Review for Mari Hvattum’s Gottfried Semper and the Problem of Historicism published in 2004 by the Cambridge University Press.

This book is as important as Harry Mallgrave’s biography with regard of interpreting Semper. Mari’s book, on the other hand, presents a systematic philosophical analysis of Semper’s lifelong ambition to formulate a global history of architecture as well as a theory of design (the former is the means for the latter as the end), or what he called a “practical aesthetics.”

This connection of this book to the conception of space is stretched, but to consider Semper’s unprecedented view of architecture as a tradition locations in man’s mind helps understand the genesis of the emergence of the concept of space in architecture, as it provides a conceptual basis for Semper’s theory of style and further space. In specific, according to Hvattum, Semper sees architecture in terms of human desire for ritual that represents the order primitive man perceived in, or projected onto, his surroundings (from inside to outside), thus calling for anew discipline of anthropology, in which he could investigate all human artifacts with the aim to study the ritual and aesthetic value. This contention is in line with Peter Blundell Jones’s interest in the relationship between architecture and movement in a ritual context, through which we can obtain anew understanding of spatial configuration.

Posted by:Liyang DING

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