Willem Marinus Dudok: The lyrical music of architecture

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Journal of Architecture, 2015, 20 (2), pp. 169 - 192
Issue Date:
2015-01-01
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© 2015 RIBA Enterprises. Willem Marinus Dudok stands out from his Dutch and European peers for resisting the temptation to conform to the aesthetic norms of the avant-garde and for the unique aesthetics in his work. A man who shunned movements and dogma in a time when new architectural manifestos abounded, Dudok preferred to say little about his designs. Yet by combining a close reading of his design work with the few essays that survive, it becomes apparent that one important inspiration for Dudok was classical music composition, in particular counterpoint. Dudok was the son of a professional musician; he played the piano all his life, even sketching his design ideas on scores, probably when he was practising. Analogies between music and architecture date back centuries; typically architects worked with the aspects of form, rhythm, harmony and proportion. But Dudok added another element to the musical arsenal: he used classical counterpoint as an organising principle in plan and elevation. Although he never outlined exactly how he translated his extensive knowledge of music to architecture, Dudok used musical metaphors often enough when describing his work for us to know that music was always on his mind. Dudok was a prolific architect, and considered important during his lifetime - he won the UK's Royal Gold Medal and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal, there were Dudok societies all around the world - and yet he is largely overlooked today because his work never conformed to the aesthetic expectations of modernism. This paper examines Dudok's design method, in particular his use of musical composition techniques, and re-positions his work as an outstanding example of a different kind of modernism.
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