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.