Posted in History n Theory

POINT: alternatives

In starting out this point essay on the recent Alternatives section we have completed, I decided to look up the definition of “Alternative” from The New Oxford American Dictionary.

Adjective: of or relating to behavior that is considered unconventional and is often seen as a challenge to traditional norms
Noun:  one of two or more available possibilities

One can see by the readings and the lectures, that this unit was definitely labeled appropriately.  Taking the knowledge we had from the ancient forms from Greece, Rome and Egypt and seeing how they have been transformed, or altered, to the modern times of the Renaissance during the 14th to 17th century.  It has been said many times in lecture that we are still in the Renaissance, but for the purpose of this essay, I am focusing on the time period stated above.

Beginning with Egypt, we have learned that they had established the axis and used them in their designing of their architecture.  They used their columns to tell a story to keep their society alive throughout history.  In Greece, they began the design of the early Temples, called a Megaton.  In this design, they included a porch, hearth and a court.  The Greeks had a command for asymmetrical balance and making things all appear ideal.  Romans kept many of the design elements from Greece, however they brought in more of a mathematical way of designing and they began the grid city patterns.  Knowing these basic ideas from each culture, we move forward to the Renaissance and the questions, “How do you take the stuff from the past and make it your own for the future?”(1)

Tempietto of San Pietro

This can be seen in the building of Tempietto of San Pietro · Montorio, Rome, Italy 1502. This is said to be the perfect temple, taking ancient world buildings and perfecting them into this 16’ wide family chapel. As seen from the image provided (2), many ancient design ideas were altered to what is believed to be perfect for this time period.  Unlike Greek columns, You will not see writings on these columns.  The use of domes, columns and materials are very similar to  ancient counterparts, but this is not for the public.  It is a sacred, family space for worship.

Times were also about bending the rules to play with alternative ways of designing and even times, such as in the Baroque era, making something look like what is it not. Designing of the landscape was also important during these times; this went hand in hand with the interior design in many places.  Versailles, for instance, went beyond the boundaries with movement through space.  In the Hall of Mirrors, large mirrors were placed opposite of the large windows facing the gardens.  These helped reflect the view, making the space not only look bigger, but also using the natural landscape to help the interior space design.

Alternatives were also found with the colonization of America. Although what typically happened stateside was what was happening in England (3), function becomes greater then style.  Homes had little architectural detail and they were located near water and/or transportation routes for agricultural reasons.  The Spanish had found alternative ways to construct structures by using Adobe because the wood was limited in their areas. The French who settled in the Louisiana territory, generally had 2 storied homes with exterior stairs.  Due to the humidity and climate, they tried to maximize their outdoor living spaces with steeply pitched roofs that extended over the home.  They had few furnishings and in French Canada, they used stone to construct their homes.

Pennsylvania Station Waiting Room

 One building that I find describes this alternatives section quite well is New York’s original Pennsylvania Station built in 1910.  Not only did the Industrial Revolution have a huge impact in the availability of materials, but also Americans found new ways to display the classical detail of arches, colonnades and control of natural light.  This building, which spanned over two blocks in downtown Manhattan, had a center waiting room that was designed after the Baths of Caracalla.  “ the waiting room designed as a great gate to the city, a monumental termination of the long journey, whereas the concourse was a calculated transition from the monumental classical architecture of the waiting room to the 20th century mechanical utilitarianism of the trains themselves” (4).  What an alternative new way to display this design idea!


(1) class notes dated 10/13/10 on Renaissance
(2) picture credits: great buildings online;  
(3) class notes 10/22
(4) Roth, Leland M. Understanding Architecture. Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2007 pp. 505-506

Posted in History n Theory

Reading Comprehension 4

According to our Roth book on page 390, Renaissance architects are described as “humanist scholar architects.  they were trained as painters & sculptors and they looked to change the feeling of the crude work of the Goths.  “It was a celebration of human intellectual powers, but was also an architecture that invited pleasurable human responses and once that door to sensory delight had been opened, there was no holding it shut…”

The five artifact examples provided show excellent eamples of Rococo and Early Neo-classical styles.  Neo-clasical interiors, decorateive arts and furniture, according to Harwood page 456, “Maintain the scale, elegance and charm of Rococo, but lines straightenn, curves become geometric instead of free form, and ornament derives from antiquity.”  One similarity between all five of these artifacts, is the importance of curvilenear lines.  Whether it be the simplistic style of the windsor chair with its slight curving in the leg spindles (p. 451 harwood) to the ornate State Bed at Osterly Park, the use of curves (whether slight or exagerated) helps give a more light hearted free-flowing feel to each piece.

The five spaces provided all share a common principle of design; Repetition.  You can see this portrayed in different ways in each space.
In the first space, the Saloon at Holkam Hall (p. 418 Harwood) repetition is seen not only in the coffered ceilings, but also in the wallpaper pattern.
You will also see this in the StairHall in Gunston Hall for picture 2. (page 447, Harwood)  The wall motif repeats itself as you ascend the stairs.
Marie Antoinettes Bedroom (p. 463, Harwood) has quite a few areas showing repetition; the walls as well as the molding detail along the ceiling.
Sahram House Dining Room (p. 495, Harwood) shows this repetition along the swagged order along the ceiling as well as the pattern of the crown molding.  Finally and quite possibly the simplest example of repetition amongst these spaces is seen in the Parlor at Gardner-Pingree House (p. 519 Harwood) with the detail in the crown molding.

Balance is a principle of design that is shown in all five buildings.  Starting with the Chiswick house – from every angle, you see how each side is symmetrical in design.  Drayton Hall, of American Georgian design, has one center entrance on the front facade with equal amounts of windows on each side flanking the entrance.
Nathaniel Russel house is a three story home with each window stacked above one another in three rows in perfect symmetry with a center entrance doorway.  The Pantheon and Monticello also display symmetry with their design.  Showing perfect balance in the entrance way from one side to the other with its center dome in the structure.

Many Eastern coastal cities in the United Stated looked to English prototypes for Architectural influence.. (see ‘The Octagon’ by Wm. Thorton in Washington DC, Harwod p. 512)
Robert Adams was a leading designer in England.  He was born of a scottish architect and traveled to France and Italy to get influenced by great neoclassical designers.  His style can be seen in many cities along the coastal east coast.  The Nathaniel Russell house in Charleston, SC is a prime example of this.


My Palladian floor plan


Architecture and design, without a doubt, stand for theatrical performances in the Baroque time period. it’s about making something look like what it is not.  Water was also very important in this time period to help with the theatrical feel. A perfect image I can take from our class time on 10/13/10, is The Laurentian Library Vestibule by Michaelangelo.  From the image below, you can see the exagurated entrance leading up to the library door, and the detail of the center stairway – it shows a curvy water detail.  All of this is a very theatrical entrance leading up to a less theatrical space of a library.

photo credit:
Posted in Uncategorized

[studio] Haw River NC project

Our latest studio project consists of a site in Alamance County in the town of Haw River, NC.  This 10 acre site was purchased a few years ago by a woman who has a vision of making a type of “Wellness Center” for children recovering from and/or going through cancer treatments.
Here is the structural proposal for our group.

Posted in History n Theory


  Learning about architectural history from the ground (foundation) up is the key to understand how different cultures effect each other’s way of life and surroundings.  As the class moves forward into our alternatives section, I am seeing how true my first sentence really is. It is important to have a good foundation before you move forward.

Intellectual foundations are seen as showing what people are doing over time;  how they take and process information previously known and use it accordingly based on, to name a few, their culture and age. Seeing how Egypt effects Greece and how they all effect Rome is something that was very apparent here.  There are a few key terms that show up in all three of these cultures; stacking, hierarchy, organizational, spirituality and story-telling.  Starting from the early settlements, such as  Mesopotamia and the Ohio Valley, stacking of local materials using slaves is seen here to make walls, buildings and burial places.  In Mesopotamia, some of the early cities are found; The Ziggurat of Ur-Nammu is an example.  This building is made out of stone blocks with steps leading up to the top.  Height showing power and closeness to the heavens and materials used representing the physical labor that was needed to built it. Comparing this to the Pyramids of Giza, you will see some similarities.  Both show height and imposing itself onto the landscape, as well as power from the size of the structure.  These structures also tell stories by using hieroglyphics on the exterior.  Since urban planning begins in Egypt (City of Sesotris ii), Axis’ are now established and are even found in modern times.  Vertical axis – using a circle as it’s center, represent the path to the Gods and heavens.  Horizontal axis’ are the pathways for humans to travel.  Taking this forward to Greece, it is easy to see why the center was important in Greek design – they thought that they were the center of the world and Athens became the center of Greece.  Organizational layout becomes clear with the construction of the Acropolis and the way line, form and space is organized within this city.  They have a great command for asymmetrical balance and even portraying some of what we now call the principles of design – repetition, proportion and balance.  Repetition of the columns, proportion of the buildings to each other (also showing hierarchy with size) help move us forward in time to see how these ideas and designs effect Roman culture and design.
The temples in Greece and Egypt are the proto-buildings for Rome – architecture was influenced by many other societies.  Rome was a modern city – a lot like our own civilization and they were concerned with extravagant pleasure.  They introduce some new building types; Baths, Basilica’s, coliseums and markets.  Plumbing was also introduced at this time with the addition of aqueducts.  These buildings helped people congregate (coliseums, baths, markets), celebrate (temples) and meditate (basilica’s).  With these new building types came old construction practices such as stacking, decorative coverings as well as the use of shapes, such as arches.  Arches could be used in markets, where it is laid on the earth’s surface in a semi-circular form giving boundaries, or in Baths which help make the space grander by keeping it more open.  Where the Egyptians and Greeks used hieroglyphics, the Romans used mosaics to tell their story.

I think the best example of architecture that could represent all three of these cultures is the Coliseum in Rome.  The exterior tells a story of what almost appears as the progression of architecture; showing the use of stacking, arches, the different architectural column orders.  On the interior picture, you will see how the space is organized along axial lines and how the floor reminds one of an Egyptian pyramid – is laid out almost like a maze.

Class notes dated 9/8-9/22