Friday, March 27, 2009

Alternatives - Unit Summary

The alternatives unit began with the chaos of the largest empire of the known world, Rome crumbling away, leaving behind uncertainty and disrepair. Without a central governing system, with wealth in its coffers, only a small amount of construction was done during the early period of the dark ages, mostly financed by the church. The rise of Charlemagne gave birth to Carolingian style of architecture, but this was a crude attempt at best for most of the information from past construction had been lost or forgotten. Charlemagne’s Odo of Metz, his private chapel, was almost directly copied from the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna
Domestic architecture became the dominate building being constructed at that time. Castles, with their heavily reinforced walls and moats kept out the roaming hoards of attacker that traveled through countries pillaging. The architecture style of these castles was crude and utilitarian to serve a purpose of safety and security.

The High Middle Ages began with a more stable feudal system, cities began to become culturally important again, and traveling through Europe was somewhat safer and therefore more possible. With the church rising as the dominate power in Europe, the construction of large scale churches and monasteries began to take place. At first, Romanesque architecture around 1000 A.D., financed by the church with its extensive land holding, was heavily based on the memory of the Roman style of architecture. This was not a stable time in history, so even the churches build had small windows and were fortified with the structure dominating the landscape, as in the case of St. Michael’s Hildeshiem in Germany. The common people of the era were starting to be more aware of a better life after this one; the church took advantage of this fear and began extracting money to begin a building campaign for itself.

This influx of money allowed the church to grow in scale and power. Gothic architecture rise in the High Middle Ages began to employ designers and construction specialist to reach for the heavens to impress the commoners. The idea was to implement as much stained glass on the outside of a church so that once entered, the lighting effect was overwhelming or heaven like. The Gothic movement focused on a positive life here on earth, many of these Gothic churches had a scale so large that multiple generations of labors worked to finish them. The Gothic Cathedral was an exploration of this new way of thinking, the Church of Notre-Dame is an example of introducing large amounts of glass into the walls, which require large support “wings on the outside of the structure to sustain it upright. The floor plans of the Gothic Cathedrals were independent from one another depending on Geographic location. The Catholic Church wanted to establish itself in Italy, and with this idea of permanence, raised the need for beauty on earth to match the beauty of heaven. This led to the Renaissance.

The rise of the Renaissance in Florence was a new way of thinking of the past and changing the future of architecture and art. The Renaissance movement was based on the limit of human potential to create and not repeat history. The Church was still the wealthiest contributor to this new movement, but the rising merchant class also became patrons for artist and architects alike. The Humanist began to reinterpret the written information from the past and to understand that the spirit of the words had more meaning than following the exact rules or standards set in the past. Brunelleschi’s Dome desired to out achieve the past and look forward at a new world of ideas and possibilities. Larger than the Pantheon, his dome set a president, that the only limit to design is ones imagination. The basis of this new style was borrowed from the past and changed; the Ten Books on Architecture by Vitruvius became the bible for the Renaissance. Residential and civic architecture became important and necessary in this time. Palazzo’s or city homes for the wealthy gained popularity and increased in size during the Renaissance. Borrowing again the forms of the past, but changing the ways in which order and placement were used, these grand homes became dominant over the cities they were in.

The ideas of the Renaissance led to the Baroque and Rococo movements in the 1600’s. The wealth of the merchant class led to a cultural revolution away from the church and focused more on the individual. Architecture, both interior and exterior became more dramatic and heavy with detail. The need to entertain changed the floor plans of the structures build during this time, rooms were added and changed uses as an individual’s home reflected his stature in the class he was in. These new classes of people wanted a variety of options in which to decorate the interior and to separate the façade of their home from their neighbors. The grandest example of this is Versailles; build by the King of France, added to the dramatic effect of the structure by having large scale gardens as an extension of the architectural buildings themselves.

The alternatives unit was filled with despair and grandeur, a long period in history where humans proved that through necessity comes invention and reinvention.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Unit Summary – Foundations

The foundations unit deals with many ideas and examples of architectural history and the human stories behind them. The idea, that we as human beings have been our own master and servant to architectural history. The time passage section revealed that with the creation of a large empire, comes the need to express the importance of self through built structures. Egypt rose as the first large empire and with this began to build structures never seen before in history. Egypt was remote and had limited material for construction, but had established trade with other areas close by. This meant that the majority of material they used for construction was stone; by importing other material such as hardwoods they began the practice, though on a small scale, of thinking of interior space in an aesthetic way. The exterior façade of Egyptian structures remained the dominant feature. Using engaged columns, inspired by lotus and papyrus plants, to decorate the smaller square or rectangle post and lintel religious structures they were building at the time. The column became a structure element, as it could hold weight overhead; the Hypostyle Hall became the first known building to use columns as structural elements. The Mastaba is thought to be the first large scale structure built in that part of the world, but when the Temple at Zoser was completed in 2750 B.C., this sparked a building frenzy by each new pharaoh to outdo the previous rulers achievements. Improved understanding of mathematics and new construction techniques allowed larger Temples to be built and a more exclusive society to grow out of them. Urban planning was beginning to be given some, but during the later dynasties buildings were loosely placed around important geographic or religious areas, with alleyways between the modest homes of the lower class. Spatial relationship became a more understood and important concept of the structures of the more important ruling class. Interior furnishings became more common as Egypt became a larger empire and Greek states become an empire themselves. The furniture has a more feminine style than the architectural style of the time period. Culture became constant and not as sporadic as when divided into individual territories or areas.
As Greek culture rises, travel by water becomes necessary for trade within and outside of Greece. This brought with it influence of style and culture from foreign lands. The Greek empire introduced the first attempt at democracy, even though it was limited to persons with affluence. Multiple opinions and ideas, under this limited democracy, allowed Greek culture to flourish and grow into a dominant empire. This allowed specialized buildings, beside temples, to be introduced for a more civic lifestyle for all. The ordinary people of Greece were not left out of the empire and with structures being build having importance to trade, the agora, began the rise of the merchant class. Division of spatial order in buildings, like the megaron and creation of the classical order of columns, put Greece ahead architecturally, of the rest of the known world of that time. The classical Greek order included columns that were influenced by female and male auras, Doric more maternal, Ionic more masculine. As these new styles of architecture were influenced on exposure to past cultures, they were improved upon and changed to make new or different styles. The Acropolis was the crowning achievement of the Greeks achieving their ideal of perfection, as each style of column was used in a specific area for a specific reason. Each of these four major structures, carried different themes and levels of importance. The view from the entrance being the most important, it allowed worshipers to fully experience the magnificence of the complex as they walk through, passing small temples (Nike) and into an open space that allowed a full view of the Parthenon on its rotated axis. The importance of site placement was defiantly standardized by the Greeks at Acropolis, as their idea of perfection was the only one. Interior furniture grew again in importance as did interior treatment of upper class homes. These new styles once again, were based on previous cultures and improved upon. All of this translated into the next empire of Rome, who added more civic building including banks which again allowed the merchant class to influence society. With Rome’s addition of having citizens under the protection of an empire, common people start to contribute to overall culture and a feeling of belonging. Much of today’s social demeanor, culture, and role of government was heavily influenced by Rome. The idea of assimilation and adaptation from Greek influence, allowed Rome the freedom to steal an idea and change it to their own needs. Romans also perfected the idea of (bread and circus) or bait and switch, the practice of occupying the common mans mind, so he is oblivious to the workings of the government, much like today in every country in the world. Rome became occupied by architectural surface not its system, to create the most diverse architecture of its time. Using new building techniques, like arches and also new materials, like concrete. Rome became the closest to a modern idea of a large city than any culture before it. It dominated the landscape rather than flowing with it like previous cultures, this too is relevant to today’s culture. With impressive structures like, the coliseum and the pantheon, Rome began the practice of dominating the urban cityscape. This dominance over all citizens and conquered lands faraway brought with it the importance of the Wu-Wu and its large scale. The biggest Wu-Wu indicated the more important the ruler or general.
Civility was more apparent and important in Rome than previously because the more you have (furnishing, land, and housing), the better you look to your neighbor. Plumbing, roads and the addition of the number rooms in the homes of all classes of Roman citizens added to this civility. With the advent of Christianity first underground, and then allowed as an official religion, new structures where invented, based again upon the past. First in catacombs, building extra rooms in private homes. Then separate buildings for separate functions, then morphing finally into the great churches of the coming years. Buildings began to have duel uses, since the concrete structure lasted longer than the ruling