Traditional Architecture Group
A Linked Society of the Royal Institute of British Architects

Subscribers Newsletter No 28

11th August 2014

In this issue

  • Ruskin, Venice and the Fulcrum of European Architecture

  • RIBAJ Article: Farrell's review undermines the professioN


Peter Kellow, TAG Communications writes

The first two items are two articles I have recently had published and are now available online.

I stress the views contained in the articles are my own and do not reflect the views of TAG. If you wish to leave any comments go to the newsletter webpage here.

The second article in the RIBA Journal is not strictly about traditional architecture but refers to some of my views about returning to a more traditional profession.

I emphasise again these are the personal views of Peter Kellow. Please contribute your view here

Ruskin, Venice and the Fulcrum of European Architecture

by Peter Kellow
Published by American Arts Quarterly Summer 2014


At the start of his three-volume The Stones of Venice, published from 1851 to 1853, John Ruskin sets out what will be a recurring theme in his explanation of the style of Venetian architecture. He proceeds from the state of Europe following the collapse of the Roman Empire:

On the north and west the influence was of the Latins; on the south and east of the Greeks. Two nations preeminent above all the rest. As the central power is eclipsed, the orbs of reflected light gather into their fullness; and when sensuality and idolatry had done their work and the religion of the empire was laid asleep in a glittering sepulchre, the living light rose upon both horizons and the fierce swords of the Lombard and the Arab were shaken over its golden paralysis.

The work of the Lombard was to give hardihood to the enervated body and enfeebled mind of Christendom; that of the Arab to punish idolatry and proclaim the spirituality of worship. Opposite in the character and mission, alike in the magnificence of their energy, they came from the North and from the South, the glacier torrent and the lava stream: they met and contended over the wreck of the Roman empire; the point of pause of both, the dead water of the opposite eddies, charged with embayed fragments of the Roman wreck is VENICE.

To carry out the research for The Stones of Venice, Ruskin arrived in that city in November of 1849, accompanied by his new wife, Effie. Venice had just been recaptured in August of that year by the Austrians. (It had joined in the revolutions general throughout Europe in 1848, by rebelling against Austrian rule.) To take Venice, the Austrians had resorted to remote bombardment. This destroyed the railway bridge connecting the city to the mainland, which had been constructed in 1846. The Austrians also devised a new form of aerial attack, using manned bomber balloons that sailed over the city dropping explosives. And so just prior to the Ruskins’ arrival, Venice had been summarily introduced to both modern transport and modern warfare.

Read more ...


Farrell's review undermines the profession

by Peter Kellow
Published by RIBA Journal Online 4 August 2014

"Everyone has a piece of the puzzle to help make PLACE the picture on the box." - Sir Terry Farrell CBE

The Farrell Review has been hailed by the RIBA. The government too is delighted – as well it should be, for the report is a cheerleader for most of the trends in planning and architecture it has promoted.

Let us start by being parochial and focus on what the report recommends for the future of architects and the role of the profession. Farrell recommends the abolition of ARB, with its functions taken over by the RIBA. He says: ‘For as long as protection of title is retained, the Architects Act should be amended to make the RIBA the registration body’. That sounds like something we should applaud, but look a little more closely. He also states: ‘The protection of title for architects while there is no protection of the function of architectural design is misguided.’ Nowhere does he advocate the protection of function and so he is quite clearly proposing that architects should have neither protection of function nor protection of title.

The report makes much use of the acronym PLACE and proposes a ‘PLACE Space’ in every major town. While, to many, this might sound like a well-meaning, happy-clappy, social venue, PLACE in fact stands for the serious business of planning/landscape/architecture/conservation/engineering. Farrell clarifies the notion of PLACE thus: ‘Everyone has a piece of the puzzle to help make PLACE the picture on the box.’ More worryingly, the former primary leadership role of architects has been reduced to one of parity with landscaping and other professions.

Read more .....