The Renaissance Superstructure

Speaker: Dr Morgan Ng - St John’s College, University of Cambridge

This seminar charts the sixteenth-century reinvention of what I call superstructures: an originally medieval typology of elevated defensive corridors that once traversed many European cities. Suspended above the chaos of the street, such pathways provided rulers a secure and privileged stratum of movement between their urban and extramural strongholds. Against all odds, superstructures thrived well into the early modern period, despite their military vulnerability in the age of artillery warfare. By morphing from utilitarian defenses into monumental circulation systems, they served the rising bureaucratic, ritual, and symbolic demands of absolutist courts. The unlikely survival of an obsolescent typology opens complex questions concerning the dynamics of technological evolution and cultural change. The talk will be followed by a drinks reception.

Morgan Ng is a Junior Research Fellow at St John’s College, University of Cambridge. His research investigates the interplay between visual culture and the technical sciences in early modern Europe and beyond. Among his publications are articles on the aesthetics of Psalm-singing in Huguenot-occupied churches and cities; the relationship between Calvinist cartography and John Milton’s poetic form; and the rise of colorless window glass in late-Renaissance secular architecture. Before beginning his graduate studies, Morgan completed a Bachelor of Architecture at Cornell University, and worked as an architectural designer in New York and Chicago.

Organised by Dr Guido Rebecchini (The Courtauld) 

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5:00pm, 20 Nov 2019

The Courtauld Institute of Art, Vernon Square, Penton Rise, King’s Cross, London