11/12/12 – Swathi Satty

Today we received a presentation from Professor Richard Powers who did a talk on architectural history. He started off by saying that some scholars called architecture “ethnos” which is a frame for the time of society. Parthenon (447-438 BC) shows how western civilzation was during that time. It symbolizes the intellectual standing of those who built Partheton; it towers over everybody. A replica of Parthenon exists in Nashville. Another iconic building is called Monticello (little mountain) which is Roman as shown by the dome shape of the building. This allows the intellect over order over the world. The federal¬† style Massachusetts State House, 1798 shows the power of the founding fathers. The St. Paul’s Chapel, in 1776 is in Downtown. The trim around the windows is made of limestone and the use of brick shows its Georgian style architecture. The US capitol is roman and federal style which shows a rational approach to the world and the power in its function. Another federal style, neoclassical is Gracie Mansion.

Federal Hall, at the end of Wall Street, represents where President George Washington was inaugurated but the original was actually torn down.¬† It’s also greek revival because the success of Greece is shown through their use of Slaves which is what US did as well. The customs House is now a museum of American Indian; the building shows western civilization which is ironic to what it is now. Beaux-Arts architecture shows the dominance of Western Civilization over the world. In 1840’s is the transition from neoclassical to Gothic architecture which is shown by the pointed arches which shows religious. This ties America into Christianity. This transitions America from rational to sentimental and religious.

The Brooklyn Bridge is all steel and suspension. While it is sturdy and built for travel, it’s also highly religious because of its Gothic arches. The Engineers had to be careful because they didnt want to be seen as wanting to break away from their faith but they also have to make sure that the building is fully functional.Central Park also has also a Gothic feel but is mostly romantic. Its not symmetrical and it shows that even in a big city, you can live in a green neighborhood even if its not natural. Woolworth Building, 1913 is of Gothic Style and resides on city hall park. George Washington Bridge is an honest architecture because everything on the bridge serves an engineering purpose. This shows its rationality which is a roman way of thinking. The first skyscrapers were mostly of Beaux-Arts architecture or Gothic. The Chrysler Building, made in 1930, represents the role of modern life; the speed of life. The observations aid in the design of the building (streamlines, etc.). This is a gentle swift from historical revival because the role of engineers is more dominant. While the building is high, it was engineered to look high. The trim is of black marble and stainless steel which creates a shiny effect. The empire state building is made in a similar way in 1931. Buildings of this style promote and glamorize Capitalism.

The Rockefeller Center promotes capitalism as well since it asks to magnify everything. The big change is right after world war I which produced a generation of engineers who are very far to the left, some of them being communists.This kind of style is very present in our society now because we are a very capitalist based country.

Overall, I learned a lot about the role of buildings and how it represents what mattered most to the citizens of Western Civilization. As the focus of the westerners changed throughout the years, the building styles also changed to reflect the fascinations or interests of society. I really enjoyed Professor Powers’s presentation because it really aided in our study of the Arts of New York.