The Sublime and Architectural Theory

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As Michael K. Hayes comments in Architecture Theory since 1968, a typology to emerge in the mid eighteenth century was a return of architecture to its natural origins, an example of the primitive shelter. This return and respect of nature was interestingly enough occurring across art, literature and landscape design simultaneously and internationally. It was as if people were warily eyeing the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and entered into a love-hate tolerance of the machine age with the concepts of nature playing a reassuring role throughout these social and industrial evolutions. In reference to nature, the sublime countered many perceptions of the tamed environment through poetry, painting, national parks and urban design. The term "sublime" was first used to describe nature by British writers taking the Grand Tour of the Swiss Alps in the 17th and 18th centuries. The sublime was meant as an aesthetic quality in nature that was both beautiful and terrible, horrible and harmonious, appreciating the unexpected and dangerous forms found in nature that had been avoided in literature and art through the concepts of a more tamed and friendly environment. German philosopher Immanuel Kant reflects on the concept of boundaries between beauty and the sublime in his Critique of Judgment written in 1790. Distinguishing between the differences of beauty versus the sublime, beauty is connected with the form of the object, respecting the object's boundaries whereas the sublime is found in a formless object, boundless, unfamiliar and unexpected. The Romantic Period revealed a shift from the picturesque paintings of a controlled and safe landscape to paintings depicting the grotesque and beautiful as found in works such as Frederic Edwin Church's Cotopaxi , oil on canvas 1826, an opposition to the classical ideals of perfection. The concept of sublime evolved through the machine age with a sense of self-forgetfulness, an awe-inspired feeling of well-being...
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