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The Wessex Project: Thomas Hardy, Architect
Thomas Hardy's architectural career is not considered a success. Seen usually as a mere prelude to his literary output, it is most often summed up by reference to the 'shockingly' suburban home he built himself at Max Gate. But in this new work, Professor Kester Rattenbury argues the opposite: that far from being incidental, Hardy's architectural thinking is integral to a full understanding of his life's work. This is the first time Hardy's life and legacy have been studied by a fellow architectural writer and critic. Reconstructed from the wealth of little-known drawings, photographs, experimental illustrations and modest built work he produced or oversaw, and an architecturally-biased re-reading of his novels, this book sets out a startling new vision of Thomas Hardy's work, and how it has shaped England in fact and fiction. The Wessex Project exposes the architectural thinking and invention underlying Hardy's novels.
It shows how his famous imaginary realm Wessex can be seen as a forerunner of the experimental architectural projects of our own times - in which architects weave together design, description, polemic, and images of both real and imagined spaces, to form highly developed and challenging unbuilt projects, published in books designed to change the way we see the world. The book makes a compelling case for listing Hardy among the greatest of all conceptual architects, as well as recognising him as one of the most influential and active conservationists and architectural critics of all time. This radical new perspective gives Hardy's many readers a chance, at last, to see Wessex as the author himself constructed it: through architectural eyes.
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What Reviewers Are Saying
"Rattenbury has produced in this book a convincing argument to support her bold thesis that Thomas Hardy never gave up architecture." --Tony Fincham, The Thomas Hardy Society Journal "Kester Rattenbury, an architectural journalist and teacher, takes Beatty's estimate much further, claiming that Hardy was 'amongst the greatest of all conceptual architects, ' and 'the greatest conservation thinker and campaigner of all time.'" --Peter Howell, The Art Newspaper ..".the architecture critic Kester Rattenbury has set out to revise Hardy's reputation" --Architectura Viva "Kester Rattenbury argues in The Wessex Project (Lund Humphries) that his thinking remained that of an architect--and a radical one at that--even when he was writing his novels." --Rowan Moore, The Guardian "The Wessex Project is filled with thoughtful and enriching descriptions of buildings--their meanings, histories and resonances." --Ralph Pite, Literary Review Thinking like an architect Thomas Hardy's ideas of structure and restoration. --Interview, The Times Literary Supplement