Call for Papers EAHN Tallinn 2018

This session aims at a new understanding of the visualisation and conceptualisation of the architecture of the “Orient” and its introduction in architectural theory and practice in the late 17th and 18th century, before the era that architectural historiography traditionally associates with “Orientalism”. The aim is to improve understanding of how “Eastern” architecture was perceived, historicized and conceptualized before a more generalized (if always problematic) notion of “oriental” architecture emerged.

We are interested in the different channels through which knowledge of “Eastern” architecture was obtained, communicated and conceptualized (travelogues, diaries, engravings). From the early 18th century onwards the Grand Tour became accessible to an ever larger group of travellers. Its circuit expanded beyond the Mediterranean, opening up a new world of architectural forms. This expansion coincided with a renewed critical scrutiny of the Greco-Roman canon, and the introduction of new aesthetic notions such as “taste”.

This session investigates if, how and why the Early Modern imagination of the “Orient” transformed into an architectural imagery resonating with contemporary architectural debates and stimulated the emergence of “Orientalism”. Attention is due to the ways in which 18th-century sources associated “Eastern” architecture with moral connotations, and construed its relation with European architecture: between assimilation into a general architectural history (emerging notions of the oriental origins of the Gothic) and the definition of a distinct “otherness” (i.e. non-Western, non-classical, non-Christian) of “eastern” architecture.

    Questions we wish to raise include:
  • In what terms were the non-classical architectural forms described, what referents were used?
  • How did the acquaintance with “Eastern” architecture affect the interpretation of the Greco-Roman canon?
  • How was “Oriental” architecture defined, characterized or categorized?
  • How did new knowledge of “Eastern” architecture recast deeply engrained Early Modern notions of the “Orient” as the site of architectural opulence, wonder, vanity and idolatry?
  • Where and how did new notions of oriental architecture emerge, and how were they communicated?
  • What was the role of descriptions by travellers?
  • How did travelogues filter moral, religious and political connotations?
  • How were their architectural descriptions mediated in design?
  • Did the description of “Eastern” architecture coincide with a renewed architectural (archaeological) attention for medieval (i.e. Gothic) architecture?
  • What was the role of the emerging bourgeois class in making a supposedly “barbaric” style socially acceptable?
  • Which buildings and architects adopted or pioneered forms taken from “Oriental” architecture before the emergence of “Orientalism”?