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Thomas Jefferson, Karl Schinkel, and the movement of Gothic Revival relates to the past and the present in many ways. Thomas Jefferson was a legislator, scholar, economist and architect, who adopted neoclassicism for our national architectural style, because, of neoclassical values which concerned, mortality, nationalism, and virtue. Architecture during this Enlightening time expresses dependence from the theatrical and ostentation of Europe’s Baroque and Rococo past. Jefferson’s reference to the classical and antiquity is exemplified by his admiration for the Italian master Palladio; and was influenced by Palladio’s published work, titled the Four Books of Architecture when he began work on the construction of his home, Monticello in 1769. Jefferson’s interpretation of Palladio, or abstracted classicism approach became a true vehicle or expression of patriotism; furthermore, the work that America was producing conveyed a sense of directness, and faithfulness. This outcome would be considered plan by the Europeans, but it was ideal for a scholar like Thomas Jefferson to influence the work of American scholars to differentiate from European elite and scholars. Thomas Jefferson’s political and theoretical approach to independence and the adoption of neoclassicism architecture influenced the identity our country, in a time where it needed it most in order to thrive.
Schinkel believed that much was ugly and unsettling in mechanized in 19th century industry and transportation; he may have considered classically minded architects, like Jefferson, to be too rigid with archaeological forms. Nonetheless, the ideas of Classicism served the new world identity well, while the gothic style was again needed in Europe to solve disjointed city identities due to industry. It would be fair to say, that Jefferson and Schinkel both fought for unity of their nations by looking to the past to create or, keep an aesthetic that distinguished them in the world. To Schinkel, the haste of progress had to be appeased by establishing forms that would minimize the harsh contrast between palaces and church, to railroad stations, factories and warehouses. The connection between the industrial age and past needed to be softened. Schinkel didn’t intent to dismiss industrial programs and organization, however, he thought that architecture must aspire to be something more than utilitarian and functional. Schinkel’s ideas were very impactful on the momentum of the Gothic Revival period, and he wrote of mills and factories in England as, “monstrous masses of red brick… [with a] sole purpose of crude necessity.” The effects of his contribution to high art and the school, Ecole des Beaux-arts, would definitely create a sought goal to unify the urban environment in a pictorial way that is still considered today. The Ecole des Beaux-arts, taught generations of students that design and construction were separate disciplines taught under three catagories, such as, elements of buildings, elements of composition, and detailing. Many art and architecture schools have adopted this very same organization of design education to this day.
During the 19th century the romantic, Schinkel’s belief in gothic aesthetic, would make him one of the leaders of the Gothic Revival movement that valued the past, because it gave validity to the ambitions and clams of superiority in Europe. Proud intellectuals, artists, and designers appreciated the art of the remote past as a product of cultural preservation and nationalism. Gothic Architecture of the past was a combination of rib vaults, clerestory windows, pointed arches, and fly buttresses that expressed skeletal formations and resilience. It was the ideas Gothic architecture as having prominence and resilience that made it a successful building aesthetic for civil buildings, such as schools, and government institutions.
2) Iron Age
The Crystal Palace, the Bibliotheque Library of Ste. Genevieve, and Paddington Station were monumental developments in the use of iron and glass construction, and represented the advantages of these two materials on civic and commercial architecture. The Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace in london was a monument to the enterprise and sophistication of English industry in the early Victorian era. It was simply just iron lattice work holding up uniform sheets of glass framed in wood. This new use of iron and glass shoke up traditional construction methods and created traversed, vast, and open space. Iron was cheaper than stone and more resilient and it withstood fire much better than wood. Paxton constructed the exhibition building, the Crystal Palace with fabricated parts, which allowed the vastness of the structure to be realized in an unheard of time span of six months.
Paddington station by Sir M.D. Wyatt and I.K. Brunel in London, utilized an iron roofing system using the Howe truss based on wooden models, which gave way to iron types, more cleverly exploitive of the new material. To illustrate the extension of limitations of construction, the curved upper and lower chords could connect by cast-iron struts and ties, and related to the bowstring truss, creating great arched space. The arched spaces were masked from the outside by screens and served as a public overture to billowy interiors of the Roman vaulted Style. The smoke and steam spaces enclosed by sheets of metal and glass over rail tracks and trains corroborated the coming of the industrial age, which contrasted the comfortingly familiar of masonry facades that encouraged travelers.
Henri Labrouste’s Bibliotheque Library of Ste. Genevieve in Paris, was an interesting mix of Renaissance revival and modern cast-iron construction. Its two-story façade with arched windows recalls palazzo design, but with the structure’s metal skeleton running within the interior space. The iron columns, were Corinthian, and supported the iron roof arches pierced with intricate vine-live ornamentation; illustrating a Renaissance vocabulary and a bolder use of the materials limitations. Iron and glass were new materials that went to meet the functional needs of scores of building civil types, like libraries, and train stations, and the fashionable shopping arcades.
Metal and glass made it possible to open up the entire ground floor and mezzanine to the outside, with windows of plate glass. By the middle of the 19th century architects were tired of sentimental and romantic design of the past-they turned to honest expressions of a building’s purpose.
The main ideas of modernism, I believe can be summed up by the works of Louis Henry Sullivan’s Guaranty Building, Walter Gropius’ vision of “total architecture” and his Bauhaus school, and last but not least, Frank Lloyd Wright’s interpretation of organic architecture; furthermore, the keys to modernism involve it’s transformation throughout the western world, from the late spirit of the 19th century commerce, to the 20th century’s efforts to eliminate the divide between art and nature in architecture.
Louis Henry Sullivan is considered to be the first modern architect, who arrived at a synthesis of industrial structure and ornamentation to express prime commerce of late 19th century. He employed the late technological developments to create light filled well ventilated office buildings and adorned both exterior and interior with ornate embellishments with a purpose to symbolize and connect commerce and culture to the buildings, characteristics that are evident in his Guaranty Building in Buffalo, New York. This white collar workplace had a sense of refinement and taste, because of the imposing large scale, regularity of window placement, and orderly office organization. The Guaranty Building illustrates Sullivan’s dictum that, “form follows, function,” which of course could be the first key expression of modernism; furthermore, becoming the slogan of 20th century modernists. In order for the Guaranty to be a successful department store it required broad, open, well-illuminated displays. The profound understanding of the maturing consumer economy, created tailored store fronts and offices to meet the functional and symbolic needs of it users. The 19th century after all, was a period where artists and architects challenged traditional modes of expression, often tried to reject the past by much retrospection, and understanding problems while seeking solutions.
Walter Gropius made his “total architecture” concept the foundation of not only his own work but also the work of generations of pupils under his influence at a school called the Bauhaus, in Germany. Gropius’s goal was to train artists, architects and designers to accept and anticipate 20th century needs. The curriculum was based on certain principles, such as advocating the importance of strong basic design; (which was broken down to), principles of composition, two and three-dimensionality, color theory, and craftsmanship. Gropius believed these principles were fundamental to good art and architecture, and said that “there is no essential difference between the artist and the craftsman.” He taught students how to eliminate boundaries that traditionally separated art from architecture and art from craft, and wanted graduates who could design progressive environments by emphasizing machine-age technologies. “Total architecture” was defined by Gropius as a marriage between art and industry, a synthesis and when he designed the Dessau campus, he demonstrated these goals. The Bauhaus consisted of workshops and class areas, a dining room, a theater, a gym, a wing for studio apartments, however the most significant was the Shop Block wing. Three stories tall, the Shop Block housed a printing shop and dye works factory, in addition to other work areas dedicated to other art disciplines. There is a skeleton of reinforced concrete, with supports set back in order to create a seamless sheathing that shielded the majority of the interior, and structure in glass. The streamlined structure avoided romantic elements and natural light effect was needed for the disciplines that worked in the building; furthermore, the interior layout created large-areas of free and flowing undivided space. The simple geometric aesthetic that Gropius developed had widespread popularity because of its economy in the use of space, materials, time and money.
Frank Lloyd Wright’s contribution to modernism started when he worked for Louis Henry Sullivan, and worked to define architecture as “democracy,” in contrast to Gropius’s “total.” He believed in his own unique interpretation of organic architecture, that syntax of natural and organic served free individuals who have the right to move within a “democratic,” free space. He envisioned nonsymmetrical design that interacted spatially with its natural surroundings. He sought to develop unity of planning, structure, materials, and site. Wright developed a vigorous originality within modernism, and by the 1900s he had arrived at a style entirely his own. For his Robie House in Chicago, cross-axial plan and continuous roof planes and screens became a new domestic architecture. Long, sweeping, ground hugging lines, unconfined by abrupt wall limits, seem to be reaching out toward the expansiveness of Wright’s vision of the Midwest great flatlands. Wright’s domestic plans are often grounded by a great central fireplace or hearth, inspired by his understanding of Japanese architecture. Strip windows too provide unexpected light sources and unpredictable glimpses of the outside landscape as inhabitants move or wander through the plan. Wright’s architecture embodied a sense of space in motion from within his interior, and connected it to the movement of the exterior natural world.