25 November 2009

Inigo Jones & "Imaginancy Set Free"

The Hogarth Portrait of Inigo Jones

Inigo Jones was arguably the most important English Architect of the last sixteenth to early seventeenth centuries. His most famous constructions include the original Queen's House in Greenwich, the Banqueting House at Whitehall Palace and the church and square at Covent Garden. On Monday, I attended a lecture by Professor Vaughan Hart on the Court Architecture produced for James I by Inigo Jones. This included the Queen's House and the Banqueting Hall. Professor Hart argued during his lecture that many of the classical orders used by Inigo Jones and his fellow professionals echoed a deeper protestant ethos and mythology. This was mostly evidenced by the proliferation of the Tuscan order, which Professor Hart linked to the British creation myth of the Trojan soldier who discovered and then settled in Britannia after the Trojan wars. All in all, it was an interesting lecture, with great images from various sources. In my view, there were problems of scope, which limited Professor Hart to a very specific set of viewers who may or may not have accepted this viewpoint. In relation to the civil war and the history of the Commonwealth to come, the idea of different viewers with differing viewpoints can not be neglected.

Anyway, something to think about.

I would also like to add that it has been fantastic getting to study and discuss architecture in the Courtauld Institute. The people in my MA option have been fantastic, and I will be sad to leave at the end of December. I will miss the deep theoretical conversations we can have just walking to the Tube at the end of the night or over a tea in the cafe before class.

24 November 2009

More Studying

The pictures I promised from my trip to Cambridge:

The exterior of King's College, looking toward the Senate House

The Quad of one of the colleges. You can only walk on the grass if you are a fellow of the college.

The Time Eater clock, designed by Steven Hawkings

The Round Church, also known as the Norman Church, one of the oldest structures in Cambridge, and now run by a local charity.

King's College chapel built by the Tudor Kings and Queens of England. A fabulous example of English Perpendicular Gothic

One of the many Wren College Chapels, built during the 17th century as the Cambridge colleges continued to expand.

Also, I have been swamped with class work for the last few weeks, and the deluge seems destine to continue for the next few weeks. I plan on heading to Germany some time during the next few weeks, and then home by Christmas.

Oh - and by the way, Happy Thanksgiving everyone!!!

17 November 2009

Studying and Cambridge

Officially, I love Cambridge.... it was brilliant to visit the quintessential university town last weekend with Amanda.  She headed off to classes quite early, and I was able to wander around the town to my heart's consent.  The town was originally a Celtic and then a Roman stronghold, due to the easy ability to ford the Cam River.  The university in Cambridge was founded during the 13th century when dissident scholars left Oxford and established themselves in the well known market town of Cambridge.  After several centuries, the scholars at Cambridge were able to attract the patronage of several of the Tudor Kings and Queens of England.  This patronage resulted in some of the most important structures at Cambridge, including the fantastically high English Gothic chapel of Kings College as well as many of the medieval halls of several of the colleges.  

Travelling to Cambridge with Amanda was also wonderful, because she is a full member of St. Catherine's college (which is represented by the symbol of St. Catherine's martyrdom, the wheel upon which she was executed).  We both went to the formal hall dinner on Thursday evening, which basically means everyone who is a member has to dress in the formal robes.  The dinner was lovely, consisting of smoked salmon as a starter, duck with red cabbage and mixed veggies for the main, sticky toffee pudding for dessert plus a cheese board and port to round off the evening.  We also took our own wine for dinner, and Amanda is great about picking good wines.  

On the more mundane scholarly front, my research and paper regarding St. Mary Aldermary is going well.  I have a huge deadline for my final draft on this Friday.  I think I am in good shape, but am ready to be done.  The church itself is a wonderfully unique example of an ecclesiastical structure within the City of London.  [The square mile known officially as the City as distinct from the city of Westminster which is farther to the West and the other suburbs that have come to form the metropolitan area of greater London.] 

St. Mary Aldermary suffers from a general lack of research based on documentary evidence as well as a scholarly history rife with assumptions, repeated misinformation and generally poor written work.  Although several people have written very nice articles regarding the history of the structure, it has been very interesting to deconstruct previous scholarly arguments rather than just collecting information regarding a specific structure.  I think this assignment has been one of the more helpful in regards to methodological practices as well as just generally forcing me to evaluate my own writing standards.  

On the Thesis, work continues, but I definitely have a bunch of writing to do in the next few months.  I really need to get going, but it is so easy just to enjoy my life at the moment.  I hope to do a bit more work on it in the next few weeks that will really jump-start my progress before the Christmas Break.

Pics tomorrow - when I get a chance to sit down and pick some of the better ones.

10 November 2009

The Royal Academy and France Pictures

On Monday, thanks to Sarah's brilliant reminder, I was able to go to Royal Institution for a Royal Academy lecture by Prof. David Watkins about William Chambers, an English Architect who was responsible for Somerset House (where the Courtauld is located). It was an interesting lecture, even though I was not fully in agreement with some of the conclusions Prof. Watkins made in regards to Chambers practice and influence on later architects. If you look at the life and work of Chambers, it would not be hard to argue that he was one of the first architect to practice in what would now considered a very Beaux-Arts style. He was also very fond of architectural capricci - such as all of the small structures he designed for Kew Gardens, including greek and roman temples, ruined arches, pagodas, spanish pavilions and chinese temples and gardens.

Also, as promised - France Pictures:

Paris at night - Above the Louvre
Below Rachel in one our fabulous Halloween Hats

Above - the Choir Screen in Chartres Cathedral, a ridiculously detailed set of scuptures and carvings all celebrating the lives of Mary and Jesus.

Above - the roof of the entrance passage at the Château de Chenonceau.
Below - the Chateau de Chenonceau which bridges the Cher River.

Above - the Chateau of Ambois - a great record of the architectural transition between a gothicizing style to a more renaissance style. The small chapel to the left is actually an 18th century structure where the body of Leonardo da Vinci was buried - after he lived the last 3 years of his life in the town of Ambois under the protection of the King of France.

Above - The Château de Chambord, a place I was really excited to visit for thesis research, as well as just because it is an amazing structure.
Below - The double helix stair - thought to have been designed by Leonoardo da Vinci while he was in Ambois.

06 November 2009


We will now continue with our originally scheduled broadcast:

I was able to travel to France last this last weekend, thanks in most part due to the generosity of Rachel ... my favorite France person! [and the best out of work journalist/vampire I have ever seen :) ]

I started on Friday meeting Rachel in Paris. She had just gotten back from an extended vacation in Sardenia (lucky dog!!!). We met up and proceded to find a hostel and funny hats to wear to a Halloween shindig on Saturday - more about that later. After procurring our funny hats, we wondered around a bit, found and fully partook of a nice irish pub near the Island, and cominced to take funny pics or ourselves wearing our new hats. Lets just say it was a fabulous evening.

On Saturday, we headed to Le Mans, where Rachel is staying for the year. On the way we stopped off at Chartres to view the important Cathedral. The church was amazing, but the stained and painted glass panels from the 12th and 13th centuries were just unbelievable. I have a truly new appreciation for just how dark and mysterious medieval churches could be, especially on days that were cloudy or rainy [as it just happened to be for pretty much my entire trip to France].

After arriving in Le Mans, we met of with Rachel's great group of friends and proceded to celebrate Halloween in a thoroughly appropriate manner. This included dressing up in silly hats and visiting a great pub for several rounds of pool and good drinks. All in all a perfect evening.

On Sunday, we went shopping at the local weekly food market, which just proved how much more advanced the art of good food in in France. Some of the stuff on sale just made my mouth water: fresh seafood, fresh bread, fresh veggies, pretty much everything you can imagine - just fresher and brighter. Following the food market, we took our spoils back to the apartment, made a great lunch and then had a generally lazy afternoon and evening.

On Monday I had booked a tour of the Loire Valley [where all the really famous French chateaux and castles are] through a local touristic company. Early in the morning, I caught a train to Tours from Le Mans and headed out on my mini-bus tour with several other coupes and families. It was fantastic. I got to see the Chateau de Chambord, Chateau de Cheverny, Chateau d'Amboise [where Leonardo Di Vinci is buried], Clos Luce [where Leonardo lived the last 3 years of his life], and Chateau de Chenonceau. After an all day tour, we ended up back in Tours, where I got a hostel for the night and generally just wandered around and took pics and read historical signs with my limited french.

In the morning on Tuesday, I headed back to Le Mans to have lunch with Rachel at one of the best restaruants in France [ This has got to be one of the top three meals of my life and included a roasted duck salad with goat's cheese on toast and roast beef with fois gras and a heavenly concotion of potatoes, cream and herbs.] After eating we visited the Cathedral of Le Mans then headed back to pick up my stuff so I could catch a train back to Paris. Upon arriving in Paris, I headed to Gare du Nord to catch my eurostar train back to London. All in all, a great exended weekend.

Pics soon - I promise :)