Visiting Scholar Seminar: Mark Wilson-Jones

Modernism and the Myth of Origins
Seminar, 14 June 2007

Visiting Scholar Mark Wilson-Jones presents his research:

From the middle of the eighteenth century the theme of origins preoccupied most architectural thinkers (e.g. Abbé Laugier, Lodoli, Piranesi), becoming a veritable obsession in the 19th century, to cite only the most influential individuals – Hübsh, Soane, Bötticher, Viollet-le-Duc, Semper, Choisy and Wagner. It is significant that many of those who confronted the origins of Greek architecture were major players in theorizing about the ideal future direction of architecture.

The origins and early development of the orders offered it seems a key towards the creation of constructional principles of timeless applicability, even if quite different in style and ideology. Belief in the constructive genesis of Doric explains why it was the last of the orders to be discarded by the modern movement.

To what degree did polemical agendas support specific accounts of the origins of the orders? How did proponents of modernism inform themselves of the archaeology? Which archaeologists and classicists influenced which architects, and vice versa? When exactly did the archaeologists begin to tire of what with time would inevitably become to be seen as the naïve speculations of the architects? Suitable material seems clearer in the nineteenth century than it is for the twentieth. While Le Corbusier’s interest in both the primitive and the Greek temple has become well charted, what might be said in this regard about Mies, for example?

Mark Wilson-Jones is an architect and architectural historian whose research crosses over into the domain of archaeology. Having trained at the University of Cambridge and then the Polytechnic of Central London he went on to win the Rome Prize in Architecture at the British School at Rome. After practice in London and Rome he is currently in the department of Architecture and Civil Engineering at the University of Bath, where he teaches studio and history, is the director of the MPhil programme in History and Theory and likewise the Centre for Advanced Studies in Architecture (CASA). His book Principles of Roman Architecture (Yale UP, 2000) was the first to be awarded both the Banister Fletcher Prize of the RIBA and the Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion.

Mark Wilson-Jones was CCA Visiting Scholar in 2007.


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