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Is architectural history getting any bigger?

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 April 2018

Timothy Hyde
Affiliation:
thyde@mit.edu
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Extract

Vincent Scully's recent death serves as reminder that the discipline of architectural history is not so old, with only a few intellectual generations needed to skip back to the turn of the twentieth century. Heinrich Wölfflin died in 1945 and Scully started writing his dissertation the following year, under the supervision of Henry-Russell Hitchcock. James Ackerman, whose death was also recent, co-taught with Scully in those years while being advised by Richard Krautheimer, who had completed his own dissertation under Paul Frankl. Students of both Scully and Ackerman are today adjusting the contours of the field with their books, articles, and lectures.

The scope of the development of architectural history is perhaps more limited than chronological age might suggest, and certainly that in comparison to the existence of its presumed subject matter – architecture – has barely made it to infancy. Without diminishing the hours of archival labour, field work, and writing that have been undertaken over the past century and a half, and without understating the contributions to knowledge and understanding those efforts have produced, the implication should be admitted: there really isn't very much architectural history. Not that many architectural historians, not that many books, not that much history, relatively speaking. This is not necessarily to say that architectural history is marginal, for it has attained points of instrumentality and effect along the way, but the admission is the necessary starting point for reflection on the future of the discipline, because architectural history needs to think about how to get bigger.

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History
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Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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