Building Word Image: Printing Architecture 1800-1950

The study of word-image relationships is one of the most innovative and cross-disciplinary fields to have emerged in the humanities over the last decades. Yet, it is an area rarely discussed as such by architectural historians, a gap which a new Special Collection of Architectural Histories, the online journal of the European Architectural History Network (EAHN), aims to begin to fill. Edited by Catalina Mejía Moreno and Anne Hultzsch and based in part on a conference session at the 3rd International Meeting of the EAHN in Turin, June 2014, this selection of articles also presents the foundation for an EAHN Interest Group on Word & Image. It explores the rising coexistence of the graphic and the verbal in the public dissemination of architecture in the 19th and early 20th centuries, a period that has so far been neglected by historians of architectural publication. So far, the Collection consists of eleven articles, but it will be expanded over the next months and further contributions are welcome.

ILN Britishmuseum1851Three articles explore the travelogue as a genre: Victor Plahte Tschudi investigates the role of prints in the assembling of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s Italian Journey; Dearbhla MacManus and Hugh Campbell explore the photo book by means of William J. Stillman’s 1870 The Acropolis of Athens: Illustrated Picturesquely and Architecturally in Photography; and Catalina Mejía Moreno focuses on the representation of American industrial buildings Walter Gropius’s and Erich Mendelsohn’s photographs and writings. Similar to the travelogue, the catalogue also serves as a guide, or introduction, to something that is different from the familiar, with the difference of placing this within the walls of the museum. Again, three articles explore this type of publication: first, Danielle S. Willkens reviews the catalogues produced for John Soane’s museum over the 19th and 20th centuries. Second, Mari Lending studies late 19th-century catalogues of casts and their trading between Europe and North America. Third, Wallis Miller presents her analysis of Herbert Bayer’s 1930 Section Allemande exhibition and catalogue. Another type of guidebook, in the widest sense, is tackled by Ellen Van Impe: the textbook. Impe explores two canonical Belgian histories of the second half of the 19th century, the Histoire de l’architecture en Belgique by A.G.B. Schayes and the Histoire de l’influence italienne sur l’architecture dans les Pays-Bas by Auguste Schoy. Two articles then explore the illustrated newspaper, a new format that flourished across Europe and North America, and beyond, from the mid 1800s. Focusing on the roots of the genre in Britain, Anne Hultzsch analyses linguistic and graphic patterns in the early Illustrated London News, while Patrick Leitner studies images of New York’s emerging skyscrapers in the French periodical L’Illustration around 1900. Turning to more specialist publications, Michela Rosso explores Il Selvaggio, an Italian journal published in the first half of the 20th century, while Hélène Jannière addresses a wider range of journals, including L’Architecture d’aujourd’hui and Casabella.

By gathering these articles, and further ones to come, in this Collection, its editors hope to instigate a debate that will encourage architectural historians of all fields to look critically at the handling of words and images within their work. Do we automatically prioritise the image (or the text) in our analyses? Do we acknowledge the role of language played in the development of, for example, photography, such an instrumental element of the historiography of the Modern Movement? And, vice versa, do we give credit to the interaction between words and images, or between verbal and graphic images, in the development of historicism? These and other questions remain to be explored, even asked in the first instance, and we anticipate that this Special Collection will give rise to many more.

For open access to the Collection, click here.

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