Composition of Space and Body Through the Orders

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Composition of ‘space’ and ‘body’ through the orders.

 

How were buildings and their interiors composed as harmonious compositions in the eighteenth century through the Orders? To what extent were the Orders about the structure of a building and to what extent were the Orders about conventions of architectural form and composition? What was the relationship between the Human body and how a building was composed? Why was there a return to Palladian thinking in the Neo-Classical period and how did this inform architectural composition?

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‘The Orders’ are defined by the particular type of column and entablature used throughout several styles of Classical and Neoclassical architecture. In total there are five orders consistently used in design and structure titled: Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Tuscan, and Composite. In differentiating the orders, it is the form of the capital that presents the distinguishing characteristic of each particular order. Each structure is composed of the column, which itself is composed of an architrave, frieze, and cornice, supporting a section of the entablature, amounting to the upper horizontal part of the classical building.[1] The study of history expanded like never before in the period of the eighteenth century.[2] The eighteenth century presented a syncretic approach in multiple teachings, particularly including the study of religion, language, society and architecture.[3] In the later eighteenth century, ‘architecture followed the theory of French writers, such as Marc-Antoine (1713-1769), who initially proposed that a columnar structure should provide an intelligible order to the appearance of a building.’(Macarthur, John. 2013.)

The period of Renaissance architecture occurred between the early 15th and 17th centuries in ranging regions of Europe, presenting a conscious revival and development of varying ancient Greek and Roman thought and material elements.[4] “For the Renaissance, the imitation of Rome in society, culture, law and art was the one true path to the re-creation of a noble society.” (Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au. 2019.)

The introduction of the Neoclassical movement was produced from the revival of ancient Greek and Roman forms, presenting similarities in appearance between 18th-century government buildings and Greek and Roman temples.[5] “In England Neoclassicism developed in response to a different movement, Neo-Palladianism.” (Muscato, Christopher. 2019.) 16th-century Italian architect; Andrea Palladio (1508-1580) was found to be one of the principle models to incorporate Renaissance architecture into private homes an villas, his style making its way to England in the early 18th century.[6] Due to the social and economic traditions of England and Italy being as distinct as their building histories, the English was unable to take over Palladio entirely. In compromise, it was Palladio’s types of palace and villa elevation the English contended themselves with.[7]

‘The work of Andrea Palladio has been valued for centuries as the quintessence of High Renaissance calm and harmony.’ (Watkin, David. 2015.)Initially, Palladio was trained as a stonemason and sculptor. At approximately age thirty a humanist scholar in Vicenza, Count Giangiorgio Trissino, spotted his talents and accompanied Palladio to Rome, where he studied the monuments of antiquity.[8] In investigating the inspiration leading to the harmonic proportions of Palladio’s designs, a factor was the identification of music and spatial ratios of the Renaissance, leading back to the Greeks and supposedly including Pythagoras himself.[9]

When playing an instrument, it is established that plucking strings of different lengths are bound to produce different notes. “A string half the length of another will result in a difference in pitch of an octave, two thirds of the length of a fifth, and three-quarters of the length a quarter. It was thus supposed that solids and voids with similar ratios, i.e. of 1 : 2, 2 : 3 or 3 : 4, would acquire a visual harmony analogous to musical harmony.” (Watkin, David. 2015.)Palladio would commonly be guided by his eye and what appeared right in the process of designing his buildings rather than a set ratio in his mind, which is observed through investigation showing Palladio’s buildings not always bearing the accuracy of the measurements shown in his plans.[10]

Charles Perrault (1628-1703) and Claude Perrault (1613-1688), referred to as ‘The Perrault Brothers’, were an extremely intelligent pair and posed a problem:

“If harmony in architecture does not have that unquestioned rightness which Vitruvius’ scripture, and scholastic as well as neoplatonic philosophy had taken for granted, then how is the architect to go about making buildings harmonious and beautiful? And do these terms of praise continue to pint his aim?” (Rykwert, Joseph. 1991.)

 

There are both positive and convincing beauties as well as arbitrary beauties. Positive and convincing beauty are described as mechanical and inevitable whereas arbitrary beauty depends on inclination. Perraults’ role is to distinguish the two from one another in architecture. [11] 

Vitruvius’; The Ten Books on Architecture, has been the only book on architecture to have survived from the ancient world. Writing around 25 BC, Augustus, Vitruvius compiled what he considered the essential principles of architecture, town planning, construction and design education. During the fifteenth-century Renaissance, when Italian architects revived ancient ideas, they presented Vitruvius the upmost reverence as the unquestioned voice of authority from the past. Vitruvius explained that the ancients discovered the timeless principles in nature as they experimented with their forms. By rejecting failures and retaining successes, they refined the forms until eventually they could no longer improve their designs.

Leon Battista Alberti (1404-1472) was born into an extremely wealthy family in Florence, Italy. He was a man well-educated in the arts, philosophies, sciences and law.[12] Alberti wrote the first book on Italian grammar as well as contributed ground-breaking work on cryptography and was considered a ‘universal man.’[13] Alberti states in his De re aedificatoria that each building consists of two elements in reference to their aesthetic appearance; beauty and ornament.[14]

Beauty is according to, as dictated by concinnitas, a definite number, outline, and position.  Beauty takes priority as the main object of the art of building as well as its dignity, authority, charm and worth.[15] Prior to the eighteenth century, theories of beauty assumed that the elements value was in concordance with the harmony of the senses. [16] In coherence, Alberti viewed beauty as “a harmony inherent in the building, a harmony which does not result from personal fancy, but from objective reasoning.” (Wittkower, Rudolf. 1998.)

Edmund Burke (1729-1797), known to a wide population as a classical political thinker,[17] proposed that “beauty has neurological causes in the perception of certain visual forms and that the sublime could similarly be explained as a relation to visual sense.” (Macarthur, John. 2013.) Burke explored how the effects of love arise from beauty, where opposing emotions such as fear and exhilaration arise from the sublime. [18] “He postulates that the sight of smooth and rounded things of small relative scale causes sensations we name as beauty, and that rough, angular and vast things excite the nerves into the sublime.” (Macarthur, John. 2013.)

 

The ornament element is described as a type of additional brightness and improvement to the beauty element. Ranging from the décor such as candlesticks in the building to the stones used for walls, ornament refers to the embellishment of the building.[19]  The desired aim of the ornament element was to make the displeasing less offensive and the pleasing more delightful, doing so by masking anything ugly or by polishing the attractive.[20]

The columns and angles of a building, also referred to as ‘the bones of a building’, were never made odd in number. This is in relation to there being no animal that stands or moves with an odd number of feet. On the contrary, openings to a building were never made even in number, also in relation to animals, they were given ears, eyes and nostrils matching on either side, where the mouth was placed in the centre (the opening). The bones of the temple were no even number greater than ten, and in the case of openings, no odd number greater than nine. [21]

South Australia is home to many structures carrying a resemblance to the Italian Renaissance. The Edmund Wright House, located in the CBD of Adelaide on King William street, is one said structure that carries similar architectural design to the Italian Renaissance period. Built in 1878, the Edmund Wright house was originally the Bank of South Australia’s headquarters. In the early 1970’s the public convinced the state government to purchase and restore the building as plans were made to demolish and replace the building with a modern office building. The building was then officially renamed after its local architect.[22] A work of Italian architecture related to this Adelaide structure includes the Palazzo Rucellai, designed by Leon Battista Alberti and built in Rome, Italy on the year 1453, both structures demonstrating a smooth face rustication on the building’s façade. An identifiable trait between both designer and building; Alberti and his Santa Maria Novella façade (1457-70, Florence, Italy), is the technique of symmetry which is also presented by the Edmund Wright House. The Edmund Wright House’s exterior window frames and interior walkways cohere with the way Alberti consistently avoided the combination of arch and column in his religious buildings. The occasions his designs included columns he gave them a straight entablature, introducing arches resting on pillars with or without half-columns set against them as decoration.[23] Straying from Alberti, the Edmund Wright House is also similar to the Basilica Palladiana designed in Rome, Italy by Andrea Palladio and built in the year 1549- in the feature of having inverted spaces held by columns. This is seen between the storeys of the Edmund Wight House. The façade of the Edmund Wright House has both arched and rectangular windows; this subtle combination of shapes can also be seen on the Campidoglio Capitoline Hill building (Rome, Italy) designed by Michelangelo and built between the years of 1475-1564. The detail of Roman Ceilings were all rich with relief and painting,[24] the ceiling found in rooms at the Edmund Wight House demonstrates similar beauty in the use of depth and detail of structure.

Below: Edmund Wright House

Figure 3

Campidoglio Capitoline Hill

Figure 2

 

Figure 1

 

 

Figure 5

Santa Maria Novella

Figure 4

Palazzo Rucellai

Figure 6

Basilica Palladiana

Harmonious and unified compositions can be demonstrated in the combination of proportion and geometry. The conditions that apply to every form of construction – that what we construct should be appropriate to its use, lasting in structure, and graceful and pleasing in appearance.” (Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988.)It is thought that a graceful and pleasant appearance derives from beauty and ornament alone.[25]

In ornamenting a house there were five main techniques, referred to as the; Doric, Corinthian, Ionic, Tuscan and Composite orders. The orders were distinguished by the columns supporting their respective entablatures, dignified by function, not prettified by decoration.[26]

The Doric order is full, practical and enduring, whereas the Corinthian order is slender and full of charm. The ionic order is composed of elements from both Doric and Corinthian orders.[27] The Tuscan order is a Roman adaption of the Doric order, similar in proportion and profile, although much plainer.[28] Lastly, the composite order is a late Roman development of the Corinthian order, labelled Composite due to its capital being composed of Ionic volutes and Corinthian acanthus-leaf decoration.[29] 

In the 1740’s at the French Academy in Rome the language of international neo-classicism was established by French scholars.[30] Initially starting with projects for festival decorations in the form of temples and triumphal arches, these French scholars soon upgraded to the designs of public buildings on a power-crazy scale with endless colonnades, stone domes and complex plans inspired by the baths of ancient Rome. The rich ornament of Baroque architecture was rejected by these scholars as they found the highly spirited movement incompatible with the stylistic purity as well as structural honesty, elements that they came to regard as the essence of antique architecture.[31]

Figure 7

Maurice Merleau-Ponty stated in the Phenomenology of Perception:

“The human body is defined in terms of its property of appropriating, in an indefinite series of discontinuous acts, significant cores which transcend and transfigure its natural powers.” (Smith, Chris L. 2012.)

The human body is measured as a “form.” In order to design in architecture one has to determine “the anthropometric distance between the human body and tactile objects, to orientate the proxemic interactions between one body and another, and to articulate something of the divine proportion of the human body.” ( Smith, Chris L. 2012.) The human body as a “matter” is subjectified allowing the aesthetic experience of architecture to be articulated in unity upon the bodily contact with the ‘gesture’ of everyday buildings.[32] Architectural theorist Chris L. Smith argues that architecture, like the body, is a set of repetitive rhythmic actions.[33] Smith also suggests that both the human body and architecture are unable to be categorised as discrete objects or singular elements. Both components otherwise create a form of “material flow”, regulating chaos in order to collect architectural knowledge.[34] Past the discourse of form and shape of tectonic buildings, the human body plays an imperative role for the extent of the production process, exchange, and consumption of everyday architecture.[35] Perrault developed a scheme of modules and subsections incorporating lettering with calculations demonstrating: each letter being fitted into a square composed of 2,304 square units, 6×8 units to a side. The human body in the square and the circle is compared for the letters.[36] Perrault explains that; “the ancients believed with reason that the rules of proportion which give beauty to buildings were taken from the human body, and that as nature formed solid bodies adapted to labour, and those who should be adroit and agile in a lighter mould, so there are different rules in the art of building…those different proportions accompanied by the ornaments which suit them make the different orders of architecture.” (Rykwert, Joseph. 1991.)

 

The founder of English classical tradition architecture, British designer, painter and architect[37], Inigo Jones, visited Italy in 1613/14 implanting in him a passion of Palladio as well as a knowledge of ancient and modern Italian architecture.[38] “His Queen’s House at Greenwich is a small villa in the tradition of Palladio; his Banqueting House in Whitehall a basilica in the Vitruvian mould. Neither these works nor his country houses (the most Palladian being Stoke Bruerne, Northants) met with any imitators until the early eighteenth century.” (Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au. 2019.)Christopher Wren, a great English architect of his time, introduced Britain to the contemporary Italian Baroque period with an admixture of French features as well.[39] Wren introduced a variety of continental ideas which contributed alongside of Inigo Jones in prompting the long-lasting Palladian Revival of the early eighteenth century.[40]

The Italian and French contributions to the classical revival were extensive, yet England had the new style developed most decidedly. England demonstrated a powerful influence over many fashions and intellectual life throughout Europe during the course of the eighteenth century.[41] The following architecture periods are each liked with recognisable design traits carried across by influences such as; Leon Battista Alberti, Andrea Palladio and the Perrault brothers. Classical architecture refers to the architecture of the ancient Mediterranean. The Renaissance period architecture resembles a revival of ancient classical architecture while architecture from the Neo-Classical period is described as 18th century classical architecture; along with adding archaeological findings about ancient architecture to the system of the Orders as developed in the Renaissance. In the 18th century, England adopted an artistic style that was becoming popular across Europe known as Neoclassicism.

REFERENCES

  • Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988. On The Art Of Building In Ten Books. 3rd ed. Cambridge, Mass : M.I.T. Press. [Accessed June 2nd, 2019]
  • “Architecture In France: Renaissance To Neoclassicism”. 2019. Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au. http://rubens.anu.edu.au/new/books_and_papers/classical_tradition_book/chap10.html. [Accessed June 10th, 2019]
  • Augustyn, Adam, Patricia Bauer, Brian Duignan, Alison Eldridge, Erik Gregersen, Amy McKenna, and Melissa Petruzzello et al. 2019. “Order | Architecture”. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/order-architecture. [Accessed June 18th, 2019]
  • Augustyn, Adam, Patricia Bauer, Brian Duignan, Alison Eldridge, Erik Gregersen, Amy McKenna, and Melissa Petruzzello et al. 2013. “Ceiling | Architecture”. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/technology/ceiling. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]
  • “Edmund Burke (Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy)”. 2004. Plato.Stanford.Edu. https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/burke/.[Accessed June 11th, 2019]
  • Macarthur, John. 2013. The Picturesque. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis. [Accessed June 3rd, 2019]
  • Muscato, Christopher. 2019. “Leon Battista Alberti: Architecture In The Renaissance”. Study.Com. https://study.com/academy/lesson/leon-battista-alberti-architecture-in-the-renaissance.html. [Accessed June 4th, 2019]
  • Muscato, Christopher. 2019. “Neoclassical Architecture In England”. Study.Com. https://study.com/academy/lesson/neoclassical-architecture-in-england.html. [Accessed June 12th, 2019]
  • Parsons, Alexander. 2018. “Edmund Wright House | Adelaidia”. Adelaidia.Sa.Gov.Au. http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/places/edmund-wright-house. [Accessed June 20th, 2019]
  • “Renaissance Architecture | Boundless Art History”. 2019. Courses.Lumenlearning.Com. https://courses.lumenlearning.com/boundless-arthistory/chapter/renaissance-architecture/.[Accessed June 21st, 2019]
  • Rykwert, Joseph. 1991. Positive And Arbitrary. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press. [Accessed June 14th, 2019]
  • Smith, Chris L. 2012. “Beyond Building : Architecture Through The Human Body”. Frsb.Upm.Edu.My. http://www.frsb.upm.edu.my/dokumen/FKRSE1_79-227-1-PB.pdf. [Accessed June 6th, 2019]
  • Snell, Melissa. 2019. “Who Was Leon Battista Alberti?”. Thoughtco. https://www.thoughtco.com/leon-battista-alberti-1788352. [Accessed June 7th, 2019]
  • Summerson, John. 2019. “Inigo Jones | English Architect And Artist”. Encyclopedia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/biography/Inigo-Jones. [Accessed June 15th, 2019]
  • Watkin, David. 2015. A History Of Western Architecture. 6th ed. Laurence King. [Accessed June 8th, 2019]
  • Wittkower, Rudolf. 1998. Architectural Principles. 4th ed. London: Academy. [Accessed June 9th, 2019]

IMAGES

[FIGURE 1] Adelaide, View. 2019. “Edmund-Wright-House-12”. AUTOPSY OF ADELAIDE. https://autopsyofadelaide.com/2016/11/01/urban-exploration-edmund-wright-house/edmund-wright-house-12/.[Accessed June 19th, 2019]

[FIGURE 6] “Basilica Palladiana”. 2019. En.Wikipedia.Org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Basilica_Palladiana. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]

[FIGURE 2] “Edmund Wright House | Adelaidia”. 2019. Adelaidia.Sa.Gov.Au. http://adelaidia.sa.gov.au/places/edmund-wright-house. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]

[FIGURE 7] Orders, Architectural, and Types order. 2019. “Types Of Capital. Classical Order Stock Vector – Illustration Of Illustration, Cartoon: 66710216”. Dreamstime.Com. https://www.dreamstime.com/stock-illustration-types-capital-classical-order-vector-hand-drawn-illustration-set-five-architectural-orders-engraved-showing-tuscan-image66710216. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]

[FIGURE 4] “Palazzo Rucellai: Facade By ALBERTI, Leon Battista”. 2019. Wga.Hu. https://www.wga.hu/html/a/alberti/ruccela.html. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]

[FIGURE 3] “Piazza Del Campidoglio. Capitoline Hill. Rom By Bernard Jaubert”. 2019. Pixels. https://pixels.com/featured/piazza-del-campidoglio-capitoline-hill-rom-bernard-jaubert.html. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]

[FIGURE 5] “Santa Maria Novella”. 2019. En.Wikipedia.Org. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Maria_Novella. [Accessed June 19th, 2019]


[1]Augustyn, Adam, Patricia Bauer, Brian Duignan, Alison Eldridge, Erik Gregersen, Amy McKenna, and Melissa Petruzzello et al. 2019. “Order | Architecture”. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[2] “Architecture in France: Renaissance To Neoclassicism”. 2019. Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au.

[3] Ibid

[4] “Renaissance Architecture | Boundless Art History”. 2019. Courses.Lumenlearning.Com.

[5] Muscato, Christopher. 2019. “Neoclassical Architecture in England”. Study.Com.

[6] Ibid

[7] “Renaissance Architecture | Boundless Art History”. 2019. Courses.Lumenlearning.Com.

 ”Architecture In France: Renaissance To Neoclassicism”. 2019. Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au.

[8] Ibid  

[9] Ibid  

[10] Ibid  

[11] Rykwert, Joseph. 1991. Positive and Arbitrary. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.

[12] Muscato, Christopher. 2019. “Leon Battista Alberti: Architecture In The Renaissance”. Study.Com.

[13] Snell, Melissa. 2019. “Who Was Leon Battista Alberti?”. Thoughtco.

[14] Wittkower, Rudolf. 1998. Architectural Principles. 4th ed. London: Academy.

[15] Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988. On The Art Of Building In Ten Books. 3rd-5th ed. Cambridge, Mass : M.I.T. Press.

[16] Wittkower, Rudolf. 1998. Architectural Principles. 4th ed. London: Academy.

[17] “Edmund Burke (Stanford Encyclopedia Of Philosophy)”. 2004. Plato.Stanford.Edu.

[18] Macarthur, John. 2013. The Picturesque. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis.

[19] Wittkower, Rudolf. 1998. Architectural Principles. 4th ed. London: Academy.

[20] Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988. On The Art Of Building In Ten Books. 3rd-5th ed. Cambridge, Mass : M.I.T. Press.

[21] Ibid

[22] Parsons, Alexander. 2018. “Edmund Wright House | Adelaidia”. Adelaidia.Sa.Gov.Au.

[23] Wittkower, Rudolf. 1998. Architectural Principles. 4th ed. London: Academy.

[24] Augustyn, Adam, Patricia Bauer, Brian Duignan, Alison Eldridge, Erik Gregersen, Amy McKenna, and Melissa Petruzzello et al. 2013. “Ceiling | Architecture”. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[25] Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988. On The Art Of Building In Ten Books. 3rd-5th ed. Cambridge, Mass : M.I.T. Press.

[26] “Architecture in France: Renaissance To Neoclassicism”. 2019. Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au.

[27] Alberti, Leon Battista. 1988. On The Art Of Building In Ten Books. 3rd-5th ed. Cambridge, Mass : M.I.T. Press.

[28] Augustyn, Adam, Patricia Bauer, Brian Duignan, Alison Eldridge, Erik Gregersen, Amy McKenna, and Melissa Petruzzello et al. 2019. “Order | Architecture”. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[29] Ibid

[30] Watkin, David. 2015. A History of Western Architecture. 6th ed. Laurence King.

[31] Ibid

[32] Smith, Chris L. 2012. “Beyond Building : Architecture Through The Human Body”. Frsb.Upm.Edu.My..

[33] Ibid

[34] Ibid

[35] Ibid

[36] Rykwert, Joseph. 1991. Positive and Arbitrary. Cambridge (Mass.): MIT Press.

[37] Summerson, John. 2019. “Inigo Jones | English Architect And Artist”. Encyclopedia Britannica.

[38] “Architecture in France: Renaissance To Neoclassicism”. 2019. Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au.

[39] “Architecture in France: Renaissance To Neoclassicism”. 2019. Rubens.Anu.Edu.Au.

[40] Ibid

[41] “The Development Of Neoclassicism | Encyclopedia.Com”. 2019. Encyclopedia.Com

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