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[HISTORY & THEORY OF DESIGN II] point essay – reflections

   “Don’t you know you’re talking about a revolution.  It sounds like a whisper”  These words, sung more then two decades ago by Tracy Chapman begins to describe the section we completed titled “Reflections”.   According to our class notes dated 10/25/10, the revolution process includes knowing the rules, thinking about shifting them, seeing the rules from different perspective and then finally, reforming and reshaping the rules.  In this “Reflections” section, we learned about how the new world called America took to the design styles they knew from their native England, France, Spain, Germany and Holland and incorporated their own version of the style to their new homeland.  We also learned about how England and France were going beyond the boundaries they already knew.
An excellent example of the “Revolutionary Process” is  the White House in Washington DC.

White House  (pic credit: http://0.tqn.com/d/architecture/1/0/a/r/whitehouse_front.jpg)
Leinster House  (Pic credit: http://architecture.about.com/od/houses/ss/leinsterhouse.htm)

Built in 1792 by James Hoban, it was modeled after the Leinster House in Ireland.  This was a revolutionary decision at the time.  Many of America’s east coast cities were looking towards England towards design influences.  The fact that our presidents house was modeled after an Irish building was out of the norm.  In 1812, the British attacked and burned the White House and Capital Building in DC.  Where the rebuilding of the Capital Building was redesigned with a more modern design and using only some of the original design features, the White House was restored to how it was originally designed.  The symbolic value was more important then the modern design value.

Another revolutionary process, was the use of different materials now available through the Industrial Revolution.  Glass and Iron are now available and being used for train stations, arcades, exhibition halls to name a few.  The Royal Conservatory at Kew Gardens in London is an example of this. Built in 1844 by Richard Turner and Decimus Burton.

photo credit: http://www.kew.org

“The project was pioneering, as it was the first time engineers had used wrought iron to span such large widths without supporting columns. This technique was borrowed from the shipbuilding industry; from a distance the glasshouse resembles an upturned hull. The result was a vast, light, lofty space that could easily accommodate the crowns of large palms.” (1)

In our class lecture dated 10/25-28, we also talked about how the revolution process – called “The Revolution of Excess”, causes a need to correct and make something new.  A variety of new goods from many genres were available during the mid 1800’s when trade routes opened to Japan and China.  Plates, dishes, bowls, carpets and wallpapers were easy to transport from the East.  Eastern Influence can easily be seen in the Peacock Room.  Designed by James Whistler from 1876-1877, the surface decorations on the walls – forming a sort of cage – to display eastern pottery and china was one of the first forms of true interior architecture.

Peacock Room (photo credit: http://www.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/peacock/default.htm)

In the end of this time period, John Ruskin was one of a few people to say, “OK – enough is enough” when he wrote his book titled “Seven Lamps of Architecture” in 18851.  He stated, “The right question to ask, respecting all ornament, is simply this… Was it done with enjoyment?” This began in the narrowing down of what styles needed to be looked at in more detail, and what styles needed to just end.

~~~~~

(1)  http://www.kew.org/visit-kew-gardens/garden-attractions-A-Z/Palm-House.htm

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Lover of architectural history, family, building design, coffee and dogs.

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