Led by Dr Ann-Marie Akehurst (Independent Scholar, York)
Taking its starting point from Sir John Summerson’s reduction of Quaker meetinghouses to ‘buildings of endearing simplicity’, this seminar considers the architectural activities of the early Religious Society of Friends. An extreme Puritan sect, that emerged in England during the 1640s, Quakers understood ‘church’ denoted ‘believers’, and all space had equal sacramental potential. Quakers’ avoidance of decoration and figurative imagery, and preference for unembellished surfaces, means their meetinghouses have been overlooked by architectural historians, and described rather as vernacular building than within the canon of Architecture proper.
Focusing partly on Emmanuel College, Cambridge, and Jordans Meetinghouse, Buckinghamshire, the seminar introduces Quakers’ building through their idiosyncratic theological culture and praxis. It considers how their scripturally authorised aesthetic - deriving from perceptual and mental schemata of ‘plainness and perspicuity’ – distilled ecclesiastical architectural conventions to their Platonic essentials, aiding meditational worship and capturing the numinous in space and light. Consequently, this seminar aims to reposition these buildings as genuine architectural objects.
Part of the 2017-18 Architectural History and Theory Seminar Series. The seminars are free and everyone is welcome.