"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

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Reading Comprehension 6 (Actually 5)

1. Thonet Brothers chairs reflect the impact of the machine. The mass produced bentwood chairs display curves that mimic nature and can only be massed produced by the machine. This displays the machine’s influence upon design as Thonet Brothers demonstrate the expansion of idea that creates the foundation of the Art Nouveau movement. These chairs demonstrate the essence of the Gothic revival and the revolution of against Rococo façade. The curved firmness of the legs demonstrates beauty incorporated within functionality, in contrast to Rococo which was carved detail. However they both capture the essence and balance of natural forms.
Architecture and Interior Design from the 19th Century, Harwood, p.25 Thonet Brothers Chair

2. Artifact:

The side table from 1871 demonstrates Anglo Japanese influence in its emphasis of open horizontal lines. Asymmetry is stressed on the uneven second level table. This creates a niche that is used to display smaller artifacts on different levels. Three levels of space, mimicking wall layout, are created with wooden horizontal boundaries. This also redefines horizontal space as the eye refocuses at every definition of geometry. Legs and supports are long and delicate like the branches of a tree. Japanese influence is demonstrated in the modeling of nature. Another example is the darker walnut stain applied to the wood. “Paneling in a dark stain shows Japanese influence” (Harwood p.409). This may be to set contrast to the lighter walls in the fill, or frieze; or perhaps to blend in the dado to give the essence of the tree springing from the forest represented by the coloring of the dado.
Side table, 1871
Edward William Godwin

The Morris and Co. parlor is a space demonstrating Japanese influence. The bottom four feet of the wall, the dado, is dark colored to set a backdrop for furniture. This may also represent where the tree line meets the horizon, depending on the colors of the fill and frieze. The ceiling is coffered and “most ceilings are very decorative” (Harwood p. 412). The decoration is of fluent peacock feathers. “Also characteristics of the Aesthetic Movement are peacock lavish patterns” (Harwood p. 406). More than likely the color of the feathers is blue-green, “a signature Aesthetic Movement color” (Harwood p.406). A portier hangs from the header of the door from rods to shut out drafts and enhance comfort. Windows have long flowing curtains with embroidered fabric. This extensive use of fabric is evident in Japanese culture. Decorative andirons hold wood in the fireplace.

A Morris Parlour

The Ho-o-den in Chicago not only represents Japanese architecture it was designed and built by the Japanese. The horizontal line is emphasized. During the Arts and Crafts Movement Frank Lloyd Wright would pick up on this emphasis of the natural horizontal plain, later to be referred to as the Prairie Style. Sectioning off of spaces into shapes by the horizontal line reinforces the buildings geometry. The roof overhang turns towards the sky in the classic calligraphic symbol to ward off the spirits. Fabric covers the windows and hangs from the soffit and doors. Decorative geometric patterns are woven into the fabric to possibly symbolize virility and longevity.  

Historic Oak Park has many houses displaying qualities of Japanese architecture. Many houses were designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. His Arts and Crafts era influenced houses draw in the theme of Japanese architecture well. Horizontal lines and geometric shapes take form in the Prairie Style houses. The hip roof draws in aspects of the Egyptians while the large overhang is reminiscent of the Japanese style. Wright stacking of the horizontal line resembles Japanese influence.
Oak Park Philadelphia

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Point: Reflections

 In the early age of modernism architectural purity and organization was desired. “They searched for qualities of the primitive, the pure and the uncorrupted in art and architecture” (Roth p. 443). This would in turn be the foundation of Eclecticism and associationalism. It was only logical that mankind reflect upon the past for foundation in design. During the emergence of modernism, human enlightenment began to move past the Rococo Baroque façade and concentrated more on the functionality of purpose. “Carlo Lodoli… insisted that architecture be determined soley by its internal function or use” (Roth p.443).
The purist architecture was thought to be that of Greek design using a post and beam design process where the emphasis was placed upon firmness. This is demonstrated by Jacques-Germain Soufflot in the Church of Sainte-Genevieve. The internal walls of this structure were opened up with windows mirroring the gothic expansion of transparency. The shape of the church was that of a Greek cross. This is an interesting shift in religious influence as the replicated firmness originated from a religion concentrated on pagan beliefs. This architecture was designed to speak and communicate its purpose, “l’ architrcture parlent, or literally “speaking architecture” (Roth p.448). If this architecture was designed to speak then the façade and columns might be perceived differently by previous cultures. In a way historic language is lost while striving to find the purist language.
Church of Sainte-Genevieve

The Church of Sainte-Genevieve was finished in 1790. It seem only fitting that the Greek revival theme emerge in the Americas at a later date. The Cooleemee plantation, designed by New York architect W. H. Ranlett in 1855, displays this same revival in Mocksville NC. The floor plan is modeled after the Church of Sainte-Genevieve having a winged structure in the shape of a cross with a cupola located on the center roof. However the Cooleemee plantation cross does not use 90 degree rotational symmetry as the Church of Sainte-Genevieve. The monumental height resembles that of gothic construction and a gabled tympanum crowning the terminal point of each wing resembles the Roman portico on Church of Sainte-Genevieve. Perhaps the American use of the Roman portico is better displayed in the Dobson house of 1830. Four columns frame an aedicule that
sits perpendicular to the pitch of the main roof.

Cooleemee plantation

Dobson house

The Cooleemee plantation displays paired windows with rounded arches, a trait left over from the Renaissance. Dentils and modillions are featured upon the molding of the tympanum. This is a trait left over from the Baroque era. Possibly the purity of communication is lost as the Greek revival stretches to the Americas. However the Church of Sainte-Genevieve also features such Baroque molding characteristics providing a traceable design lineage throughout history. The arch that separates the columnar from the footing on the porch in the Dobson house represents the Renaissance expansion of enlightenment. The circular design located in the tympanum is an extract from the gothic period. This is another example of the differences in perception on the Greek revival between countries. Where the Greek revival became a quest for the purity of firmness in Europe; in the Americas it was only an extraction of elements from all previous periods.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reading Comprehension 5

1. The reformation of the Victorian middle class was inspired by the “desire to express comfort and wealth” (Massey p.8). AWN Pugin was a writer and critique who led the revival of the gothic style. His writings connected the purity of religion to the quality of architecture. Architect William Burges created the Gothic revival structures Cardiff Castle and Castell Coch in Cardiff Wales by using the principles set forth in Pugin’s writing. The ceilings and walls were hand painted and carved, a principle displayed in the writings of John Ruskin in The Seven Lamps of Architecture. “He warned against the common practice of making one material look like another and the effort to create a new style when gothic could not be surpassed” (Massey p.10). This refers to the Rococo movement and the emphasis on stucco plastering forms. Ruskin also took a great critique in mass produced machine made furniture. “For Ruskin moral virtue and such new furniture were incompatible” (Massey, p.10). Ruskin also compared mass produced furniture to adultery.

Castell Coch
The English Architect William Morris took a purest, Free from adulterants or impurities”, , approach towards machine made arts and crafts. This thought came about from the corruption of artifacts by the machine so that their use became obsolete and distorted from classical forms. Morris’ approach was that medieval vernacular forms were pure due to the fact that they had been constructed by hand and “by workmen who took joy in their work” (Roth p.493).  Phillip Web with William Morris designed a house in Bexleyheath that would become the foundation of the arts and crafts movement in England. The house was composed of red brick with a steep sloping roof. The general form of the house is taken from historical gothic architecture. The garden was of specific interest in the design process as it was meant to wrap around the house and connect the form with the landscape. The interior was simple with emphasis on purpose, “designed to facilitate use and handmade with emphasis on making evident the constructive process” (Roth p.493). Morris was also a Marxist having taken a similar approach to working class rights and purity of labor as Karl Marx did in his writings. This thought carried across the English Channel to the German Writer Hemann Muethesius who was a key founder in the Deutsher Werkbund, the German Worker Federation, of unionized labor.
The Red House

Frank Lloyd Wright adapted Morris’s design philosophy in the purity of form and influence. However Wright’s perspective was, “embracing the machine to facilitate production” (Roth p.495). Frank Lloyd Wright was the founder of the American Arts and Crafts movement. He realized the importance of the machine and the evolution of architecture, “the architecture of the future would of necessity be built of machine-formed elements” (Roth p.495). Wright took the concept of unity in design form to construct his delight. “All parts of the house had to germinate from a single design idea” (Roth, p.496).  Gothic architecture emphasized the vertical line for illuminative clarity and transparency. Wright’s perspective was to emphasize the stacking horizontal line to mimic the rising landscape. However Wright used an axes strategy, similar to Gothic cathedrals, in the Ward Willits house where the four wings expanded outward from a central chimney much like the transept branching in gothic cathedrals. Wright integrated long stretching lines of decoration on the ceilings and walls. This is a form of entasis adapted from Greek principles to direct the movement of the eye and form the illusion of continuous balanced space.
Ward Willits house floor plan

2. “The house is a machine for living in”, ((Le Corbusier) Roth p.530). Le Corbusier used machines such as the automobile or airplane as examples to modern function and purpose. His theory was that the house had functional parts such as living, dinning and kitchen units. He purposed that once functionality had been perfected that the form would automatically arise as a result. My opinion differs from this. In the Citrohan house functionality overwhelms aesthetics in that all that is viewable is a rectangular box. So the debate is set forth of which is more important aesthetics or functionality. The overall point of architectural functionality is to program the inhabitant to operate with an easy momentum. Aesthetics is delight. Without aesthetics the persona imbibed by straight functionality is mechanical robotics operating with no enjoyment. Humanity becomes functionality for only purpose. When applied to a whole the connection is evident to the Marxist social machine that operates for the better of the mother nation. The Citrohan House was to be lined in multiples and acts aesthetically pleasing to the whole of the city. Useless in my opinion; as the whole of the city cannot operate at a single social level as then there would be no sense of individualism and with that no more change or revolutionary architecture. Le Corbusier knew this, “It is a question of building which is at the root of social unrest today: architecture or revolution.” (Roth p. 530).  This is also the theme of equality within the Marxist movement. Homeostasis is impossible within society as it is human nature to want more. This principle is demonstrated in Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, a psychological pyramid of self satisfaction. Marx understood this as it was the motivation for the formation of the communist party.
The Citrohan House

The application of Aesthetics without functionality is only enjoyment to better the delight. The less is more principle is very applicable within aesthetics. However I don’t believe Le Corbusier had the same interpretation as I. “Using standardized factory architecture components, would be as easy to build as low-priced automobiles and similarly, available to everyone” (Roth on Le Corbusier.. p.530). Using this principle aesthetically would cause a delight of simplicity and organization. This leads to an addition of complicated space to be delighted upon with geometric simplicity. Functionality becomes second to aesthetics as the enjoyment of the motion through space provides a pleasing delight. Every moment enjoyed and life is fulfilled as each day becomes the most it can be. Functionality with balance of shape and proper geometrical flow becomes organic architecture.
3. “Architecture expresses the attitude to life of an Epoch” ((Heinrich Wolfflin) Roth p.519).
David B. Gamble House (Massey p. 21)