domingo, 11 de diciembre de 2011

St. Paul's Cathedral


The cathedral of London, dedicated to Paul the apostle, was originally built in circa 886, at the top of Ludgate Hill, which is the highest point in the city of London.

The episcopal see was actually founded as early as 604, but the location of the first cathedral is not known or even whether one was built.

The church on Ludgate Hill was destroyed in 962 due to fire. It is assumed that the church was built in wood. The next cathedral was begun in 962, possibly in stone. However, this structure also succumbed to fire, in 1087.

A Norman style cathedral was begun shortly after the fire, and it is this structure, though heavily modified, which was destroyed in the famous fire of 1666. The new church was completed in 1314. In the meantime, work was delayed by another fire in 1135.

The choir, added in the 1250s, was in the gothic style. The nave and transepts however, were Romanesque and initially built with a timber roof.

Once completed, the cathedral attained a full length of 178 metres. The central spire reached the height of 149 metres in the years 1444 to 1561. Always vulnerable to lightening strikes, no further efforts to rebuild the spire took place after that year.

Inigo Jones, the man credited as the first English architect to introduce classical architecture to Britain, produced a proposal for a re-design of the cathedral’s west front in 1620.

The cathedral had been in bad shape since Elizabethan times, but funds were not immediately available. In 1634, however, Jones was appointed surveyor of a commission to repair St. Paul’s.

Jones restored the gothic choir without alterations, but encased the rest of the structure in rusticated masonry. The biggest change was at the west front, where Jones added a 10-column wide portico surmounted with statues. The model for this was probably Palladio’s drawings of the Roman temple of the Sun and Moon, now believed to have been dedicated to Venus and Rome. One of the towers of the west front originally belonged to the adjacent church of St. Gregory by St. Paul’s. A second tower was added for the sake of symmetry.

Jones travelled to Italy and became influenced by the works of Andrea Palladio. He also got the opportunity to study Roman ruins. What is noteworthy in the case of Jones is that he rejected modern architectural trends (mannerism/baroque) in favour of a relatively pure classical style, which approximated ancient Roman buildings. This tendency had a profound impact on 18th century English architecture and also decided the basic theme for Christopher Wren’s cathedral.

Jones’ restoration was interrupted by the civil war, during which some damages was inflicted on the building. A commission was therefore set up to undertake repairs and restoration in 1663. Three individual assessments were solicited, including one from Christopher Wren.

The weakest point of the structure was the central tower. Wren, therefore, proposed to tear it down and replace it with a tall dome over the crossing.  The design of the dome seems to have been inspired by Bramante’s proposal for St. Peter’s, which Wren likely knew through drawings. There are also some signs of French influence. Paris was the only foreign city Wren actually visited.

The rest of the structure was to be encased in masonry, “after the good Roman manner”, on the same lines as Jones’ project. Wren’s proposal was agreed in principle in August 1666. Only six days later, the great fire of London began.

By 1668, the issue of what to do with the cathedral had become more pressing than ever. However, the hope in that year was still to retain the nave. Wren was initially only instructed to demolish the choir and central tower. Only after parts of the nave collapsed in April were the authorities persuaded to build an entirely new church.

Wren produced several drawings in the period leading up to the Great Model in 1673. He seems to have experimented with two basic outlines: One scheme, which Wren gradually rejected, kept the outline of the old church and was fairly similar to the 1666 proposal, with a domed space above the crossing and the rest of the church in Roman masonry. Wren also seems to have wanted to keep the portico, which had been added to the west front by Inigo Jones.

The second scheme introduced the Greek cross plan, and is what Wren eventually came to favour. Designs usually feature a pedimented portico on the west front and a large dome over the central space. The precedent for this outline comes from Bramante’s and/or Michelangelo’s plans for St. Peter’s Basilica. Interestingly, Wren who was familiar with French architecture looked to primarily to Roman models. Most likely, this was due to the influence of Jones and architectural treatises.

Wren produced several drawings but the Great Model shows the project at its most mature stage.   The exterior and interior has a Corinthian order, as does the portico, and the large dome resembles Sangallo’s design for St. Peter’s. Unlike previous drawings, there is a domed vestibule in the west, which gives the model the outward appearance of being directional. The pediments at the transepts are broken by arches, adding a touch of mannerism. The model was made by the joiner William Cleere.

However, the Greek plan was rejected by church authorities. In the warrant design that Wren produced and got approved in 1675, he, therefore, reverted to a directional Latin Cross plan. The warrant design appears to be an attempt to reconcile classical elements with the outline of what an English public might expect of a cathedral: more height for the body of the building and an imposing tower and spire.

The result looked very strange, and Wren began to revise his plans as soon construction began. However, the concept of combining classical features with patterns borrowed from gothic churches remained.

The first change was to reintroduce the dome. However, this caused some difficulties, because it had too be tall enough to meet the expectations for a London landmark, yet not so large as to overwhelm the relatively small body of the building itself. It can be seen from the Great Model how this might look awkward.

The solution was to raise the second storey introduced in the warrant design and build a screen wall around the entirety of the structure. This also had the added advantage of hiding away flying buttresses. This is why the external walls of St. Paul’s do not recede inwards at the level of the clerestory. The west front portico was elevated to two levels and towers were introduced to hide the sham wall. Difficulties with lighting the interior through two external walls seem to have been effectively overcome.


It was also around 1675 that Wren redesigned the transept elevations, with huge circular porticos. To this would later be added broken pediments and pilasters decorated with strips of garlands, showing signs of both French and Italian baroque architecture.

The penultimate design of 1675 conforms approximately to the finished result. However, two elements were still in development, the western towers and the dome.

In 1683, Wren seems to have experimented with French designs, resembling closely the domes of Mansart and Lemercier. However, by the time construction of the dome began in 1700, he had switched to what is essentially Bramante’s Tempietto on a massive scale.  Wren filled in every fourth inter-columnation with an empty niche to retain harmony. The difference this produces can be seen by comparing with the Pantheon in Paris where no such expedient is used.

The dome has three shells, one semi-circular seen from the interior (in brickwork), one cone-shaped to support the weight of the lantern (also in brickwork), and one outer wood and lead structure to give the external silhouette.


For the towers, Wren moved in the opposite direction, away from the classical simplicity of Bramante towards a baroque complexity similar in style to Borromini.

The cathedral was structurally complete in 1709. Some of the later work was done without the authorisation of Wren. He was dismissed from his post in 1718 in a Churchill-like vote of no confidence.

viernes, 9 de diciembre de 2011

YMCA, Tottenham Court Road, London


This image aims to visualise a rebuilding in Tottenham Court Road (112 Great Russell Street). I believe the present YMCA structure was built in 1976. The previous building was completed in 1912.

jueves, 8 de diciembre de 2011

Johanneskirken, Oslo


Johanneskirken was a church in central Oslo, built on the city's oldest surviving square: Christiania Torv. It was built in 1875 and demolished in 1930. The church had issues with poor foundations since the beginning and was closed for safety reasons. The plot was used by a petrol station for much of the 20th century, but it was replaced with a post-modern business complex in 1996. The plot also contained a church in the period between 1639 to 1686, which at the time was the city's cathedral. The architect for Johanneskirken was Georg Bull. 

The image above is an attempt to visualise how the church might look if it was still standing today. 

For more information about historic Oslo, buy my book, Det Tapte Kristiania, here.

jueves, 27 de octubre de 2011

St. Peter's Basilica: Sangallo


St Peter’s basilica was still a demolition site when Bramante passed away in 1514. The architect had had been relieved from his duties the year before when his patron Pope Julius died. Since then, the project had passed through a number of hands: Raphael, Fra Giocondo and Baldassare Peruzzi. However, it was the powerful Florentine family of architects and engineers, da Sangallo, which would finally be entrusted with the future development of the project.

In fact, the pope’s chief architect had originally been a member of the family. At the time that Bramante’s project was chosen, Giuliano da Sangallo had been so confident of winning the commission that he prematurely moved his entire family to Rome. He was called back a decade later in 1514, but only lived long enough to see 18 months on the job.

However, as Raphael died in 1520 at the age of 37 and as Peruzzi eventually fell off after the sack of Rome in 1527, his nephew Antonio da Sangallo the younger gradually became the new capo maestro.

In 1539, Pope Paul III commissioned a wood model, which can still be seen in the Vatican Museum today. It shows the direction of Sangallo’s ideas and also sums up many of the turnabouts in the project, which had occurred over the last three decades since the original inception. For instance, whether to choose a Greek or a Latin cross plan was a point every new architect seemed destined to reverse.
Sangallo produced something of a hybrid, though its outward appearance is clearly directional. With the dominant front towers, the facade appears more like a classical take on a gothic cathedral than an Italian basilica. The choice, however, is not too surprising as the northern solution gives back the sense of monumental scale, which may have been lost by making the dome recede from the west front.


On all sides of the structure da Sangallo placed a series of arches between engaged columns supporting an entablature, a concept that had been used in on modern buildings in modified form by Bramante and Alberti, but which is ultimately derived from the Coliseum or Theatre Marcellus. The round ambulatory structure at the transepts shows the debt to this source most clearly.

As such, especially when contrasted with the later amendments by Michelangelo, da Sangallo appears as a late high renaissance rather than mannerist artist. At the same time as Michelangelo was developing the double order, da Sangallo stuck with a more orthodox formula. The same contrast can be seen in the Farnese palace, which was also later modified by Michelangelo. As projected by da Sangallo, the building would have been a classically conscious and correct rendition of a Florentine palazzo. Subtly though it appears, Michelangelo turned to contrast where da Sangallo sought regularity and harmony.

Despite this, Sangallo’s St. Peter’s appears cluttered in style and structurally complex. Ironically, it was Michelangelo’s project, with gigantic double order pilasters, which gave the structure, what in hindsight seems to qualify as the most convincingly classical solution.

Antonio da Sangallo the younger died in Florence in 1546 and the project passed to a reluctant Michelangelo.

domingo, 25 de septiembre de 2011

New Gaiety Theatre, Aldwych, London


The Gaiety Theatre was originally established in 1864 as the Strand Musick Hall. The first building was demolished in 1903 to make way for the Edwardian re-development of Aldwych-Kingsway and to accommodate the widening of the Strand. The New Gaiety Theatre opened the same year. The theatre closed in 1939 and never reopened. It was demolished in 1956, due to structural damage received from the war, attempts at refurbishment were abandoned. A new luxury hotel is currently being constructed on the plot, The Silken hotel.

As with most of the earliest buildings of Aldwych-Kingsway, the theatre was built in a rather fanciful interpretation of the French Beaux-Arts style.

domingo, 11 de septiembre de 2011

The Louvre: Le Vau and Perrault


The completion of the Louvre courtyard was begun during the reign of the Sun King, Louis XIV, but was abruptly abandoned when the royal court moved to Versailles.

Some of the facades were at least partially completed but the actual structures were left unfinished and some parts were not even roofed. It was only when Napoleon came to power that the final pieces came into place.

Development proceeded in fits and starts even in the late 17th century. Louis le Vau was officially the king's architect and successor to Lemercier, but much of his efforts were undone only a few years after they were first completed.

Le Vau initially began by following the pattern set by Lescot and Lemercier. As the latter had done with the west wing, le Vau placed a domed pavilion at the centre of the river front and extended the wing by duplicating the existing facade by Lescot. He also copied Lescot's original corner pavilion to maintain symmetry.

However, unlike the central pavilion of Lemercier’s west front, which was quite plain and remained so until the late 1850s, le Vau used engaged corinthian columns across the ground and first floors. These were topped with statues in a manner employed by le Vau elsewhere, such as at the garden front of Vaux-le-vicomte.

In introducing orders on the Louvre’s river front, le Vau established a new precedent. It seems safe to assume that his purpose was to create a counterpoint to the College des Quatre-Nations, which the same architect had built on the opposite side of the river. We know that le Vau planned a bridge as part of this urban set-piece, but the current Pont des Arts is from 1984 and the earliest bridge at this location was completed in 1804.

Le Vau also began work on the north and east wings and made substantial changes to the Petite Galerie and Tuileries Palace.

However, in 1664 Jean-Baptiste Colbert was named superintendent of royal buildings and ordered le Vau to halt construction. The task of completing the palace was then opened up to other architects, including the sculptor Gianlorenzo Bernini who was invited to Paris in 1665.

The main concern was the design of the east front, which was considered the most important as the main facade toward the city. After a bit of the toing and froing, a project designed by committee; including Louis le Vau,  Claude Perrault and Charles le Brun; was approved. The committee had presented two projects, one of which included a colonnade. The latter was chosen and construction began in 1667.


Most of the colonnade had been built by 1670 and some of the decorative work was completed in the period up to 1678, including the corinthian capitals of the columns. The central pediment was installed in 1672-74 and was supposed to be surmounted with a statue of Louis XIV and two allegorical deities. Most of the statuary and relief work was not completed during this period, however. Jacques-Germain Soufflot proposed a design for the pediment in 1757 but it was only in 1808 that a project actually came to fruition. The design by Francois Lemot contained a bust of Napoleon, which was later replaced with one of Louis XIV. The relief over the arch was done by Pierre Cartellier in 1810.

Le Vau died in 1670 and was busy with the design of Versailles during the last years of life. Colbert also seems to have favoured Perrault from the start, and he therefore quickly became the lead on the project. One of his first new proposals was to introduce a full top story on the courtyard of the east wing.


Perrault had apparently intended to use a new order for capitals, which he had invented and named the French order. This was necessary to respect the rules of classicism, which proscribed that none of the existing orders could be used above the Composite. The latter had already been used on the first floor. However, a conventional Corinthian was used when the courtyard facade was restored and repaired in 1757-59. The colonnade also had to be repaired during this period after decades of neglect  and it was even at one point considered to tear the whole wing down and build anew. The relief in the pediment on the courtyard was done by Guillaume Coustou, but was modified to remove its royal symbol during the revolution.

The Colonnade was not only taller than the three other wings of the courtyard but was also longer, which created a mis-match with the north and south fronts. Perrault, therefore, proposed to extend the width of the south wing and produced a new design to replace the earlier one by le Vau.


The new facade was initially just a screen in front of the existing building. The design is similar to the colonnade but uses pilasters instead of columns in the round.

Le Vau had continued Pierre Lescot's design on the courtyard, which included attic storeys, but this was replaced with a new full top storey in 1806.


The north front was the last of Perrault's designs to be completed. Jacques-Germain Soufflot had worked on the passageway on the 18th century but it was Napoleon's architects Percier and Fontaine who finished the facade. Unlike the south wing, the north was never widened on the basis that the discrepancy wouldn't be as noticeable due to the proximity of neighbouring buildings.





  

lunes, 15 de agosto de 2011

The Louvre: Lemercier


After the death of Henri II in 1559, the development of the Louvre took a new direction, and it wasn't until 1625 that work on the original courtyard resumed. 

The architect chosen for the job was Jacques Lemercier. In order to enlarge the courtyard, Lemercier first created a central pavilion. This was later named Pavillon d'Horloge after a clock that was inserted into the facade.

One of the most notable features of the pavilion are the caryatids, which were sculpted by Gilles Guerin and Philippe de Buyster in 1638, to a design by Jacques Sarrazin. The choice was probably made to respect one of the rules of classicism, which prescribed that no order should be used above the composite. Lescot had used this order on the first floor and Lemercier therefore had to come up with some other form of decoration. It is also a likely nod to Lescot's Salle des Caryatides on the ground floor of the Lescot wing, where caryatids were first used to decorate a musicians' gallery.

The caryatids support a series of pediments: a triangular within a segmental within a triangular. Similar motifs can be found in mannerist architecture in Italy, as for example in Michelangelo's Porta Pia in Rome. The composition also includes sculpture of two winged female figures. These are Greek allegorical deities representing fame, known in French as Rennommées. Like the caryatids, they were sculpted by Guerin and de Buyster in 1638, to a design by Sarrazin.


The pavilion also introduces the first toit a l'imperiale, which is a kind of bulbous dome. As for the interior, it could be mentioned that it once contained a chapel.


For the extension of the west wing, which has since been named after the architect, Lemercier duplicated Lescot's design and added a pavilion at the northwest corner. Pavillon de Beauvais was originally built on the same lines as Lescot's Pavillon du Roi, though both have since been changed and are no longer visible on the skyline.

While there was a lag of over ten years before sculpture was added to the central pavilion, it took almost two hundred years before the decoration was completed on the Lemercier wing. The relief work in the attic is dated to 1806 and the ground floor to 1820-23. The one exception is around the oeil-de-boeuf nearest Pavillon de Beauvais. This motif is by Gerard van Opstal and was done in 1638.  The statues in the niches of the ground floor are from 1866-74.

The west front of the central pavilion is usually referred to as Pavillon Sully. Originally quite plain, it was covered in relief sculpture in the late 1850s. 

For more information on the Louvre, see the following links: http://mexichino-jr.blogspot.com/2011/03/lescot-wing.html

sábado, 25 de junio de 2011

Peace & Pilgrimage in Bhutan




The word Amankora combines the Sanskrit for peace with the Bhutanese for pilgrimage. That is exactly what you will find in the first luxury hotel to appear in Bthutan. You will also find out why Amankora has featured in such places as the Condé Nast Hot List.

The six nature-linked lodges are nestled in a stunning Himalayan valley. The 72 suites feature natural rammed-earth walls, gently sloping roofs and wood-panelled interiors.
They are furnished with king-size beds, traditional bukhari (wood-burning stoves) and large terrazzo-clad baths. You will enjoy views, either of the fabulous courtyard, the nearby Wangdicholing Palace and monastery, or to the expanses of rice fields and pine forest in the valley. Amankora has everything you need to relax, from a yoga suite to extensive spa facilities.

Bhutan is the sole surviving Himalayan Buddhist Kingdom. With peaks of 7000 metres in the north to low lying plains in the south, the country offers some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. To experience the best of what Bhutan has to offer, Amankora can tailor journeys that include a combination of its lodges located in the valleys of Paro, Thimphu, Punakha, Gangtey and Bumthang. The rich topography affords visitors an opportunity for unique journeys of discovery, in an eco-system sustained by centuries of Buddhist philosophy and traditions.

To find out more visit Carte Blanche Travel and book your journey today, by phone +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or email:  info@carteblanchetravel.com

Windows to Paradise, Los Cabos, Mexico




Where the Sea of Cortés meets the Pacific, you will find one of the most intriguing holiday destinations in the entire world. Los Cabos at the tip of Baja California in Mexico is a Mecca for big game fishing, world-class golf, scuba diving, snorkelling and kayaking. You will find quiet coves and inlets, you will have the opportunity to go horseback on pristine beaches and to relax and rejuvenate in high-end spas.

Los Cabos has over 30 miles of beach and some of the best golf courses in all of North America. 

In the middle of all this wonder, you will find the glamorous resort of Las Ventanas al Paraiso. Perched between desert sands and deep blue sea, this famous resort has all you need to combine a dream destination with a personal experience of a lifetime. 

The resort has 61 suites, private Jacuzzis, dedicated butler services, rooftop terraces and telescopes for exploring the wonderfully clear constellations in the Mexican sky. In addition, there is and endless array of activities on offer, ranging from whale watching and diving, to cookery classes and tequila lessons.

Don’t miss out! Book your perfect holiday right now!
Contact Carte Blanche Travel for further information. Call +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or email us at info@carteblanchetravel.com

viernes, 24 de junio de 2011

FAMILY SAFARI IN ZAMBIA


The Safari Houses circuit in Zambia makes for one of the most epic experiences that Africa can offer. Don’t miss out: a safari in style is waiting for you at the heart of the continent.

The Luangwa Safari House, Chongwe River House and Tangala House are now jointly offering a 9-night combo at special rates.

It is an excellent opportunity to explore the famed Zambezi River. The area is renowned throughout Africa for its magnificent herds of wild elephant and is an ideal safari base. Properties come fully staffed with a guide, house manager and private chef, who will all help you tailor your private safari and your perfect personal experience. It is a fantastic spot to see the great predators of the continent and it is an excellent choice for family or a group of friends.  

All three of the destinations lie at the banks of rivers, frequented by hippos, giraffes and elephants and the sites offer breath-taking views of the mountainous horizon. What is more, the Tangala House lies only 15 km upstream from the spectacular Victoria Falls.

Even the lodgings are attractions in their own right. Luangwa Safari House and Chongwe River House were designed by architect Neil Rocher, resulting in innovative solutions with traditional materials. In the middle of the bush, these fantastic creations are truly a sight to behold. 

Don’t miss out on an opportunity of a lifetime! Make your booking today. The rate for the entire 9-night combo is only US$6695 per adult

Contact Carte Blanche Travel by telephone: +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com

jueves, 23 de junio de 2011

Great experiences of a lifetime: Climbing Mt Kilimanjaro



Among the truly great experiences in life, few can beat standing atop the “Mountain of Greatness.” Mount Kilimanjaro is not only the tallest freestanding mountain in the world, it is the highest peak of Africa and, best of all, it is the most accessible to walk of all the great mountains on this planet. 

To help make the dream come to true, Carte Blanche Travel is proud to present Tortilis Camp. At the foot of the majestic peak, Tortilis is the perfect base camp.  And to make it even more perfect, the camp lays right at the heart of the famous Amboseli National Park. The park is home to thousands of Africa’s greatest animals and is considered the best place on the continent to observe free-ranging elephants.  It is also home to a spectacular diversity of birdlife.

Tortilis Camp is multi-award winning ecotourism lodge, collecting accolades from the likes of Condé Nast Traveller. It offers some of the most stunning sights in Africa: The falling sunset across the peaks of Mt Kilimanjaro and Mt Meru in Tanzania is unrivalled by any other place. The food is unbeatable too: Chefs use home-grown ingredients and dish together the very best of safari dining. All construction is of local natural materials and thatched roofs. The tents are large and spacious, with king or twin beds and elegant en suite bathrooms. The main lounge, bar and dining area is exquisitely built with local skill.

Don’t miss out on the dream! See Carte Blanche Travel for further details and contact us on telephone: +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com, and make your booking today! 

Unexplored travel paradise in the Quirimbas archipelago, Mozambique


Ibo Island Lodge is currently running a number of incredible special offers.


Ever imagined a dhow safari, hopping from one tropical island to another on some of the most pristine beaches in entire world? Have you ever dreamt of beach picnics, sunset cruises or tucking into seafood lunches under a Bedouin tent on a small sandy island?

Then you are in luck. That is exactly what is on offer at Ibo Island lodge. It is a completely different type of African safari, and it is delightfully off the beaten track.

The Quirimbas archipelago in northern Mozambique is home to some of the most magical spots in the Indian Ocean. It is a nominated world heritage site and is perfect for families, couples and honeymooners, or anyone looking for that bit of extra oomph and exclusive air.   

You will be housed in magnificent 100-year old mansions with wide verandas, individually designed rooms and a rooftop restaurant, all set amidst fine tropical gardens.

Enjoy snorkelling, scuba-diving, deep-sea fishing, kayaking, sunset dhow cruises, massages or take part in historical guided walks, interactive cultural & community projects, silversmith workshops or bird watching with a professional ornithologist. The list of activities is endless. 

For a rich, yet affordable, and historic travel experience, book your memorable journey today!

Several options are open for island hopping, either by dhow or kayak, or in combination.  To find out more, contact Carte Blanche Travel by telephone: +44 (0) 20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com

See also www.iboisland.com for more information

This is what the press has to say:

"Quite unlike anywhere I've ever visited." - Nick Maes, The Guardian

"I can't think of another place in Africa remotely like it.....an air of romantic dilapidation that Zanzibar possessed until it was lost among crowds of bikini-clad Italians & fumes from 1,000 mopeds. Here we had the streets almost to ourselves" - Kate Humble, The Independent

miércoles, 22 de junio de 2011

St Peter's Basilica: Bramante


One of the most prominent names in all of High Renaissance Italy and the most ambitious of all building projects in all of the 16th century; and yet, all we have of Bramante’s St Peter’s Basilica is an engraving on a coin and a floor plan. 

All that was built in Bramante’s time were the central piers, which ultimately proved to be spectacularly inadequate for the task and had to be enlarged and strengthened by successive architects.

Bramante produced some of the most enduring building types of modern European architecture. His iconic Tempietto (pictured above), though not very practical, was copied widely in the 17th and 18th centuries. The Palazzo Caprini, also known as Raphael’s House, set the standard for classical urban buildings across Europe and his Cortile de Belvedere was also hugely influential. 

Raphael’s House has since been demolished and the Cortile has been heavily altered. The basilica was the most ambitious of his projects and was only finished more than 100 years after his death. Its design also evolved significantly during that period. Yet, the essential concept is still recognisable in the completed building.

It is commonly believed that Bramante wanted to rebuild the basilica as a centrally planned structure, and the surviving floor plan supports this idea. The concept was popular with Italian renaissance architects but seldom got off the drawing board. Leonardo da Vinci for instance, who Bramante knew in Milan, made a number of sketches on the theme.

Centrally planned spaces were built from Filippo Brunelleschi onwards but these were generally part of a wider complex. It is in fact possible that this was the case also in Bramante's project. The floor plan could represent a proposal to rebuild the choir rather than the church as a whole.

One of the few churches to be completed on the principle of a central plan during this period is Santa Maria della Consolazione in Todi.  

It has been suggested that the central plan represents a shift in philosophy, based on humanism and secularism, but there is little to suggest that Bramante wanted to challenge religious dogma. It is more likely that he saw the central plan as appropriate for a martyrium, a shrine to commemorate the tomb of St Peter. The Tempietto, also centrally planned, similarly marks the spot of St. Peter’s crucifixion.

Given this relationship with the Tempietto, one could expect St. Peter’s Basilica to follow similar lines. However, judging by the engraved coin, that is not exactly what we find.

The Pantheon was widely admired and clearly provided a model for the dome, but the rest of the building seems to look to other sources for inspiration.  

One possibility is Alberti’s San Sebastiano in Mantua, which also represented the classical language in a rather bare form, with pilasters providing much of the surface treatment.

The principal facade is obscured by a domed chapel, which incorporates the entrance apse of the main structure behind it. It is flanked by two towers and above rises a massive hemispherical dome. The latter sit on a drum ringed with columns, making it look like a giant version of the Tempietto lifted on top of another building.

Chapels at the four corners of the main structure are also crowned with small domes.

The multiplication of domes and the towers may suggest an attempt to rival Hagia Sophia in Constantinople, which had fallen to the Turks only half a century earlier. It is doubtful, however, whether Bramante had any meaningful knowledge about that building. It is also possible that Bramante used Roman churches from the early Christian period as models.

Nothing quite like Bramante’s St. Peter’s was ever built but his designs did have an influence on contemporary buildings. 

For a sense of how the basilica might have looked, the church of San Bagio in Montepulciano offers some clues. Only one of the towers was actually built in this case but if you can imagine a similar structure on a larger scale, with a heftier dome, and domed chapels at the corners, then suddenly, Bramante’s St. Peter’s almost comes alive. 

Fantastic Cape Combo Offer

A fantastic new combination offer puts South Africa and the Cape at the top of the list for spectacular yet affordable holidays in 2011.

 

Partners of Carte Blanche Travel; Le Quartier Français, Kurland and Kwandwe Private Game Reserve have joined together to offer a perfect itinerary, tailored to an African experience of a lifetime. The combination is ideal for couples, families and honeymooners alike.  

With bookings for at least 2 of the 3 properties, families can save on free nights while children under 12 stay for absolutely free.




Stay 3 nights and pay for two at the Le Quartier Français, or stay 4 nights and pay for 3 at Kurland or Kwandwe Private Game Reserve, and experience an African journey you will not be soon to forget.

Le Quartier Français is situated right at the heart of the famous Franschoek wine valley and offers the ideal spot for a wine and food safari. Surrounded by breathtaking views and majestic mountains, the valley is also home to the finest of international cuisine that South Africa can offer. Celebrating the Huguenots who settled to grow vines on these slopes over 300 years ago, Le Quartier Français offers organised wine tasting and a kitchen consistently rated for high excellence.  Children will undoubtedly also feel right in the element, with opportunities to visit lion parks, go carting or visit Monkeytown, to name but a few of the many available activities. 




For a relaxing beach holiday, the destination is Kurland. Situated within a massive estate of immense beauty, Kurland also overlooks the coast and Plettenberg Bay. The beauty of the bay is legendary, the awestruck Portuguese explorers of the 16th century knew it simply as Bahia Formosa, or beautiful bay. With only 12 suites, each with a unique design, Kurland has an established reputation as a supreme gem off the beaten track. Activities are endless, including hot air balloon tours, scuba diving, a visit to the many animal sanctuaries in the vicinity, and much more. 




For the dream of any wildlife enthusiast, there is Kwandwe Private Game Reserve. The three safari lodges offer the highest standards of sophistication at the doorstep of some of Africa’s greatest animals, including the big five. It is the perfect start or end to a journey along the breathtakingly beautiful Garden Route, the legendary stretch of the south-eastern coast of South Africa that no visitor to the country ever forgets.

For more information, visit Carte Blanche Travel or contact directly on Telephone:
+44 (0)20 7376 1950 or by email: info@carteblanchetravel.com

The offer is valid from 1 July 2011 – 19 December 2012, subject to availability, excluding the periods: 19 Dec 2011 – 5 Jan 2012 & 2 April 2012 – 16 April 2012

miércoles, 1 de junio de 2011

Inigo Jones: Banqueting House, Whitehall, London


Great Britain was perhaps the last of the significant western powers to embrace classical architecture. Yet, by the mid-18th century, Britain had become Europe’s most committed and dogmatic classicist. Indeed, the country came arguably to lead the way for most of that century in what was later to culminate in the neo-classical movement across the continent.

To understand how this transformation was possible, one name is inescapable: Inigo Jones. To understand how Jones became so revolutionary, two things should serve to illustrate the case.

Firstly, British architecture in the 16th century was insulated and relatively conservative. 
Before Jones came on the scene in the early 17th century, British architects still built castle-like structures, onto which classical elements were added for the most part as features of exotic décor.
At the beginning of the 16th century, France had led the way in this trend of importing classical novelties like pilasters by tacking them onto essentially medieval structures. Britain initially followed suit. Yet when France moved on to a more mature national classicism by the mid-century, Britain stayed the original course, and continued do so throughout the century, and initially into the next. 
The classical elements that found its way to England were, in any case, second-hand only, and had to be filtered through French and Dutch models 

Inigo Jones was the first English architect to bypass the influence of these two countries entirely and go straight to the source of contemporary classicism: Italy. The result was a giant leapfrog, but it also undermined the national vernacular. 
Secondly, Jones was important in another respect, which made his significance not simply exclusive to the trajectory of British architecture, but which potentially sowed the first buds of neo-classicism. He found himself at odds not only with French and Dutch deviations from the classical model, but also with that of contemporary Italy itself.

He expressly condemned the innovations of Michelangelo, and approved only of the works of Palladio that conformed or seemed to conform to ancient Roman models. He, thus, introduced a puritan version of classicism, which had room for modern innovation, but which put a premium on recreating the spirit of Roman works.

The most reliable guide to Roman building in Jones’ time was the Four Books of architecture by Andrea Palladio. Jones may also have had opportunity to study Roman ruins directly during his tour of Italy. The link to Palladio is important and has always been recognized as such. When the example of Jones re-emerged in the shape of the Burlington school in the 18th century, the subsequent style came to be known as English Palladianism.

Indeed, when we look at the original plans for Jones’ chief design, The Banqueting House, we find that he proceeded from a Palladian model.     


The building is two-storied, the windows are capped by pediments, triangular and segmental, and the design of the elevation is separated by simple verticals and horizontals: pilasters or half-columns and entablatures. In the original drawings, the elevations look as if copied directly from Palladio’s book. They feature a central pediment, of a kind that Palladio often used. However, the decision of Jones to break the entablature and push it forward above the columns seems to have convinced him that the central pediment had to go. The top of the building that was actually built was, therefore, crowned with a flat balustrade instead, and the sloping roof was thus hidden. In the old designs, you can even see where Jones had started to fill in the breaks under the central pediment. But his lines are feint as if wavering, as if he had seen in the process of sketching that the combination would not work very well. The swags in the top-storey also make an entry at this point.

The result is a work where all the elements are borrowed from Palladio, but the manner in which they are assembled can be said to be original. The original windows were mullioned, not sash, and the building was later refaced with Portland stone. The original provision had called for Portland, but for some reason Jones had to make do with lesser types of stone. Apart from that though, the building stands as it did during Jones’ time.

Whether Jones intended the hall as part of a larger palace to be extended later is not clear. Later drawings of a very large Whitehall palace have been attributed to Jones. In addition, the sides of the building reveal exposed brickwork, possibly done intentionally with a view to expand the structure. 

In any case, the impact on British architecture was immense, though a modified vernacular tradition continued to thrive for most of the century. The most important English architect of all time, Christopher Wren, was not averse to borrowing elements from modern baroque architecture, from both France and the Netherlands. However he seems to have borrowed a preference for the Roman from Inigo Jones. The Burlington school went even further in their puritan approach and made no secret of who was the idol of their ‘restoration.’ To the extent that this led the way to neo-classicism, the conclusion follows that the importance of Inigo Jones is even more important than what he is generally given credit for.


The church of St Paul at Covent Garden goes much further than Palladio ever went in re-creating what was assumed to be ancient Roman design principles. Palladio recreated Roman models on paper, but what he actually built made no pretension of being anything but modern, despite the heavy use of column and porticos.  Jones was the first to attempt to cross that line, the line into neo-classicism. He was also perhaps the first to think a classical portico, a Tuscan one in this case, would work on a church. In this he was using an order associated with an archaic form, perhaps in a deliberate way, to suggest that the reformed Anglican church embodied the primaeval and true teachings of Christ.
That it is one of the first attempts at archeological re-creation was, therefore, potentially charged with a great deal of symbolism.

With the groundbreaking work of Jones, Britain could move from the insular tradition inherited from the age of the Tudors to a style, which in the 18th century, French visitors found to be a pure copy of the Roman, or Italian as they labelled it. This criticism is not fair in all respects, but it did remain true that Britons had become the most enthusiastic followers of Roman classicism. By the turn to the 19th century, virtually all of Europe had followed a similar path, and flirted with Greek as well as Roman prototypes.
    

jueves, 19 de mayo de 2011

Baroque Oslo

The differences between the towns of Christiania in the 18th century as opposed to the 17th century were hardly transformative. Growth and change was overall modest in scope. In the 17th century the population had hovered around 3,000 souls, by the end of the 18th century, it still struggled to surpass 10,000.

However, a number of events and trends did mark one century off from the other.  Two destructive events in particular shaped the city in the 18th century: The fire of 1686 and the Swedish invasion of 1716.

It was hardly an auspicious start to the century. Yet, the 18th century laid the foundations for the capital status and the explosive growth, which was to take place in the 19th century. It established the timber barons, which would make Christiania a significant economic hub and a viable future choice as the nation’s capital.

The fire in 1686 was important in several important respects. It laid waste to much of the upper city, where illegal timber construction had been a persistent problem. It also damaged the cathedral, which was subsequently demolished.


However, the most crucial impact of the fire was that it precipitated the decision to give up the city’s outer defences and to reorient all defensive capabilities to the fortress. This resulted in two key implications.

First of all, the city, now without walls, could expand. A new square and cathedral was established just outside the old city gate, on top of a natural lake that previously had served as a moat, but which now was to be filled in. A string of new houses began creeping out of the city towards the river Aker in the northeast, as if the city was seeking back to its old medieval roots across the bay. Indeed, the bay itself soon began to shrink. As harbour activity filled in the waters with sawdust, new land could be claimed and the harbour was eventually pushed three blocks east.

It also meant, however, that the fortress would need more space in order to be defended effectively. City blocks that were too near could be used as cover by attacking armies and were demolished on that very basis. The old square, thereby, lost much of its original layout. It also lost, as previously noted, it’s church.


The Swedish invasion of 1716 was repulsed, and though the Swedish king amassed new forces to finish the job, the second army never reached the city.
However, damage from the invasion was magnified by the fact that the city had no outer defences. Consequently, the city was caught between the invading Swedes on one hand and defensive cannon fire from the fortress on the other. Much of the damage was, therefore, caused by friendly fire. The city hall, for instance, was reduced to a shell, and never held the function of city hall again.

In terms of buildings, some differences can be noted in the style of the 18th as opposed to the preceding century. Half-timbered houses continued to be the most prevalent building-type, though the timber was often hid behind plaster.  However, in brick buildings, the Dutch character of the 17th century fell out of favour and many stepped gables were altered to modern standards. The result was classical in inspiration, but the application of classical elements was modest and cautious.

The town had no porticoes and hardly any pilasters. Oftentimes, the only distinguishing features of Christiania town houses were tall roofs and plain rows of sash windows. Some bay windows continued to be built and some survived from older times. The most ambitious town houses, however, relied on relatively simple features: ornamental doorways or plain triangular pediments.

The city hall was moved to a house at the corner of what is now called Queen Street. Originally, the house faced the harbour, had stepped gables and, though it was built as a private residence, was crowned with an imposing tower. The building still has a courtyard front blocked off from the street by a screen. The tower may have been destroyed in 1716. In either case, the building as it now appears is roughly of the 18th century idiom. It is classical only in a symmetric streamlined sense, and the gables have been eliminated entirely.

The other major public landmark, the new cathedral of 1697, is also relatively plain and the tower is a short stump compared to its predecessor. The interior, however, is said to have acquired a respectable baroque interior thanks to gifts bestowed by prominent citizens. The church is still the cathedral of Oslo, though it was altered extensively in the mid 19th century.         

Other examples of the new style, and generally the most interesting, are all private residences. Few of these, however, remain today. Still, a few exceptions can be found: The building that would later house the military academy was remodelled in 1761 and has survived on a corner on Queen Street. The building known as Treschowgården was built on reclaimed land in 1710. At the corner of the new square, on which the cathedral was built, stands a house from 1700. Several other buildings from the 17th century that bear 18th century alterations still exist also. Calmeyergården is a notable example.

Colletgården, perhaps the most impressive of the baroque palais of the period was demolished in the 1930s, despite being listed for preservation. However, It was rebuilt in the Norwegian folk museum and can still be seen there today.

Its main features are all centred: The doorframe capped by a segmental pediment, the quoin-like pilasters and the triangular pediment.  The asymmetrical bay window of the secondary façade was left over from the previous design.   

For more information about historic Oslo, buy my book, Det Tapte Kristiania, here.

lunes, 11 de abril de 2011

Renaissance Oslo


  
The renaissance city was very different from the medieval town, which preceded it. For one thing, Oslo had a new name: Christiania. The location too was new. In 1624, the city was transported west across the bay. 

Before 1624, Oslo was a northern backwater, with a lonely church still clinging to existence in the shape of the pre-gothic cathedral, and a few “renaissance” houses had scarcely propped up amid the general landscape of old log cabins.

The great fire of 1624 obliterated most of the wooden town, a town which had burned down many times before. What was new this time, however, was the order of the king not to rebuild on the old site. Instead, the order was to build across the bay under cover of the medieval fortress, Akershus. That way, the city would improve its defences. The town inhabitants grudgingly obeyed.  

Akershus itself had been spruced up with new renaissance towers since work began in 1593, and the new fortress reached its first stage of completion in 1604. Work on improved battlements continued into the first half of the new century. The conversion was constrained by cost and, accordingly, the structure was left in a half medieval state. Still, sleepy Oslo was taking its first steps out of its medieval past. 


1624 was an opportunity for the new town to follow suit. It was to be renamed according to the wishes of the king Christian IV and to follow the renaissance principles cherished by him. No winding alleys or hidden nooks was to be found in the new town of Christiania.

The new streets, therefore, followed a strict rectangular grid and were unusually wide, measuring 15 metres across. A ban was simultaneously imposed on pure wood construction. The new town would be of brick, though half-timbered houses would be tolerated for builders of modest means. 

Half-timbered would be the method of choice for most houses in town for next two hundred years, and would give Christiania, uniquely for a Norwegian town, a character much like North-German or Danish towns. Nonetheless, a few illegal wooden houses were also initially built.


Running from the soon-to-be-established port in the east to the upper town in the west ran three long streets. Seven streets ran from south to north, where they were cut short by large mounds, which formed a c-shaped defensive ring around the only part of town that could be approached by land.

King’s Street appears to be Christiania’s principal street, though it was no wider than the rest of the streets in the city. For most visitors, it would be the first street they encountered after entering the principal of the three town gates.

Another anomaly in the symmetry of the town plan is the site of the town square. Instead of locating it centrally at the junction of King’s Street, the square was situated towards a corner in the north-west of the city.

This is especially odd as the larger and more attractive plots were established in the east, close to the harbour. The west had smaller plots and the upper city seems to have be intended as a poor mans quarter. However, the site does make some sense given the fact that is the tallest point in town.

Some of the oldest buildings in Oslo can still be seen on this site. One still bears the inscription of 1626, and was built by one of the leading figures in town. The original town hall, just across the road still stands as well, though its transformations and restorations have been more dramatic. The church, which also was situated on the square failed to last the century and succumbed to fire in 1686.


Most of the principal residences in town, however, faced the harbour in the east. A principal feature of the new style was Dutch-inspired gable fronts. The residence at the town square with the inscription of 1626 had swung ornaments in sandstone. Most other buildings, however, were of a simpler shape, usually with a stepped gable. The town hall had a tower, and so too had at least one of the principal residences.

A canal, on Dutch and Danish models, was attempted in order to link the harbour and the town square, but the attempt was abandoned and the trench later filled in. Apparently, Norwegian granite wasn’t quite amenable to the job.

All in all, the town remained quaint but modest. Small, unplanned satellite towns of simple wooden huts soon clustered outside the defensive works, to the west, north and east of town. The population, however, did not expand much beyond the 3000 or so souls that had inhabited the old town of Oslo.
Besides, there is little to suggest in the town plan that ambitions ran higher than other cities established by the king Christian IV during the same period, such as Christianstad in southern Sweden or Gluckstadt in Northern Germany.

The legacy of the town planned in the time of Christian IV, however, still remains. The grid forms the basis of Oslo’s central area now known as Kvadraturen. Most of the street names have changed, though Kings Street still exists.

The buildings in the area are predominantly from the late 1800s when growth reached explosive levels and the area became a residential-free downtown. Nonetheless, a few 17th century houses occasionally crop up amid their larger neighbours, especially around the old town square and City Hall Street and Queen’s street, the latter originally facing the harbour. 

They are the distant reminders of the 17th century renaissance town.    

For more info, click here. 

For more information about historic Oslo, buy my book, Det Tapte Kristiania, here.

martes, 5 de abril de 2011

Carlton Hotel, Pall Mall, London


Carlton Hotel by Mexichino
The above is a mock-up of how Carlton Hotel might look if rebuilt. Located on the Haymarket, just off Pall Mall, the hotel was partially destroyed in the blitz and left derelict until 1959 when the modern high-rise known as New Zealand House was built on the site.

The architect was Charles John Phipps, who also built the identical facade of the adjacent Her Majesty's Theatre, which is still standing. The foundation stone was laid in 1896.


- The actual photo -

sábado, 26 de marzo de 2011

The Louvre: Lescot


The Lescot wing in the courtyard of the Louvre palace is the oldest part of the existing complex. It is interesting for a variety of reasons, not least because it gives a French spin on an essentially Italian composition.

The architect was Pierre Lescot, who was appointed in 1546 by king Francis I to remodel the medieval castle of the Louvre into a renaissance palace.

Italian design had been influencing French art and architecture since the beginning of the 16th century. An Italian architect, Sebastiano Serlio, had already developed ambitious plans for a new Louvre and its interesting that a French project was chosen instead.  

The Lescot wing is probably France’s first classical façade in more than just a decorative sense and was, therefore, hugely important to the development of French classicism.

One of the reasons Serlio’s project was rejected may have been that it was too huge. Lescot, therefore, proceeded cautiously. His project followed more or less the same footprint as the old castle, which was only demolished bit by bit. When he died, the west wing was finished and the south wing was partially completed, but the walls of the medieval castle still stood on the north and east of the old quadrangle.

The original scheme seems to have been for a u-shaped building. A screen would have served as the main entrance to the courtyard from the east. This is similar to the contemporary Hotel des Ligneris (Carnavalet), which may also have been by Lescot. The plan was later reworked on a larger scale once Henri II came to power.   

Though clearly inspired by Italian palazzi, the roofline clings to the medieval tradition of towers. These towers, or pavilions, were to be built at the corners of the palace and was possibly inspired by the silhouette of the old castle. The only pavilion that was completed during Lescot's time was in the southwest corner. It still carries the original name, Pavillon du Roi, but its facade and cone-shaped roof have not survived.  

The courtyard is richly decorated with classical orders and low relief sculpture. The exterior of the palace, on the other hand, maintained a fortress-like sobriety and had no orders.

Only the courtyard façade remains of the Lescot wing. It is heavily decorated, but according to a clearly defined hierarchy.


Several of the novel features seem to have been determined by climate. The open arcades on the ground floor of Italian courtyards have been replaced with a blind arcade and recessed windows. This idea had already been introduced in the project to build a new city hall in Paris.

The roof is the first known example of a double sloping roof, a feature which since has come to be known as a Mansard. It seems to have been used here to minimise the visual impact of the roof.

The composition of projecting pavilions at the centre and the sides is also a feature not to be found in Italy, and introduces a vertical element unused by most Italian architects. The five-fold division would later be taken up in much of French palace design and emulated widely. 


What seems to have happened is that Lescot originally planned a central pavilion to indicate the location of the staircase. This was already established as a common French practice. However, due to practical considerations or the wishes of the king, the staircase had to be moved to one side. Instead of moving the pavilion to produce an asymmetrical facade, Lescot added a new pavilion, retained the central pavilion, and introduced a third pavilion for the sake of symmetry. Voila, the French five-fold palace design was born. The projections and recessions are in French usually referred to as avant-corps and arriere-corps.  


It allows for a new dimension of complexity, vertically as well as horizontally. For example, the pavilions are emphasised with engaged columns rather than just pilasters. They are also decorated with niches and swags.

The emphasis is very much on alternating rhytms. The interplay of projecting and recessed panes existed in certain mannerist examples in Italy, but not to this degree. The use of oeil-de-boeuf windows above the windows and low relief sculpture, particularly on the attic floor, introduces additional complexity and variation. The projecting pavilions are capped with arched pediments that pierce through the roofline, while the windows have alternating triangular and arched pediments. It is almost as if as many alternating shapes and forms as possible have been crammed in. Yet, it doesn't feel too crowded in its effect.

The relief work was done by Jean Goujon and his team, though the name Paul Ponce also shows up in certain sources. This was completed in 1549-56.

The statues in the niches on the ground floor, however, were added in the period 1859-61, and the figure closest to Pavillon du Roi was only completed in 1892.



The relief work is particularly profuse on the attic storey. The central frontispiece features two winged  deities representing victory. The god and goddess of war, Mars and Bellona, are depicted in the panels below while the window is flanked with kneeling captives. The winged deities originally held a crown and the monogram included three fleur-de-lys. This was removed during the revolution and the letters RF were displayed until it was changed again after the Bourbon restoration. The crowned H, for Henri II, that we now see then took its place.

The frieze on the first floor consists of children playing with garlands and there is another motif above the window, of a mask of Diana flanked with two lions. Diana was the goddess of the hunt and is probably an allusion to Henri II's mistress Diane de Poitiers. The same motif exists on the other two pavilions but with dogs instead of lions. I have been unable to find any information on the statues on the first floor but they seem to have been added in the second half of the 19th century. It could also be noted that Lescot used the composite for the columns on this floor. The composite is a sort of combination between Ionic and Corinthian and was considered the most decorative of the classical orders.


Lescot broke with Italian conventions by using the Corinthian order on the ground floor. The entrance of the left and central pavilions gave access to the Salle des Caryatides while the one on the right leads to the Henri II staircase.



Unlike the exuberant design of the courtyard, the Lescot's west front was originally quite plain. It was given a significant revamp in the late 1850's to harmonise with the new facades of Cour Napoleon, which had just been built. This included a blind arcade on the ground floor topped with statues. More statuary and a balustrade was also added to the roofline. Lescot's original design seems to have included the pediments over the first-floor windows.

Lescot also started construction of the south wing, which was initially known as the Aile des Reines (Queens' wing) since it was intended to provide a bedchamber for a future Queen and the Queen Mother. The latter had been widowed when Henri II died in a jousting accident in 1559. The oldest son was crowned Francis II but died within the next 18 month and the throne passed to his younger brother Charles IX. The Queen Mother, Catherine de Medicis, acted as regent.

The courtyard of the Queens' wing doesn't contain any of the original relief work. The attic was replaced with a full storey in 1806, which meant that the sculpture by Goujon and his team had to be chiselled off.   

Two winged figures representing Piety and Justice, dated to about 1565, were used to decorate the passageway of the east wing where they can still be seen. Some of the panels below the pediments were moved around to different locations but have been on display inside the Louvre since 1988.

The relief around the oil-de-boeuf windows on the ground floor are from 1822-24, while the statues in the niches are from the second half of the 19th century.