There is no doubt at all that John Ruskin was an odd bird indeed. But good Lord, the man had Opinions.
In 1848, Ruskin toured northern France with his bride (poor girl), and I assume, earlier Italy. It was here that he fell in love with (certain examples) of Gothic architecture. For Ruskin, architecture was the first of the arts, because it was not created by a person, but rather by a culture (his primary examples being cathedrals that took, in some cases, hundreds of years to create). He speaks of the creation of these glorious buildings as nearly akin to a language that this particular region speaks, and although it might vary through the years, it is still identifiable and distinct from others.
What he loves is mostly early Gothic. Don’t even consider anything later, and he will absolutely go Joan Crawford on you if you mention cast iron.
But here’s the best part. A gifted artist, he did a series of etchings of various details of his favorite places to prove his point and they are utterly gorgeous. They appear to be soft pencil sketching, more than anything else, and Plate II, a cornice in an old church with a bit of grass growing in the crack, will take your breath away.
Let’s hear a bit of his voice in full cry. Describing how an architect needs to think in terms of not just the design, but light and shadow:
…conceiving it as it will be when the dawn lights it, and the dusk leaves it; when its stones will be hot and its crannies cool; when the lizards will bask on the one, and the birds build in the other.