Centre for Architecture Theory Criticism History
School of Architecture

Architectural Eclecticism in the Nineteenth Century Writings of John Ruskin and Alexander von Humboldt

Team: Project Timeframe: Early Career Research Project 2010-

Many architects of the mid to late-nineteenth century composed buildings by mixing styles drawn from different periods of history and (often exotic) geographies. This approach was commonly called eclecticism. Through a comparative analysis of two key writers, John Ruskin and Alexander von Humboldt, the research will demonstrate that this approach to architectural design was informed by two theoretical positions on nineteenth-century culture: cosmopolitanism and regionalism. The research will demonstrate the interdependence of understandings of place, race, modernity, style and social reform in nineteenth century architectural design. While the research mainly concerns nineteenth-century ideas, it sheds light on the enduring importance of these ideas for understanding contemporary Australian architecture. The research will offer significant insight into the way that Australian architecture engages with global design problems such as climate change and sustainability.

Related Publications: 
  • Deborah van der Plaat, ‘The Emancipated imagination and disciplinary re-unification in nineteenth-century writings on art, architecture and science,’ in Architecture, Disciplinarity and the Arts, Andrew Leach & John Macarthur (eds.), Ghent: A&S Books, 2009, 61-74. (100% authorship).