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Building Texts and Reading Fabrics: Metaphor, Memory and Material in John Ruskin's Stones of Venice

Kite, Stephen ORCID: 2008. Building Texts and Reading Fabrics: Metaphor, Memory and Material in John Ruskin's Stones of Venice. Presented at: Analogous Spaces - Architecture and the Space of Information, Intellect and Action, Ghent University, Belgium, 14-17 May 2008.

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We cannot remember without architecture declares John Ruskin (1819-1900) in 'The Lamp of Memory' of his The Seven Lamps of Architecture (1849). For Ruskin the city is a space of collective memory, charged with metaphoric import: equally buildings can be analogized as texts – 'the criticism of a building is to be approached precisely on the same principles as that of a book', he contends. In the evangelical tradition of Ruskin's upbringing, there is a strong sense of lectio divina in this kind of interpretation. A great building is a sacred palimpsest of many layers: 'the main and leading idea is on its surface', but there are many depths to be plumbed and interpreted to those who can read the fabric with patience and insight. Reciprocally, a text like the three volumes of his Stones of Venice is endowed with a tectonic and a spatiality, in counterform to the city it depicts. The first volume is constructed from quarry to cornice; it demands its readers to roll up their sleeves, gives them 'stones, and bricks, and straw, chisel and trowels, and the ground, and then asks [them] to build'. In exploring these analogous spaces of text and architecture, this paper operates within the empirical and documentary arena of Ruskinian interpretation, working with the primary notebooks, worksheets and diaries from which the Stones of Venice was constructed. It examines the interchange between Ruskin's exhaustive encounter with the thingness of the urban fabric, the erection of the manuscript, and the playing out of this intimate physical knowledge of the city in themes of metaphor, memory and material.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Date Type: Completion
Status: Unpublished
Schools: Architecture
Subjects: N Fine Arts > NA Architecture
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Last Modified: 20 Oct 2022 08:15

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