When is a building finished? In the culture of Classical architecture, since the Renaissance, things tend to start with a design - a Platonic idea of a building - which may be realised completely, in part, or not at all - but there is usually an implication that the design is something fixed - a final artistic statement. In art-historical culture, this often seems like the normal state of things. We concentrate on the designer (usually an architect) and the design, and think about style and influences. However, a consideration of Medieval culture suggests that that this has not always been the case. Back then even the grandest buildings, like cathedrals, seem to have been regarded in a quasi-organic way, as artefacts that could change over time. Partly for such reasons, many historic buildings cannot really be understood from a post-Renaissance, art-historical perspective - and are better understood in relation to their uses, materiality and development over time, as archaeological artefacts. This talk looks at the building culture of late-medieval England, and asks what lessons it has for us in alternative ways of thinking about buildings, the way they evolve, and what they mean to us.
Steven Brindle is a historian at English Heritage. He has published extensively on the history of architecture and engineering. He is the editor and lead author of Windsor Castle: A Thousand Years of a Royal Palace. (Royal Collection Trust, 2018). He has just finished writing a new history, Architecture in Britain and Ireland 1530-1830, for the Paul Mellon Centre and Yale University Press. The lecture arises from themes in the early chapters of this book.