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The Seven Lamps of Architecture

John Ruskin

Book Overview: 

The Seven Lamps of Architecture, is an extended essay written by the English art critic and theorist John Ruskin. The 'lamps' of the title are Ruskin's principles of architecture, which he later enlarged upon in the three-volume The Stones of Venice. To an extent, they codified some of the contemporary thinking behind the Gothic Revival. At the time of its publication A.W.N. Pugin and others had already advanced the ideas of the Revival and it was well under way in practice. Ruskin offered little new to the debate, but the book helped to capture and summarize the thoughts of the movement. The Seven Lamps also proved a great popular success, and received the approval of the ecclesiologists typified by the Cambridge Camden Society, who criticized in their publication The Ecclesiologist lapses committed by modern architects in ecclesiastical commissions.(Summary from Wikipedia)

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Book Excerpt: 
. . .to guard against in recent times, is one which, nevertheless, comes in a "questionable shape," and of which it is not easy to determine the proper laws and limits; I mean the use of iron. The definition of the art of architecture, given in the first chapter, is independent of its materials: nevertheless, that art having been, up to the beginning of the present century, practised for the most part in clay, stone, or wood, it has resulted that the sense of proportion and the laws of structure have been based, the one altogether, the other in great part, on the necessities consequent on the employment of those materials; and that the entire or principal employment of metallic framework would, therefore, be generally felt as a departure from the first principles of the art. Abstract[Pg 44]edly there appears no reason why iron should not be used as well as wood; and the time is probably near when a new system of architectural laws will be developed, adapted entirely to metal. . . Read More

Community Reviews

I didn't quite finish this one. I'm wanting to try reading it again once I know a little more about architecture.

as postmodernist, this book is hard to read now

Ruskin, John – The Seven Lamps of Architecture

John Ruskin (8 February 1819 – 20 January 1900). In one of our visits to the Tate Museum, there was the painting of Ophelia during her last moments, floating calmly with her hands pointing to the sky, before drowning in the water of a river. I loved...more

I read this for a class and I have to say that I never quite understood what the hell was going on. Although I do kind of understand his views on conservation but I will leave it at that...more

Slow, slow reading...I admittedly skimmed the latter 2/3 of the book. I found the "Lamp of Memory" to be the most interesting section, as it gets to the heart of historic preservation. The rest of the book felt like a long, opinionated rant.

What I learned?
The Importance of Being Ornamental.

It's slow reading, because I have to put myself in Ruskin "headspace" whenever I pick it up. I remember blitzing through it in college, but I was taking a Victorian lit class, and it was all Victorian English, all the time.

He's the only writer of architecture so far I have read who used words such as 'monsters' and 'ugly' in the writing. Delightful indeed!

"I could smile when I hear the hopeful exultation of many, at the new reach of worldly science, and vigor of worldly effort; as if we were again at the beginning of days. There is thunder on the horizon as well as dawn. The sun was risen upon the earth when Lot entered into Zoar."

That...more

This book is as they used to say in the sixties a hoot. It is a dazzling display of erudition, insight and laughable drivel. It was in a word everything that I hoped it would be. I read this book because Ruskin was greatly admired by Marcel Proust who considered him to be the greatest authority o...more

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