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On the Ruins of BabelArchitectural Metaphor in German Thought$
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Daniel Purdy

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780801476761

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: August 2016

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9780801476761.001.0001

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Goethe and the Disappointing Site: Buildings That Do Not Live Up to Their Images

Goethe and the Disappointing Site: Buildings That Do Not Live Up to Their Images

(p.212) 8 Goethe and the Disappointing Site: Buildings That Do Not Live Up to Their Images
On the Ruins of Babel

Daniel L. Purdy

Cornell University Press

This chapter details Goethe's consideration of “the unbuilt” in his aesthetic assessments of architecture. Although they are often taken as monumental units, complete and whole, buildings have different versions of themselves: the material structure left standing by history, and the architectural designs that preceded it. This chapter discusses Goethe's preoccupation with the latter and the disappointment the discrepancies these two versions had created as well as his reading the discrepancies between the treatise and the actual site as a manifestation of the autonomous artist's struggle against an unsympathetic public. Almost all the discrepancies between plan and building Goethe resolves to the architect's credit, whom he construes as a freethinking, autonomous agent who formulated a singular artistic plan prior to the building's materialization. The unbuilt designs thus acquire a truth content apart from the actual buildings, yet are always dependent upon them.

Keywords:   unbuilt, Johann Wolfgang Goethe, Andrea Palladio, architectural designs, unbuilt designs

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