Perceptions of Architecture in Early Modern Europe

‘Perceptions of Architecture in Early Modern Europe,’ a conference held on 5 November at St. Mary’s College and funded by the Centre for Visual Arts and Culture, brought together an interdisciplinary, international group of scholars to explore the criteria, terms, and techniques with which experiences of the European built environment, 1500-1850, were constructed and described. Architectural history, art history, Classics, French Studies, and Italian Studies were the disciplines represented, and three members of CVAC – Jan Clarke, Stefano Cracolici, and Edmund Thomas – spoke alongside scholars from across the UK as well as Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, and Switzerland.  The conference opened with a keynote lecture by Professor Maurice Howard OBE (University of Sussex), who surveyed a wide range of useful sources and themes; sources stretched from legislation to topographical writings, and themes encompassed competition, imitation, health, performance and artifice.  Through three sessions of three papers apiece, speakers then examined case studies from England, France, Italy, and the Netherlands.  Together, these papers and the subsequent discussion delved further into revealing sources and concepts with which to evaluate early modern architectural experiences.  Among the sources were poetry, prints, playscripts, and newspapers, while concepts included tensions between imitation and transgression, evocations of unease, responses to risk and destruction, the symbolism of style, and the roles of sight, memory and the imagination.  Conference participants – both speakers and non-speaking delegates – thus merged strands of scholarly inquiry often scattered across visual, cultural, and literary history into a day of ongoing interdisciplinary conversation.

Kimberley Skelton November 2016

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