Dana Arnold

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Dana Arnold is Professor of Architectural History and Theory in University of Middlesex.

Quotes[edit]

Reading Architectural History (2002)[edit]

  • Architectural History is more than just the study of buildings. Architecture of the past and the present remains an essential emblem of a distinctive social system and set of cultural values, and as a result it has been the subject of study of a variety of disciplines.
    • Ch. 1 : Reading the past : What is architectural history?
  • ‘Architecture’ may at first appear to be a more fixed and finite term. It has a threedimensional, tangible, useable form. But questions remain about what can be considered architecture and what cannot, and by this I mean that we usually understand architecture to incorporate aesthetic as well as functional consideration into its structure. Anything that does not fall into this category can be described as ‘just a building’. This may seem too simple. Can architecture be determined solely by the use of refined architectural style – high or polite architecture instead of vernacular?
    • Ch. 1 : Reading the past : What is architectural history?
  • Architecture differs from a work of art, which can be displayed in different settings and the subject-matter, form and meaning will remain unchanged. The physicality of any built structure can be altered over time as additions and alterations are made. Moreover, a building or work of architecture can change its function as it meets the different demands of its occupants, although its exterior appearance may be unaltered. And its meaning may change depending on the nature of the context. This reveals some of the problems of interpreting historic architecture from a modern-day perspective as the physical changes and different cultural contexts transform the object.
    • Ch. 1 : Reading the past : What is architectural history?
  • The influence of literary theory on its related disciplines has prompted much debate about the notion of ‘authorship’. Yet the attraction of exploring architecture, or more specifically a building, through the life of its architect (author) remains a significant force in the construction of its histories. This is particularly the case when the architect has been identified as a major figure in the evolution of the architectural history. Conversely, buildings without architects are pushed to the sidelines of history.
    • Ch. 2 : The authority of the author : Biography and the reconstruction of the canon
  • [B]iography is an essential part of human memory. We think about ourselves in terms of what we have done – our identity is constructed around our past. Are history and biography linked or just two parallel strands? Biographers and historians make choices about how to frame their subject, they draw together fragments to present a possible glimpse of the unattainable whole. An historian might have a thesis or method which drives his/her enquiry whereas a biographer has, perhaps, a particular view of an individual they wish to present. Neither presents the truth, only an interpretation.
    • Ch. 2 : The authority of the author : Biography and the reconstruction of the canon
  • Histories based on biographies can present a one-dimensional image of the architects involved, often inflating what was a portion of their existence, interests or social and cultural significance, making architecture appear to be their driving force when in reality it may have been merely one of several interests.
    • Ch. 2 : The authority of the author : Biography and the reconstruction of the canon
  • In architectural history then the focus on the biography either of an architect or sometimes a patron separates ‘architecture’ from the function of the building, the theory of the processes of architecture and the broader social and cultural significance. To this end architecture is presented in a kind of historical cul-de-sac divorced from any contemporary or theoretical meaning it may have.
    • Ch. 2 : The authority of the author : Biography and the reconstruction of the canon
  • Style remains a principal concern of the histories of British architecture from the sixteenth century to the early nineteenth century, if not up to the present day. Architecture and style are interlinked to the point that style can almost be believed to contain the essence of architecture, but if this were the case then style would constitute the subject of architectural history. Quite clearly it does not.
    • Ch. 3 : On classical ground : Histories of style
  • If style is anything more than formal analysis or a description of the ornamentation of a building it must surely offer or represent a specific set of ideals from the moment of its production.
    • Ch. 3 : On classical ground : Histories of style
  • The purpose here is to demonstrate the diversity of classical formulae which appeared in architectural design, and if we look at classical architecture as a repertoire of forms rather than statements of specific design credos we can challenge teleological constructions of stylistic histories. The method of grouping the architecture from given periods of time under general stylistic labels has, without doubt, been the backbone of the discipline of architectural history. And when used skilfully and carefully it can provide useful punctuation marks in the lengthy and complex narrative that is the subject-matter of the history of western building. Yet it is only one of many tools with which to explore social and cultural contexts.
    • Ch. 3 : On classical ground : Histories of style
  • I am interested in how we interrogate architecture in terms of its social functions and meanings. Architectural historians writing on eighteenth and early nineteenth century Britain have tended to see social history as the answer to this question. But the social history of architecture or the histories of specific social groups which operated in and around the architecture or building(s), or indeed the spaces created by them or for them, provide only a backdrop or loose historical context.
    • Ch. 4 : A class performance : Social histories of architecture
  • [A]rchitecture is more than a stage for the acting out of these performances. It offers a space for other social groups and kinds of social interactions. It is also important to remember that in examples such as the country house it was home to a large number of residents representing a variety of interests.
    • Ch. 4 : A class performance : Social histories of architecture
  • When I say ‘gender’ you think ‘women’. And it is true that most gender history is written from a woman-centred perspective, but much research covers both men and women and importantly the relationships between the two.
    • Ch. 6 : Reading architectural herstories : The discourses of gender
  • The invisibility of women in canonical histories might lead us to believe that women have no history. Surely then a female history is an essential tool in the emancipation of women? This is partly because if we have no history we are ‘trapped’ in the present where oppressive social relations can continue unchallenged. Furthermore, history can be seen as evidence that things can and do change.
    • Ch. 6 : Reading architectural herstories : The discourses of gender

External Links[edit]

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