2014 Alice Davis Hitchcock Medallion
The Alice Davis Hitchcock Award for the best architectural history book went to Dr Anthony Geraghty for The Sheldonian Theatre: Architecture and Learning in Seventeenth-Century Oxford (New Haven and London: Yale University Press for the Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art, 2013)
Maurice Howard said: 'This outstanding book makes a significant contribution to British architectural history. It is ostensibly a monograph on a single building, albeit one of immense symbolic significance, and by drawing on a very wide base of knowledge about the early Restoration era, it shows a fundamental understanding of the architect’s mind at this point, the use of drawings to arrive at the final design, the practicalities of getting the structure up, and everything one could expect about the processes of intention.
'But it does much more because it looks backwards and forward. It provides a fully-argued discourse on the Laudian period and on earlier expectations of what this building was for, and what it represented. Then it goes on to discuss how the building was customized by its users; there is a strong sense here of a building like this being but one stage in a complex evolution about the University and the place of ceremonial. Not a word is wasted.
'It has a convincing overall argument about how we should interpret the Sheldonian: as a Restoration reassertion of a 'passionate commitment to church and crown' as well as of a particular humanist model of learning. The latter argument is built upon recent scholarship that reassesses the Royal Society and the debates between the new empirical science and the scholarly encyclopaedic tradition of Oxford. The way in which this repositions Wren seems plausible and relevant as a scholarly contribution, and reveals much about how architecture was accommodated within seventeenth-century academic thought and structures, and about the university’s ceremonial life and relationship with the church.
'The author writes lucidly, and directly tackles the question of what the relationship is between meaning and form. His approach is fresh and we think will prove to be of lasting significance; Anthony will go on to situate this work in his wider experience of Wren and the late seventeenth century. The book itself benefits from the usual Yale assets of elegant design and good images.'
About the author
Dr Geraghty, Senior Lecturer in the History of Art at the University of York. He studied at Birmingham, the Courtauld Institute, and Cambridge. He worked at the Glasgow School of Art in 1998-2002, before moving to the History of Art Department at York. He specialises in the English Baroque period. This is his second book on the period.
When presented the award, he said, "I am thrilled, delighted, and very grateful for this award. It is especially gratifying to be recognised by my fellow architectural historians, and by this Society in particular."
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