THE BILTMORE HOUSE

THE BILTMORE HOUSE

A couple of years ago, my husband, Tom Claus and I spent three fantastic days in Asheville, NC, home to the Biltmore House. The place is awesome. It is the largest privately-owned home in the United States. The 250-room mansion features 33 family and guest bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 65 fireplaces, three kitchens, an indoor swimming pool with electric underwater lights and a bowling alley. We took an architectural tour and got to see behind the scenes.

A cozy room at the Biltmore

George W. Vanderbilt III knew what he was doing. His inheritance was less than his siblings, but he managed well. He called in the prominent New York architect, Richard Morris Hunt, who had previously designed houses for various Vanderbilt family members, to design the house in the Chateauesque style, using several Loire Valley French Renaissance architecture chateaux, including the Chateau de Blois as models. The house has similar features as France’s Chateau Chambord. He closely copied the staircase of the Chateau de Blois. The estate includes its own village, today named Biltmore Village, and a church in town, known today as the “Cathedral of All Souls.”

Christmas entry Hall

The collections at the house are priceless furnishings and artworks. The house is equipped with every convenience from elevators to refrigerators. The surrounding grounds, designed by prominent landscape architect, who also designed New York’s  Central Park, Frederick Law Olmsted, are impressive, encompassing 125,000 acres of forests, farms and a dairy, a 250-acre wooded park, five pleasure gardens and 30 miles of macadamized roadways.

Biltmore House was his  country home, a respite away from city life, and a place for his mother when she visited the hot springs in the area. It became an American icon. Unfortunately,  after his death and the passing of his wife, Edith Vanderbilt, it became run down, like other historic sites. Developers offered to buy 12,000 acres to build subdivisions. But George’s great-grandson, William A. V. Cecil, Jr. thought not. By the 1950’s Cecil had started a restoration project. The treasure was to remain with the Vanderbilt family.

Jan Aertsen van der Bilt had emigrated to this country from Holland around  1650. They prospered as farmers on Staten Island, New York and lived modestly. It was only during the lifetime of Cornelius Vanderbilt (1794-1877) that the family name became synonymous with extraordinary wealth. It was especially important to me to visit this architectural wonder, not only architecturally, but to follow the trek of the Vanderbilt family.  My affiliation with the 1867 Lockwood Mathews Mansion Museum in Norwalk, CT connects me to the Vanderbilt name through the business relationship of Cornelius (aka as the Commander) and LeGrand Lockwood, same as the mansion mentioned above.

eBook, print book, audio book

HIGH ABOVE ORLANDO

HIGH ABOVE ORLANDO

Front entry

Orange County Convention Center

Design. A crucial element of architecture. On a recent visit to Orlando, I discovered the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC). The building inspired me to step back into my training as an architecture and design critic. Hence, today’s blog!

Sunset

Sunset

Disney’s happy, fantasyland  permeates Orlando.  So many buildings reminded me of Disney, with arches, pyramids, turrets, moving walkways, and gorgeous, glowing sunsets draped over buildings. orange-county-center-1In particular, the OCCC. Locals call the twin-arched convention center, the “Center of Hospitality”. The convention center is one of the largest in the country, second only to McCormick Place in Chicago. Organizations like American Institute of Architects, AIA, and American Society of Interior Designers, ASID, secure spaces there for their conferences. Vendors exhibit the latest in building materials and design for architects and designers.

Arches culminating into a crown

Arches culminating into a crown

I fell for the elaborate designs of the convention center’s arches that spike above the building. Curiosity got the better of me, and I had to explore. The parts relate to each other. Smaller arches grow into the final crowning arches that tower over the building. Adjacent to these arches, there is a glass pyramid, similar to IM Pei’s pyramid at the Fontainebleau in Paris.

IM Pei

IM Pei

Solar World

Solar World

Yes, it’s GREEN! Orange County Government, who owns and operates the center must be proud of its place in power savings with solar panels on the roof on the South Concourse. On April 18, 2012, the Architect’s Florida Chapter placed the building on its list of Florida Architecture: 100 Years. 100 Places.IMG_3021

I-360 changing colors, all 420ft, it’s gorgeous. It can be seen from almost everywhere around Orlando!

For another thrill, there is the I-360. At first you think it’s a Ferris Wheel. It does move, but it takes 22 minutes from start to finish. Besides being a ride, you can hire the whole thing out for a party or wedding. The wheel changes colors, as shown here. I hear the view from the top is astounding day or night.

 

Indigo Sky

Indigo Sky

If you like to read, my book, Indigo Sky is waiting for you. I hope you will read it, and I hope you’ll adore it. I’m going to choose three of you from my newsletter list to win a gift of my book on March 1st. Dash over to Facebook and say hello, and you’ll be entered two times.

You can order the eBook on Amazon and read it on Kindle. Download the Kindle App for free from Amazon for your device.

Amazon Indigo Sky buy Link

MIAMI BEACH

MIAMI BEACH

Helen Mar Hotel

Helen Mar Hotel

Buzz words . . . Miami Beach, a place everyone wants to be in the winter. It never snows,  and the sun shines mostly all the time. Hush, don’t tell I said it, but Miami Beach is New York City South. Miami Beach isn’t even little New York—it’s big, with the arts,  music, theatre, famous restaurants  and some pretty interesting history. What else? Fantastic shopping, from the outlets to the elite. It’s all here, so is the traffic, the people and the tourists.

Miami-BeachMiami Beach has been one of America’s pre-eminent beach resorts since the early 20th century. In 1979, Miami Beach’s Art Deco Historic District was listed on the National Register of Historic Places. miamiarchitectural miamideliThe Art Deco District is the largest collection of Art Deco architecture in the world and comprises hundreds of hotels, apartments and other structures erected between 1923 and 1943. Mediterranean, Streamline Moderne and Art Deco are all represented in the District. The Historic District is bounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the East, Lenox Court on the West, 6th Street on the South and Dade Boulevard along the Collins Canal to the North.

South-Beach-Miami-hotelsEach December, the City of Miami Beach hosts Art Basel Miami Beach, one of the largest art shows in the United States. Art Basel Miami Beach, the sister event to the Art Basel event held each June in Basel, Switzerland, combines an international selection of top galleries with a program of special exhibitions, parties and crossover events featuring music, film, architecture and design. Exhibition sites are located in the city’s Art Deco District, and ancillary events are scattered throughout the greater Miami metropolitan area.

Frank Gehry's New World Center

Frank Gehry’s New World Center

Miami Beach is home to the New World Symphony, established in 1987 under the artistic direction of Michael Tilson Thomas. In January 2011, the New World Symphony made a highly publicized move into the New World Center building designed by Canadian American Pritzker Prize-winning architect Frank Gehry.  The new Gehry building offers Live Wallcasts™, which allow visitors to experience select events throughout the season at the half-acre, outdoor Miami Beach SoundScape through the use of visual and audio technology on a 7,000-square-foot projection wall.

I remember Miami Beach long ago in the 1960’s when it was a sweet small beach town.  Since then, the town has grown up into a mega metropolis.

Have you experienced Miami Beach?

 

ARCHITECTURE WORTH SAVING

ARCHITECTURE WORTH SAVING

A version of this article, by Michael Kimmelman, appears in print on January 27, 2015, on page C1 of the New York edition of the New York Times, with the headline:  A Chance to Salvage a Master’s Creation

Photo Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Photo Credit Fred R. Conrad/The New York Times

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center in Goshen, N.Y., is on the World Monuments Fund’s watch list.

Unless county legislators act quickly, a paragon of midcentury American idealism will be lost.

Paul Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, in Goshen, N.Y., announces itself as a civic hub. It’s made of corrugated concrete and glass, organized into three pavilions around a courtyard, like an old wagon train around a village green.

A county proposal would tear down huge chunks of it, flatten the roof, destroy windows, swap out parts of the textured concrete facade and build what looks like an especially soul-crushing glass box. Goshen would end up with a Frankenstein’s monster, eviscerating a work that the World Monuments Fund, alarmed by precisely this turn of events, included on its global watch list alongside landmarks like Machu Picchu and the Great Wall of China.

Haters in Orange County government have been contemplating its demise for years, allowing it to fall into disrepair and shuttering the building, citing water damage after Hurricane Irene in 2011. Pictures of the interior from the early 1970s, when the center was still new, show a complex of animated spaces, by turns intimate and grand. Later renovations ruined the inside, making it cramped and dark. Rudolph was a master of sculpturing light and space, following in the footsteps of Frank Lloyd Wright, whose emotionalism he married to the cool Modernism of Europeans like Walter Gropius and Le Corbusier.

His style, unfortunately, came to be branded Brutalism, and turned off many. But the government center was conceived with lofty social aspirations, making tangible Rudolph’s concept of energetic governance as a democratic ideal. It was a beautiful notion; and while the architecture may never win any popularity contest, it was beautiful, too, with its poetry of asymmetric, interweaving volumes.

Although the center no longer seems to suit Orange County administrators, it can be repurposed. Gene Kaufman, the owner and principal of Gwathmey Siegel Kaufman Architects in New York City, has offered to pay the county $5 million for the building and restore it as an artists’ live-work space, with public exhibitions. Mr. Kaufman has also offered to design a brand new government center next door for $65 million — millions less than the $74 million county officials allotted some time ago for the plan to tear down part of the building and add the glass box.

But Steven M. Neuhaus, Orange County executive, seems determined to pursue the teardown plan. MidHudsonNews.com quoted him the other day as saying that “construction and deconstruction work” will begin “by spring of this year.” He recently vetoed a proposal that would have allowed the county to sell the center to Mr. Kaufman.

Customized fluted concrete blocks were used in Rudolph's Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y. (1963–71), which narrowly escaped recent demolition attempts. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

Customized fluted concrete blocks were used in Rudolph’s Orange County Government Center, Goshen, N.Y. (1963–71), which narrowly escaped recent demolition attempts. Courtesy of Library of Congress, Prints and Photographs Division.

County legislators meet on Feb. 5. They have a chance to override the veto. I gather that local merchants have complained about lost revenue since government workers relocated to temporary quarters after the center closed. They may be pushing for whatever is in the pipeline.

But many people who spoke at a public hearing last month in Goshen endorsed Mr. Kaufman’s proposal. It would save the center, potentially save the county a fortune, bring in tourist dollars and even put the Rudolph building on the tax rolls. Demolishing Penn Station seemed expedient to politicians and other people a half-century ago, when only a noisy bunch of architecture buffs and preservationists pleaded for its reprieve. Back then, Rudolph was a leading light in American architecture, his work the epitome of American invention and daring. He lived long enough (he died in 1997, at 78) to see his reputation decline with the rise of Post Modernism, whose own eclipse has coincided with renewed interest in Rudolph’s legacy.

Orange County legislators should take a look at his Art and Architecture Building at Yale, which Post Modernists had squarely in their cross hairs. Opened in 1963, it was restored several years ago by the firm of Gwathmey Siegel. Ugly partitions and drop ceilings from an unfortunate renovation were stripped away, years of contempt and neglect erased. Cramped, dark, byzantine spaces returned to how Rudolph intended them: light-filled, exalting, with serendipitous vistas and a communal, townlike connectedness. There’s a syncopated flow to the building. The concrete facade, its corduroy pattern bush-hammered by hand, looks quarried from some immense rock. Almost miraculous, the restoration vindicates Rudolph.

History is on the Government Center’s side, too. Here’s hoping county legislators are.

What do you think? Why do we continue to tear down our history?

GEESE, ALLIGATORS AND AN INN

GEESE, ALLIGATORS AND AN INN

P1090517Alligators, about four feet long, Hmm, maybe six feet for this one, with heads at least a third of their bodies, hang out on the edge of the waterways. They lay on the grassy lagoons basking in the sunlight. Tom and I were strolling by, shocked to see alligators in this place that is supposed to be a hotel/Inn on the bluffs of the Ashley River in South Carolina. I began to walk closer to get a good picture, but I felt a hand on my arm pull me back. “You don’t want to get too close, do you?” asked my hubby Tom. But as I persevered, the alligator picked up his head, and I jumped back. But like lightening, it was gone as it dropped into the water. They didn’t seem as though they were interested in eating us, or anyone else for that matter. At least no one has gone missing . . . yet. P1090166

On the bluffs of the Ashley River, The Inn at Middleton Place, is nestled amongst old pines and centuries old oak trees, trees that are at least eight-hundred years old, with a girth of thirty-three feet, and steps away from the country’s oldest landscaped gardens. It was like being in summer camp, in the South, where alligators prevail. A camp like no other I remember. There are no paved roads or walkways. What appears to be a dense forest at the edge of the river, climbs up to level walkway, I guess that would be called the bluffs.

Middleton-Place-Hotel-Exterior-2-DEFThe organization of the architecture is most unusual in its boxy appearance created by the tall walls of windows, divided by bold, dark grids in each bank of buildings. The buildings appear to be tall boxes juxtaposed to each other. I think the idea was to create an environment of informal elegance.

In the interior, the floor to ceiling windows bring into every room views of the pastoral woodland setting sweeping views over the meandering Ashley River, where the rice plantation culture, not the cotton culture that prevailed in the South, flourished more than 200 years ago. P1090235

P1090545 P1090457 P1090435The stable yard is fascinating. It’s filled with ducks, white geese, peacocks, chickens, roosters, milking cows and horses of all sorts. And soaking in a water pond, two water buffalo, one white, one black, hang out. They follow you with their eyes as you walk by and appear very serious about soaking in the pond. If you happen to be around the stables when they feed the chickens, all the birds come running. It’s hilarious to watch the feathered fellows gather and squawk within their clans, and push their way in to get their share.

 

The inn is on the property of the Middleton family’s 18th century plantation and is about thirteen miles northwest of Charleston. It feels very secluded, but just outside the property is busy US 61 with  several condominium neighborhoods and the Magnolia Plantation just up the road. People from the wintery North are moving  to the sunny South to escape the harsh winters. Hmm, tempting.

 

Middleton Place was established in 1741.  Four generations of Middletons’ occupied the estate. Days after the fall of Charleston in 1865, the Main House and flanking buildings were ransacked and burned by a detachment of the 56th New York Regiment on February 22nd. The ground was strewn with books, paintings and other family treasures. William Middleton restored the South Flanker. What was left of the Main House and North Flanker toppled in the Earthquake of 1886.

middleton oak closeup with museumThe restored South Flanker survived and is a museum today. Middleton Place is a National Historic Landmark and home to America’s Oldest Landscaped Gardens visited by thousands.

According to the words of the ads, the inn offers guests a unique, hands on approach to experiencing the LowCountry of South Carolina. This secluded inn is the perfect place to reconnect with nature and history while being a short drive from the culture and beauty of historic Charleston. Ground tours include the Middleton Place Gardens, house Museum, and stable yards.

Rice Fields as they were in the 19th century

Rice Fields as they were in the 19th century

P1090251Within this luscious landscape, a five-star restaurant resides. We did indulge, why not? We were a captive audience, and who doesn’t enjoy good food? And drink of course. Plenty of wine choices and beverages of all kinds. Have you ever heard of a Bloody Mary and “sweep the kitchen”? It’s spiced tomato juice with veggies, and liquor of your choice or not.P1090232 P1090222 P1090733 P1090684 P1090172

Why not visit? Wouldn’t this place make a fascinating setting for your next book? Especially you history buffs?

Scroll down for a picture show.

P1090637 P1090650 P1090580 P1090625

Can you see the alligator near the water?

Can you see the alligator near the water?P1090607

PAPER ARCHITECTURE

PAPER ARCHITECTURE

Architecture generally involves creating monuments to permanence from . . .  transient materials like paper tubes and plastic beer crates.

House of Cards Japanese Pavilion 2000

‘House of Cards’ Japanese Pavilion Expo 2000

The Japanese Pavilion for Expo 2000, held in Hannover, Germany, was a grid structure made ​​of recyclable paper tubes resulting in a building with honeycomb. Ban created the pavilion building in collaboration with the architect Frei Otto and structural engineer Buro Happold. The 72-meter-long gridshell structure was made with paper tubes. But due to stringent building laws in Germany, the roof had to be reinforced with a substructure. After the exhibition the structure was recycled and returned to paper pulp. Shigeru Ban, born in Tokyo, Japan, is an international architect, most famous for his innovative work with paper. His use of  recycled cardboard tubes affords prompt and efficient housing to disaster victims. In the aftermath of the 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, Ban built temporary homes for Vietnamese refugees using beer crates filled with sandbags. In the mid-1990s, he was the first architect in Japan to construct a building primarily out of paper  and required special approval to pass Japan’s strict building codes. Ban has a romance with paper because of its low cost, recyclability, low-technology and replaceability. Another aspect of Ban’s influence is his humanitarianism and his attraction to ecological architecture. Ban’s work with paper and other materials is heavily based on its sustainability and its lack of waste.  As a result, Ban’s DIY refugee shelters (used in Japan after the Kobe earthquake, in Turkey, Rwanda and around the world) are very popular and effective for low-cost disaster relief-housing, as seen in the cardboard container housing in the image below.

Japanese housing complex

Japanese housing complex

Ban is referred to as an ecological architect, a modernist, an experimentalist and rationalist. Ban himself quotes, “I don’t like waste,” summing up his philosophy. He was profiled by Time magazine in their projection of 21st century innovators in the field of architecture and design. In 2014, Ban was named the 37th recipient of the Pritzker Architecture Prize, the most prestigious prize in modernist architecture. The Pritzker Jury cited Ban for his innovative use of material and his dedication to humanitarian efforts around the world. If you are wondering about the use of paper in building–no worries–the paper tubes used for support in Ban’s buildings are protected from the elements  by a roof above and concrete floors below. Perhaps you would like to make your own paper architecture?

The Paper Architect: Fold-It-Yourself Buildings and Structures Hardcover-spiral, by Marivi Garrido (Author), Ingrid Siliakus (Author) can be found at Amazon. Here’s the Amazon link:

AUSSIE DEDICATION

AUSSIE DEDICATION

tennis australian_open_logo_04The Rod Laver Tennis Stadium has nothing to do with the Sydney Opera House, except while watching the players at this important tennis event this week in Melbourne, I thought about how dedicated Australia is to sports, architecture and the arts. I was reminded of a spectacular edifice in the architectural world 550 miles away in Sydney.

The Sydney Opera House.

Jørn Oberg Utzon, (9 April 1918 – 29 November 2008) was a Danish architect, most notable for designing the Sydney Opera House in Australia.

In 1957, Utzon unexpectedly won the competition to design the Sydney Opera House. His submission was one of 233 designs from 32 countries, many of them from the most famous architects of the day. Although he had won six other architectural competitions previously, the Opera House was his first non-domestic project. One of the judges, Eero Saarinen, described it as “genius” and declared he could not endorse any other choice. When it was declared a World Heritage Site on 28 June 2007, Utzon became only the second person to have received such recognition for one of his works during his lifetime.

The Sydney Opera House Photo by

The Sydney Opera House Photo by Biarte Sorensen

Looking like wind-filled sails,12 white cement shells up to nearly 200 feet (160 meters) high stand on a deck of natural stone at the tip of a tongue of land extending into Sydney harbor, irrational and without any direct function but to arouse emotion. Yet they have become the symbol not just for Sidney but for the whole fifth continent. They stand in two rows on top of the “experience zone,” the concert hall, opera theatre, stage theatre, two foyers and main restaurant. The horizontally layered building underneath contains several stones of servicing departments for all the “experiences.” Utzon’s 1956 design for the Opera House won him the international competition and the contract to build it. Utzon’s designs puts him in the company of the organic tradition of architects, Wright, Scharoun, Asplund and Aalto.tennis access to opera housesydney1 tennis front view sydney oh lit tennis front view sydney-opera-house-05

Opera House interior view

Opera House interior view

The new Minister for Public Works, Davis Hughes, was not enthusiastic about the project. Elizabeth Farrelly, Australian architecture critic, has written that at an election night dinner party, Hughes’s daughter, Sue Burgoyne, boasted that her father would soon sack Utzon. Hughes had no interest in art, architecture or aesthetics. A fraud, as well as a philistine, he had been exposed before Parliament and dumped as Country Party leader for falsely claiming a university degree. The Opera House gave Hughes a second chance. For him, as for Utzon, it was all about control, about the triumph of homegrown mediocrity over foreign genius.

Utzon soon found himself in conflict with the new Minister. Attempting to rein in the escalating cost of the project, Hughes began questioning Utzon’s capability, his designs, schedules and cost estimates, refusing to pay running costs. In 1966, after a final request from Utzon that plywood manufacturer Ralph Symonds should be one of the suppliers for the roof structure was refused, he resigned from the job, closed his Sydney office and vowed never to return to Australia. When Utzon left, the shells were almost complete, and costs amounted to only $22.9 million. Following major changes to the original plans for the interiors, costs finally rose to $103 million.tennis Sydney_Opera_House_Close_up_HDR_Sydney_AustraliaHowever, the Opera House was finally completed, and was opened in 1973 by Elizabeth II, Queen of Australia. The architect was not invited to the ceremony, nor was his name even mentioned during any of the speeches. He was, however, to be recognized later when he was asked to design updates to the interior of the opera house. The Utzon Room, overlooking Sydney Harbor, was officially dedicated in October 2004. In a statement at the time Utzon wrote: “The fact that I’m mentioned in such a marvellous way, gives me the greatest pleasure and satisfaction. I don’t think you can give me more joy as the architect. It supersedes any medal of any kind that I could get and have gotten.” Furthermore, Frank Gehry, one of the Pritzker Prize judges, commented: “Utzon made a building well ahead of its time, far ahead of available technology, and he persevered through extraordinarily malicious publicity and negative criticism to build a building that changed the image of an entire country.”

What do you love most, architecture, the arts, tennis or something else? If you had to pick, which would it be? If something else, what is it?

FORM FOLLOWS FEMININE

FORM FOLLOWS FEMININE

Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, who designed some of the 20th Century’s most famous modernist buildings, died December 5, 2012, ten days before his 105th birthday. Oscar n archway into skyA memorial service was held in the presidential palace in Brasilia. Niemeyer’s family was informed of the honor in a phone call from President Dilma Rousseff. “Brazil has lost one of its geniuses.” Rio de Janeiro’s Mayor Eduardo Paes declared three days of mourning in Niemeyer’s home city.

A student of Le Corbusier, Niemeyer developed a distinctive style defined by stark concrete and sweeping curves. He rose to international fame as the architect of the main government buildings in the Brazilian capital, Brasilia, inaugurated in 1960. His bold futuristic designs in Brasilia made the new capital a dramatic statement of confidence in the future of Brazil, and an icon of modern architecture. He also worked with Swiss-born modernist architect Le Corbusier on the UN building in New York. He continued to work on new projects until earlier 2012.

curvy

Niemeyer said his stylized swoops were inspired by Brazilian women’s curves.

“Form follows function” has been the credo of designers and architects since the 19th century. The dictum was coined by the American architect Louis Sullivan in his article “The Tall Office Building Artistically Considered” that was published in 1896.

The last hundred years of architecture are often described–in grossly simplified language–by a tug-of-war between ornament and functionalism. Niemeyer never saw things in those terms. He was 20 years younger than Le Corbusier and looked up to him. Like Corbu, Niemeyer saw his expressive buildings as “pure forms,” driven by his own brand of rationalism. “When you have a large space to conquer, the curve is the natural solution,” he said. “I once wrote a poem about the curve. The curve I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean and on the body of the beloved woman.” “My work is not about ‘form follows function,'” he famously said, “but ‘form follows beauty’ or, even better, ‘form follows feminine.'”

In 1988, he was awarded the prestigious Pritzker Prize. British architect Lord Norman Foster was inspired by Niemeyer, then a 104 year-old who was still youthful in his energy and creativity. “He told me that architecture is important, but that life is more important. And yet in the end his architecture is his ultimate legacy. Like the man himself, it is eternally youthful – he leaves us with a source of delight and inspiration for many generations to come.”

Oscar Niemeyer portrait by Eduardo Kobra

Oscar Niemeyer portrait by Eduardo Kobra

However, Niemeyer’s style was not to everyone’s taste, and for a communist some people say his work was not very people-friendly – focusing more on the architecture’s form than on its inhabitants or functionality. He went on to create more than 600 buildings around the world. His legacy endures in museums, monuments, schools and churches in Brazil and beyond. Many of the designs were initially sketched on a table overlooking his beloved Rio de Janeiro and its famous Copacabana beach, replete with the women, waves and hills from which he drew such inspiration.

Renzo Piano, fellow architect said, “Architecture is a profession where you need a long period of apprenticeship. You never stop learning, this is something that Niemeyer kept saying. And I think he learned until the end, he was that kind of person. As an architect you have to be a sociologist, builder, scientist, poet. It was about integrity. In some ways he was more of a moral example, an example of life. He was concerned about political life, and architecture is political in some ways. In the sense of doing things that belonged to the civic life of people in the city. Architecture is the art of making cities not just making buildings. He was a good example of how architecture can be a noble, civilized job.”

Brazilian street artist Eduardo Kobra has graced the entire side of a skyscraper on the bustling street of Paulista Avenue in Sao Paulo with a 52 meter tall polychromatic portrait of Oscar Niemeyer. Kobra began work on the mural on the 14th of January, 2013 and since then has solicited the help of four other artists from his team to complete the colossal artwork. Oscar Niemeyer 1 EduardoKobra1

Which is your favorite? Clean curvy contemporary forms or the classics with ornamentation?

 

 

ROMANCING A CASTLE

ROMANCING A CASTLE

Durham Castle

Durham Castle

Romancing a castle, or is it romance in a castle? We are fascinated with the idea of a castle. Kids create sand castles, sculptors carve ice castles and street artists paint 3-D images of castles onto sidewalks. Castles were built for the Crusaders as protection–designed for strength, not beauty. Yet their massiveness and skillful masonry convey a sense of grandeur and of style. There is no mistaking the character of a Norman Keep at the top of a castle.

Durham Castle Keep exterior

Durham Castle Keep exterior

Castles were designed to deal with weapons and tactics which changed  slowly, and the availability of materials, manpower and skills was also influential. The shortage of timber in Palestine, for example, encouraged the use of more stone than in Europe.

For some centuries, the security of life in towns depended upon their fortifications, and the constricting girdle of walls and towers did much to shape the architecture of cities. As with the island of Manhattan, they encouraged high rather than wide building. Castles were fortified villages, sheltering people of every level of society and providing a store for grain against famine as well as imminent siege.

Durham Keep Terrace

Durham Keep Terrace

Durham Castle is a Norman castle in the city of Durham, England. In 1837, the castle was donated to the newly-formed University of Durham by Bishop Edward Maltby as accommodation for students. It was named University College. Architect Anthony Salvin rebuilt the dilapidated Keep from the original plans. Opened in 1840, the castle still houses over 100 students, most of whom are in the Keep.

Castle Keep details (Dover Castle)

Castle Keep details (Dover Castle)

Click the Keep above for the details.

The castle stands on top of a hill above the River Wear on Durham’s peninsula, opposite Durham Cathedral.The castle was originally built in the 11th century as a projection of the Norman king’s power in the north of England, as the population of England in the north remained “wild and fickle” following the disruption of the Norman Conquest in 1066. It is an example of the early motte and bailey castles favored by the Normans. The holder of the office of the Bishop of Durham was a appointed by the King to exercise royal authority on his behalf, the castle was his seat.

Castle Bodiam moat

Castle Bodiam moat

The design of castles has always been a subject worthy of princes. Château Gaillard is a ruined medieval castle, located 90 meters above the commune of Les Andelys overlooking the River Seine in the Upper Normandy region of northern France, one of the most original designs, was the personal achievement of Richard I of England. The owners of most castles played a large part in their design.

Chateau Gaillard, France

Chateau Gaillard, France

The evidence is scanty, but we can reasonably surmise  there was a close working relationship between the princes and the peers who designed the castles and their usually anonymous master masons, who signed their work with their individual marks.

chest 12th century

English: 12th century oak chest iron wrapped. Original purpose-to store alms from sinners seeking remission

The styles of this period are known as Romanesque and Norman (800-1150). After the Battle of Hastings in 1066, the new king, William the Conqueror granted protection and repose to the conquered Saxon Thanes. Medieval homes were sparsely furnished by modern standards. The most common items were chests. They came in a variety of shapes and sizes. Besides serving as easily transportable storage containers, the chest also served as tables and for seating. Wood of the day was oak, or whatever local woods were available. A visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, will give you a first hand look at this type of work.

chest-Tudor type (wood-oak)

Oak chest-iron wrapped

The seven Crusades that occurred between the years 1096 and 1270 were of great political, economic and artistic importance. The Crusades did not accomplish any lasting good so far as their original purpose was concerned. They brought, however, a great change in the thought and in the manner of living of the people of Europe that was first noticeable in the Gothic period. They awakened interest at home in the ancient civilizations of Greece, Asia Minor, and the highly developed culture of the Eastern Empire, and they developed a doubt concerning some of the doctrines of the established Roman church, that later formed the roots of the Renaissance.

Durham Castle is jointly designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site with Durham Cathedral, a short distance across Palace Green.

Would you like to live in a castle? Hmm, well, experience living in one for a day, a week, a year?

 

 

NORMAN STYLE

NORMAN STYLE

Durham Castle note crenelation on top of structure

Durham Castle–later a Cathedral (note crenelation on top edges, typical of fortified structures)

Durham Castle, seen here with its crenelated top edge was fortification.The Normans, upon conquering England, fortifications came first, they provided shelter and protection. But churches were also built, small and grand. Medieval churches were often hurried affairs in a wood design, replaced later with rusticated stone. The churches eventually grew into cathedrals, larger than life structures. Since religion was the dominant interest of Europe, architecture consisted primarily of church construction.

Bracewell in Lanchashire church

Bracewell in Lancashire church

Bracewell is a small village just northwest of Barnoldswick, Lancashire. The church of St Michael’s is a lovely old Norman building, dating to around the year 1100. It was not established as a parish church, but as a private chapel for the Tempest family.

 

church PC GreenstedGlassSt Michael stained-glass can be seen from inside the church.

Greensted Church north wall - wood

Greensted Church north wall – wood

Greensted Church

Greensted Church

It has been told that Greensted Church, in the small village of Greensted-juxta-Ongar, near Chipping Ongar in Essex, England, is the oldest wooden church in the world and probably the oldest wooden building in Europe still standing, albeit only in part, since few sections of its original wooden structure remain. The oak walls are often classified as remnants of a palisade church or a kind of early stave church, dated either to the mid-9th or mid-11th century. Its full title is The Church of St Andrew, Greensted-juxta-Ongar. It is, however, commonly known simply as Greensted Church. Greensted is still a functioning church and holds services every week. The most interesting feature is probably the south doorway, which is typically Norman, the chancel arch, also Norman, and the tower arch, which dates to the 14th century and an early example of the soon to come Pointed Gothic style. Very little of the original medieval glass remains, but there are fragments of 14th century glass depicting coats of arms of local gentry. The nave pews are by the famed Kilburn woodworker, Rober Thompson, aka ‘The Mouseman’, and show Thompson’s favoured mouse motif. The church was featured on a British postage stamp issued in 1972.

800px-Durham_Cathedral_from_the_south-2This is the Cathedral side of the ‘castle’ seen above in the first image. Durham Cathedral replaced the 10th century “White Church”, built as part of a monastic foundation to house the Shrine of Saint Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. The Chapter Library contains one of the most complete sets of early printed books in England, the pre-Dissolution monastic accounts, and three copies of the Magna Carta. Durham Cathedral occupies a strategic position on a promontory high above the River Wear. From 1080 until the 19th century the bishopric enjoyed the powers of a Bishop Palatine, having military as well as religious leadership and power. It was built as the residence for the Bishop of Durham. Initially, a very simple temporary structure was built from local timber to house the relics of Cuthbert. The shrine was then transferred to a sturdier, probably wooden, building known as the White Church, later replaced by a stone building by the same name. The flow of money from pilgrims of power embodied in the church ensure that a town formed around the cathedral, establishing the early core of the modern city.

Durham interior zigzag and diamond patterns on columns

Durham interior zigzag and diamond patterns incised on columns and arches. Ceiling ribs have the patterns incised as well.

Norman

The current Cathedral was designed and built under William of Calais, who was appointed as the first prince-bishop by William the Conqueror in 1080. Since then, major additions and reconstruction has been prevalent. But, the greater part of the structure remains true to the Norman Design. This is a term related to the styles of Romanesque architecture by the Normans in lands under their influence in the 11th and 12th centuries.

There were other structures as well, all characterized by the usual Romanesque rounded arches particularly over windows and doorways.

Norman Arch

Norman Arch

The buildings show massive proportions in simple geometries, the masonry with small bands of sculpture, perhaps as blind arcading, and concentrated spaces of capitals and round doorways and in the tympanum under an arch. The “Norman arch” is the round arch and sometimes slightly pointed as in the Durham interior ceiling here above. Norman mouldings are carved or incised with geometric ornament, such as chevron patterns, frequently termed “zig-zag mouldings”. The cruciform churches often had deep chancels and a square crossing tower which has remained a feature of English ecclesiastical architecture. Hundreds of parish churches were built and the great English cathedrals were founded from 1083.  As Gothic with its pointed arches became more popular, Norman eventually became a modest style of provincial building.

Do you have a favorite ecclesiastical architecture, past or present?

Look for more next week…

 

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