Academic Session 30: Loughborough 2017

43rd Annual Conference & Art Book Fair
Loughborough University
6th to 8th April 2017

Standing Stones and the Origins of Architectural Modernity  


Ralph Ghoche, Barnard College, Columbia University,
Christina Contandriopoulos, UQAM University

Standing stones (menhirs) have captivated the imagination of architects and archeologists since their rediscovery in the 17th century. By the 19th century, these primitive monuments were accorded a prominent place in the new narratives of architectural history, generating countless debates over their origin and function. Indeed, they emboldened many architects to challenge the prevailing neoclassical histories of architecture by moving the point of origin from the so-called ‘civilized’ societies of classical Greece and Rome, back to the ritualistic practices of Celts, Druids and Gauls. The interest in indigenous monuments was no less potent for architects in the 20th century. In the writings of Le Corbusier, Sigfried Giedion and Aldo van Eyck, here too these stone were employed as evidence of wholly distinct historical lineages.

This session focuses on the impact of standing stones and primitive, indigenous monuments on architecture from the 17th to the 20th centuries. The question can be explored from multiple perspectives. From an historiographical standpoint, we are interested in the way that these stones informed new historical narratives in architecture. How was the new awareness of these stone employed to challenge Greco-Roman models? From the perspective of architectural production, how did they impact the primitive sensibilities of modernist architects? To be sure, the mute and enigmatic quality of menhirs provided Modernists powerful precedents for their own experiments in abstract signification. As prehistorical monuments, standing stones would seem to have provided designers with a way of achieving an emancipated architecture, free of the burdens of history.

Click here to download a .pdf of this session's paper abstracts

Ginger Nolan (University of Basel, Switzerland) To Transcend Language: Herbert Bayer’s Earthworks and the Search for a Universal Semiosis

Daniel Naegele (Iowa State University) Le Corbusier's Ronchamp is a Standing Stone

Jonah Rowan (Columbia University) Air, Rain, and Architecture: Chemical analysis of Scottish antiquities as warnings

Peter Sealy (Harvard University) Menhirs and Materiality

Aaron White (Columbia University) 'A Native Civilitie:' Inigo Jones, Stonehenge, and the Ambivalence of Heritage