Thursday, 10 September 2015


 John Ruskin

 Drawings by Ruskin

John Ruskin, in his lectures on architecture given at Edinburgh in November 1853, spoke frankly about the events of the days and his ideas on architecture. It is refreshing to read such forthright, candid statements as these. They must have caused some angst, as in the publication of these talks, Ruskin has added some explanatory addenda: see Ruskin's Final Words on Architecture:

Doric portico

In your public capacities, as bank directors, and charity overseers, and administrators of this and that other undertaking or institution, you cannot express your feelings at all. You form committees to decide upon the style of the new building, and as you have never been in the habit of trusting your own taste in such matters, you inquire who is the most celebrated, that is to say, the most employed, architect of the day. And you send for the great Mr. Blank, and the Great Blank sends you a plan of a great long marble box with half-a-dozen pillars at one end of it, and the same at the other; and you look at the Great Blank's great plan in a grave manner, and you ask the Great Blank what sort of a blank cheque must be filled up before the great plan can be realized; and you subscribe, in a generous 'burst of confidence' whatever is wanted; and when it is all done, and the great white marble box is set up in your streets, you contemplate it, not knowing what to make of it exactly, but hoping it is all right; and then there is a dinner given to the Great Blank, and the morning Papers say that the new and handsome building, erected by the great Mr. Blank, is one of Mr. Blank's happiest efforts, and reflects the greatest credit upon the intelligent inhabitants of the city of so and so; and the building keeps the rain out as well as another, and you remain in a placid state of impoverished satisfaction therewith; but as for having any real pleasure out of it, you never hoped for such a thing. If you really make up a party of pleasure, and get rid of the forms and fashions of public propriety for an hour or two, where do you go for it? Where do you go for strawberries and cream? To Roslin Chapel, I believe; not to the portico of the last-built institution.

John Ruskin Lectures on Architecture and Painting George Routledge & Sons Limited London
New York: E.P. Dutton & Co. p.43-44

Roslin Chapel

It seems that not much has changed today, other than: the ability or willingness to make such critical statements as these; the shape and materials of the building; and the possibility that the building might keep the rain out as well as another.

Drawings & paintings by Ruskin show his interests

NOTE: The  ABCTV promotion of one of its programmes spoke of Frank O. Gehry as 'the greatest living architect.'

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