27 October 2009

A Further Note on Recent Research

My last big assignment has been to research the London church of St. Mary Aldermary, located not far from St. Paul's near the Mansion House tube stop.

This church is unique in that it is considered the only Wren (meaning mostly his workshop) designed Gothic church. The original Gothic structure was nearly completely destroyed during the Great Fire of 1666. The only parts of the structure that survived were the foundations as well as portions of the east and south wall. Wren and his workshop were instructed to rebuild the church in the manner of the original structure by the executor of a local merchant's will, who left 5000 pounds to the parish.

The church has a wonderfully bright interior and the staff is amazing! Also, they sell roman coins as a fundraiser - how could you not love this place.

26 October 2009

A Few More Kew Gardens Photos

The Oriental Pagoda

A view of one of the iron supports for the large victorian glass and iron Greenhouse

Through the supports of the Palm House

Kew Gardens

Entering Kew Gardens is just like going to a Victorian Theme Park. The park grounds include two of the oldest and largest glass and iron Victorian greenhouses in the world, as well as some of the rarest plants, collected by English explorers for the past 250 years. This includes the world's tallest flower, the worlds tallest indoor plant at over 18 meters, the oldest potted plant (which happens to be a very contorted palm), some of the worlds largest water lilies, and plants that have been growing at kew since the 18th century.

Above is a photo of me in front of the Oriental Pagoda, which is actually made out of a substantial brick core. It is such an intresting product of the eastern architectural influence of traveler's stories and sketches during the 18th and 19th century. Below is a photograph of the Alpine House, a recent addition to Kew Gardens, surrounded by the Grass Garden and Rock Garden. The Alpine House houses some of the most delicate looking flowing plants I have ever seen. Each flower seemed designed to be perfectly suited to its enviroment, yet extremely delicate.

Above - me in the largest of the greenhouses - walking on the catwalk, which allows visitors to overlook the extensive plantings as well as walk among the treetops of some of the most amazing indoor plants in the world.

Below - a palm towers above visitor's heads, barely scraping the iron and glass dome. This structure is probably the closest anyone can come to visualizing the extensive iron and glass structure of the Crystal Palace - which was designed for the Great Exhibition under the patronage of Prince Albert. Sadly, this structure was moved from it original site and was eventually destroyed by fire during the early 19th century.

23 October 2009

A Little Bit About Studying in London

Me at the Royal Crescent - Bath, UK. [and the real reason I took this picture = directly behind me is a HA HA wall. Originally this wall was designed as a way to keep the cows and other livestock that grazed on the commons area off the park land directly in front of the Crescent. HA HA walls are my favorite bit of English landscape architecture...... basically because they are usually designed so that you can't see them until you literally fall over them.]

So... Just a note on some of my studies her at the Courtauld Institute. It has been a whirlwind of reading and writing. Our first assignment was to discuss Type, while our last discussion session focused on Function. It has been nice to get back into some theoretical discussions, as well as learning new things about early modern British Architecture. I had never realized the scope of architectural diversity and innovation during the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries. It has also been fantastic to look at the ways that Medieval architectural styles in Britain changed during the 15th and 16th centuries. It always fascinates me just how much the Panofsky-esque view of high and low historical points has permeated through all levels of art and architectural history.

I have always found that the actual artistic production of any one period is just as sophisticated as any other, just on different levels or in different ways. The Gothic churches of the 12th and 13th century will always be just as meaningful as the churches constructed during the Italian Renaissance in the 16th century.

The information I have learned has also been influential on my continued thesis work. The romanticism of the late 18th and early 19th century has helped me to craft a framework for the romanticism of Fay Jones.

In other news - I went to Bath, Bristol and Wells this weekend. All of these great cities are in Somerset, and it was a wonderful trip - using all forms of transportation except the airplane.

The structure above I found while on an MP3 walking tour of Bath - a great purchase if you are traveling by the way. It is the only grade 3 listed bathroom structure in England.... it was put in when the park was designed during the late 19th century.

This is a photo of Wells Cathedral - the scissor arch is contemporary to the structure - even though it does look amazingly modern.

Bath Cathedral - a wonderful Medieval structure, mostly restored during the 20th century after damage during the second World War.

The Clifton Suspension Bridge, nearly 150 years old that spans the Avon Gorge in Bristol. Designed by the famous engineer Isambard Kingdom Brunel.

14 October 2009

Last Thursday night, I went with a friend to Leicester Square, which is the official heart of the West End Theatre district and got tickets for Avenue Q. It was a hilarious comedy, combining puppets and real life problems to amazing effect. I recommend the show if you grew up on the Muppets and Sesame Street and ever wondered what happened to those puppets when they went home for the weekend. (Caution – crude language and humor make this show to adult for those of the young teen crowd)

Luckily for my theatre addiction, the Courtauld Institute is situated right on the southern edge of the London Theatre district. As with any study abroad opportunity, the chance to take advantage of local culture and entertainment is a large part of the experience. London has always had a great reputation for theatrical excellence, starting well before the time of Shakespeare and continuing through today. This theatre season, several great musicals continue to draw in the mostly tourist crowd, while other smaller venues keep the critics writing about great performances across the West End.

One of the recent triumphs in Theatre Land was the staging of Trevor Griffiths play about the life and work of Thomas Paine, entitled “A New World”, provided a thoroughly engrossing narrative of a man who loved, lived and wrote during two revolutions on two continents. about the life of Thomas Paine at the unlikely venue of Shakespeare’s Globe. I was lucky enough to see the last performance of this tour de force of a biographical play. Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre is always a treat as a venue (especially if you pay the few pounds more to get a seat rather than standing in the yard). The construction of the Globe was based on only a few sketchy primary sources which were roughly contemporary with the original wood structure, but while the design may or may not be accurate, the experience is absolutely genuine. Watching actors persevere and provide a thoroughly enjoyable performance while the crowds are wrapped in blankets and coats against the chill and drizzle engenders a new appreciation of the triumph of Shakespeare’s original staging.

Richard Attenborough was also highly influential in the research and preparation for this production. (who was actually at the theatre that night) Griffiths' play about the life and work of Thomas Paine, entitled “A New World”, provided a thoroughly engrossing narrative of a man who loved, lived and wrote during two revolutions on two continents.

12 October 2009

My View

So, this is a quick update - mainly for pictures.

Above - the front door of the Courtauld Institute of Art, it is nice to be able to just walk right in to the building while tourists stand back and take pictures from across the street. It is tough to read in the picture, but the inscription above the door reads "ROYAL & ANTIQs SOCIETIES" meaning this was entry was originally designed for the Royal Society and the Antiquarian Society of London, who had offices here by special permission of the king.

Below - the view from my window --- Thanks mostly to my lovely cousin who provided the place to stay :), Canary Warf and the O2 Dome in all their glory, right after sunset a few nights ago.

Next - A couple shots of Somerset House, my school's home


The Front Facade

The Courtyard Facade