"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, 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.

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