Revising principles of architecture

Matravers, Derek (1999). Revising principles of architecture. Journal of Architecture, 4(1) pp. 39–45.



There are several interconnected themes in Roger Scruton’s The Aesthetics of Architecture, including an account of aesthetic experience, a criticism of reductive theories of architecture, and an account of the self. Through each of these themes Scruton spins a web of argument which supports some manner of conservatism about architecture, and, even more broadly, a conservatism about culture. In this paper I want, from a broadly Scrutonian perspective, to discuss whether it would be appropriate to use architecture in the same way as some have used the visual arts this century, particularly in 1950s and 60s New York, as a vehicle for criticising certain ingrained habits of seeing. By this I mean art which deliberately frustrates prior expectations of what would be something pleasing to look at. I shall work with an example, which I take to be only a placeholder for any number of candidates, of architecture which pays no regard to symmetry and what I will broadly (and vaguely) call ‘laws of proportion’.

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