A celebration of the life and work of Peter Blundell Jones

Our architecture author Peter Blundell Jones very sadly passed away in August after a short illness, days before his book Architecture and Ritual was published. He will be sorely missed by all.

“In a major contribution to the study of the anthropology of building, Peter Blundell Jones explores architecture’s role as a setting for communal rituals, balancing familiar and less familiar examples from a range of cultures to provide many insights into the shared origins of different expressions in the buildings of both modern and traditional societies.” –  Dr Eamonn Canniffe, Principal Lecturer at the Manchester School of Architecture, UK 

Peter Blundell Jones was a British architect and architectural historian. He trained as an architect at the Architectural Association School, and held academic positions at the University of Cambridge and London South Bank University. He was a professor of architecture at the University of Sheffield from 1994 until August 2016.

His last book Architecture and Ritual explores how the varied rituals of everyday life are framed and defined in space by the buildings which we inhabit. It penetrates beyond traditional assumptions about architectural style, aesthetics and utility to deal with something more implicit: how buildings shape and reflect our experience in ways of which we remain unconscious.

Epiduarus

Whether designed to house a grand ceremony or provide shelter for a daily meal, all buildings coordinate and consolidate social relations by giving orientation and focus to the spatial practices of those who use them. Peter Blundell Jones investigates these connections between the social and the spatial, providing critical insights into the capacity for architecture to structure human ritual, from the grand and formal to the mundane.

This is achieved through deep readings of individual pieces of architecture, each with a detailed description of its particular social setting and use.

Philharmonie-interiorThe case studies are drawn from throughout architectural history and from around the globe, each enabling a distinct theoretical theme to emerge, and showing how social conventions vary with time and place, as well as what they have in common. Case studies range from the Nuremberg Rally to the Centre Pompidou, and from the Palace of Westminster to Dogon dwellings in Africa and a Modernist hospital.

2-9-parliament-from-riverIn considering how all architecture has to mesh with the habits, beliefs, rituals and expectations of the society that created it, the book presents deep implications for our understanding of architectural history and theory. It also highlights the importance for architects of understanding how buildings frame social space before they prescribe new architectural designs of their own. The book ends with a recent example of user participation, showing how contemporary user interest and commitment to a building can be as strong as ever.

Peter Blundell Jones was a ‘professor who professed’. He will be greatly missed.

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