Friday, April 8, 2011

US2: Reverberations

In the reverberation unit we expanded on the idea of creating and breaking rules of design; we studies how architecture and design evolved from 400ce to 1800ce and looked at patterns that echo those of ancient world designs. Churches were built at a large scale and were highly decorated with mosaics and marble that were brought from all around the world in order to create elaborate patterns and designs. Glass and stone began to form abstract and geometric images that covered the surface of the churches.  

We began with the Roman Empire as it is adapting to its religious change from the pagan empire to a Christian empire. At first the Christian churches were small and the people did not want to have much attention drawn to them. Constantine moved the empires capital with the desire to establish Christianity and “devise a building type appropriate both functionally and symbolically for public worship” (Roth). Roman basilicas became a major inspiration for the structure of churches, eventually giving the Gothic style its basic layout. The basilica of St. Peter (Old St. Peter’s) demonstrated the typical layout of churches; the church includes a porch, hearth, and court showing signs of classic systems in the new designs. The Byzantine style evolved from the basilicas, with a centralizing idea of the churches and placing the focus area in the center. Hagia Sophia reflects this style and it is deemed as one of the greatest buildings in the western world. Hagia Sophia “combines the central focus of domed Roman buildings with the directional focus of the Roman basilica” (Roth).

The Middle Ages illustrate the Romanesque style that bears the architecture that includes rounded arches and large vaulted naves. The structures seemed to give off a sense of defense and constant problems/limitations aroused with the reliance of weight to hold up the massive barrel vaults. The idea to dematerialize the churches, and having light occur throughout structure as a way to symbolize God’s divinity, directed the churches to a new style that would be seen spread across Europe, the Gothic style.

Gothic architecture began around 1100 CE and was a style that went against all the classical traditions of architecture and design, giving it the later name of the dark ages. Pointed arches and rib vaulting were brought into the churches; stain glass became a key characteristic in the Gothic cathedrals to make the churches ‘transparent’ and have an abundance of light shine through the windows. The people during this century were experiencing warfare all around them; the Gothic cathedrals had a voice structure that would help ease the worries of the people in hopes to show them there was a safe place that they could rely on and visually see peace and protection in religion. One of the main ideas that were seen in the cathedrals was the idea that within the church a heavenly universe was to be portrayed, stretching vertically toward the heavens to create a heaven and earth connection in order for people to feel welcome as well as understand the power of the church and religion. With a dialect of their own, the cathedrals screamed authority. As seen below, the Florence Cathedral in Italy and the Amiens Cathedral in France dominate the skyline, as most cathedrals did, and had a habit of covering the surface with mass amounts of decor, making the churches stand out from the surrounding buildings as well as the center focus of the city.

Florence Catherdral

Amiens Cathedral

Once the warfare started coming to an end, some places began to express their dislike of the Gothic style and would rather focus of the classic architecture of ancient Rome, and the concept of human accomplishments, obtaining knowledge by studying the past. Hoping to create a new tradition with high respect to the ancient classic design, the Renaissance began in the fifteenth century marking the ‘rebirth’ of classical form and expression. Renaissance architecture, like Roman architecture, would stretch horizontally instead of vertically, and man became the measuring instrument. It became important to record artist’s ambition and achievements, leading to large quantities of architectural books by Vasari, Vitruvius, and many more. It was during this time that ideas of repetition, emphasis, dominance, harmony, and contrast began to emerge, developing the principles of design that are still used today. Andrea Palladio took it into his own hands to measure history himself; after traveling to Rome to measure and examine the architecture, Palladio wrote and published a book that stated the rules. Palladio applied these rules into his own designs, including the Villa Rotonda that has four identical facades, creating an example of balance, symmetry and proportional relationships. Renaissance architecture was “the new architecture that was to be rationally comprehensible, formed of planes and spaces organized according to clear numerical proportions” (Roth).
Vitruvius Man

Villa Rotonda Plan

Villa Rotonda

Architects took a different approach in the seventeenth century; columns, pediments, and arches were classical elements of design that remained to appear in architecture, however, designers made sure to make them as ornate as possible. The highly theatrical Baroque style was considered the opposite on the Renaissance, although there was great continuity in the baroque era, designers pushed materials past normality and made surfaces appear to be what they were not. The Baroque style was seen all over Europe “it was dominant with thousands of churches built or refurbished in that manner” (Ching), as well as huge palaces and state buildings such as hospitals and asylums. One of the grandest palaces designed during this time was the Chateau de Versailles in France. As seen below, the structure controls the landscape horizontally while the gardens stretch as far as the eye can see.
Chateau de Versailles
The world began to turn upside down as we moved into the time when revolutions created many new styles and ideas. Technology was advancing and giving designers new materials, like glass and iron, to work with, as well as new methods of working with materials. Iron and glass became very popular building materials that changed the face of architecture forever. People did not desire the highly decorated architecture that came from the Baroque and Rococo style; instead, during the age of enlightenment, pure and rational architecture was sought out in hopes to stumble upon something “modern”. Looking past roman roots, designers went farther back in history to Greece; then they attempted to expand those ideas and hope to create the next “modern” design. In addition to reflective the past, designers looked to other countries for inspiration. With the increase in international trade, the west showed many eastern design elements within their architecture. I believe the Crystal Palace in London, England is one of the best examples of revolutionary design. Although there was no single style among the structure during this time, the Crystal Palace shows innovation and reflection from the past.

Crystal Palace

This unit covered a vast amount of time that shows design and architecture taking many different paths. Going back and forth from classic design styles to creating new ones, design and architecture build themselves a language that spreads across the world. This unit emphasized the making and breaking or rules and in turn each building, structure, sketch, and design spoke something different, but more importantly they had a voice.

text sources:
Roth, Leland M.. Understanding Architecture:  Its Elements, History, and Meaning. New York, NY: Icon Editions, 1993. Print.
Ching, Frank, Mark Jarzombek, and Vikramaditya Prakash. A Global History of Architecture . 2nd ed. Hoboken, N.J.: Wiley, 2011. Print

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