November 11th: Architecture & Eloquence - Part II

Here we are, in a continuation of our conversation with Professor Roderick L Knox, architect on the vast topic of Architecture & Eloquence.

Rod declined to elaborate further on the Vesica Piscis, but noted the many uses of this mystical symbol in Glastonbury, which has a charming legend as being where the Holy Grail was hidden.

A Vesica Piscis design in a garden of Glastonbury. The intersection of spheres plays a thematic role in much of baroque architecture, which we discussed later in the program - see below. 

Pozzolith, the Roman concrete, as used in the dome of the Pantheon:

The Carpenter Center - and its ramp, which links Quincy and Prescott Streets - just across from Harvard Yard, and the home of the department of Visual and Environmental Studies:

Le Corbusier's monastery at La Tourette:

The Templar fortress Convento de Cristo in Tomar, Portugal –

The Convento de Cristo was in use to well after Friday October the 13th - 1307, when the Knights Templar in France were executed; in fact this fortress/monastery was in religious use until occupied by Napoleonic forces in 1810 for barracks.

Boston City Hall, by architects Kallman & McKinnell, completed in 1969 and despised ever afterwards:

and which certainly owes a lot to La Tourette, dontchathink?

Representative of Felix Candela's thin-shell structures are these hyperbolic paraboloid arches:

Eero Saarinen’s TWA terminal owes much to Candela's work, as you can see in these images:

- above, a cheery illustration from 1961, and below a recent photograph of the terminal's interior:

Saarinen's CBS headquarters, with its triangular piers and black granite cladding:

Whereas "Black Rock" is not as severe as the monoliths or stellae in Kubrick's 2001:

- certainly the entrance to the CBS building is much harder to identify than, for instance, the Chrysler Building's entrance:

We argued a bit over the notion that concrete should be expressed in progressively thinner profile as the structure rises and bears less weight. Here is a Mies van der Rohe building that Professor Knox uses to illustrate his point:

To which I retort that to step back a structure for structurally expressive purposes might lead one to something like Raymond Hood's Chicago Tribune Building:

We spoke in passing about another Mies project, 860 – 880 Lake Shore Drive towers:

- a pure expression of steel structure: all grid, all lattice. Completely unlike Saarinen's CBS building, which is a concrete structure.

Here is a closeup view of the plinth on which these Mies towers perch:

Another work that is representative of the worst of Brutalist architecture is Paul Rudolph's Lindeman Center, which happens to be a neighbor of Boston City Hall:

- which, now that I'm looking at these photographs, certainly seems to owe a debt to Corbu's buildings in Chandigarh:

The Jaoul Houses – Neuilly:

and the exposed concrete wall (to the right) that Madame Jaoul patted as I toured the house with her in June of 1974:

Note the flat Catalan arches.

Corbu's Modulor Man:

and his trademark open hand in this monument at Chandighar:

The famous Villa Savoye bathroom, with its somewhat ergonomic resting platform:

Rudolf Steiner's Goetheneaum:

and a marzipan cake:

Adolf Loos' – Müller House, Prague – 1928-30

Examples of unified art, or Gesamtkunstwerk - as practiced by Frank Lloyd Wright in his prairie school houses:

- in which the architecture, the furniture and the furnishings have all been designed or selected by the architect.

Borromini's San Carlo alle Quatro Fontana – Rome 1646:

in plan

in elevation

and in reflected plan (ceiling view). Absolutely gorgeous.

Bernini's Sant' Andrea al Quirinale, of which we also spoke, in passing:

And - not to be overly self-serving - apropos of how collaboration can result in a work far better than what would result if the client gave us carte blanche, a few details from my own Bridgehampton National Bank, on Montauk Highway in Bridgehampton, NY (1993 - 97):

A design sketch for the cupola (which the clients insisted upon, and which I insisted be useful to introduce daylight into the interior of the rather large volume of the building):

And how it turned out in the end:

Not at all what I would have designed for this bank, had I been left to my 'druthers, but certainly exactly what the bank wanted.

Well - here we are at the end of images for our conversation of November 11th.

Our musical breaks were:

Ludwig van Beethoven: Fifth Symphony - 4th movement

Richard Wagner: Die Meistersing von Nurnberg

Sergei Prokofiev: Romeo & Juliet (ballet) - Dance of the Knights

Philip Glass: Satyagraha - Act 3 Scene 3

Speak with soon, and thanks for listening.

Curtis B Wayne,

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