Architecture, Oneida Community
Arts and Humanities
Architectural history has traditionally focused on formal aesthetics and the monuments of a "high culture". This approach accedes no place in the canon to the buildings of the Oneida Community. While they tend to be nicely sited, spacious, and constructed of handsome materials, they are not architectural masterpieces. The main complex combines elements from a jumble of styles; it has awkward joints where the products of three different building campaigns were unskillfully linked; and its towers are either stubby and ungraceful or capped by overwrought roofs.
It is, however, possible to approach the study of architectural history from another direction. One can focus not on the building as objet d'art, but on the interaction between built form and the society that produced and inhabited it. This approach asserts that buildings are interesting (though perhaps in differing degrees) because the built form a society creates for itself both reflects and influences the beliefs and behaviors of that society. Study of any building of a particular culture therefore holds out the possibility of illuminating, affirming, or challenging our perception of that culture.
White, Janet, "Building Perfection: The Relationship between Physical and Social Structures of the Oneida Community" (1993). Library Associates. Paper 300.