"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.

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