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Title: Christopher Wren as a Baconian
Authors: Li, S. 
Issue Date: 2000
Citation: Li, S. (2000). Christopher Wren as a Baconian. Journal of Architecture 5 (3) : 235-266. ScholarBank@NUS Repository.
Abstract: This paper views Francis Bacon's theory of knowledge as an inseparable part of Christopher Wren's architectural production, and in doing so, attempts to explain, through selective examples, how Wren's buildings may be seen in a more appreciative light. Relevant ideas in Bacon's theory of knowledge are highlighted within their historical context as a powerful reaction to the existing intellectual traditions in seventeenth century England. In particular, the paper focuses on the Baconian notion of utility being the touchstone of credible knowledge in his search for power through knowing. His ideas became a powerhouse in the development of seventeenth century science in England, and generated a profound influence on, among others, John Wilkins and Wren's father, also Christopher Wren. Both men played an important role in the upbringing of Wren and in shaping his intellect. The works and writings of Wren and his close associate Robert Hooke are examined in this framework with an emphasis on architecture. This establishes an approach that is different from the conventional preoccupations with analyses of forms, and it provides an opportunity to give some of Wren's writings and buildings a fresh reading. Two salient themes in Wren's works emerge from this exercise. The first is an unprecedented architectural pragmatism that may be seen as fundamental to Baconian thinking; the second is a strong sense of formal freedom in architecture that seems to stem from the empiricist distrust of any notion of beauty. Although far from exhaustive, it is hoped that this examination will highlight the importance of focusing on ideas in trying to understand Wren's architecture. It is in this light, more than in the light of 'styles of forms', that Wren made his endlessly enlightening contributions to architecture; it is from this powerful Baconian empiricist background that Wren drew his confidence in creating a new architecture towards the end of the seventeenth century. © 2000 The Journal of Architecture.
Source Title: Journal of Architecture
ISSN: 13602365
Appears in Collections:Staff Publications

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