Modeling and Rendering: John Ruskin and the Sublime

October 17, 2008

Rendering and Modeling in the Picturesque

There is an interesting split in the Romantic Picturesque, where in the pursuit of novelty compels an artist to develop work that is both naturalistic and overtly iconographic.  The fluctuation between these two modes of  representations elicits a certain attitude that is both nostalgic and projective.  Nostalgic, in as much as the mode of inquiry seeks to model the natural processes of an object; which is necessarily an exercise in excavating the nuances of an object’s history.  Projective, in as much as the artist uses the mode of inquiry to represent an idealized form; actively appropriating the signs and symbols of a foregone past to amass a vocabulary for describing the potential condition of an object.  By extension, we may be able to refer to these two modes of production as modeling and rendering, where in the model of an object is intended to describe the mechanics of how a thing came to be (or un-be), and the rendering seeks to depict how a thing could be, it is a supposition.

Architecture inhabits a strange place in the picturesque, it is happy to exist squarely between these two modes.   Beyond Ruskin’s morality, we are able to see that architecture, if done correctly in his mind, is capable of traversing time. This affords architecture two very special qualities.  Firstly it enables architecture to be the medium by which time inscribes her processes.  Secondly, by virtue of its eternal stature, architecture is capable of providing contrast to the contemporary epoch.  It is therefor a matter of “utmost seriousness” that architecture is created, because it is the vessel for time and humanity.


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