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Title: Exhibition and cognition : Gottfried Semper's strolls in the Crystal Palace
Author: Leoni, Claudio Gion
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 1394
Awarding Body: UCL (University College London)
Current Institution: University College London (University of London)
Date of Award: 2019
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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.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available