Style and Solitude
The History of an Architectural Problem
312 pp., 6 x 9 in, 65 color illus., 10 b&w illus.
- Published: June 6, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
How modern notions of architectural style were born—and the debates they sparked in nineteenth-century Germany.
The term style has fallen spectacularly out of fashion in architectural circles. Once a conceptual key to understanding architecture's inner workings, today style seems to be associated with superficiality, formalism, and obsolete periodization. But how did style—once defined by German sociologist Georg Simmel as a place where one is “no longer alone”—in architecture actually work? How was it used and what did it mean? In Style and Solitude, Mari Hvattum seeks to understand the apparent death of style, returning to its birthplace in the late eighteenth century, and charting how it grew to influence modern architectural discourse and practice.
As Hvattum explains, German thinkers of the eighteenth and nineteenth century offered competing ideas of what style was and how it should be applied in architecture. From Karl Friedrich Schinkel's thoughtful eclecticism to King Maximilian II's attempt to capture the zeitgeist in an architectural competition, style was at the center of fascinating experiments and furious disputes. Starting with Johann Joachim Winckelmann's invention of the period style and ending a century later with Gottfried Semper's generative theory of style, Hvattum explores critical debates that are still ongoing today.
“The concept of style has always been at the core of architectural history and theory, from Vitruvius to Koolhaas and beyond, but there is a signal lack of studies dealing with its development that are historically grounded, conceptually acute, and do not suffer from modernist bias. The present study delivers precisely this.”
Caroline van Eck, Professor of Art History and Fellow of King's College, University of Cambridge
“This book fills a gap in the literature on style and in the process considerably enriches our understanding of the development of modern architecture.”
Martin Bressani, William Macdonald Professor, Peter Goo-hua Fu School of Architecture, McGill University
“Style and Solitude is a timely book, notwithstanding Hvattum's subtle investigation of style's untimeliness, and a fascinating and important study.”
Richard Taws, Professor of the History of Art, University College London