Wednesday, October 19, 2005

The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco-Gothic Ideal

As part of ARCHITECTURE SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY, AN INTRODUCTION, course by Antoine Picon, Harvard University.

Middleton R., "The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco-Gothic Ideal," in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XXV, 1962, XXVI, 1963, pp. 90-123


The Abbé de Cordemoy's "New treatise on architecture" (1706) begins the century with a statement of the superiority of Greek over Roman architecture. It looks back past the ancient Roman achievement to the work of the Greeks, whose architecture the Abbe and others saw as being similar in structural principles to Gothic. Needless to say, the Abbe held the peristyle of the Louvre in great respect. The colonnade of Le Louvre by Perrault is seen the “good in the Gothic”, especially the model of space between colonnade (rhythmically paired columns). Soufflot introduced neo-classism, and his idea derives from Fremin and Cordemoy as well as his strong liking for Gothic churches. His experiences on Saint Genevieve's shows how much Soufflot saw in Gothic the inspiration for modern architecture (Soufflot created the Pantheon to replace the ruined St Genevieve in 1755).

Middleton R., "The Abbé de Cordemoy and the Graeco-Gothic Ideal: a prelude to romantic classism" in Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, XXV, 1962, XXVI, 1963, pp. 278-320

The ideal church of Cordemoy emerges as a building planned along the lines of a Gothic cathedral but with everything translated into Greek. Perrault wrote on Vitruvius's work and served as the basis for all Cordemoy's doctrines.
Looking for rationality and efficiency, Soufflot analyzes Notre-Dame de Dijon which will be described in Eugène Viollet-le-Duc in his dictionary. The chapter presents the propaganta of gothic that leads architecs to then use columns rather than piers in their church interiors. Soufflot's rational Gothic aesthetic so dominated architecture in late eighteenth century France. As much as Frézier, he thought that cathedrals were a solution to equilibrium. But Frezier never considered the rich elaboration of Architecture as having and aesthetic raison d'etre, but only technical consideration. Finally Felibien was the one to make the distinction between Gothic 'ancien', Gothic 'moderne' and wrote about Amiens, Reims, Strasbourg.


New attitudes and ideals from the colonnade of the Louvre to the Pantheon

The colonnade of the Louvre
In the first half of the 17th century, kings wanted to increase size of buildings because they become more egostitical. The Château du Louvre was begun in 1546 and in 1665 Perrault builds the eastern wing crowned by an Italian balustrade along its distinctly non-French flat roof, was a ground-breaking departure in French architecture. 'His severe design was chosen over a design provided by the great Bernini, who came to Paris for the purpose. Perrault had translated the Roman architect Vitruvius into French. Now Perrault's rhythmical paired columns form a shadowed colonnade with a central pedimented triumphal arch entrance raised on a high, rather defensive basement, in a restrained classicizing baroque manner that has provided models for grand edifices in Europe and America for centuries.'

La colonnade du Louvre

it is a greco-roman building huge in scale (one of the main problem because it is a mix between ancien and modern), free standing columns. The colonnade are unorthodox in their construction because of a vaulted structure and it has double columns which differs from the type roman temples. The steel reinforce the entire structure. It then appears like a monolith, actually a vaulted structure and this makes it a building that does not function as it looks thus it leads to the notion of structure.

Perrault who built the colonnade was a physician and anatomist and interested on physiology whose vision was a little different than descartes (tension not as natural in the body) versus for Perrault body is naturally tense, animal spirits relax the muscles, the idea comes naturally to use iron in tension for building reinforcing and the notion of structure emgerges at the beginning of the study of anatomy, a colonnade is a bit like a skeletal structure. The colonnade left unfinished until mid 18th and most of the great colonnades of the 18th are made of reinforced iron.

Churches, Pantheon
Reconstruction of St Genevieve. Inside there is two colonnades with vault and putting iron everywhere to reinforce and becomes a general type of church in the 18th: vaulted church with free standing columns.

The Pantheon

Analytical attitude
In the 18th century there is this analytical attitude to understand the function of things and thinking that everything comes from senses so had to construct complex notions and that the complex should be composed of elements. Method of rationalization: compositions and analytical methods.

Idea of transparency
This idea emerged in the 18th and subtle analysis of what is the pleasure of a colonnade. The colonnade is linked to movement and the movement of colonnades is the idea of dynamic space (e.g. Theater).

Refers to Greek temples with monolith above colonnades, and mutates from Greek to Gothic, from the Greek elegance (ornamental) to the Gothic slenderness (something more structural)

Notion of structure
1- dimension in buildings that's separate from classical ordonnance of things
2- idea that part of the structure must have some solidarity: the structure is not totally natural nor artificial, not interested in Greek temple because too natural, and to articial is also too far away from nature.
3- idea of circulation: something flows almost naturally within the structure. Structure is a dynamic system where forces flow.

The quarel of the Pantheon
notion of performance with a dome quite exaggerated and larger than le Louvre (competition between buildings) and Piettate begins to question the structural integrity of the pillars and domes and the quarrel begins on the limits of tradition: the building becomes a symbol of 'can we overthrow tradition'. Begin testing stone to see if it follows vitruvian tradition, so there is an abundant polemic on the Pantheon

There is also a second polemic in 1800's that is like bridge are thought a little bit like churches and the Pantheon was not finished because of the revolution and the structural field starts to emerge with the non vitruvian program in which doing something untraditional becomes meaningful.

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