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This report is taken from PN Review 143, Volume 28 Number 3, January - February 2002.

'Neighborhoods of Pause' Lawrence Sail

This is a shortened version of a talk given at a conference entitled 'Can Architecture Make a Difference?' at Cumberland Lodge last September.

'Great Streets of Silence led away / To Neighborhoods of Pause', wrote Emily Dickinson: it's a phrase which has stayed with me since I first read it, and one that seems apposite for thinking about architecture and its contexts. Of course, you may well think that for poets to stray beyond the bounds of their own territory in this way is in itself a presumption: but it's not as if poetry and architecture have shunned each other's company in the past. Quite apart from the example of Thomas Hardy, who worked for a time as an assistant architect, many other poets have broached the subject. Take as an instance Wordsworth, in his sonnet on the interior of King's College Chapel, Cambridge, which begins with an apologia for the expenditure involved:

Tax not the royal Saint with vain expense,
With ill-matched aims the Architect who planned -
Albeit labouring for a scanty band
Of white-robed Scholars only - this immense
And glorious work of the intelligence!

More recently, there was Betjeman, with his lifelong interest in buildings and architecture, not to mention his famous malediction called down on Slough. Then there is Auden, who was quite clear about the architecture he would choose for his own version of Eden: 'State: Baroque. Ecclesiastical: Romanesque or Byzantine. ...


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