Sunday, January 7, 2018

OLD BOOKS, NEW REVIEWS: Architecture of The Arts & Crafts Movement

Let me just say it: Great Old Books on Architecture are like crack to those who love to read and collect them. While there continues to be a decent stream of new works that fit within my areas of interest, I simply can’t say no when the opportunity arises to pick up an older volume at a good price. My shelves are full of former well-worn public library volumes that have been cast off, and it gives me great pleasure to know I can preserve them for both myself and others.

The book includes a number of illustrations and floor plans.

Such is Architecture of The Arts and Crafts Movement, by Peter Davey, originally published in 1980 by Rizzoli. Some readers may be familiar with the more recent (20 years! - LOL) 1997 book Arts and Crafts Architecture by the same author, which is a typically beautiful Phaidon volume with exquisite layout and beautiful color photography.

Formerly a library copy. Winning!
The images in this 1980 book are all black and white, but this does not detract from the enjoyment, thoughtfulness or value it offers in terms of the insight it brings to this brilliant period of architectural work. Davey provides a generally chronological overview of the development, growth and flowering of the Arts and Crafts Movement in Britain and beyond. His characterizations of various aspects and personalities within the movement are full-flavored and spot-on—and the depth of his knowledge touches every page.

What also struck me while reading the book was Davey’s “big picture” view into architecture and society in general; something that must be considered whenever the Arts & Crafts Movement is addressed. Some of his writing is remarkable in its prescience, especially when one considers that it comes from 1980:
"At last the subjugation of man to machine, which formed the Arts and Crafts Movement’s objection to machinery, may be nearly over. There is hope that people need no longer be at all involved in producing planks or chains or refrigerators or television sets. William Morris would have surely welcomed the microchip. But while the new technology offers freedom from drudgery, it threatens to force millions into the dole queues. At the moment, western societies have simply no answer to the threat of vast unemployment—except the hope that output will increase so greatly that somehow there will be enough machines for everyone to supervise."
Besides Davey’s excellent scholarship, observations like this help to put art, architecture and their place in society into fuller context, making clear that we are talking about more than materials, design, craftsmanship and vernacular building influences as we assess the long-term impact of the Arts and Crafts Movement.

A great book about a fascinating period in architecture and house design.

This book is not easy to find; an Amazon search provided few leads and some incorrect information; a better source would be something like, where a copy can still be obtained at a reasonable price.

No comments: