Ancestral Roofs

"In Praise of Older Buildings"

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Classical Gas-off

Like a mad old woman muttering in the bus shelter, this post (and perhaps others to follow) will reveal the innermost workings (or lack thereof) of my mind, as I study out loud in public, struggling to understand Classical architecture. A few things are coming clear, as I persist.

Realization #1:
The influence (and elements) of ancient Greek and Roman architecture repeat over the centuries like a bad chili relleno. Each time the inspiration returns it is slightly changed by the aesthetic of the day.

Realization #2:
Most of my reference books/authors use different terminology or group 'styles' in different ways.

This is interesting although it's driving me crazy.

Here are four examples of what I mean:

i) Neoclassical Architecture in Canada by Leslie Maitland (1984, National Historic Sites and Parks Branch) is a complex and arcane government publication which I have to read again. She uses the term Neoclassical throughout. But...why did I start with this one?
ii) A Guide to Canadian Architectural Styles by L. Maitland, J. Hucker and S. Ricketts (1992) uses: the Palladian Style, the Neoclassical style, the Edwardian Classical style and the Modern Classical style to describe the uniqueness of different periods.
iii) Ontario Architecture by John Blumenson (1990) uses Georgian, Neoclassical, Beaux-Arts Classicism and Edwardian Classicism.
iv) However, in Identifying American Architecture, Blumenson uses Georgian, Federal, Roman Classicism, Greek Revival, Beaux-Arts Classicism, and Neo-Classicism (1900-1920)

And we know that Georgian, Beaux Arts and Renaissance Revival styles across the c.18 and 19 base their uniqueness in how they worked with classical elements and principles. Good grief.

First order (oops, no pun intended) of the day will be to establish what Classical elements are pretty much constant across variations.

Can you say "Symmetry"?

Thanks for listening. I feel so much better.
used with permission - Vintage Kingston FB

All of these impressive Classically inspired buildings are in Kingston Ontario. The city is a Neoclassical feast resulting from the building boom in the 1840's which coincided with the heyday of the style. Kingston was the largest town in Upper Canada and its elevation to capital of Upper Canada in 1841 created a demand for important architecture.

 Neoclassical. Not an off-centre turret, an irregular roofline or a  pointy-headed window in the lot.

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