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The Grand Tour reexamined - Critic's Choice

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Grand tours get a lively examination in the Yale Architectural Journal, writes Andrew Mead

The editors of the latest Yale Architectural Journal, Perspecta 41: Grand Tour (MIT Press, £16.95), haven’t just had a good idea, but have really done something with it. They ask what the concept of the grand tour – that 17th and 18th-century cultural rite-of-passage that took the well-heeled through France and Italy, especially Rome – means in the days of easy global travel and the internet. After Gillian Darley provides some historical background in her essay on notable grand tourists, the contributions are very eclectic, though travel in Italy is still a theme. In an entertaining interview, Peter Eisenman recalls some strenuous trips there with his mentor, critic Colin Rowe, who prescribed 12 hours of serious looking per day. ‘I said, “Hey Colin, come on, let’s go to the beach”’ – but sand wasn’t on the agenda.

New species of monuments – military sites, mines, and works of land art like Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty – appear in Matthew Coolidge’s tour of the area around Utah’s Great Salt Lake (pictured below). We visit Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown’s souvenir-crammed living room (‘thrift store ceramics and lots of neon’) and follow Rem Koolhaas to Africa, but happily there’s also an account of Atelier Italia’s decade-long project to document Hadrian’s Villa with a precise detailed plan. For the original grand tourists, buildings were to be measured, sketched and touched; they were more than an image. On our virtual travels, we miss so much

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