Essays in Architecture: Ideas of Picturesque in landscape gardens and urbanism
These are essays done while in Architecture school in 2013. The ideas of which are exploratory and of one person’s perspective.
During the periods of 1750–1800, the Baroque and Rococo style was slowly diminishing. It was a time when the aristocracies’ popularity is dwindling and classical identities of the ancient times in Greece and Rome were on the rise. This gave birth to Neoclassicism in European architecture.
The emphasis on public buildings in central European cities such as Paris, London and Berlin was a recurring theme (1). There was a sense of giving more functional and machine-like effectiveness (2) to the central cities, which focuses on the needs of improving the city. Public buildings tend to be large and monumental, with clarity and lack of decoration, in order to accommodate the functions needed by the citizens of the city. Works by Dussasoy and Le Camus de Mézières, suggested the urban improvements of then Paris which was under the shadow of a new market construction (3), has immense long-term economic benefits for the national economy.
The 1760s and 1770s featured shared new public settings for joined rituals. Gardens and utopias liberated the public from the conventions of society to explore its origins and fostered original design. England has these ideas presented in the work of Horace Walpole, with the Strawberry Hill in Twickenham. Another example of these is the Stourhead Pleasure Gardens, emphasizing the effects of the “a-ha” features of these designs. The “a-ha” features are mainly described with asymmetric compositions, winding paths, reciprocal vistas and techniques for incorporating the genuine landscape outside the restrictions of the garden .
This particular style was a recurrence both in Europe and in the USA, where revolutions were ending and there was a need for an architecture that can foster growth and longevity to a burgeoning new nation. The best examples in the urban sense were Washington DC and Virginia. Washington DC has its design and organization rooted in ancient Rome’s political identity (5). The main purpose of which is to establish a long-lasting nation, much like that of the Romans.
Large expansive monuments such as the Lincoln Memorial, National Gallery and the American Museum of Natural History are notable examples of this. There is a certain grand and elegant quality to them, which references the ancient, once again, in the ideas of Rome. Aside from the current style, the main countering style was Romanticism and the Gothic Revival. Mainly these styles were reactions to the current emerging trend. Gothic Revival in a way was a throwback to the royalties of the time, with the emphasis of, and leaning to, religious sensibilities.
The University of Virginia, as designed by Thomas Jefferson, was aimed to be an “academic village”. Significant features to mention are a rotunda that houses the library of the university, which has Pantheon like features, and the adjacent sides were two rows of five separate pavilions which house each a discipline and professor, all by which are unique. Ideas like these are a recurring theme based in Europe and is a way of materializing classical ideas in the form of architecture. Jefferson aimed for a design that fostered and gave a sense of “illimitable freedom of the human mind” (6).
1 — Barry Bergdoll: European Architecture 1750–1890 (Oxford/NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.43
2 — Barry Bergdoll: European Architecture 1750–1890 (Oxford/NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), p.46
3 — Barry Bergdoll: European Architecture 1750–1890 (Oxford/NY: Oxford University Press, 2000), p. 54
4 — Christof Schnoor: ARCH 6311 — Critical Studies lecture (Architecture and History, 2013)
5 — www.learner.org: Spirit of Nationalism, (retrieved 06/04/2013), http://www.learner.org/amerpass/unit04/context_activ-2.html
6 — Handlin, David P. (2004). American architecture (Rev. and expanded ed. ed.). New York: Thames & Hudson. p. 47–50