Material Theories : Locating Artefacts and People in Gottfried Semper's Writings book cover
1st Edition

Material Theories
Locating Artefacts and People in Gottfried Semper's Writings

ISBN 9780367473914
Published June 20, 2022 by Routledge
226 Pages 55 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Material Theories takes a radically new approach to well-established thinking on nineteenth-century architecture and design by investigating Gottfried Semper’s classic ideas about dressing, metamorphosis of material, and cultural development, culminating in his two-volume publication Style.

This book demonstrates how Semper’s theories crystallised among his encounters with material things of the late 1840s and early 1850s. It examines several discursive frameworks and phenomena which shaped the attitude to artefacts in Europe in the mid-nineteenth century, and which were specifically pertinent to Semper’s evolution: archaeology and antiquarianism, the domestic interior, print media, collections, and the embodied relationship between the designer and their work. For the first time, this book examines the construction of a design theory not only as an intellectual endeavour but also as a process of confrontation with material things. It employs recent approaches to material culture, in particular Thing Theory, in order to show that Semper’s artefact references constituted his ideas, rather than simply giving impetus to them.

It will be an important investigation for academics and researchers interested in interior design history, as well as scholars of material culture and history of design theory.

Table of Contents

1.Acknowledgements 2.Introduction 3.Biographical Background 4.Outline of the book Chapter 1 - Analysis and experience: artefacts in archaeology and cultural history Chapter 2 - Speaking artefacts and reconstructions of the past Chapter 3 - Domestic space and the theory of decorative things Chapter 4 - Interiors and the education of taste Chapter 5 – Commodity and the Great Exhibition Chapter 6 – Artefacts and bodies Epilogue Bibliography Index


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Elena Chestnova is a researcher at the Institute for History and Theory of Art and Architecture of the Academy of Architecture in Mendrisio, Switzerland. She has completed her PhD dissertation in Mendrisio after studying architecture at the University of Cambridge and the ETH Zurich.