2012 New History
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On Pevsner’s An Outline of European Architecture: A Case of Demonstration for the Hegelian Approach to Architectural Historiography

Bor-Shuenn Chiou

Graduate School of Folk Culture & Arts, Taipei National University of the Arts

To properly understand any work on the history of architecture, it is necessary to grasp the theoretical basis and approach of the author. To this end, this article examines Nikolaus Pevsner’s An Outline of European Architecture to show how Pevsner employed Hegelian thinking when selecting materials from the architecture archives in Europe and how he arranged these materials into such a concise, vivid, and dramatic story. Key concepts of Hegelian thinking, including style, Kunstwollen, genius, Zeitgeist, artistic autonomy, historical collectivism, and historical dialectics are first identified. The way in which concepts were applied by Pevsner to formulate the structure of his book is then analyzed. Finally, the role Hegelian thinking has played in architectural historiography in general, as well as its values and limits, are also reviewed.


Keywords: style, Zeitgeist, Hegelian thinking