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Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Legal Aesthetics and the Architectural Ambiguities of St Stephen Walbrook


The Henry Moore altar at St Stephen Walbrook continues to prove controversial, if the description of a forthcoming Modernities: Architecture, Design, Theory Research Seminar in the Courtauld Institute of Art is an accurate reflection of the argument which Timothy Hyde (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) will make.

Hyde's seminar is entitled Legal Aesthetics and the Architectural Ambiguities of St Stephen Walbrook and will take place at 4.30pm on Friday 15 January 2016 in the Sackler Research Forum Seminar Room, The Courtauld Institute of Art, Somerset House, Strand, London WC2R 0RN.

Hyde will address the theme of incongruity in modern architecture through an examination of a significant but largely unrecognized act of postmodernism: the installation of an altar sculpted by Henry Moore in 1972 into a church designed by Christopher Wren in 1672. The implications of this installation test and exceed conventional frameworks of explication such as intentionality or style, and in so doing open a view onto intricate exchanges between otherwise incommensurable registers of judgment. Unfolding the complicated legal and aesthetic history of this particular architectural, sculptural, and theological act suggests possibilities for considering facets of architectural postmodernity outside of the disciplinary frameworks of architecture itself.

If Hyde genuinely believes Moore's altar to be incongruous in the context of one of Sir Christopher's Wren's masterpiece then he is at odds with the response of most people when they visit St Stephen Walbrook itself. The overwhelming majority of people I speak with at the church find the combination of modern and traditional art and architecture to be a stunning and sensitive harmonization of old and new.

Dr. Timothy Hyde is Clarence H. Blackall Associate Professor in Architectural History at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He is the author of Constitutional Modernism: Architecture and Civil Society in Cuba, 1933-1959, and is the chair of the Aggregate Architectural History Collaborative. Hyde’s work focuses on intersections of architecture and politics, with a particular attention to entanglements between architecture and law in the modern period. His current research project, “Dread of Beauty,” examines aesthetic debates on ugliness in Great Britain from the 17th
to the 20th century. His talk on St Stephen Walbrook is part of this research, which also includes his essay “Some Evidence of Libel, Criticism, and Publicity in the Architectural Career of Sir John Soane,” published in Perspecta. Hyde’s writings on modern architecture and architectural theory have also appeared in journals such as Log, Praxis, the Journal of Architectural Education (JAE), and Thresholds. Hyde has been a MacDowell Colony Fellow and his work has been supported by grants from the Graham Foundation. He received his BA from Yale University, MArch from Princeton University, and PhD from Harvard University.

The seminar has been organised by Dr Robin Schuldenfrei (Katja and Nicolai Tangen Lecturer in 20th Century Modernism, The Courtauld Institute of Art) and is open to all, Admission is free.


James MacMillan - A New Song.

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