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The Seven Lamps of Architecture
- John Ruskin Submitted by –
Kamal Kant Tyagi
• The English critic and social theorist John Ruskin (1819-
1900) more than any other man shaped the esthetic values
and tastes of Victorian England.
• His writings combine enormous sensitivity and human
compassion with a burning zeal for moral value
• John Ruskin's principal insight was that art is an
expression of the values of a society
• He's been called a "weirdo" and "manic-depressive“
• "strange and unbalanced genius“
• “The Seven Lamps of Architecture, Ruskin awakened
interest in medieval Gothic architecture.
• “The Stones of venice”
• The 19th century Gothic Revival period of architectural
design in England, better known as Victorian Gothic, was
in large part due to the writings of John Ruskin.
Ruskin’s influence on
• John Ruskin rebelled against formal, classical art and
• Ruskin championed the asymmetrical, rough architecture
of medieval Europe.
• His passionate writings heralded the Gothic Revival
movement in Britain and paved the way for the Arts &
Crafts movement in Britain and the United States.
• Like William Morris and other Arts & Crafts
philosophers, John Ruskin opposed industrialization and
rejected the use of machine-made materials.
Gothic revival architecture:- features
• Pointed windows with decorative tracery
• Grouped chimneys
• Pinnacles Battlements and shaped parapets
• Leaded glass
• Quatrefoil and clover-shaped windows
• Asymmetrical floor plan
Arts and crafts movement :- features
• Wood, stone, or stucco siding
• Low-pitched roof
• Exposed roof rafters
• Porch with thick square or round columns
• Exterior chimney made with stone
• Open floor plans; few hallways
• Numerous windows
• Some windows with stained or leaded glass
• Beamed ceilings
• Built-in cabinets, shelves, and seating
The lamp of memory –
the seven lamps of
In 1849 John Ruskin published an article called The Seven
Lamps of Architecture. In this he distills the essence of the
Gothic Revival down to seven “lamps”. They are as follows:
• These aren’t guides for how to create a building. These are the
foundations for building with integrity, at least to the mind of
• The lamp of Life is all but forgotten. John Ruskin valued the
contribution of the individual artist and craftsmen. There is
little in the way of current building activity, whether modern or
traditional, that can be said to draw value from the contribution
of its craftsmen. Mass production has won the day.
• The architectural concepts presented here are like that. They
are paradigms not laws. They provide viewpoints, but in the
end most people will not understand the concepts. They will
simply look at a building and think “I like that” or “What were
they thinking?” They are not an unworthy audience for not
understanding the concept. The concept was deficient or it was
applied incorrectly, or perhaps there are some things that will
always simply be a matter of taste.
Sacrifice –Let me borrow from the Bible to explain this. “Do
everything as unto the Lord”. Do it well as if you were trying to
please God with your design and craft.
Obedience - “The architecture of a nation is great only when it is
as universal and as established as it language”. John Ruskin
asserted that England should have one school of architecture, a
type of Gothic that was peculiarly English.
Power – A building is a shape, a mass. Its immensity in comparison to
man has its own effect apart from its ornamentation. The architect’s job
is to display this shape to its best effect.
Life – This has less to do with the building as it is, but rather the
building as it was formed. Building should be made with human hands,
and by this he means skilled human hands, masons and carvers and
carpenters. The life of the builder must be in the building. Those who
build their own houses can relate to this. Ruskin was against the mass
production of buildings and any innovation that decreased the skill
content of the buildings.
Memory – Buildings (and houses) should reflect the culture and
what went on before. They in turn will inform the culture that
follows. John Ruskin was not a big fan of innovative disruption.
Even gradual change is something to be distrusted. In some ways
he was the ultimate cultural conservative.
Truth – Your buildings should be honest in how they present
themselves. No fancy facades hiding poor construction. No wood
pretending to be stone.
Beauty – Here John Ruskin refers to skin and ornamentation. He
draws heavily on nature, because nature is our school master for
beauty. Therefore art in our buildings should be imitative of the
forms and lines and shapes we see in nature.
If a column seems beautiful it is because we see them all around
us in the stems of plants.
If a pointed arch is pleasing to the eye it is because that shape
was first pleasing as the shape of a leaf.
He also castigates some ornamentation that is not imitative of
nature, such as the Greek Key, a running spiral design common in
some Greek architecture.
• Book “the seven lamps of architecture”