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The students would be given copies of these and other architectural words as taken from the glossary of the book What Style is It? which is printed by The Preservation Press of the National Trust for Historical Preservation. After explaining the various terms, I would reinforce this knowledge by asking the students to identify various parts that are found in the room. The students would then be taken outside of the building and have the building explained to them. They would then be divided into groups of two and three. The class as a whole would make a book of the points of architectural interest in our school with each group being assigned a certain section of the building, eg, front doorways, ornament around the windows, etc. Each group would need to either make drawings ar take pictures of each item and then supply a written description or definition of it.
arch windows beam doorway column intercolumnation pedestal vent roof-gable-dormer-dome forecourt capital courtyard cornice cortile keystone atrium moldings hallways-corridors pilaster niche wall pediment tympanum pergola
The information gathered at this time would form the basis of the material needed for understanding the building of the Troup Magnet Academy of Sciences.
As there are a number of human forms ornamenting the building, I will discuss their significance in detail. Most of the ideas presented here are from the book Details by Sally B. Woodbridge.
Atlantes are related to Atlas the Titan who was sentenced to support the heavens because he joined in a revolt against the gods. Atlantes is one name for the muscular, weary-looking men bowed down by the weight of cornices, balconies, etc. They are also called heroes, perhaps as a result of incorporating this protecting effigy into the building.Understanding the myths surrounding the origins of some of these structures gives meaning to apparently non-related figures and ornamentation.
Freestanding sculptures that hold up parts of buildings can be traced to legends surrounding the caryatids, the six statues of women that support the roof of the porch, sometimes called ‘the porch of the maidens’ of a building of mysterious use called the Erechtheum which stands on the Acropolis in Athens. Vitruvius wrote that human columns commemorated the punishment of the women of the town of Caryae (Caryatid translates as resident of Caryae) who with their husbands conspired to help the invading Persians defeat the Greeks. After the defeat of the Persians, the Greeks killed the men of Caryae and took the women to Athens as captives, where they were displayed weighted down as punishment for their sins. Turning these women into a permanent moral lesson, if indeed that was the intention behind the sculptures failed, as have many moral lessons in stone.
Although the original caryatids do not seem to be suffering, most other humans who appear in supporting roles in buildings have the distorted faces and contorted postures to be expected from bearing such a painful and permanent burden.
Whatever the origin of this enslavement of humans to architecture, the public exhibition of prisoners of war and other miscreants bound or chained to structures was common practice in many cultures.
Several kinds of detached heads appear on Classical buildings on the keystones of arches, gazing out from under balconies and roofs or festooned with foliage on friezes. These heads are usually bearded males with long curling locks that merge into plant tendrils. This category of ornament has long been labelled “grotesque” and is commonly used to describe something that is distorted or twisted out of its natural state.
Classical male and female heads were fashioned after traditional representations of gods, goddesses, heroes, and typically female personifications of virtues such as justice and truth. Bearded male heads with long tangled locks of hair and fierce expressions may be Titans, the secondary race of gods spawned by Uranus and Gaea, who were giants and therefore capable of bearing heavy loads.
Human heads were used in ornamentation of buildings and were intended to humanize buildings as well as to bring good fortune.
In Classical times, famous temples exemplified its style. The interiors were not used n public rituals so not much is known about its purpose or its appearance. However, the exterior was studied extensively and is still being studied to discover the rules that governed its composition. This has been analyzed down to the smallest detail. However, once understood, the temple was viewed as a kit of parts that could be taken anywhere.
To me, this adequately explains the use of many combinations of unrelated details used in decorating buildings. The Classical world used them in this way and through the years they have been copied, ornamented, stylized, and used as a basis for completely different ideas. Understanding the basics helps in understanding the use of ornament during various architectural periods.
The ancient Greeks worked out an exquisite language of structural details that, according to some theories, served the purpose of memorializing the construction of the original wooden temples when longer-lasting stone became the preferred building material. The Roman architectural writer Vitruvius from whom we derive most of our knowledge of Greek building practices, is an important source of this explanation for the form of the temple. Accordingly, the parts made from three tree trunks became stone columns that supported the horizontal superstructure called an entablature, formerly a series of wood beams, which in turn supported the roof.Quoting from Details, “one interpretation of the Corinthian capital is based on the tale of a young maiden of the Greek city of Corinth who died before marriage and was duly buried. Her nurse gathered up some of her favorite possessions and put them in a basket, which she placed on the maidens grave as a memorial. She covered the basket with a tile to weigh it down and keep out the rain. The nurse failed to notice that she had set the basket on top of an acanthus shoot, which, struggling to grow, curled its tendrils out from under the basket. In time, the leaves unfolded around the base of the basket and beneath the tile lid. Who should be passing by but an architect, Callimachus, who was inspired to use the composition for a column capital.” (See fig.l)
According to Vitruvius, the so-called classical orders, or types that comprised the columns and the entablature were named for their place of origin and the people who created them, the Dorians, the Ionians, and the Corinthians.
The Doric temple which appeared in the fifth century B.C., seems to have its basis in stone corn cribs which were used in various parts of the world. They have stone walls cut with slits very much like triglyphs. Also, the cribs are raised on stone posts capped with disks which were probably designed to keep rats and mice away. However they suggest the form of Doria capitals. It has been suggested that the whole Doric entablature was a compressed symbolic upper floor which is analogous to the barn lofts used for storing grain.
New Haven was founded in 1637 as both a Puritan community and a mercantile enterprise. It was the capital of an independent colony and had hopes of becoming an empire with a fortune being made in the beaver-skin trade. However, this did not happen. The merchants died or left. The poor people could not do much and New Haven lost its independence and became part of the Colony of Connecticut.
New Haven was far from the cities of New York and Boston. Life was poor. However in 1701, Yale College was founded and was the third College in America. New Haven had a bitter fight with Hartford but was finally chosen as the seat for this new college.
From 1750-1835, the city entered a period of prosperity as the port came back to life. In 1784, it was chartered as a city. “With the best harbor in western New England, it was soon a major port. At the same time, tanning and shoemaking flourished, and small shops making earrings and hardware began to appear.”
During the years of 1835-1860, New Haven became a manufacturing town. They made carriages, guns, rubber boats, clocks, and hardware. The leading figure at this time was James Brewster who built the first railroad to New Haven and did much to develop the city’s manufacturing ability. By 1860, New Haven was carriage maker to the world.
The Civil War was a disaster because most of the New Haven market was in the south. In 1873, New Haven lost its status as co-capital of Connecticut. Hartford was now the only capital of Connecticut.
1880-1929 saw New Haven become an industrial city. The Winchester Repeating Arms Co. located here. The railroads were consolidated into a single system with New haven as the head. The invention of the worlds first telephone exchange and the establishing of SNET and the development of Yale College to Yale University all contributed to making New Haven a boom town during these years. The city grew and expanded into the suburbs.
During 1929—the present, the problems of an American industrial city grew and took over the city. A great deal of time, money, and effort is being put into New Haven to reclaim and restore it. We need to seek varying ways and means of contributing to this effort.
The Augusta Troup school was built in 1924 and designed by Charles Scranton Palmer. It has large Tudor windows and patterned brick. It is an example of a widely used model for school design in the 1920’s.
As a culminating activity to this unit, I would have the students design an ornament or symbol that would be appropriate for Troup. They would need to designate a place where it could be used and the significance of its symbolism. It is hoped that this will fire them with love and enthusiasm for their school and neighborhood.
- Day 1—Discussion of what a building is.
- Activity: Tour of interior of the building with emphasis on the purpose of the building and how it is achieved.
- Day 2—Kit-of-Parts
- Activity: Worksheet of matching names with pictures of the parts of a building.
- Day 3—Brief Review of the Kit-of-Parts
- ____Activity: Divide class into groups of 2 or 3. Tour the exterior of the building; assign each group a section of the building. For example; front doorway, ornaments around the windows, etc. Each group would need to make drawings or take photographs of each ornament in their section, and supply a written description or definition of it.
- Day 4—Complete group work on ornaments. Turn in assignments. These will then be put together to form a dictionary of architectural ornament and will be displayed on a bulletin board.
- Day 5—Lecture giving a brief history of architectural styles. This will focus on the Doria, Ionian, and Corinthian orders as compared in columns of these styles. The mythical origins of these styles will be explained. The words Classical, Gothic, and Modern, in reference to styles, will be introduced.
- ____Activity: Students will be given handouts with pictures of the three different styles of columns. They will be asked to orally identify the differences between the three orders of columns. There will be an oral review of some of the words from the kit-of-parts such as capital, column, cornice, etc. The students will be asked to identify these parts in their pictures of the columns.
- Day 6—A walking tour of various buildings on the Yale campus to reinforce knowledge of the Classical orders and to point out significant architectural details on them.
- Day 7—A quick oral quiz on the Doric, Ionian, And Corinthian columns. Bridge into the myths behind ornaments and symbols. Have either a slide presentation or a photographic scrap book on architectural details. Explain the myths that surround them. Lecture specifically on the symbolism of; (1) owl, (2) dove, (3) wings, (4) lions, (5) Atlantes, (6) Hermes, (7) Caryatids, (8) Prisoners of war, (9) grotesques, (10) Flowers, Foliage, and trophies and their possible relation to temple rituals, and (11) acanthus.
- ____Activity: Research and write about one of the symbols or ornaments pictured in lesson 3 and 4.
- Day 8—Lecture—a very brief history of New Haven.
- ____Activity: A 100-150 word essay on what each student thinks was an influence on the design of Troup.
- Day 9—
- ____Activity: Design an architectural ornament for Troup taking into account lessons learned in symbolism and architectural detail. Tour the exterior of the school and each student will choose the location of his/her ornament. Explain that the ornament can be designed by using one or combining several of the following techniques; (a) making a collage, (b) drawing the design of the ornament, (c) xeroxing a photograph, eg. Drawing a niche and then xeroxing a photograph of the symbol to go in it. The design can be done in either black and white or in color.
- Day 10—Continue designing an architectural ornament.
- Day 11—Turn in design of ornaments. Have each student present his/her design and give a very brief oral report on its significance. For example, “I chose an eagle for my ornament because . . .”
- Day 12—Display drawings in an exhibition at school. Invite parents and interested school personnel to attend. Have a cookies and punch reception.
Brown, E. M., New Haven: A Guide to Architecture and Urban Design, New Haven, CT: The Yale University Press, 1976.
Condit, C. W., American Building, Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1968.
Downing, A. J., The Architecture of Country Houses, New York, NY: Dover Pub. Inc., 1969. Originally published 1850.
Fleming, J., Honour, H., Pevsner, N., The Penguin Dictionary of Architecture, Great Britain: Penguin Books, 1966.
Gifford, D., ed., The Literature of Architecture, New York, NY: E. P. Dutton and Co., Inc., 1966.
Hellman, L., Architecture for Beginners, New York, NY: Writers and Readers Pub., Inc., 1984.
Hersey, G., The Lost Meaning of Classical Architecture, Cambridge, Mass: The M. I. T. Press, 1988.
Hunt, W. D., Jr., American Architecture, New York, NY: Harper and Rowe, Publishers, 1984.
Jackson, J. B., The Necessity for Ruins, Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1980.
Jones, O., The Grammar of Ornament, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1987, originally published 1856.
McAlester, V. and L., A Field Guide to American Houses, New York: Alfred A Kopf, 1990.
Mumford, L., Sticks and Stones: A study of American Architecture and Civilization, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1955.
Poppeliers, H., Chambers, S. A., Schwartz, N. B., What Style Is It?, Washington, D.C.: The Preservation Press, 1977.
Rasmussen, S. E., Experiencing Architecture, Cambridge, Mass: The M. I. T. Press, 1956.
Ruskin, J., The Seven Lamps of Architecture, New York: Dover Publications, Inc., 1989 originally published 1880.
Summerson, J., The Classical Language of Architecture, Cambridge, Mass: The M. I. T. Press, 1963.
Woodbridge, S. B., Details: The Architects Art, San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 1991.
I Know that House , The Preservation Press
What Style Is It?, The Preservation Press
Additional Sources of Information
The New Haven Colony Historical Society,
114 Whitney Ave.
New Haven CT
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