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The Turret at Brantwood: Ruskin’s Faulty Tower?

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article

Forthcoming
<mark>Journal publication date</mark>14/07/2020
<mark>Journal</mark>Manchester Memoirs
Volume157
Publication StatusAccepted/In press
<mark>Original language</mark>English

Abstract

Are nature and architecture two sides of the same coin? John Ruskin thought so. He held that all true architectural forms were taken from the natural world. He also maintained that good buildings should be attuned to their environment. In this essay, I examine the development of these principles in Ruskin’s early works, paying particular attention to his celebration of the cottage architecture of the English Lake District. Ruskin, as I show, followed William Wordsworth in admiring the way the region’s vernacular buildings suited their surroundings. But in addition to drawing attention to this link between Ruskin and Wordsworth, I also want to consider the peculiar light in which it puts some of the changes Ruskin made at Brantwood, his Lake District home, during the early 1870s. Brantwood is an integral part of Ruskin’s legacy, and some commentators have observed how the additions Ruskin made to the house and its grounds reflect his architectural principles. In what follows, I want to complicate this view, and I shall do so by considering whether Ruskin’s additions at Brantwood actually fit with his ideals. I shall take the turret room on the southwestern side of the house as my main example. This room was among the first changes Ruskin made after purchasing the property, and it is a favourite of visitors to Brantwood today. But does it accord with the principles Ruskin espoused? Or is it out of touch with its setting? A portion of the article was delivered as a lecture for the Manchester Literary & Philosophical Society on 13 February 2020.