John Ruskin - Art, Society and Ideology

Decorated Gothic

Ruskin had a deep respect for old buildings, especially those in a Gothic style, and thought that restoration ruined the scultural magnificence of ancient buildings and destroyed their craftsmanship. He believed that preservation was a better approach and so took plaster casts from old buildings in order to record their beauty before any restoration took place. One such building was Rouen Cathedral in France; the casts of which can be seen in the Ruskin gallery. Ruskin's ideas had a significant influence on later thinking about the distinction between the conservation and the restoration of old buildings.


Decorated Gothic is a style of architecture that was used in 13th and 14th century England. The decorated style is mostly known for its use in subdividing of ornate, elaborate windows. Geometric styles originally later gave way to 'Curvlinear' shaping of the stone window frames. Inside the buildings were stone pillars, which were slim but supported very ornated arches and roofing. The arches were generally equalateral, complimenting the geometry of the windows.


Ruskin admired Decorated Gothic for its characteristics and individuality of the community that had made it. He thought that buildings constructed before and after the Decorated Gothic period had a vaccuism and a very sterile feeling. The Industrial Revolution brought about The Crystal Palace, which Ruskin named a 'Giant Greenhouse'.


Ruskin's passion for Decorated Gothic inspired some of it to be constructed by contemporary artisans. However none of the attempts met with his approval. Even the Oxford University Building which he had worked on personally did not meet his expectations, and he branded this type of architecture as Faux Gothic (False Gothic).


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