1st Edition

John Ruskin and the Fabric of Architecture

ISBN 9780367207359
Published January 17, 2019 by Routledge
144 Pages

USD $51.95

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Book Description

Through the theoretical lenses of dress studies, gender, science, and visual studies, this volume analyses the impact John Ruskin has had on architecture throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It explores Ruskin’s different ideologies, such as the adorned wall veil, which were instrumental in bringing focus to structures that were previously unconsidered.

John Ruskin and the Fabric of Architecture examines the ways in which Ruskin perceives the evolution of architecture through the idea that architecture is surface. The creative act in architecture, analogous to the divine act of creation, was viewed as a form of dressing. By adding highly aesthetic features to designs, taking inspiration from the 'veil' of women’s clothing, Ruskin believed that buildings could be transformed into meaningful architecture. This volume discusses the importance of Ruskin’s surface theory and the myth of feminine architecture, and additionally presents a competing theory of textile analogy in architecture based on morality and gender to counter Gottfried Semper’s historicist perspective.

This book would be beneficial to students and academics of architectural history and theory, gender studies and visual studies who wish to delve into Ruskin’s theories and to further understand his capacity for thinking beyond the historical methods. The book will also be of interest to architectural practitioners, particularly Ruskin’s theory of surface architecture.

Table of Contents

Introduction: John Ruskin and the space of surface

1.Ruskin's theory of the wall (veil) 

2.Architecture as dressed female body 

3.Ruskin's theory of dress  

4.The adorned edifice(s) 

5.Ruskin effects

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Anuradha Chatterjee is an architectural historian and theorist based in Sydney. She completed her MArch and PhD from the University of New South Wales. Anuradha is the author of Built, Unbuilt, and Imagined Sydney (COPAL Publishing, 2015) and Surface and Deep Histories (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014), and the founding editor of online refereed journal The Eighth Lamp: Ruskin Studies Today.


"The idea of the wall-veil is foremost in Ruskin’s vison of architecture, yet remains – intentionally – mysterious. This concentrated study re–veals its latent, layered meanings, unpicking Ruskin’s dress-codes in their various aspects of soul, body, the femininity of architecture, and so forth. Close intra-textual and inter-textual readings skilfully place these notions in the context, both of Ruskin’s own multi-faceted volumes, and of other works of inspiration and commentary – notably the philosophy of clothes of Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus"

Stephen Kite, Professor, Welsh School of Architecture, Cardiff University, Wales, UK


"What a terrific book! It is of such high quality, both text and stunning illustrations. It is a fascinating Ruskinian architectural journey through France and Italy. The book gives us new eyes to see old architecture that we are so familiar with, yet do not see! And I like the fact that in the last chapter, the author brings it up to date with Ruskin and modern architecture."

Cynthia Gamble, Honorary Research Fellow, University of Exeter; Author of Proust as Interpreter of Ruskin: The Seven Lamps of Translation; and Former Chairman of the Ruskin Society.  


"John Ruskin and the Fabric of Architecture insightfully revisits the Ruskin’s writings on architecture to demonstrate his vision of walls as surface. By engaging in a novel multidisciplinary approach at the intersection of surface, gender and dress studies, Anuradha Chatterjee revises long held assumptions about Ruskin’s architectural theories and their impact on nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Her richly illustrated monograph will be of enduring interest for Ruskin scholars, architectural historians and Victorianists."

Bénédicte Coste, University of Burgundy, France


"Writing about Ruskin is always over-shadowed by his demands for truth in art and his own manifest contradictions and prolixity. How then to understand the enduring value of his work without deadening it in explanation? Anuradha Chatterjee can guide us in this. Her subtle grasp of Ruskin’s formal values comes as much from her own architectural intuition as from her ability to dive in and out of Ruskin’s oeuvre and the sea of secondary literature. Chatterjee has a real feeling for the thickness that gender, semantics and the will to adorn give to the material facts of the building’s skin. There are many truths to be had from Ruskin, and this book shows us one of these."

John Macarthur, Professor and Director of the research centre for Architecture, Theory, Criticism and History, University of Queensland 


"The textual delicacy of Anuradha Chatterjee’s prose-traces is as sublime as the finest embroidered tissue. Applied to the material substance of architecture’s built form and function, her entwined gauze of words constructs a beguiling écriture féminine that articulates in triumphant whisper the dextrous joy of Ruskin’s nature and craft."

Professor Catherine Harper, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, University of Chichester, UK; Editor-in-Chief of Textile: Cloth & Culture (Routledge).


"John Ruskin and the Fabric of Architecture is significant contribution to a long tradition of work on Ruskin’s architectural writings….Anyone tempted to undertake a European tour of Ruskinian architecture should take this book along: it would be immensely rewarding to refer to her readings in situ…This work is lively in its intellectual ambitions, reaching out beyond architecture and making a case for the broader significance of Ruskin’s architectonics, its vital interplay with all other aspects of his writings, and with a range of nineteenth-century contexts." 

Mark Frost, University of Portsmouth, The Companion 2018