Welsh School of Architecture

Research Projects

Building Ruskin’s Italy. Watching Architecture

Stephen Kite

building ruskin's italy

'Stephen Kite's study gives us an unprecedented understanding of the development of Ruskin's observation of, and thinking about, Italian Gothic architecture in the period leading to the publication of The Stones of Venice. The book sheds substantial new light on Ruskin's thinking at a key period in his intellectual development. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.'
– Mark Swenarton, University of Liverpool, UK

Based on extensive fieldwork, and research into John Ruskin's still little-interpreted archival material, notebooks and drawings (in the Ruskin Library, Lancaster University, UK and elsewhere), Stephen Kite offers an unprecedented account of the evolution of Ruskin's architectural thinking and observation in the context of Italy where his watching of building achieved its greatest intensity. Kite presents the complex story of Ruskin's visual thinking in architecture as a narrative of deepening interpretation and representation, focusing on the humbler monuments of Italy. He shows how Ruskin's early picturesque naturalism was transformed by the realisation that to understand the built realities confronting him in Italy demanded a closer engagement with the substance of the stones themselves; reflecting Ruskin's sense of his task as a near-archaeological gleaning and gathering of remains 'hidden in many a grass grown court, and silent pathway, and lightless canal'.

Contents:

Introduction; 'Picturesque down to its door knockers': an Italian grand tour; 'Constant watchfulness': beginning the study of architecture (1841-45); Watching Byzantium (1846-50); 'Watchful wandering': evolving a Gothic taxonomy; Cities of bits: colour, ornament and spoils; Stones of Verona; Bibliography; Index.

Reviews:

'Stephen Kite's study gives us an unprecedented understanding of the development of Ruskin's observation of, and thinking about, Italian Gothic architecture in the period leading to the publication of The Stones of Venice. The book sheds substantial new light on Ruskin's thinking at a key period in his intellectual development. It is essential reading for anyone interested in the subject.'

Mark Swenarton, University of Liverpool, UK

Link to Ashgate site