Wednesday, 7 August 2013

English 17th Century Architecture

As an English person I really love learning about English architecture and that's okay because we have loads of pretty things here in England; BUT when faced with the fact that we were behind for years... there is just no denying. The Renaissance arrived as much as it ever would towards the end of Henry VIII's reign in the early 16th century. By this time, Italy was already pacing through mannerism. We really had no chance, love you England x

The Tower of the 5 Orders, 1613-19, Bodleian Old Quad

The tower of the 5 orders is an extension to the University of Oxford's largest library.
Other than being the set for the hospital and library in Harry Potter other useful qualities include its collection of 11 million books, or so.

It is given its name because the 5 set of columns (going upwards) are of the 5 orders. From bottom to top: Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite.

Oxford, being traditional, kept most of its architecture Gothic. Here you can see a familiar sight of the English architects picking up elements from the continent and sticking it to their walls. The 'base' of this tower is fairly gothic with the pinnacles. Was it a lack of skilled architects? Were we too conservative for our own good? Don't know the answer for the entirety of England at the time but I'm 100% sure in this case it was the latter.

Inigo Jones, Queen's House, Greenwhich, 1616
Lots of symmetry, plain, white, rusticated, recessed portico, no emotion...
Those adjectives describe neither English Gothic OR Baroque, a statement maybe? Or possibly because it was intended to be a private villa, not seen by many.
We know that Inigo Jones had actually been to Italy and studied their architecture closely, it was through no lack of know-how. The only indication we get of Jones' trips to Italy is the portico, this can be compared to Palladio's plan for his 'Palazzo Iseppo Porto' with a similar feature.
Banqueting House, Whitehall, 1619
Only three years later, Jones' Banqueting house is richer in composition than the Queen's House. The rustication has been followed through the entire body of the building with a balustrade (much like above) to unite the whole composition.
It stood out from the other buildings at Whitehall that were a century older. England in the Baroque era, as a separate entity from the continent and slightly less susceptible to the diffusion of styles, has a confusing mix of styles throughout this time. Perhaps I could call it eclectic - specially since Inigo Jones as a Palladian enthusiast seems to have picked up some of his ideas and applied them here. This building leans towards Neo-Classicism; but with the 4 centralised engaged columns bursting from the façade of pilasters gives it a slight hint of the Baroque.
 Covent Garden Piazza, St. Pauls Church, 1631
Inigo also designed the church in what was a new idea to English people: a piazza. It was a commission for the 4th Earl of Bedford, Francis Russell. The square was designed for 'wealthy gentlemen' and in my opinion the plain façade with detail solely around the door and Tuscan columns lends itself somewhat to mannerism. It's really weird and out of place.
Old St. Pauls, Inigo's Portico 1633
Old St. Pauls was burnt down in the 1666 Great Fire of London. Before however, Inigo had designed a Portico for the church. It may well have been one of the biggest north of the Alps. Details included volutes on the side, Corinthian capitals and statues of Charles I and King James. It looks strange on the end of a Gothic church; however it was monumental nonetheless.
One reason for its monumental status was due to Oliver Cromwell, a military Puritan. He famously stripped the portico of its religious duties and used it as a shop for seamstresses, and very disrespectfully smashed the statues of the two monarchs to the floor. Of course, he was fairly busy before this. In 1649 he was one of the men who signed for Charles I's death warrant and then enjoyed a brief role as the head of the commonwealth until he essentially spearheaded a whole army campaign to dismiss the Rump Parliament in 1653. After this, he assembled the Barebones Parliament (also short lived). He died in 1658, and when the royals were back with Charles II by 1660 they had him dug up and beheaded!
St. Pauls, Sir Christopher Wren, completed 1710
Unlike the French lot who could just get rid of 3 villages to suit their building needs Charles II did not enjoy absolute power. There was land that was owned by other people - and he couldn't override that despite being a respected 'head of state'. Therefore, St. Pauls was built in an awkward spot.
The façade is playful with shapes and has several Baroque features. One is movement, the occulus (circle thingies) and its cornice above are waiting to burst into the tower space, as is the pediment into the dome. The contours of the towers protrude and recess. Cornices lie above the frieze atop the capitals of the columns and offer a continuation of the space.
The dome appears to be a cross between the Baroque dome of the church of the Invalides (Hardouin Mansart, 1679) in Paris and the Renaissance Tempietto by Bramante (early 1500's).
Blenheim Palace John Vanbrugh, c.1705 1722
Intended to be a gift to the 1st Duke of Malrborough, John Churchill, after a victory at the battle of Blenheim.
It has broken pediments, recessing and protruding elements alongside colossal columns and monumental ornament on the roof. It is what can be considered as English Baroque - this exact style was very shortlived and only lasted the beginning of the 18th century.
Royal Navy Hospital, Greenwhichm Wren, Hawksmoor, Vanbrugh, 1696 - 1712
Here there's the canteen to the right and chapel to the left from the hospital, with the queen's house from a century earlier.
Falls into the category of 'English Baroque'. Emphatic doric order, cut into pediment, big statues, recessed windows, big cornice, pronounced pediment....
One thing to note is the semi circular cut into the pediments. That is typical of Hawksmoor.
Castle Howard, for 3rd Earl of Carlisle, Vanbrugh, 1699- 1712
Giant Pilasters, Borromino dome, taller drum than usual for the dome, Ribs of dome continue the line down to the pilasters, sense of verticality, breaking out cornice, pediment cutting cornice... All very Baroque. Atlas weighing the world in the fountain pictured in front of the building was a later addition.

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