Across the early decades of the seventeenth century, Englishmen and women moved through a physical, social, and mental world organised into a carefully maintained balance of motion and pause. This book examines how seventeenth-century English architectural theorists and designers rethought the domestic built environment in terms of mobility, as motion became a dominant mode of articulating the world across discourses. These discourses encompassed philosophy, political theory, poetry, and geography. From mid-century, the house and estate that had evoked staccato rhythms became triggers for mental and physical motion-evoking travel beyond England's shores, displaying vistas, and showcasing changeable wall surfaces. The book sets in its cultural context a strand of historical analysis stretching back to the nineteenth century Heinrich Wolfflin. It brings together the art, architectural, and cultural historical strands of analysis by examining why seventeenth-century viewers expected to be put in motion and what the effects were of that motion. Vistas, potentially mobile wall surface, and changeable garden provided precisely the essential distraction that rearticulated social divisions and assured the ideal harmony. Alternately feared and praised early in the century for its unsettling unpredictability, motion became the most certain way of comprehending social interactions, language, time, and the buildings that filtered human experience. At the heart of this book is the malleable sensory viewer, tacitly assumed in early modern architectural theory and history whose inescapable responsiveness to surrounding stimuli guaranteed a dependable world from the seventeenth century.
This introduction presents an overview of the key concepts discussed in this book. The book explores how across the seventeenth century, theorists, designers, and patrons rethought motion from the external threat of movement to the inherent quality of mobility. By examining the seventeenth-century turn to mobility, the book sets in its cultural context a strand of historical analysis stretching back to the nineteenth century Heinrich Wolfflin. It brings together the art, architectural, and cultural historical strands of analysis by examining why seventeenth-century viewers expected to be put in motion and what the effects were of that motion. The book pairs Robin Evans's and Dell Upton's studies of how movement through the built environment can shape human physical and mental response with Michael Baxandall's, Jonathan Crary's, and Georges Didi-Huberman's exploration of historical mentalities.
Across the early decades of the seventeenth century, Englishmen and women moved through a physical, social, and mental world organised into a carefully maintained balance of motion and pause. The early seventeenth-century house and estate transformed the analogy of theatrical production and daily life into tangible experience. Daily life itself was analogous to the theatrical productions by which guests were welcomed to estates. These welcomes were simply a more formal choreography of meticulously maintained social boundaries. The staccato rhythm was literally built into the experience of approaching and then moving through the initial spaces of the house. With the staccato motions and the balance between regularity and irregularity that ordered physical, social and mental experience, house and estate seemed to guarantee predictability at every corner and scale. Poets as well as etiquette-manual authors transformed staccato pace into the rhetoric for describing the ideal estate and its social gatherings.
From mid-seventeenth century, as the Civil War transformed unpredictability into a way of life, the benefits and risks of literal motion debate collapsed into widespread acceptance of even a changeable English language. Language itself needed to be pinned down in order to protect English words from a dangerous flood of foreign terms, Robert Cawdrey claimed. Across discourses at mid-century, mobility in modes of communication, in topics of discussion, and in an individual's response was essential to comprehending one's surrounding world. The early seventeenth-century ambivalence that had encompassed strong resistance and equally strong praise had collapsed into implicit acceptance. The sequential approach to architectural theory penetrated into the very arguments with which authors articulated design principles that is, design tenets were becoming as malleable and changeable as words in the English language and as architectural books.
In the context of the mid-seventeenth-century acceptance of motion as a mode of comprehending one's world, Englishmen and women rethought the staccato rhythm of movement and pause on house and estate in terms of physical and mental travel. As battles between Parliamentarian and Royalist armies crisscrossed England during the Civil War, house and estate might or might not be the familiar sites of warm welcome. According to the poet Mildmay Fane, the 'home' of an estate had become so unfamiliar that it could contain experiences expected of travel beyond England's shores. Owner and guest travelled across Europe while they were seemingly at home, in a rhetorical echo of the house facade that was a Continental template. From mid-century, Englishmen and women experienced once familiar house and estate through a range of cues house facade, poetic rhetoric, and printed representation that invited them to become curious travellers.
From mid-seventeenth century, guests found motion literally built into the interior and exterior spaces through which they passed both cues that invited their own physical and mental movement and the potential changeability in house and garden. To late seventeenth-century English viewers, in fact, the sash window offered unprecedented transparency despite its grid of mullions. Across the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries guests look through the window separating interior and exterior, and correspondingly the house interior became a briefer interlude in movements through the English landscape. Guests found that the vista was one moment in a sequence of experiences blending motion and mental readjustment. Vistas, potentially mobile wall surface, and changeable garden provided precisely the essential distraction that, in actual experience and theoretical discussion, rearticulated social divisions and assured the ideal harmony. The illusionistically changeable wall surfaces of entertaining rooms transformed such strategic distraction into an enveloping environment.
The English landscape through which they travelled between city and country and between estates contained a new ease of motion. When Englishmen and women travelled along England's roads, they physically experienced the erasure of local boundaries. At the turn of the seventeenth-century, John Locke asserted that such unceasing motion was inherent to the human mind itself and so inescapably the basis of human comprehension. The authors who composed atlases of English roads transformed the blur of motion into the very mode of constructing and comprehending one's journey. Across early decades of the century, atlases led readers through a staccato process of composing a journey based on particular destination points. In lived experience and theoretical argument, owners and guests were encountering repeated reiterations of choreographed mobility that transformed the structured motion into fundamental means by which they articulated and constructed entire physical and social world.