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Exhibition and Cognition: Gottfried Semper's Strolls in the Crystal Palace

Leoni, Claudio Gion; (2019) Exhibition and Cognition: Gottfried Semper's Strolls in the Crystal Palace. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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This doctoral thesis examines the theoretical and practical work of the German architect Gottfried Semper during the Great Exhibition of 1851 and discusses how his work came to be influenced by imperialism, colonialism and capitalism. The celebrated event in the Crystal Palace in Hyde Park coincided with Semper’s growing interest in the four essential crafts (weaving, pottery, carpentry, masonry) that he believed formed the basis from which architecture had originated. To this end, the Great Exhibition furnished Semper’s theoretical endeavours with a plethora of material objects he could study from all around the world. The thesis first analyses and partly reconstructs Semper’s own designs for some national sections within the Crystal Palace. It then follows the walks through the exhibition that Semper undertook with his friend, Lothar Bucher, as a means to look at the ethnographic material they encountered. Behind all of Semper’s reflections upon the displayed objects was a concept of cultural development rooted in German Idealist thought as produced by thinkers such as Kant and Hegel. However, Semper’s observations also instigated a profound critique of contemporary modes of production in industrialised societies. The thesis therefore shows how Semper redirects anthropological ideas about object fetishism in earlier societies towards an analysis of the world of capitalist commodities and their representations. In this regard, the thesis sketches out a shift in Semper’s thought from a critique of religion to a critique of capitalism, with similarities to another German émigré in London at the time, Karl Marx. Yet, in the end Semper refrained from Marxist theory and instead carried out investigations into the production of artistic objects. Accordingly, the thesis discusses Semper’s plan for an ideal museum which he hoped could overcome the crisis of production and representation within capitalism by looking for universal principles of design.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: Exhibition and Cognition: Gottfried Semper's Strolls in the Crystal Palace
Event: UCL (University College London)
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Copyright © The Author 2019. Original content in this thesis is licensed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) Licence (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/). Any third-party copyright material present remains the property of its respective owner(s) and is licensed under its existing terms. Access may initially be restricted at the author’s request.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Architecture
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10080075
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