The Sympathy of Things

"The Sympathy of Things: Ruskin and the Ecology of Design," is a publication by Lars Spuybroek.

Reissued by Bloomsbury

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"We have to find our way back to beauty," writes Lars Spuybroek in the introduction to The Sympathy of Things. In this book Spuybroek argues that we must "undo" the twentieth century – the age in which the sublime turned from an art category into a technical reality. This leads him to the aesthetical insights of the nineteenth-century English art critic John Ruskin, from which he distils pointers for our time.

In The Sympathy of Things, the old romantic notion of sympathy, a core concept in Ruskin’s aesthetics, is re-evaluated as the driving force of the aesthetic experience. For Ruskin, beauty always comprises variation, imperfection and fragility, three concepts that wholly disappeared from our mindsets during the twentieth century.

Spuybroek addresses the five central dual themes of Ruskin in turn: the Gothic and work, ornament and matter, sympathy and abstraction, the picturesque and time, ecology and design. He wrests each of these themes from the Victorian era and compares them with the related ideas of later aestheticians and philosophers like William James and Bruno Latour.

Lars Spuybroek is Professor of Architectural Design at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. He is the author of NOX: Machining Architecture (2004), The Architecture of Continuity (2008), Research & Design: The Architecture of Variation (2009) and Research & Design: Textile Tectonics (2011).


"We are living through a change in paradigm, in the age of the flexible machine, where the concepts of matter, spirituality and design are under re-negotiation and we need such fearless thought to jolt complacency. If Spuybroek, like Ruskin, does not shake your design and aesthetic concepts, you haven’t understood him."

Charles Jencks on The Sympathy of Things

"The Sympathy of Things is a stirring call to action; an amazing reconstruction of the ideas of the Victorian sage 
John Ruskin; and, above all, a visionary look at the inner life of things. Lars Spuybroek makes the case that aesthetics is first philosophy, and proposes a radical new aesthetics for the digital age."

Steven Shaviro on The Sympathy of Things


The Sympathy of Things has been made possible with the aid of The Netherlands Architecture Fund

 The second printing has been published by Bloomsbury.


Lars Spuybroek on The Sympathy of Things at the Architectural Association, London, 2011 http://www.aaschool.ac.uk  

Video: Lars Spuybroek on The Sympathy of Things at the Faculty of Architecture, University of Innsbruck, 2012.





The Digital Nature of Gothic

     Ruskin: The Nature of Gothic

     Craft and Code

     I believe in Things

The Matter of Ornament

     Ruskin: The Wall Veil and Earth Veil

     An Abstract Materialism

     Tesselation Ornament and Ribbon Ornament

     Some Hints on Pattern-designing

Abstraction and Sympathy

     The Mosaic of Experience

     The Fabric of Sympathy

     Lipps’ Sympathy, Worringer’s Empathy

     The Veil is the Anti-Eidos

The Radical Picturesque

     Forms and Forces

     Ruskin: The Parasitical Sublime

     Sublime Things

     The Technological Wild

The Ecology of Design

     Ruskin: Beauty is the End

     A Veil of Strange Intermediate Being


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