Thomas Hardy's architectural career is not considered a success. Seen usually as a mere prelude to his literary output, it is most often summed up by reference to the 'shockingly' suburban home he built himself at Max Gate. But in this new work, Professor Kester Rattenbury argues the opposite: that far from being incidental, Hardy's architectural thinking is integral to a full understanding of his life's work. This is the first time Hardy's life and legacy have been studied by a fellow architectural writer and critic. Reconstructed from the wealth of little-known drawings, photographs, experimental illustrations and modest built work he produced or oversaw, and an architecturally-biased re-reading of his novels, this book sets out a startling new vision of Thomas Hardy's work, and how it has shaped England in fact and fiction. The Wessex Project exposes the architectural thinking and invention underlying Hardy's novels.
It shows how his famous imaginary realm Wessex can be seen as a forerunner of the experimental architectural projects of our own times - in which architects weave together design, description, polemic, and images of both real and imagined spaces, to form highly developed and challenging unbuilt projects, published in books designed to change the way we see the world. The book makes a compelling case for listing Hardy among the greatest of all conceptual architects, as well as recognising him as one of the most influential and active conservationists and architectural critics of all time. This radical new perspective gives Hardy's many readers a chance, at last, to see Wessex as the author himself constructed it: through architectural eyes.
Kester Rattenbury is Professor of Architecture at the University of Westminster and as an architectural writer contributes to numerous national and international magazines and newspapers. In 2003, she set up EXP research group at Westminster, with acclaimed projects including the Archigram Archival Project and Supercrit series. Her publications include This Is Not Architecture (2002) Architects Today (2006, with Robert Bevan and Kieran Long), and the Supercrit Books series (2007-, with Samantha Hardingham).
Part 1: VISION. 1: Not Much of an Architect; 2: A Kind of Education; 3: Ways of Seeing: the Early Novels; 4: Doubt and Experiment: 'Oddities and Failures'; 5: Unsafe Pictures: The Return of the Native; 6: Different Constructions: Built and Imagined Part 2: REALISATION. 7: The Invention of Wessex; 8: The Character of the Streets: The Mayor of Casterbridge; 9: A Little Influence: The Wessex Campaign; 10: Building Up: Max Gate Phase 1; 11: How That Book Rustles: The Woodlanders; 12: Wessex Copyright: Names and Maps; 13: Stepping Out: Authored and Anonymous Part 3: RECONSTRUCTION. 14: Time and Place; 15: Troublesome Land: Tess of the D'Urbervilles; 16: Obstructed Visions: Jude the Obscure; 17: Horizons Open: Poems and Photographs; 18: Building On: Max Gate Extended; 19: An Imaginary Story: The Conservation of Wessex; 20: A Partial Completion: Plays, Poetry, Performances