Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Salomonic Columns

Two examples of this typically baroque architectural elements, below in bronze and at a colossal scale in Bernini's baldachino at San Pietro in Rome, and above at a rather more delicate scale in softly carved local stone at Sant' Irene in Lecce.

Urban Presence: the Gesuiti in Venice

The relatively desdolate quarter of the Fondamente Nove in Venice contains a neglegted baroque gem in the form of the church of the Gesuiti. Situated at one end of the campo that bears its name its clusters of immense columns announce a vast internal space, and a high altar adorned with a grove of twisted salomonic columns.

Sunday, 28 January 2007

Italian Landscapes

A view of the hills near Londa

A view across the landscape from Orvieto towards the abbey of San Severo

A view towards Monselice from the castello di Lipsida

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Gothic versus Classic: two facades

As examples of epiphanic walls, neither of these two examples give too much away. Above, the facade of Sant' Antonio ('il Santo') in Padua, photographed on Good Friday, presents an austere brick face to the world which rehearses the basic theme of the interior. Softer in character San Trovaso (Santi Gervasio e Protasio) in Venice, photographed on Easter Sunday has a stucco surface on which to mark an harmonic geometrical composition.

Friday, 26 January 2007

Transformations between exterior and interior: Santa Maria Maddalena, Rome

During the seventeenth century the political system of absolutism expressed itself in urban form through the creation of spaces, buildings and interiors which sought to represent cosmic order within the constrained and irregular pattern of the city. A commercial motive animated the development of Piazza Santa Maria Maddalena, (c. 1695-1735) although the venerability of its location north of the Pantheon resulted in a morphologically conventional if stylistically unusual design. The ensemble of piazza, facade and interior exhibits the fluid ingenuity with which designers attempted to make a form of continuity between everyday experience and the ideal, manifested in full-bodied urban theatricality which is increasingly elaborate in its decoration.

Thursday, 25 January 2007

Figures in space: the statues of Piazza della Signoria in Florence

Hercules and Cacus (Bandinelli), and David (Michelangelo)...

and Perseus and Medusa (Cellini)...

and Neptune (Ammannati).

Wednesday, 24 January 2007

The space of the ideal city

Piazza Duca Federico in Urbino transposes the platonic ideals of the renaissance into an urban form which is irregular but harmoniously balanced. Opposite the flank of the cathedral (rebuilt by Valadier following an eighteenth century earthquake) is the Palazzo Ducale, the centre of Federico da Montefeltro's fifteenth century court and the home today of the "Urbino Panel", the ultimate depiction of the ideal city.

Tuesday, 23 January 2007

Mysterious Creatures

The nymphaeum of the Villa Giulia in Rome is the termination of the garden spaces of the villa. Its sunken position, with the grotto visible but not immediately accessible from the lower courtyard emphasises the apparent unapproachability of the female herms who merge with the architecture.

Monday, 22 January 2007

Eisenman at Castelvecchio: The Garden of Lost Footsteps

Scarpa's design of for the cortile of the Castelvecchio was supplemented during 2004-2005 with the installation of Peter Eisenman's "The Garden of Lost Footsteps". The project married the rhythm of the sequence of five sculpture galleries on the ground floor of the museum with Eisenman's familiar motifs of shifted and conflicting grids, and artificial excavation.

Sunday, 21 January 2007

More Scarpa at Castelvecchio

Scarpa's spatial sense is more than adequately demonstrated by the space dominated by the effigy of the Veronese hero Can Grande della Scala. The statue had originally been placed over his tomb on a gate in the city, but after various proposals Scarpa chose to exhibit it as the key element of the museum visible from the courtyard and passed by the visitor’s route. It was placed on first floor level, so as to equate to its original elevated position but placed on a huge cantilevered pedestal with the result that it achieves a high degree of conceptual animation. Small bridges and balconies on either side allow for more intimate exploration of the sculpture, as Scarpa indicated in a sketch. But the treatment of the statue is only one element, for the great vertical space he occupies is as much on display as the warrior himself. The walls and roof of the block are successively delaminated, stucco removed to reveal stonework and brick, tiles removed to reveal copper and then the twin roof beams exposed to span onto the adjacent wall. This space with its highly articulated roof, akin to a medieval baldachino, announces the unity of sculpture and architecture which Scarpa sought for all the exhibits and museum spaces. That the visitor’s route should always pivot around this void is a testimony to Scarpa's skill in creating value by removing and revealing elements. The gesture of removal is a subtle reference to the recent history of the Castelvecchio since the ancient bridge adjacent to the Castelvecchio and the Can Grande space, the Ponte Scaglieri, was itself destroyed by Italian fascists in 1945, against the express command of the retreating German general Kesselring.

Saturday, 20 January 2007

Transformations between exterior and interior: Scarpa at Castelvecchio

The work of Carlo Scarpa at the Museo di Castelvecchio in Verona presents an abundance of opportunities to observe connections between exterior and interior, from the treatment of the courtyard to the positioning of the statue of Can Grande della Scala as a distant participant in the polyptych positioned contre jour in the upper gallery. The series of gestures create the sequence of the journey through the museum.

Architectural Figures

Venetian architecture has many examples of the exploitation of figurative sculpture as ornament, from the spoliastic use of the sculptures of 'moors' ...

and the tetrarchs attached to the basilica of San Marco ...

to the sculptural programme of biblical scenes integral to the Doges' Palace.

Urban Urns: cities of the dead

The ancient practice of depositing ashes in cinerary urns in the form of small buildings creates an evocative form of quasi-urbanism in archaeological museum displays, in the Montemartini in Rome and the Museo Archaeologico in Perugia. They constitute a type of model necropolis.

Wednesday, 17 January 2007

Representing architecture in architecture

The translation of the body of Saint Mark to his basilica in Venice, on Saint Mark's Basilica, Venice

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Sanctuary and Landscape

A record of a visit to the Greek temples at Paestum in Southern Italy more than ten years ago...

Monday, 15 January 2007

Celebrating crossing the threshold

Ephemeral architectural additions to Venetian buildings, a painted wooden garland for Easter at San Giacomo dall' Orio, an elaborate canopy for the feast day of Saint Roch at the Scuola di San Rocco.

Sunday, 14 January 2007

Mouth of the Underworld

Turning away from the celestial gaze featured in the initial posts, one contemplates the architecture below our world ... at the Grotto di Buontalenti at the Boboli gardens in Florence.
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