Tag Archives: Architecture


“The technological ability to build 100-story buildings on every square inch of the face of the earth–whether it be Madison Avenue, Times Square, or the plains of Kansas–is not necessarily a mandate to do so.”

Adele Chatfield-Taylor, founder/former executive director of New York Landmarks Preservation Foundation
(taken from my textbook on Historic Preservation)


Exercising Patience


I’m taking a summer studio class. (This is important because it means my entire summer is full of formal architecture training.)

For this class, I’m analyzing a building (at least to start) to understand its context, history, typology, etc. And holy cow, Stuttgart is one heck of a confusing city–I can’t tell if it’s because I can’t read German (and it’s kind of an intimidating language to my Romance-language-trained eyes) or because it’s just a confusing city.


My Google Earth screencap of Stuttgart.

Architecture Seen Again


It’s common practice for architects to keep a sketchbook. It’s how we record our encounters with the world and keep our skills of both observation and editing sharp. I personally have quite an affinity for drawing churches–so I think I’m going to upload some of my favourite pieces that I’ve done here, from time to time. If it’s a real church, it will be labelled. I label everything.

Also, I date my sketches (but not my watercolours)–please keep that in mind as you look at it because I’m uploading some old work, too.


The Evolution of Servitude


A generally accepted fact of history is that a culture’s art and architecture are highly representative of the culture itself.  This is often because these areas are where people put their money, if they have any.

Caryatids in Greece

In ancient times (think ancient Greece), it was considered a symbol of shame and subordination to be built into a column.  Frequently, men and women acting as supports for a structure are seen in the ruins of the ancient world.  Columns of men are called any of the following: atlases, atlantes, atlantids, telamons, or Persians; women are simply caryatids.  The last title for the male columns–Persians–should be a direct tipoff, if any of you readers know Greek history [1].  To be forced to hold up a column was humiliating (Atlas was being punished by being forced to hold up the world).  It was a form of enslavement, of humiliation, and of subjugation.

Saints built into the relief “columns” beneath the tympanum of one of the portals of Notre Dame de Paris

However, this entire mindset was wholly subverted with the teachings of Christ.  Jesus, who himself lived to serve, encouraged his followers to be servants as well.  As such, the piteously humiliating role of the servant/slave was subverted into a beautifully humbling role.  Instead of slaves being built into the columns of buildings, saints were.  Instead of being subjugated and diminished, the people at the bottom of the columns were glorified by being considered the foundations of the building.  The saints were not struggling beneath the crushing weight of the roof; with the help of God’s grace, they held up the church.

That is, hopefully, our role as members of the Church; we will become saints with the great honour of helping to hold it up.  And we won’t struggle with the weight because we will be imbued with God’s grace.



1. The Greco-Persian Wars, also simply called the Persian Wars, took place during the 5th century BC and contained the famous Battle of Marathon, where the Greeks crushed the Persians with a smaller army, fewer deaths, and better strategy.

Building of the Day


In some research for one of my classes, I stumbled across a most lovely building–and when I saw it, I guessed, “I bet that’s Hungary.”  Sure enough, it’s the Budapest Parliament building.

I haven’t actually done any research on this building itself, so what follows is speculation just from looking at it:

At first glance, this building appears to be a true Gothic building.  Gothicism is a late medieval style, spanning from about the 1200s all the way up  to the Renaissance, and primarily focused in France and Germany (though it definitely had some influence in England and elsewhere).  But that can’t be right because Hungary was a monarchy until the very early 1900s (I want to say 1910 but I could be wrong).  Monarchy, however, does not necessarily mean it has no parliament–see England–and I don’t know much else about the history of Hungary.  But, based on its too-small-to-be-really-necessary buttressing and the more prevalent horizontality (most true Gothic buildings are extremely vertical), combined with the ribbed dome–first engineered by Brunelleschi at the start of the Renaissance–I would suggest that this was built during the Gothic Revival of the 1800s (1860s?) around the same time as Britain’s Parliamentary building (and, I suspect, the castle which everyone calls “Downton Abbey”).  …this is still all from memory, by the way.  I plan to check my facts at the end of the post.  Anyway, it exhibits some elements of what was called “horizontal Gothicism,” and that is exemplified by the Houses of Parliament.

Okay, fact-checking time!

1. It WAS from the Gothic revival but I was about 30 years off.  1896 is the year given for the Parliament Building in Budapest.  AND it was inspired by Westminster Palace (aka the Houses of Parliament).

2. The Austro-Hungarian empire fell in 1918.

3. The same guy who built the Houses of Parliament also built Highclere Castle (aka Downton Abbey).

4. Ribbed domes were around pre-Brunelleschi–early Islamic, 9th century.  So I think Brunelleschi just made them famous and more prevalent.

Death on a Crank


As of late I’ve been reading Leah Libresco’s wonderful blog (and I have a little post about the nature of her posts bouncing around my head) and recently discovered the Paternoster.  As a student of architecture, I am being prepped for the “real world” by such classes as Building Systems, where I begin to learn code things and the reasons for them.  My prof for the class pointed out that codes are instituted after horrific catastrophes so that they don’t happen again (like the 4″ ball rule for railing spindles), and that it is the job of the architect to make everything ADA accessible and so that anyone who dies will be from a freak accident and not because there was something wrong with the building.  The Paternoster, however, is–as the title of this post suggests–what I assessed to be “death on a crank.”  The sheer number of things which could go wrong is so astronomical that my poor mind is blown just thinking that such things were actually allowed and used.  Also it’s just plain terrifying.