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Reconstructing Craft

Part 1 Dissertation 1999
James Todd
University of Sheffield Sheffield UK
Introduction
Reconstructing craft is an exploration of the different historical and cultural meanings of craft and its changing role within the building industry. In particular it examines the separation and eventual polarisation of creative and manual work within the process of making buildings and the centralisation of knowledge, power and creative expression which this entailed.

The Status of Craft
My interest in the status of contemporary craft stems from my experience of working alonside a team of highly motivated and skilled craftsmen on building restoration projects where I began to appreciate the depth of understanding that could be gained through their direct hands-on approach to work. Watching these people struggling to keep their skills alive in the modern building industry provoked me to ask wider questions about the contemporary relevance of the craft tradition to architecture and building at the end of the twentieth century.

For much of the twentieth century - and in Britian in particular - the broad spectrum of activities referred to by the word "craft" have often been perceived solely as naive and luddite reaction to developments in new manufacturing technology. As a result craft has acquired a low cultural status, and is generally held to be inferior in comparison to both art and design. Within my dissertation I have explored how recent commentaries on craft are relevant when applied to the the production of buildings, first through an examination of the contemporary confusion generated by the many historical meanings of craft, then by tracing the changing role and status of craft within the building industry and finally what contribution craft could make to the future of architecture and building...

James Todd


James Todd's dissertation , Reconstructing Craft was selected as our dissertation entry because of its relevance, the discussion and the eloquence with which it is written.

It tells the story of the separation and eventual polarisation of creative and manual work and the centralisation of knowledge, power and creative expression which this has entailed. Its strength lies in the analysis of the different historical and cultural meanings of craft and the way James then relates this to the building industry.

The work on the dissertation then informed the final year project James did which was very successful.

1999
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