“The Classical Language of Architecture” by John Summerson

Blowhard, Esq. writes:


PR recommended this one to me and I found it to be a great little intro to classical building. The book is actually the transcript of six talks that Summerson, an architectural historian, gave on the BBC in the early 60s. In my edition the text is 46 pages long including 63 pictures and a glossary, just the right length for a non-specialist who wants gain a little more insight when looking at classical buildings. The chapters are clearly and logically organized to emphasize continuity and innovation within the classical tradition — from the establishment of the orders (the columns pictured above), their use in antiquity, rediscovery during the Renaissance, and elaboration during during the 17th through 19th centuries. Summerson is a droll tour guide with a historian’s detachment that he doesn’t hesitate to deploy. And, like any British pedagogue, he can be a little eccentric at times. The last chapter on modernism notes that Le Corbusier almost completely inverted architecture as it was known yet also praises him as “one of the most classical minds.”


  • Here’s a PDF of the first chapter.
  • A short TED talk on classicism in the modern world.

About Blowhard, Esq.

Amateur, dilettante, wannabe.
This entry was posted in Architecture, Books Publishing and Writing and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to “The Classical Language of Architecture” by John Summerson

  1. slumlord. says:

    Oh God I can sympathise with these guys. I’m currently trying to reproduce a typical Victorian era house and have had to pretty much take up much of the design work of the project myself since very few architects are trained in the classical manner, and most of those who are heritage architects can’t get beyond the technology of the 1850’s.

    It’s not only that they don’t want to design “old” building is that they don’t know how to.

    Liked by 1 person

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  4. Hans van Dijk says:

    Playing Schopenhauer on the piano? This guy is lost.


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