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Design & History: The Past is Always Present

April 24 @ 1:00 pm - 2:30 pm


Design & History: The Past is Always Present
Week 5: Pugin and the 1851 Crystal Palace Exposition

While the 19th century was marked by an exuberance for technological advancements, there was still more than enough anxiety about the changing world to go around. As the first World’s Fair celebrated humanity’s progress, it was marked too by the desire to return to the simplicity of the middle ages most forcibly stated by Augustus Welby Northmore Pugin’s Medieval court exhibited in the Crystal Palace. This session explores the critique of modernity that flourished in the wake of this exhibition covering such well-known names as John Ruskin and William Morris, but giving proper credit to Pugin whose 1836 publication of Contrasts in 1836 would set the stage for the medievalizing fantasies of subsequent design reformers and critics of modernity.

Writing in 1841, Ralph Waldo Emerson recorded one of the immutable laws of the creative process: “the new in art is always formed out of the old.” So while the Arts and Crafts movement appeared to be a new direction in design, it was indebted to the precedents of our collective past, the shared history of design that was understood amongst its manufacturers, designers, and fiercest advocates. This series seeks to recapture those precedents, not to dilute the importance of the movement, but to better understand it, to wrap it properly in the context of the histories from which it emerged so that its contributions – and the meanings which these objects held to contemporaries – become clearer. Explored in this manner, design is not only practical, but metaphorical, lyrical, and poetic. It speaks to us in the hushed and reverent tones of our shared experiences if we can learn to listen to and discern those muted murmurs.

Registration is required. Once registered and paid, you will receive an email prior to each session with a link to join.

Do you have a scheduling conflict for the live session? You can still enjoy the program. Register and we’ll send you the recording! All paid attendees will be emailed a private link to the session recording when it is available.

Missed us? You can also register retroactively. If you register for a session that has passed, you’ll recieve access to the recording when it is ready.

Haven’t tried a session yet? Each session is planned as a “stand-alone” lecture, so you can take them all or attend the topics that interest you most.


April 24
1:00 pm - 2:30 pm
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Monmouth County, NJ 07722 United States
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