Projects in Progress

ARTICLES

Documentation of Medieval Architecture in the Early Work of Franz Kugler, 1829-1840

This article examines Kugler’s working method, focusing on his use of primary and secondary sources and ways of documenting medieval architecture in text and image. It analyzes notes and drawings in Kugler’s Nachlass in the Kunstbibliothek, Berlin, and his early publications, including numerous reviews of current literature published in his journal Museum: Blätter für bildende Kunst. Kugler’s work is placed in the larger context of what was then the interdisciplinary but rapidly specializing study of medieval history, literature, and art. His notes, drawings, and publications are shown to both follow and advance conventions established in this field since about 1800.

 

Period Style or Timeless Universal: The Modern in the Historiography of Architecture

Is modern architecture a timeless universal or just another in the long march of historical styles? This article, based on a paper delivered at the Bauhaus-Kolloquium in 2019, attempts to answer this question by challenging the concept of the ‘period style’, starting from its formulation in the early nineteenth century. Defined as an essence unto itself, as structure and form, architecture, in its individual manifestations, was understood to reveal deeper spiritual forces at work within distinct, internally coherent periods. Here it is argued that architecture should be understood as cultural production: forms originate in one time and place but take on new meanings in other times and places. Historical periods are heuristic devices, externally imposed frameworks for organizing inconsistent and uneven continuity and change. Reconceiving period and style, and dissolving the connection between them, provides the basis for rejecting the very possibility of timeless universality and for defining modern architecture as the product of one cultural moment, always available for re-use in new times and places with new meanings. When re-used today, modern forms no longer carry the same meanings they did initially, just as older historical forms took on new meanings when employed by historicist architects in the nineteenth century.

 

BOOK PROJECT

Franz Kugler and the Making of Art History: Surveying a New Field

This book will provide a critical-historical study of one of the first surveys of world art, Handbuch der Kunstgeschichte (1842) and its author, Franz Kugler. The “making of art history” refers to Kugler’s own way of making, or doing, art history and to his still under-appreciated role in the formation of the discipline in the 1830s and 1840s. “Surveying a new field” picks up the mapping metaphor employed by Kugler and signals the important, but barely acknowledged, role of surveys in the definition of disciplinary objects of study in the early nineteenth century. The book seeks to correct the overemphasis, especially in Anglo-American scholarship, on the ostensible role of Hegel in the “birth” of art history. It situates Kugler’s work in the rich ferment of disciplines in formation after 1800, where it was more closely tied to, and drew mostly from, philology, archaeology, and history. The approach is interdisciplinary and contextual-historical and seeks to avoid the anachronistic projection of current disciplinary boundaries back onto the past. The argument is founded on close readings of primary source texts, both printed and archival, and on research in the history of universities and other disciplines.