Architecture and Geology
Saturday 14 January 2017, 10am5.30pm

Eugene Immanuel Viollet le Duc, Mont-blanc,

Eugéne-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, Rhombohedral crystalline system of the Mont-Blanc: Crystalline system of the remnant peaks separating the glacier towards Blaitère in the Vallée Blanche. © Ministère de la Culture / Médiathèque du Patrimoine, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais / Art Resource, NY.

Saturday 14 January 2017, 10am–5.30pm
St Catherine’s College Oxford
Manor Road
Oxford OX1 3UJ

In 1859, James Parker gave a lecture to the Oxford Architectural Society entitled ‘Architecture and Geology’, in which he explicitly linked the development of the earth’s crust with the development of Gothic architecture and claimed that there was ‘a connection in the very grammar of the two sciences’. Nearly one hundred and sixty years later, with the proposed ‘Anthropocene’ geological epoch awaiting official approval by the International Union of Geological Sciences, and alongside the emergence of trends such as ‘landform building’, architectural theorists and experimental practices are again turning to geological models of time and development. To contextualise this present turn, this colloquium aims to document and interrogate the long-standing historical connections between architecture and the earth sciences evident before, during, and after the pivotal decades of nineteenth-century geological science. With a range of interpretive theoretical approaches to historical episodes from the Renaissance to the recent past, an international roster of speakers will reveal the overt and implicit reciprocities of seemingly separate bodies of knowledge. These revelations, and accompanying speculations, will enable a critical reexamination of the evolving relationship between nature and culture in architectural thought and practice.



Lucia Allais City as Encrustation: Kieslinger’s Vienna, c. 1931

Anne Bordeleau Cockerell’s ‘Geography of Building Art' and Other Translations between Geology and Architecture

Martin Bressani Viollet-le-Duc and the Crystal Metaphor

Kurt Forster The History of the Earth infringes on Architecture: How Schinkel told the tale with Rocks, Water and Trees

Adrian Forty Marble after Modernity

Timothy Hyde Above and Below: Architecture between Myth and Geology

Lauren Jacobi On Stones and History: Florentine Architecture under Cosimo I de’ Medici

Marrikka Trotter Stratigraphic Development: G. E. Street and Geohistory

At the end of the proceedings, we have arranged a visit to Thomas Deane and Benjamin Woodward’s Oxford University Museum of Natural History; all will be welcome to join this, and we would encourage you to postpone your departure from Oxford until after 7pm.

We hope to be able to confirm the surprise appearance at the end of the day of John Ruskin himself (assisted by Dr Nicholas Olsberg). Mr Ruskin wishes to talk to us about his own celebrated collections of mineral specimens, and his role in the commissioning of the museum building.

Refreshments will be provided and a visit to the Oxford Museum of Natural History is included in the ticket price. Morning coffee, lunch and afternoon tea will be served by the college.