"Overhead the albatross hangs motionless upon the air and deep beneath the rolling waves in labyrinths of coral caves; the echo of a distant time came willowing across the sand and everything is green and submarine"

Pink Floyd

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Point: Alternatives

The Renaissance, Baroque and Rococo eras were times of transformation and it is logical to define these periods as those of theatrical expression. Theater is defined as, “dramatic works collectively, as of literature, a nation, or an author (often prec. by the ): the theater of Ibsen.” . To elaborate on the definition, from my understanding; theater is daring to be something you are not. This is much like acting on a stage. The breaking out of the box to define one’s self in different ways. This is demonstrated architecturally in the movement of façade depth into a third dimension of detail. This is demonstrated through the ornamental motif of pilasters disengaging from the façade and becoming freestanding columns. Such is demonstrated on the Church of Gesu around the center door. Also the connection of the natural world is displayed in architecture due the aesthetic realization of natural commodity. For example, in the Palace at Versailles; the unity between exterior and interior through the use of mirrors to reflect nature in the hallway. This principle also can be demonstrated in the use of architecture to define nature and channel purpose. The surveyor’s house designed by Ledoux is a prime example of challenging architectural function to redefine purpose by channeling a river.
Surveyor's House

“The new architecture was to be rationally comprehensible formed of planes and spaces organized according to clear numerical proportional systems, its edges and intervals delineated by the crisp elements of the ancient architectural orders.” (Roth p. 391) This quote is describing the evolution of the Renaissance. This is evident on the façade on the Palazzo del Te. The mortar groove is exaggerated around the stone blocks and the pilasters extended out. This is the period in which delight was realized as an organizational theme to society. It was human intellectualism molding the mind through pleasing stimulus into rational order and cooperative thought. It was a movement away from the primitive functionality of Gothic design.
Palazzo del Te

The Baroque period was an increase in scale and details to extend past human perception. “Baroque buildings, in contrast, are so large and complex that they cannot possibly be comprehended in a single glance”. (Roth p.414) This demonstrates an expansion of the mind. This concept is an example of the need to reach farther than the heavens and even possibly to surpass God.  A concept possibly rooted in life’s inherent biological necessity to rebel against the physical limitations of gravity and to not to be limited by the boundaries of chaos. This gives reason to revolution and expansive creativity through the resulting realization of new order. The scale superseded the residential structure into city planning. This is demonstrated in Sir Christopher Wren’s plan for rebuilding London. He used a grid pattern based on specific axes. Due to extreme distances between the regions the Americas’ were behind in conceptual thought, yet Jefferson still managed to capture the idea of an organized capital city plan demonstrating the competence of human intellectualism.

  Wren's Design for London

Washington city plan

Rococo architectural design was primarily used as interior decorations. The use of decorative stucco plaster and lighter colors formed delight mimicking nature on the interior. “Architecture became quite literally an exquisite and colorful veneer that was applied over something else; it was visual effect with very little structural truth”. (Roth p.435) Rococo acted as a veneer on the inside. The interior of the ballroom at Catherine Palace demonstrates Rococo. Instead of focusing on firmness and delight, the focus was just upon delight with little emphasis on structuralism. As a result the focus was shifted to antiquity. “For an objective knowledge of history as a scientific discipline had emerged” (Roth p.435) The enlightenment of modernism began with a foundation in historic design. Arechitects became aware and gathered an appreciation of the purity from shape and form of historic geometry and symmetry. Modernism took historic architecture and used it as a blueprint to derive form and commodity. Thus creating an alternative to historic firmness commodity and delight.

The Ballroom of the Catherine Palace in Tsarskoye Selo

The Baroque and Rococo periods were defined through artistic expression. “Every work of sculpture or painting must be the expression of a great principle, a lesson for the spectators”. ((Diderot) Roth p.441) Through this quote these periods in time are well defined. Through this principle architecture, towns and cities were organized by taking the simplicity of Greek geometry and elaborating the boundaries, colors and designs. This can be displayed through the use of a broken pediment on the façade’s of churches; rather than a completely intact gable. This simple act displays the breaking of boundaries during this period. Where the triangle enclosed the tympanum, through breaking the restraints the inner space is now free to be penetrated with design. This is displayed on the Church of Saint Vincent and Anastasius in Rome. In my opinion, through the merger of geometrical shapes and through the use of color, design and natural aesthetics; mold the foundation of organic architecture. This type of architecture is best demonstrated through the proportion of Frank Lloyd Wright’s commodity, firmness and delight able architectural designs. These periods are primarily about the elaboration of boundaries of aedicule and the connection of aedicule to the natural world. Also demonstrated by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Usonian principle to mimic and extend natural geometry while modifying the Palladian room lay out by attaching working spaces to rooms. Redefinition of aedicule is also evident in the artifacts created during these periods. Architects of this time strived to create an ordered organized aedicule that stretched beyond symmetry on a two dimensional plane and the symbolism even dared to stretch beyond human perception.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Reading Comprehension 4

The purpose of an artifact is that of definition. The artifacts that have posts or legs with covering on top or bottom that are set to define an aedicule or elevation above an aedicule. The Windsor chair has legs that raise the eye to view the platform above the defined aedicule. The legs move from narrow at the bottom to wide at the top and alternate in width as the eye progresses. The splayed legs direct the point of focus to above the defined aedicule where a curved high spindle backrest defines the appropriate viewing proportion. “in favor of more slender decorative features and a much lighter palate of colors” (Roth p 429) The desk with bookcase has ball and claw feet that lift the aedicule above the ground where it is divided into stacked sections that have distinct purpose. The aedicule is topped with a large flowing pediment that raises the point of focus to observe the decorative drawers and doors that define the hierarchy of function. The legs on the tall clock lift the defined aedicule and the narrowing tower direct focus to the rounded clock head. The circular clock frame above the defined aedicule is reminiscent of Gothic Architecture. The four posts decorated with ornaments of the state bed define the obvious aedicule with drapery acting as the roof. The Thomas Sheraton Side chair has the same definition structure as the Windsor chair. The difference is the shape of the legs. The imbalance of the straighter legs is made up for with an elaborately carved backrest to capture the eye.
The aedicule is defined by post and beam construction or legs on furniture. The next task is to elaborate upon that definition and intensify the space. One method of doing this is decorating the walls with color or wall paper as demonstrated in Marie Antoinette’s bedroom in Fontainbleau. This adds aesthetics to the space.  Another way to elaborate and increase the illusion of space is to add cornices with dentils and modillions. In the Gardner Pingee House a cornice is added to top the wall off to create a fluent connection to the flat ceiling. Dentils and modillions added to the cornice represent geometric order passed on from the Renaissance. “The book is written is written in mathematical language and the symbols are triangles, circle, and other geometrical figures” ((Galileo Galilei) Roth p. 362). To heighten the illusion of space within the aedicule, the ceiling is recessed. Coved or vaulted ceilings with increased width of cornices mimicked geometric shapes as displayed in Holkam Hall’s saloon and the Saloon in Saltam House. This elaboration is set to define social space and a sense of inviting freedom of discussion. Where the freedom is intended but hampered by intruding architectural necessities some modifications must occur. This is evident in the hall and stairway of Gunston Hall. The hall is wider than normal and the stair is offset from center and follows the turn in the wall. This allows an opening between stringers for a landing and a window. The entrance of light and open space in a frequently traversed area promotes meeting travelers to converse in transparent well lit open conversation. “Now the emphasis was placed on plasticity and spatial depth” (Roth p 398)
The concept of room organization comes into play with a post and beam structure. The seemingly logical organization when dealing with four posts and a ceiling forming a rectangle or square is a symmetrical layout. But perhaps construction material had influence on the layout of room organization. When constructing with brick or stone blocks the easiest construction strategy is based on the right angle. This forms the building into squares or rectangles. After this is completed an extension of symmetry is needed to form a central axis.  A large portico or porch can be added as in Drayton Hall and Chiswick house. Chiswick house tops off the house with an octagonal dome like the Pantheon in St. Genevieve and Monitcello. Two perpendicular axes define the building with symmetrical opposing windows. The Nathaniel Russell has two stacked rows of three windows on the front of the house but maintains it symmetry.
American architecture was derived from the Neo –Palladian architecture of England. It relied largely on the symmetrical shape of the rectangle. Architecture of this time was more purpose driven having a lesser scale than English architecture. English architecture was unique to Europe. It took very little influence from past periods. However it was influenced by the gabled portico, cube shapes, and temple fronts. These also transferred to American architecture. French architecture took influence from both the Roman Empire and England. The scale of architecture was monumental to elegant. The English and Scottish Neo-classical was still based on simple geometry but relied more on antiquities and decoration. The American Neoclassic movement was influenced very little from overseas. Americas used wood instead of stone. However Thomas Jefferson, in the design of the capital, used a Roman stone influenced structures. “Who took the true proportions of those perfectly regular orders from Roman buildings” ((Cassiano dal Pozzo) Roth p 397). He believed the capital should influence all of building structure.
The Shrank is of German descent being made of walnut. The cupboards below the shelves are an indication to its origin. The Armoire from Louisiana or Canada is of French descent and is made of different types of local wood. The Armoire is large and has a formal decorative pattern on the doors reminiscent of Louis XIV. The Spanish Frailero has stretchers close to the floor and simple decorative curves. “Rococo ornament derived from natural forms… particularly if it had a double S curve” (Roth p 430) It’s geometrical in shape and has simple carvings. Gateleg tables descend from Elizabethan and Jacobean tables and influenced by German furniture. The carving, spiral turned legs, split baluster spindles and applied bosses are evidence of its lineage. As European furniture was copied for use so was the layout of interior design.
The Andrew Jackson Log House Parlor and Chamber express characteristics of German design. Wide board floors, wool or cotton rugs, whitewashed walls are sometimes painted with decorative paintings, exposed beam ceilings are plastered with wood planks. French influenced interiors have paneled plastered walls and low beamed ceilings. The wealthy have more furnishings including tapestries, mirrors in carved gilded frames, and marble top tables. The Spanish style is displayed in the Columbus House with the defining contrasting colors of light and dark. Plaster walls, beamed ceilings and geometric tiles comprise the interior. “Architecture… was visual effect with very little structural truth” (Roth, p 435) The Hall and Chamber at the Hart House is where most of the social activity occurred. The room derives its design from vernacular medieval English culture. It has low beamed ceilings that share as the joists for the second floor and has a large fireplace. The texture of the floor is rough and used for sleeping and other activities.
English settlers used wood frame houses packed with clay. This method is more common to New England as is evident in the Parson House. Plaster shingles or clapboard was used as exterior siding. English settlers did not construct wood cabins as there is timber depletion in England and they were not familiar with construction. Spanish settlers adapted the use of wood beams for the roof structure that usually protruded out of the wall as in the Governor’s House. French architecture in the Houssay House was based around two central axes with a brick foundation first floor and wood framing for the second. This is an adaptation to climate and let air circulate under the house. The German Moravians used large communal spaces constructed of a mixture of brick and wood framing as in the Single brother’s house. Each framing choice is an adaptation to climate and material supply.
English separatists landed and settled Plymouth then into Boston. Generational inherited furniture types are used. The function and use of artifacts is more important than style. The English later adapt styles se by William and Mary. St Augustine Fl. began as a military outpost. Church authority was emphasized through the large scale of buildings. Priests were more educated on Baroque and Spanish Renaissance but also adopted Native American culture. The French in New Orleans mimic medieval styles and sophistication. They prefer function over style. German influence in New York was derived from medieval principles as well. German influences were large stone and log cabins but inner city dwellings were influenced by the English. They Vernacular characteristics are present in every settlement but as travel as culture intermingles traits are shared and expressed in the colonies.

3. Palladian design proportionate rectangles.
4.  Baroque period was about breaking the mold and the exaggeration of self expression. The first use of mirrors is evident to improve self perception with elaborately decorated frames. Breaking the mold must cause a sense of over exaggerating each influence and exploring new options. Thus theatrical characteristics are linked with this period. The emergence of poetry and play were forms of self expression. “Scene in dividable, or poem unlimited," it should be added, signal one last sign of theater's cultural dominance” (Norman, The Age of Theater) Movement and motion came to express architectural facades and artifacts during this period. The realization of astronomical shapes expanded the mind. Through this expansion theater is present in acting out and the discovery of what has not been realized or seen.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Chair Cards Week 2





Chair Cards Week 1





Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Point Foundations

               Medieval Gothic cathedrals shared in the same relative traits. As organized civilizations grouped together in communities gothic cathedrals sprang up to form pillars in the community. They acted in uniting work for a common goal and as a social meeting place. The construction goal of reaching towards the heavens through height and the shaping of illumination with a divine concept displayed the foundation of gothic architecture. The inspiration for these structures came from the observation of Constantinople’s monumental architecture. The latent meaning came about as a response to the Muslim overtaking of the Holy Lands and the failed crusades to retake them.
                 The most common similarity is the cross shape design of the floor plan with emphasis on axial design. The common design concept was to shape illumination through the height of windows and the colors of stained glass. Elaborately designed mullions shaped light as it entered the window and was cast upon stone displaying the texture and the firmness of the stacked pillars. In order for the height of windows to increase the structure’s height had to increase monumentally. This in turn presented a problem with firmness and adaptations were made. The flying buttress was a reaction to the firmness dilemma and was used to support the height of the cathedrals. The flying buttress and the general buttress were adaptations of the Roman arch. Instead of holding horizontal weight above the arch, as in the Roman aqueducts, the arch is split in halves and propped against vertical elements to diffuse vertical stress from the height of columns. The general history of the buttress can be traced back to the Egyptian columns in Queen Hatshepsut’s temple. Another concept was the large towers used as symbolizations of reaching towards the heavens. A comparison can be made relating the dominance of the towers to surrounding buildings and to the dominance of the wu-wu’s displayed in the Roman Empire. Due to the height dominance of the wu-wu the cathedral can be viewed from every part of the city providing a reminder of the unification of community under faith through architecture.

Organized civilization expanded farther apart resulting in differences between cathedrals. Salisbury cathedral in England stressed horizontal lines through lateral extension. Notre Dame in Amiens focused upon vertical lines. Amiens choir grew in size forcing the transepts towards the center and creating different widths between the nave and the choir. The Salisbury Cathedral had a flat stained glass curtain wall instead of a rounded chapel on the east end. Salisbury is just as long as Amiens but not as wide. The Gothic cathedral at Cologne had two towers at the opening of the nave in contrast with Salisbury which originally had no tower until the end of the fourteenth century when one was added at the central intersection. Notre Dame at Amiens shared both characteristics of a centralized tower and southern towers. The Duomo cathedral in Florence has a tower at the entrance to the nave but differs from the others in that it has a large dome in the center.
                The cathedrals mimic Constantinople architecture in different ways. But perhaps draw the emphasis on size from the early medieval towns in that there was a great wall around towns to protect the communal interior from outside predators. Perhaps the size protects the interior space of the cathedral as well as an adaption to the necessity of illumination. The interior space has the importance of communal holiness and the size of structure that defines and protects the space needed to be just as grand and important. The demonstration of hierarchy is noted here in that social organization is of importance to weaving society together.