Professor Powers on Architecture: 11/12/12

I’m not one for architecture…I never have been.  But Professor Powers came to our seminar class today as a guest speaker, and he introduced some interesting facts about architecture that I never knew.  Obviously, certain things were common sense and had been taught in past history classes.  But other things, some of the art forms and where and how they originated, were new to me.  It didn’t really change my perspective on architecture as a whole, but I did find it interesting to hear why some of the most well – known buildings in NYC are built the way they are, how even places like Central Park and the Brooklyn Bridge fit into a certain style of architecture.

It is common knowledge that many buildings and other significant edifices were built and modeled after ancient Greek and Roman architecture.  What I did not know was that the Parthenon, in Greece, stands as a symbol of reason and intellect, which is why it stands taller than the other buildings that surround it.  Apparently, many buildings that we see every day and learn about in school are modeled after the Parthenon and for the same reason – as a sign of reason and intellect, as a sign that the mind is more powerful than anything else.  Some well known buildings that fall in this category include Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s approach to symbolizing reason; Saint Paul’s Chapel, built in the neoclassical style of brick, with white trimming and corners made of limestone; and the US Capitol, which stands as a significant mark of the Founding Fathers’ ability to build our nation, mostly based on reason, intellect, and order.  This was the “ethnos” of that period and of their frame of mind: that reason was the best approach in creating a sound and stable nation.  I think, for me, this was the most interesting part of the lecture.  This seminar class has taught me many things, but one thing stands out in particular: I can appreciate and enjoy many different art forms, and I can be analytical.  But I am also a very concrete person, not very abstract.  Therefore, the idea of reason and intellect appeals to me, sometimes more than out-of-the-box, inventive and creative art forms.

Professor Powers then explained various other types of architecture styles, including Gothic, Beaux-art, Art Deco, and International Style.  While I do not particularly “like” architecture, my favorite is definitely Gothic.  Old, castle-like, semi-formal buildings always catch my attention and fascinate me.  Trinity Church looks like a beautiful building, one that I would enjoy exploring.  I think the Beaux-art section of the lecture was my least favorite, mostly because the idea behind it, of stepping out of the lines a bit, trying something new, seems like something I would expect of an artist or architect.  Art Deco and International Style, on the other hand, did interest me, because the ideas were new to me.  Art Deco is a style where designers feel that architecture should be honest and everything should have a purpose.  For example, the Chrysler Building and the Empire State Building fall in this category.  It is interesting to see how the shapes and designs of these buildings were influenced by this idea, that rather than just copying architecture from ancient civilizations, designers should create new architectural styles.  Then there was the International Style.  When Europeans and later, Americans, began toying with this architectural style, it was a break from historical references and business civilization.  These designers felt like capitalism ruined society, and therefore, buildings should not be new, abstract shapes, nor should they resemble ancient Greek and Roman edifices.  Instead, buildings should have the logical shape of a building.  There is no culture or meaning attached.  Le Corbusier was a famous architect and designer who came from this mindset, and he developed the Human Model, based on Da Vinci’s Vitrvian Man.  The view that culture, intellect, and history are all part of extra baggage that is not needed is a radical idea, and I think that is what made this category attractive and interesting to me.

It seems that architecture is a key to the past.  It is a key to different ideas and views, and how people perceived certain ideas.  People were extremely concerned with the architecture that made up their societies and their cities and each building represents different ideas from different time periods.  While I do not find interest in studying architecture itself, these concepts behind the architecture, its meaning, is intriguing and I am glad Professor Powers came to provide insight into this art that I had never really truly appreciated before.

Oddly enough, some of the ideas concerning architecture segued into a brief discussion concerning Claude DeBussy and his musical style.  His musical style is one that is very abstract and open, with no clear cut definitions or limitations.  Maybe it’s because I am concrete and don’t have creative ability, but I really like the idea of abstract music, of “dancing around” rather than just getting to the point.  It’s open to interpretation and is enjoyable to listen to.  I look forward to hearing Professor Kahan perform his work tomorrow night at the concert.

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About Elisa Csorba

My name is Elisa and I am a freshman at Macaulay Honors College at the College of Staten Island. I feel very privileged to be a student in this prestigious college and I look forward to my next four years here. I attended Fontbonne Hall Academy in Brooklyn. I love to read - some of my favorite books include the [Fallen series], [Harry Potter], [Jane Eyre], and several others. Sometimes, I think there are too many to list. I'm a friendly person and can start a conversation with anyone about anything, and I look forward to meeting everybody!