Love of all things Italian No.4: Classical architecture

Italy is having a tough time with the coronavirus. I can show my support for them by recognising the contribution of Italy to world culture.

In this, my fourth in the series, is that their classical architecture has given to world culture. I could choose Filippo Brunelleschi’s iconic dome of Florence Cathedral completed in 1436, or any work by Andrea Palladio, but my choice is  The Pantheon in Rome.

The Pantheon is one of the most admired ancient buildings. It was built in the time of emperor Hadrian and completed in 126 AD, and never subsequently structurally altered. The dome, with it’s opening at the top [called an oculus] is an engineering and archtectural marvel. The Pantheon has an entrance portico with eight corinthinian columns under a pediment, through a vestibule leading to the rotunda, a coffered dome constructed in concrete. [Both images from Wikipedia]

Learning a little about the classical order of architecture

I’m in the process of preparing, for this blog, a short article on Nelson’s Column in Trafalgar Square. It being a column of classical design, I wanted to know its column style. I’ve found out its a Corinthian column, and here’s what I discovered about classical column styles.

For their buildings, the ancient Greeks [700-400 BC] used a very precise set of measurements that fall into three main architectural designs, referred to as “orders”. They are known as: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian.

I’ll not bother to describe the orders in detail, you can read more about them at ArtHistoryBlogger. For us non-architectural types the different styles [or orders] is recognisable in the column capitals (the decoration on top of the columns).  Here’s diagram of the differences.

By way of further brief descrition about the ‘orders’,

  • Doric: characterised by cleaness of design without decoration at the top of the column, and without a base.
  • Ionic: has scrolls on the capital, and sits on a base.
  • Corinthian: exhibits scrolls on capital supported by curly Acanthus leaves, and sit on a base.

For examples of the three ‘orders’ in ancient Greek buildings the image gallery in the architecture section of the page on Ancient Greece in History.com is ideal.

Cripes! Politician commits to returning the Euston Arch

No longer being overtly political I refrain from posting government minister’s speeches.

euston_arch_1896I’m making a rare exception. The Minister of State for Transport John Hayes delivered a speech on 31st October at the Independent Transport Commission discussion evening, in which he calls for beauty in transport, and the return of the Euston Arch. Read the speech HERE.

The Minister spoke about banishing, what he called the ‘Cult of Ugliness’. Expenditure on Crossrail, HS2, Crossrail2, new roads, and bridges, he says, offers an opportunity to making the public realm better and beautiful.

The Minister highlighted our transport heritage at “Kings Cross, St Pancras, Paddington, Bristol Temple Meads, the classical portico of Huddersfield station, and the gentle gothic of Great Malvern”.

Concluding his speech the Minister said,

“We will make good the terrible damage that was done to Euston, by resurrecting the Euston Arch. …. I support the Euston Arch Trust’s great ambition to see those stones stand in Euston once again as part of the rebuilt arch.”

Birmingham’s magnificent renovated neoclassical Town Hall

I wrote earlier this week about visiting the new Library of Birmingham building. On our way to it from Birmingham’s New Street station we passed through Victoria Square to stop by magnificent neoclassical Town Hall, to see how it’s been renovated.

Subject to a £35 million restoration, it now befits the city centre. For many years it was blackened by soot, and not well maintained. I remember, in the 1960’s, being with my brother listening, among a packed audience, to a speech on the economy by Enoch Powell. It’s a venue that seems to add status and grandeur to what occurs inside. It’s surely the classical architecture, with its Corinthian columns, that gives it the aura of a Forum, and also its history.

We peeked inside, prior to a children’s event, but were still able to see the benefits of the restoration.