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Architecture and British Women’s Travels: 1850-1950

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
Geoffrey Lan Hun Kuen
Oxford Brookes University Oxford | UK
Tony Hiss (2010, p.28) says that ‘people arrive in the world with an intrinsic desire to travel’. While our desire to travel hasn’t faded, its definition is now very blurred. Travelling now refers to the destination rather than to the act of getting to the destination. Travel guides have taken it upon themselves to define where, how and when we need to go. The traveller is pressured to match the authoritative enthusiasm of the guidebook for certain places, buildings or monuments while supressing his interest in anything else. With the growth of the Internet and social media, the travel guide is now a reminder that the traveller needs more than just Gothic church façades or Doric columns to truly learn from a place. What a travel guide provides is merely a printed version of what is available everywhere else. What today’s traveller needs and longs for is curiosity. But where do we find curiosity in a world where everything is available to anyone and cultural difference is a way of life? Perhaps is it in the elements we neglect in favour of what the guidebook prescribes? Perhaps is it in the minute architectural defects that we overlook when visiting landmarks?

This dissertation attempts to define the relationship between architecture and the contemporary travel experience by looking at travel journals of women from the Golden Age of Travel – a time from 1850 to 1950 when they wrote about the celebrated act of travelling. Through the examination of works by female Victorian travel writers and Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel, this dissertation offers an insight into how and why architecture’s influence on the experience of travel has evolved through time. Architecture and British women’s travels: 1850-1950 also attends to a number of issues such as the definition of the contemporary travel experience, British feminism and its impact on the experience of travel and architecture, and the gendered experience of travel. Herein lies a study of Victorian England, of cross-culture and of the relationship between architecture and travel.

Geoffrey Lan Hun Kuen

Dr Igea Troiani
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