Luxury and architecture: from ancient Sybaris to the early twentieth century

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis



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What is luxury within architecture? Why has it become a contentious issue in architecture? This thesis explores the role and nature of luxury in architecture. Its scope spans from antiquity to the modern era—and studies some of the ethical questions it raised by the idea of the nature of luxury in architecture. The idea of the nature of luxury had a large impact upon architectural expressions and I concentrate on areas where representations of luxury were realised, in Western Europe, Latin America and the United States. The emphasis is placed upon how applicable the ideas of luxury to architecture were for these contexts—and argues that luxury within architecture changed from one context to another. There are distinctive types of luxury. Myths about the Sybarites' lifestyle provided evidence of how places in antiquity were thought of as being luxurious. Instances of luxury within architecture include grand palaces, outlying buildings, entertainment venues and ornate skyscrapers. My argument is that luxury within architecture changed since the leisure class in particular fantasised different settings for pleasure. This resulted in a continuous prompt for indulging in luxury further. The sources for the study were theories of luxury, architectural accounts of luxury, moral philosophy and historiography. The dissertation is organised into five chapters. The first and second chapters concentrate on luxurious places in Italy, mainly Sybaris, Bay of Naples, Rome, Florence and Venice. The third chapter makes the link between luxury and space in France's Ancién Regime, specifically Fontainebleau, Versailles and Chambourcy. The fourth chapter considers the idea of 'neo-European' luxury in Latin American countries, Mexico and Brazil. The last chapter focuses on instances of modern luxury in Chicago, which were motivated by sybaritic myths.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
StateUnpublished - 2009

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