Monday, October 18, 2010

iar 222. reading comprehension 4.

1) The Neo-Palladian/Georgian, American Georgian, Louis XVI/French Provincial, Late English Georgian, and American Federal periods all display some similarities in design characteristics.


Desk/bookcase w/ Chinoiserie

Windsor chair

Tall clock (Martin Carlin)

State bed (Osterly Park)

Sheraton side chair

All these artifacts are balanced and symmetrical, with some repeating elements. Curvilinear forms create a sense of softness and delicacy. All are made of wood, with smooth and carefully crafted details. All are functional, serving a practical purpose.

interior spaces:

Holkham Hall saloon

Gunston Hall stair hall

Marie Antoinette's bedroom, Fountainbleau

Saltram House saloon

Gardner-Pingree House parlor

All these interior spaces convey classical design language, symmetry, and repetition of elements. Patterns are dense, soft, and naturalistic. Materials are rich and create contrasts. Each space has a sense of formality and serves to display the importance of its owner. Each is balanced in its distribution of furniture and other elements, but also shows emphasis through focal points.


Chiswick House

Drayton Hall

Pantheon (St. Genevieve)

Nathaniel Russel House, Charleston, SC


All these buildings strongly demonstrate classical design language. Balance, symmetry, and proportion are important in the design and ordering of architectural elements. Repetition of forms is also evident. Overall form is relatively simple and geometric. Entrances are strongly emphasized. Materials create contrasts on the facade.


London, England

Williamsburg, Virginia

Paris, France

New Town, Edinburgh, Scotland

Washington, DC

In all five of these places, similar design themes and characteristics are present. Symmetry, order, balance, and proportion guide design. There is a general feel of formality. Classical details and motifs are important elements in architecture and interiors. Naturalistic motifs and geometric and curvilinear forms are also common design features.

Classical design is clearly present in these artifacts, spaces, buildings, and places because of the impact of the Renaissance. Roth describes Renaissance architecture as "rationally comprehensible, formed of planes and spaces organized according to clear, numerical proportional systems, its edges and intervals delineated by the crisp elements of the ancient architectural orders" (Roth, 391). To varying extents, this description can be applied to the architecture and design of these later periods.

2) English Colonial architecture, interiors, and furnishings are generally simpler and less refined than their inspirations in England, but a common design language can be found. Symmetry and order are important, although classical language is not strongly evident. Roofs are steeply pitched with tall chimneys, as in English Renaissance residences. The focal points of interiors are large fireplaces. Textiles continue to be important, and English decorations and motifs are used. Furniture demonstrates symmetry, repeating elements, and curvilinear forms.

Spanish Colonial architecture, interiors, and furnishings clearly draw inspiration from those in Spain, but are simplified. Surface decoration is emphasized, showing Moorish influence. White-washed interior walls contrast with dark wood trim. Decoration is concentrated around doorways, which often have ironwork. On floors, tiles with geometric patterns are common. Furnishings, although not as ornate as those from Spain, display curvilinear decorations.

French Colonial architecture, interiors, and furnishings also demonstrate simplified characteristics from the mother country. Facades demonstrate symmetry, repetition, and horizontal divisions. Roofs are steeply pitched. Interiors show symmetry and rectilinear elements. Furniture follows French styles. Pieces are symmetrical and often rectilinear in form, with some curvilinear elements. Armoires, for example, have simple cornices, double doors, and little decoration.

German and Dutch Colonial architecture, interiors, and furnishings are similar to one another and to their European inspirations. Architecture emphasizes symmetry and verticality, but with horizontal banding across the facade. The concept of stacking is especially evident. Roofs are steeply pitched. Interiors frequently display wood. Storage furniture is symmetrical and has horizontal banding as well.

In American Colonial designs, forms and decoration become simpler than their European inspirations. Generally, wood is used for construction because of an abundance of trees. Buildings are smaller, less formal, and less refined. Opulence is diminished as structure and practicality are more important. Gradually, other influences besides European begin to take effect.

According to Roth, "There were no classical ruins in the New World from which Americans could learn something of what made for good design" (Roth, 459). Thus, American colonies turned to what they knew: European designs.

3) Possible Palladian villa, derived from simple mathematical ratios and fractions:

4) The Baroque period is indeed referred to as the age of theatre. Baroque art and architecture were all about drama, theatricality, and inspiring awe. The Catholic Church, as part of the Counter-Reformation, used the Baroque style and theatre to attract new followers and prevent Protestant conversions. According to Larry F. Norman, "After the Council of Trent (1545-63), the Church launched its powerful propaganda campaign against the Reformation, using all the powers of persuasion at its disposal: opulent architecture and decor, eloquent sermon oratory, powerful painting and sculpture. Despite its continuing distrust of the immorality of theater (actors were, for example, excommunicated), the Church could not easily afford to disdain the persuasive powers of the stage" (

Louis XIV of France used awe-inspiring theatricality at Versailles to bring glory to himself and his reign. Exquisite architectural opulence and stage productions displayed the power of the "sun king."

Individuals in the Baroque period looked to the theatre to learn how to conduct themselves in social situations. According to Larry F. Norman, "The elaboration of a civilization of manners in Renaissance Italy, exemplified by guidebooks to courtly refinement and culture such as Baldassare Castiglione's Il Cortegiano, spread across Europe as the former feudal and warrior class of the aristocracy was domesticated under centralized monarchies and modern states (Elias). Concurrently, the rising bourgeoisie, often freed from day-to-day business concerns, increasingly mingled with the aristocracy while imitating its manners and decorum. The birth of this new large leisured class created a world in which distinction was no longer political or economic, but instead performative: an accomplished person of quality played his or her role in the social comedy with winning grace and wit. Theater became a metaphor for social role-playing as well as a school where spectators learned to improve their own performance at Town or Court" (

1 comment:

  1. nice use of readings throughout. well organized answer to prompt one. strong work throughout.