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  • Architectural Theory, Volume 1: An Anthology from Vitruvius to 1870
  • Peg Rawes
Architectural Theory, Volume 1: An Anthology from Vitruvius to 1870, edited by Harry Francis Mallgrave. Malden MA, Oxford, Victoria: Blackwell Publishing, 2006, 590 pp., $49.95.

This anthology is a rich and comprehensive documentation of the key stages that construct Western architectural theory, from Vitruvius's classical writing to Gottfried Semper's theories in late-nineteenth-century Europe. Comprised of 229 texts by these and other significant writers of architectural theory, it represents an extremely valuable resource for architectural design, history, and theory education and, more broadly, for aesthetic education, art history, aesthetics, and visual culture. Professor Mallgrave's career as an architectural historian and theorist at the Illinois Institute of Technology, and editor of Architecture and Aesthetics for the Texts and Documents Series at the Getty Research Institute, has enabled him to bring together a large number of canonical texts by architects and writers, including Alberti, Palladio, Vasari, Perrault, Wotton, Wren, Soufflot, Blondel, Boullée, Ledoux, Soane, Reynolds, Pugin, Viollet-le-Duc, Ruskin, and Greenough. In addition, Mallgrave has selected important contextualizing texts that inform the philosophical, cultural, and aesthetic development of the discipline by writers such as Rousseau, Voltaire, Montesquieu, Morris, Chambers, Winckelmann, Locke, Hume, Ramsey, Burke, Walpole, Price, von Schlegel, Wolff, Jefferson, Emerson, Hugo, Zola, and Leibnitz.

Six stages of development are laid out, beginning with the Classical and Renaissance periods in part I. In part II the debates about Classicism in France and Britain develop, leading into part III, in which texts from the Neoclassical and Enlightenment debates in Europe take precedence. In part IV, Picturesque and Sublime theories are documented, from which part V turns to consider the importance of Historicism in the nineteenth century and, finally, in part VI the impact of Historicism is examined in relation to developments in industrialization.

Introducing each part, Mallgrave succinctly highlights the historical, cultural, and political structures that underpin the development of architectural ideas and debates during the period. Within each part, internal sections further distinguish the particular ideas that preoccupied specific individuals and groups to comprise different theoretical positions. Part II, for example, is divided into the nationalist differences between "French Classicism: Ancients and Moderns" and "British Classicism and Palladianism," and part IV identifies key texts that contribute to the theorization of eighteenth-century aesthetics in three stages: "Sources of the Picturesque," "Toward a Relativist Aesthetics," and "Consolidation of Picturesque Theory." In addition, Mallgrave introduces each individual text, drawing attention to the author's intellectual ambitions and the contemporary debates in which their contribution is constructed. Architectural [End Page 111] theory is therefore characterized as a discipline that is made up of dynamic discussions, which are frequently unresolved and irregular in their formation. Diverse and opposing agendas are pursued, both within and between different institutions, academies, and communities, including the late-sixteenth-century "stylistic battles" of Alberti and Serlio's treatises, which were developed out of Vitruvius's ten "books" of architecture; the pluralism of styles in the United States in the mid-nineteenth century that was comprised of puritanical influential theories, Gothic and French Classicism, and the new generation of American architectural theorists; and the emergence of a German architectural theory within the political disputes that led to the unification of Germany in 1871. Architectural theory is therefore firmly constructed in relation to social, material, cultural, and political systems and frameworks.

This colorful construction of architectural theory is evident, especially in those sections that are central to Mallgrave's ongoing research interests, in the tension between the rational, technical, and empirical discussions that inform seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century aesthetics. Running through parts II and III, for example, is one of the most drawn-out and bitter disputes, which dominated architectural theory in the seventeenth- and eighteenth-century French Academy of Architecture. Focused on the value of Vitruvius's Roman origins of Classicism, versus revivalist ambitions to retrieve the ornamental Classicism of Greek and Gothic styles, this great quarrel occupies the texts, letters, essays, and articles by architects and writers, including Blondel, Perrault, Piranesi, Soufflot, Winckelmann, Le Roy, Boullée, and Ledoux. But this debate is also important in the context of...


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