Ruskin’s Ontology of Architecture

Pedro Marques de Abreu    CIAUD, Faculdade de Arquitectura – Universidade de Lisboa, Portugal    



Ruskin’s critique to architecture is usually understood from the subject of style, as the defence of Gothic against Classicism. If that had been the case, his writings about architecture would have lost all of their pertinacity. But that is not the case. This paper inspects the topicality of Ruskin’s thinking about architecture. His observations on the subject are phenomenological observations avant la lettre: the result of his own experience, highly sensitive, and of his personal reflection upon it, deeply human. Almost a century before Heidegger, Ruskin describes the anthropological responsibility of architecture in a very similar manner to the one the German philosopher. My understanding is that Ruskin is revealing the ‘dwelling’ ability that pertains to architecture, and that gives it its proper identity. Without architecture’s stamp on the landscape, it would not be possible for men to ‘dwell’ on Earth, and hence, it would not be possible for men to be rightly humans, i.e. to re-member (in Ruskin’s terminology) – to accomplish that specific human trait of existence that is necessary for an authentic living, which is to be self-aware.

Dec. 15, 2020