(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘architecture

“The principle of the Gothic architecture is infinity made imaginable”*…

Tower Bridge in London, England, is one of the most famous structures in the Gothic Revival style. Its spires echo Islamic architecture’s minarets, pointing to the ancient exchange of cultural ideas between the West and the Middle East.

There’s more to Gothic architecture and Gothic style than we might imagine. Roger Luckhurst explains…

When fire devastated the Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris in April 2019, the architectural historian Diana Darke noted in a Twitter post that of course everyone knew the famous twin tower and rose window of France’s finest Gothic cathedral were copied from a Syrian church in Qalb Loze, built in the fifth century. The post went viral: amplified or rebutted, triumphed or tossed.

Darke was surprised at the reaction to what historians have established as a well-known path of influence: the East-West trade in architectural ideas. It was argued centuries ago that key defining elements of the Gothic style were borrowed from the Islamic architecture of the Middle East. The soaring pinnacles of the Palace of Westminster in London, the pointed arches of St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice, and the rose windows of Notre Dame all point to the influence of Islamic design.

But from early in the 19th century, these contributions were forgotten, and Gothic became celebrated as an intrinsically Northern European style. In Britain, it was only in the revival of this medieval style of architecture that it started to be called “Gothic.” The Revivalists no longer dismissed the Gothic as a crude or barbarous form, and instead repurposed it as a national, patriotic style.

By knowing this deeper history of some of Europe’s most iconic buildings, travelers can approach these well-known attractions with new eyes and can appreciate that the “East-West divide” isn’t as deep as we are often led to think…

Hidden in the architecture of some of the world’s most famous buildings is a cultural exchange between Europe and the Middle East: “What is ‘Gothic’? It’s more complicated than you think,” from @TheProfRog in @NatGeo.

* Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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As we esteem exchange, we might send well-designed birthday greetings to Arduino Cantafora; he was born on this date in 1945. An architect, painter, and writer, he became a postmodernist (in the mode of his teacher/mentor Aldo Rosi), creating designs and paintings that reached back to the Renaissance revival of Gothic themes.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

November 8, 2022 at 1:00 am

“Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”*…

Believers in the “Tartaria” conspiracy theory are convinced that the elaborate temporary fairgrounds built for events like the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco in 1915 were really the ancient capital cities of a fictional empire. Photographer: Schenectady Museum Association/Corbis Historical via Getty Images

On YouTube videos and Reddit boards, adherents of a bizarre conspiracy theory argue that everything you know about the history of architecture is wrong. Zach Mortice explains…

In 1908, architect Ernest Flagg completed the Singer Building in Lower Manhattan, a Beaux-Arts showstopper made for the Singer sewing machine company. From a wide base, a slender 27-story tower rose, topped by a mansard roof and a delicate lantern spire.

Every inch dripped with sumptuous detail inside and out; vaulted roofs, marble columns with bronze trim, window mullions with spiral fluting. The lobby was said to have a “celestial radiance.” A book was written just about its construction. For a year, it was the tallest building in the world at 612 feet, and a celebrated landmark for decades after that. 

But not for too much longer. Despite its great height, the pencil-thin tower lacked office space. In the 1960s the company sold its ornate headquarters; demolition proceeded in 1967. It’s the tallest building to ever be peacefully demolished.  

By any account, it’s a fantastical tale: Once the tallest building in the world and a New York icon, knocked down in just a handful of decades.

For some, it’s too fantastical to believe … or perhaps not fantastical enough. A dedicated group of YouTubers and Reddit posters see the Singer Building and countless other discarded pre-modern beauties and extant Beaux-Arts landmarks as artifacts of a globe-spanning civilization called the Tartarian Empire, which was somehow erased from the history books. Adherents of this theory believe these buildings to be the keys to a hidden past, clandestinely obscured by malevolent actors.

Who? Why? To what possible end? As in many other, more high-profile conspiracy theories, this baroque fantasy doesn’t offer much in the way of practical considerations, logic or evidence. But it’s grounded in some real anxieties, pointing toward the changes wrought by the modern world in general and modern architecture specifically — and rejecting both…

The fascinating tale in full: “Inside the ‘Tartarian Empire,’ the QAnon of Architecture,” from @zachmortice in @business via @MSewillo in @the_prepared.

(In the same spirit, The Glory of the Empire is a “history” of another empire which only existed in the imaginations of author Jean d’Ormesson and his readers.)

* Percy Byssche Shelley, “Ozymandias”

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As we fabricate fabrications, we might spare a thought for Edmund Bacon; he died on this date in 2005. An urban planner, architect, educator, and author, he was executive director of the Philadelphia City Planning Commission from 1949 to 1970. His visions shaped today’s Philadelphia, the city in which he was born, to the extent that he is sometimes described as “The Father of Modern Philadelphia” (and thus an arch-enemy of Tartarians everywhere).

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

October 14, 2022 at 1:00 am

“The Greek temple is the creation, par excellence, of mind and spirit in equilibrium”*…

Edmund Stewart outlines the requirements for building a Greek temple…

If, like me, you have ever wondered what goes into building a Greek temple, then fear not: I here present a list of everything you will need. Admittedly, when compared with the wonders made possible by Roman concrete or a mediaeval gothic arch, the hundreds of temples scattered across the Greek world may perhaps look a bit small. Yet they are certainly elegant, sometimes with a slender beauty typical of the Ionic order, or else the sturdy grandeur of the Doric. And, when examined closely, the process of building one may quickly become worryingly complex…

Indeed, as The Browser observes, it’s a challenge…

In brief: [one would need] quite a lot. An architect, obviously, though architects were relatively cheap in ancient Greece; ships to bring in the marble; a hundred slaves for heavy lifting; a dozen carpenters; six craftsmen per column to dress the facade; sculptors and painters for the ornamentation; a door-maker; and do be sure to order your floor-tiles well ahead of time, they may take two years to arrive..

A fascinating and entertaining read: “What You Need to Build a Greek Temple,” in @AntigoneJournal, via @TheBrowser.

* Edith Hamilton

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As we contemplate construction, we might send carefully-excavated birthday greetings to Charles Thomas Newton; he was born on this date in 1816. An archaeologist, he excavated sites in southwestern Turkey and disinterred the remains of one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the Mausoleum of Halicarnassus (at present-day Bodrum, Turkey). Newton joined staff of British Museum in 1840, where he helped to establish systematic methods for archaeology and ultimately became its first keeper (curator) of Greek and Roman antiquities.

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“Most things are never meant”*…

A coastal engineer collects a concentrated sample of algae and bacteria on Lake Erie in Toledo, Ohio

Protein-packed diets add excess nitrogen to the environment through urine, rivaling pollution from agricultural fertilizers…

In the U.S., people eat more protein than they need to. And though it might not be bad for human health, this excess does pose a problem for the country’s waterways. The nation’s wastewater is laden with the leftovers from protein digestion: nitrogen compounds that can feed toxic algal blooms and pollute the air and drinking water. This source of nitrogen pollution even rivals that from fertilizers washed off of fields growing food crops, new research suggests.

When we overconsume protein—whether it comes from lentils, supplements or steak—our body breaks the excess down into urea, a nitrogen-containing compound that exits the body via urine and ultimately ends up in sewage… the majority of nitrogen pollution present in wastewater—some 67 to 100 percent—is a by-product of what people consume…

Once it enters the environment, the nitrogen in urea can trigger a spectrum of ecological impacts known as the “nitrogen cascade.” Under certain chemical conditions, and in the presence of particular microbes, urea can break down to form gases of oxidized nitrogen. These gases reach the atmosphere, where nitrous oxide (N2O) can contribute to warming via the greenhouse effect and nitrogen oxides (NOx) can cause acid rain. Other times, algae and cyanobacteria, photosynthetic bacteria also called blue-green algae, feed on urea directly. The nitrogen helps them grow much faster than they would normally, clogging vital water supplies with blooms that can produce toxins that are harmful to humans, other animals and plants. And when the algae eventually die, the problem is not over. Microorganisms that feast on dead algae use up oxygen in the water, leading to “dead zones,” where many aquatic species simply cannot survive, in rivers, lakes and oceans. Blooms from Puget Sound to Tampa, Fla., have caused large fish die-offs…

If it’s not one thing, it’s another: “Eating Too Much Protein Makes Pee a Problem Pollutant in the U.S.,” from Sasha Warren (@space_for_sasha) in @sciam.

* Philip Larkin, “Going, Going” (in High Windows)

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As we deliberate on our diets, we might recall that it was on this date in 1888 that Theophilus Van Kannel received a patent for the revolving door, a design that came to characterize the entrances of (then-proliferating) skyscrapers and that earned him induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. But lest we think him “all work,” his other notable invention was the popular (at least in the early 20th century) amusement park ride “Witching Waves.”

Theophilus Van Kannel’s patent drawing for a revolving door, 1888 [source]
Theophilus Van Kannel [source]

“I thought about the screws and their happiness”*…

A contemplation of craft…

I clock my screws, meaning I orient the slot in the screw heads so they are all vertical or horizontal. But I don’t think it’s a mark of superior aesthetics. It’s just something I do, like lining up the silverware on the dining table just so. I can’t help it…

Yesterday I took a drive to Columbus, Ind., one of the country’s repositories of excellent post-war architecture. Check out the Wikipedia page. Or the NPR story on the town. Or the great Kogonada-directed movie, “Columbus.”

My favorite building we toured was the First Christian Church, designed by Eliel Saarinen. Considered one of the first modern church structures in America, the building offers nod after nod to the cathedrals and churches of Europe. Yet the building, completed during World War II, is a complete break with the Old World. Even after 75 years, the church feels a beacon of hope, optimism and light.

One of the prominent features of the interiors is the extensive wooden lattice work, which is affixed with tens of thousands of perfectly clocked screws…

The Church of the Clocked Screws,” from Christopher Schwarz (@RudeMechanic) at Lost Art Press— eminently worthy of reading in full.

* Haruki Murakami

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As we applaud alignment, we might recall that it was on this date in 1852 that Cullen Whipple was awarded patent 9477 for his “Mechanism for Pointing and Threading Screw-Blanks in the Same Machine.” A machinist, Whipple had invented the first practical device for making pointed screws (a marked improvement on earlier screws, which were blunt-ended and required the drilling of “starter holes”).  Cullen joined with partners to incorporate The New England Screw Co., then went on to invent and patent seven other machines that improved the manufacture of screws.

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