Art history in the digital age

Stephen Murray to speak on *Medieval Architecture and New Media* Nov. 18

Stephen Murray, a leading authority on medieval art and architecture and founder of the Visual Media Center at Columbia University, will speak on Medieval Architecture and the New Media: Representing and Creating Humanistic Content at 6 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 18.

A three-dimensional rendering from the Amiens Cathedral project

The lecture, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Sam Fox Arts Center at Washington University in St. Louis and takes place in Steinberg Auditorium, located in the Gallery of Art, Steinberg Hall, near the intersection of Skinker and Forsyth boulevards. A reception for Murray will immediately follow the talk. For more information, call (314) 935-9347.

Murray, a specialist in Romanesque and Gothic architecture, is a pioneer in developing online academic and visual arts resources. In 1994, he assembled a group of scholars and computer specialists to create three-dimensional models, original video and computer animations and other materials exploring the 13th-century Amiens Cathedral, the tallest complete cathedral in France.

“The Amiens video allows students to study and discuss architecture in a new way,” Murray told the Columbia University Record at the time. “Traditional slides impose limitations when it comes to architecture. Buildings are meant to be moved through, and video does a better job of simulating that experience than flat slides. The computer-generated images can also address issues of design, construction and structure.”

The Amiens project led to the founding, in 1995, of the Visual Media Center, which has since developed dozens of Web sites and a database of more than 20,000 images (and growing). These range from analysis of The Parthenon Frieze and Picasso’s Les Demoiselles D’Avignon to virtual tours of the Amheida excavation in Egypt; the Alhambra palace complex outside Granada, Spain; and Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater house in Bear Run, Penn.

Other projects include several films and an interactive ground plan of the endangered Cathedral of St. Peter at Beauvais, France — once the tallest building in Europe — and the ongoing documentation of some 400 Romanesque churches in the former province of Bourbonnais.

Amiens Cathedral
Amiens Cathedral

Murray is the author of numerous articles and three books: Building Troyes Cathedral: The Late Gothic Campaigns (1987), Beauvais Cathedral: Architecture of Transcendence (1989) and Notre Dame, Cathedral of Amiens: The Power of Change in Gothic (1996).

He joined the Columbia faculty in 1986, prior to which he taught at Harvard University and Indiana University, where he served as founding director of the School of Fine Arts. His numerous honors and awards include a 1988 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship, and in 1992 he was appointed by the French Ministry of Culture to the scientific committee charged with overseeing part of the restoration of Amiens. He is currently Henry Luce Senior Fellow at the National Humanities Center, outside Durham, N.C.

Murray’s visit is co-sponsored by the Washington University Libraries with additional support from the Friends of the Sam Fox Arts Center.