New Book | The Imaginary Orient: Exotic Buildings
Stefan Koppelkamm, The Imaginary Orient: Exotic Buildings of the 18th and 19th Centuries in Europe (Stuttgart: Axel Menges, 2015), 192 pages, ISBN: 978-3936681772, $78.
In the eighteenth century the idea of the landscape garden, which had originated in England, spread all over Europe. The geometry of the Baroque park was abandoned in favour of a ‘natural’ design. At the same time the garden became the ‘land of illusion’: Chinese pagodas, Egyptian tombs and Turkish mosques, along with Gothic stables and Greek and Roman temples, formed a miniature world in which distance mingled with the past. The keen interest in a fairy-tale Orient was manifested also in architecture. This ‘Orient’, which could hardly be clearly defined geographically, was characterized by Islamic culture. The Islamic styles seemed especially appropriate for buildings of a secular and cheerful character. The promise of happiness associated with an Orient staged by architectural means was intended to guarantee the commercial success of coffee houses and music halls, amusement parks and steam baths. But even extravagant summer residences and middle-class villas were built in faux-Oriental styles.
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Note (added 21 December 2016) — Barry Bergdoll reviews the book for The Burlington Magazine 158 (December 2016), p. 982:
Published originally in German in 1987 to accompany a series of no doubt delightful exhibitions entitled Exotische Welten-Europäische Phantasien in Stuttgart (Institut für Auslansbeziehungen), this anthology seems to be more concerned with compiling examples than analysing them . . . Sometimes groundbreaking exhibition catalogues are republished years later either because of their historical importance or because greater availability stimulates new research. The decision to translate (more or less) this rather helter-skelter overview into English more than a quarter of a century after its appearance is mystifying . . .