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2019 Programme Festival Publications Talk

ILFD Building Stories – The Architect Reads: Kester Rattenbury

The Architect Reads

A series of three performances/readings by authors who have studied architecture, and who are either professional architects, writers or critics. The Architect Reads is inspired by the expanded field of architecture, and how its unconventional view of practice opens up fresh new possibilities and opportunities to connect.

Kester Rattenbury: The Wessex Project

This is an hour long reading and musical performance.

Architects assemble words, drawings, pictures and details to form imaginary projects, always in speculative comparison between past and future. This performance assembles components which novelist, poet and former architect Thomas Hardy used in constructing Wessex. Kester Rattenbury, Professor of Architecture at the University of Westminster reads from her book The Wessex Project: Thomas Hardy Architect, staging an unknown conversation between Hardy’s experimental Wessex photos, drawings and stage sets, and Hardy’s traditional musical background. Tunes and songs from Hardy’s musical notebooks performed by architect and musician Steve Larkin with musicians Josephine Marsh, Cyril O’Donoghue and Mick Kinsella.


What role did Thomas Hardy’s experience as architect and musician have on the development of his famous part-real, part-dream world of Wessex? In this performance, Kester Rattenbury reads from her new book, The Wessex Project: Thomas Hardy Architect, and Josephine Marsh, Mick Kinsella, Cyril O’Donoghue and Steve Larkin play traditional music collected by Thomas Hardy, opening a conversation on how the music and architectural constructions of Wessex seem to collaborate in practice.

Thomas Hardy’s architectural works have long been seen as a confusing mixed bag; wildly at odds with his famous novels and poems. Yet despite more than 150 years of literary and popular research, this is the first time Hardy’s work has been studied in detail by an architectural writer. The Wessex Project: Thomas Hardy Architect has been acclaimed by Hardy scholars as ‘a totally new approach to Thomas Hardy’ and ‘must read for anyone with an interest in Hardy… like a second post-mortem, where the Home Office Pathologist transforms a muddle of non-sequiturs into a coherent narrative.”
Rattenbury  argues that Hardy never gave up architecture, remaining a potent, deliberate and influential critic through his huge fictional outreach; was an active experimenter in drawings, photography and set design,  and that his fictional writings, integrated with ‘real’ conservation work, both forms an active, detailed, experimental and hugely influential architectural project, and operates as a deliberate campaign which arguably shaped the conservation culture of England.

In association with the International Literature Festival Dublin