or perhaps one should say ballasted—with romantic piety and romantic sociology, probably because the romantic attitude towards Gothic churches had been early awakened by the popular novelists of the eighteenth century. Mrs. Radcliffe had delighted her readers with descriptions of high vaulted aisles extending in twilight perspective, and dimly lit churches with monks...

    • 11 Polychromy
      (pp. 111-116)

      To understand fully the ideals of architects in the mid-nineteenth century, particularly of Renaissance Revivalists and Gothic Revivalists, it is important to appreciate the influence of what was then called ‘Architectural Polychromy’, by which was meant the introduction of variegations into the exterior design of façades. The fact that the concern was with exteriors is important. There was nothing novel about polychromatic adornmentsinsidebuildings, and historians who have dealt indiscriminately with both interior andexteriorcoloration overlook the main issue at stake. What was new in the nineteenth century was the idea that the exteriors of buildings should all...

    • 12 Eclecticism
      (pp. 117-127)

      The various aspects of Revivalism so far dealt with have all implied two alternative attitudes towards the past: first, the attitude of those idealists who, passionately espousing one particular period of architectural history, whether Roman, Greek, Renaissance or Gothic, claimed that it was only by returning to this pure source of inspiration that a good contemporary architecture could be created; secondly, the attitude of the many cynics whose ideals, if they had any, were opportunist, and who were usually guilty of what theologians would call ‘indifferentism’ (that is to say, they contended that all styles were of equal value, and...

    • 13 The Demand for a New Architecture
      (pp. 128-146)

      One of the most curious and far-reaching phenomena of the mid-nineteenth century was the insistent and widespread demand for a new architecture, which reached its climax about 1853. After that date, the idea became dormant for half a century, mainly because it had by then become apparent that every argument had been expended without a new architecture seeming any nearer; for in point of fact, it was impossible for a truly new universal architecture to establish itself before the invention of new structural systems, and this only occurred in the 18908, with the commercial development of steel and reinforced concrete...


    • 14 The Biological Analogy
      (pp. 149-158)

      The origins of the biological analogy, like so many ideas which have influenced modern architectural doctrines, can also be traced to about the year 1750. At that time, two epoch-making scientific books were published: Linnaeus’Species Plantarum(1753), in which the entire vegetable kingdom was classified binominally according to the disposition of the female reproductive organs, or ‘styles’, and Buffon’sHistoire Naturdle(1749), a vast compendium which attempted to incorporate all biological phenomena into a general interpretation of the laws governing the universe. Linnaeus’ work does not immediately concern this present enquiry, although it is probably not without significance that...

    • 15 The Mechanical Analogy
      (pp. 159-166)

      Of the various analogies used in the last century to clarify the principles of a new architecture, probably the only one to equal in importance the biological analogy has been the analogy between buildings and machines. Historically, it may even be said to take precedence, especially if we extend its meaning to include the more general thesis that functional efficiency is a kind of beauty; for, as Edward de Zurko has shown in hisOrigins of Functionalist Theory, the idea of relating beauty to the simpler aspects of mechanical utility goes back to remote antiquity, whilst the idea of using...

    • 16 The Gastronomic Analogy
      (pp. 167-172)

      In a lecture on ‘The Principles of Design in Architecture’, given on December 9th, 1862, to the cadets of the School of Military Engineering at Chatham, James Fergusson explained to his astonished audience that the process by which a hut to shelter an image is refined into a temple, or a meeting house into a cathedral, is the same as that which refines a boiled neck of mutton intocôtelettes à ľ Impèrialeor a grilled fowl intopoulet à la Marengo. ‘So essentially is this the case’, he continued, ‘that if you wish to acquire a knowledge of the...

    • 17 The Linguistic Analogy
      (pp. 173-182)

      The analogy between architecture and language has been less popular in recent years than it was from the middle of the eighteenth century to the middle of the nineteenth century, probably because it lacks the scientific glamour possessed by analogies with living organisms and machines. Yet in view of the importance now given to the linguistic analogy in the interpretation of the other Fine Arts, this neglect must necessarily occasion some surprise. For ever since Benedetto Croce rehabilitated the philosophy of the mid-eighteenth century historian Giambattista Vico by asserting that all art is a type of language, it has been...


    • 18 The Influence of Civil and Military Engineers
      (pp. 185-197)

      Amongst the many influential events which took place around 1750, few exercised such a profound change on architectural theory as the establishment of civil and military engineering as distinct and separate disciplines. For as Hans Straub has rightly remarked in hisHistory of Civil Engineering: ‘it was during the second half of the eighteenth century that the science of engineering proper came into existence, and with it the modern civil engineer who based his designs on scientific calculation’. Specifically, the change occurred with the establishment of a school of civil engineering (usually referred to as the École des Fonts et...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 19 Rationalism
      (pp. 198-217)

      The best definition of Rationalism is to be found in an article written by César Daly in 1864, and published in translation inThe Builderin the same year. In this article, devoted to the subject in general, he defined it as the belief, held in common by all French Gothicists, Classicists and Eclectics, to the effect that architecture was ornamental or ornamented construction (a definition, it will be remembered, already given of architecture by Fergusson in hisHistory of Architecture), but more specifically as the belief that architectural forms not only required rational justification, but could only be so...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 20 New Planning Problems
      (pp. 218-240)

      It has been necessary to employ the term ‘Functionalism’ in various differing contexts in this book, since it has several meanings. It can mean the general philosophical notion that an object which fulfils its function properly is automatically beautiful, as when Archibald Alison asserted that ‘in useful forms, beauty is proportional to expression of character’. It can mean the general philosophical notion that an object which fulfils its function properly is automatically of its era, however superficially unattractive, as when Frederick Etchells, in his introduction toTowards a New Architecture, wrote that ‘it is inevitable that the engineer, preoccupied with...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)

    • 21 The Influence of Literature and Criticism
      (pp. 243-264)

      The influence of the allied arts on architectural design raises ethical problems of considerable gravity, for whilst this influence can bring about, and undoubtedly has brought about, certain benefits, it can also vitiate the nature of architectural creativity by leading to the production of forms which are not strictly architectural at all. This is not to say that the influence of the allied arts has always been totally absent in the best architecture of the past. On the contrary, since an architect has the right to seek artistic inspiration from any source which may be forthcoming, he can just as...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 22 The Influence of Industrial Design
      (pp. 265-270)

      It is perhaps characteristic of recent trends in architectural theory, and of the growing influence, since 1890, of industrial design, that about sixty years ago, the ultimate test of architectural genius became whether or not one could design a new kind of chair. There were of course architects in earlier eras who made names for themselves as chair designers, such as Robert Adam. Moreover, as early as 1883, Montgomery Schuyler had criticized a building by McKim, Mead & White as looking ‘less like a work of architectural art than a magnificent piece of furniture’. But it was only when the...

    • 23 The Influence of Painting and Sculpture
      (pp. 271-284)

      The dominant influence on architectural design during the second quarter of the twentieth century has undoubtedly been that of painting and sculpture; a fact incontrovertibly demonstrated by Reyner Banham in hisTheory and Design in the First Machine Age. At the beginning of this period (that is to say between 1920 and 1935), the technique of using abstract pictorial and sculptural devices as a means of creating novel architectural forms was exploited only by a few men who built little, and who achieved few rewards except the honour of being apotheosized as pioneers of the modern movement. By the middle...

    • [Illustrations]
      (pp. None)
    • 24 New Concepts of Space
      (pp. 285-294)

      The notion of space as an essential element of architecture must have existed in some rudimentary form from the time man first built enclosures or made structural improvements to his caves; but it is a curious fact that until the eighteenth century no architectural treatise ever used the word, whilst the idea of space as a primary quality of architectural composition was not fully developed until the last few years. What mattered to Classical theorists, in an age which defined architecture as the art of building, was structure, and this did not necessarily imply the enclosure of space, but might...

  14. Epilogue
    (pp. 295-300)

    In the preceding pages, an attempt has been made to trace the history of architects’ and critics’ ideas about architecture from the 1750s to the 1950s: dates which may appear just a little too neat, but which really do correspond to the beginning and end of a historic period. The reasons for beginning in the middle of the eighteenth century have been amply discussed and, it is hoped, justified. The decision to end in the middle of the twentieth century is perhaps less conclusive, but it seems fair to insist that it is just as sound. It was only in...

  15. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  16. Bibliographical Note
    (pp. 301-302)
  17. Index of Illustrations
    (pp. 303-304)
  18. Index of Text
    (pp. 305-309)
  19. Back Matter
    (pp. 310-310)