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Nowadays, there is a huge amount of amazing architectural gems of various epochs and styles all over the world. They are the valuable monuments of architecture and have a great cultural and historical significance. The buildings are the testimonies of the passage of time. Different architectural styles represent human development milestones. The changes of the dominant style in architecture reflect the progress of our civilization. Thus, a research of the monuments of architecture is the key for understanding the traditional values of mankind. I decided to choose two famous buildings in Paris and London in order to write this research paper. The one is The National Residence of the Invalids, and the other is The Greenwich Hospital. Both these buildings were built for the same purpose and at the same time period. Also, both they present the same architectural style. These two buildings are notable for being the ones of the first houses for invalids in Europe. However, although, they were founded as military almshouses for the maintenance the war invalids and their families, nowadays many people have a dream to see them. These buildings are ones of the most famous and unique monuments of architecture and the major landmarks of Paris and London. This paper will describe and disclose the uniqueness and value of The National Residence of the Invalids in Paris, and The Greenwich Hospital in London, compare their similarities and differences and disclose their significance for modernization of the cities.
Till the middle of the seventeenth century, the dominant style in architecture was Rococo. It was characterized by the asymmetry of forms, pale colors, curves, decorations, and gold. Soon Rococo style has been criticized for mannerism, sensuality and complexity of the composition and decorative items. The rationalistic enlightenment ideas impact affected all forms of art, and, first of all, the architecture. The architects paid an attention to simplicity, brevity, clarity of plans, constructive and noble proportions, plenty of vertical and horizontal lines, serenity and rigor antique and especially Greek architecture. Besides, the discovery of Pompeii with its rich artistic monuments, the excavations at Herculaneum contributed to the increasing interest in the antiquity. Also, learning of ancient architecture in the south of Italy formed the new points of view on Roman and Greek architecture. “Thus, Rococo has been replaced by the new style – Classicism. It became a natural result of the development of Renaissance architecture and its transformation” (Bay, Buildings, Householders, and Reconfiguring Life).
Both The Greenwich Hospital in London and The National Residence of the Invalids in Paris are the examples of the classical style in architecture. There is a number of the similar characteristics in the appearance of these buildings. However, there are some features, which characterize the monuments of classical architecture in general. Clarity and geometric forms, statues on the roof, rotunda, and expressive monumental form are the main characteristics of the shape of the buildings in Classicism. The architects used strict repeating vertical and horizontal lines and a smooth generalized pattern. Structures of the buildings became solid, stable, monumental, rectangular, with plenty of arches. A strict symmetry is an attribute of an architecture of Classicism too. Windows are usually elongated upwards, with a modest design. The doors are rectangular, paneled, with massive gable portal on the round and ribbed columns, sometimes decorated with lions, sphinxes, and statues. Also, one can often see a bas in a circular medallion on the walls of the buildings. Prevailing and trendy colors are white, green, pink, purple with gold accents, sky blue. Besides, restrained decor, round and ribbed columns, pilasters, statues and antique ornaments, caisson vault are the characteristic elements of the buildings in classical style. Accented stairs, classic antique décor are the typical details of the classical architecture. A dome is the characteristic attribute of the public buildings.
As was mentioned above, the examined buildings are the samples of the classical architecture, thus, one can find the most of the typical features in their design. However, the architecture of these buildings should be analyzed in detail. First I will describe The National Residence of the Invalids or Les Invalides in Paris.
There is a large open area, covered with green lawns. It is named The Esplanade of Invalids. It begins from the Seine River and leads to the Residence of the Invalids. One can watch a great view of the facade of Les Invalides from the Esplanade. It is nearly 96 meters long. In front of it there is a number of old French trophy cannons from the collection of the Museum of Army. A portal is decorated with a bas-relief of Louis XIV on the horseback. Around the central courtyard, which consists from the five yards, there is a two-story arcade. St. Louis Cathedral is situated in front of the main entrance. The facade of the cathedral is the sample of elegance and symmetry. It combines a square and a circle. The central part of the facade comes forward and is accented by the Doric columns at the first tier, and Corinthian columns at the second. Also, the facade is decorated by the statues, depicting St. Louis IX and Charle the Great. The main attribute of The National Residence of the Invalids is the elegant dome that rushes up. The diameter of the dome is 27 meters. It is decorated by the spoils of war. The drum of the dome has two rows of windows. The building is crowned by the graceful dome lantern with a spire. The total height of the cathedral is 107 meters. The interesting fact is that the dome was gilded in 1989, and it took 12 kilograms of gold.
From Thames, one can watch a gorgeous view of The Greenwich Hospital in London. The Queen's House appears between two buildings with the colonnades. The architectural composition is complicated. Two buildings are situated on the on the terrace, which is almost 3 meters high. Their facades are decorated with the classical orders. There is a wide esplanade lying between the twin corps. The magnificent buildings with the domes are decorated with two walls of the columns. The other corps of the Hospital are hidden behind the facades of the buildings. The colonnades encircle their corners. The small Queen's House is situated on the far side. The Greenwich Hospital is characterized by the unity of conception and monumentality.
Both buildings were built at the same time period. Also, these buildings were established in the similar historical conditions and background. The National Residence of the Invalids is a very important historical object. In 1670, French King Louis XIV ordered to build a house for the military veterans in the suburbs of Paris. In French they were called the disabilities - Les Invalides. Thus, the disabilities were not crippled people, but just the old retired soldiers. At that time, such people had no place to go because during the long time of servicing in the army they lost the relationships and linkages with their families. The old soldiers just did not have their own homes. Louis’s XIV government decided to build the house for the disabilities. The architect of The National Residence of the Invalids was Libéral Bruant. Construction started in 1671 and was finished in 1678. In 1710, Les Invalides kept nearly 1500 residents. At the end of the XVIII century, The Residence of the Invalids became “a city in miniature, in which life was spent in strict subordination to the church and military rules”. It was inhabited by nearly 4000 veterans, working in a shoe and tapestry workshops, as well as in a workshop for coloring prints.
At first The Greenwich Hospital was established as the hospice for the veterans. Its name was The Royal Hospital for Seamen. British Queen Mary II ordered to build it in 1694. The architect of it was Sir Christopher Wren. The construction of the Hospital for Seamen begun in 1696 on the site of the riverside Tudor Palace. At first four buildings were built, and they were named in honor of Kings Charles and William and Queens Mary and Anne. Architect Wren worked with his pupil and together they developed a structure of the architectural complex with the Queen's House in the center. The composition opened a great view of Thames through the twin pavilions. From 1705 nearly 1000 naval disabilities lived in the Hospital. They were called the Greenwich Pensioners. However, in 1869 the Hospital closed because of a number of material problems. In 1872, the Royal Hospital for Seamen transformed into the Royal Naval College or “the Navy’s university”.
The cultural significance of both buildings is high. There are several important museums in the National Residence of the Invalids. The Museum of Plans and Reliefs contains an extensive collection of models of the cities and fortresses on a large scale and detail. The Army Museum is dedicated to military affairs of France from the ancient times till ending with the exhibits of the two world wars. In this museum, one can see a collection of arms and armors, which definitely can be considered as the richest in the world. The huge collection of paintings, photographs, postcards, and posters is kept in the Museum of Modern Art. Also, Les Invalides in Paris is a burial place for many famous French people, who mainly became famous in the military field. Without a doubt, the greatest of them is Napoleon Bonaparte, a military leader, and a politician, who changed the face of the world. In 1840, the great warlord's remains were finally brought from to Paris. Napoleon Bonaparte was reburied in the building of The National Residence of the Invalids. Since that time, everyone can visit his tomb there.
In 1997, The Greenwich Hospital buildings were declared UNESCO as A World Heritage. “The paradox is that although the Painted Hall was built as part of the Royal Hospital for Seamen and had to be used as a refectory for the veterans living there, the government found it too gorgeous and did not allow to use it for this purpose”. Thus, it became a place to visit for tourists, opened for viewing. When Lord Nelson died, the Painted Hall was the place, where his body laid before it was taken for a state funeral. In 1824, a National Gallery of Naval Art was founded. It was temporarily situated in the Painted Hall. Soon the paintings were brought to the National Maritime Museum. Nowadays the collection is situated in the Queen's House.
The practical values of the buildings in XVII century and nowadays are different. Both buildings were established as almshouses for the veterans of war and for some time were used as such. However, nowadays, The National Residence of the Invalids, and The Greenwich Hospital are the ones of the most the famous places to visit in Paris and London. Many tourists come to see them every day. Although, the buildings do not fulfill their original function, they influenced a lot to the modernization of the cities. They were the first buildings, which design referred to antiquity again. The classical style, the style of beauty and simplicity, was translated in these buildings. Centuries ago, they made a totally new look of the cities. Unusual for those times design strongly contributed to the renewal of the city appearance and, also, inspired other architects to use the elements of the classical style in their works. Thus, it can be said, The National Residence of the Invalids, and The Greenwich Hospital affected the future appearance of Paris and London.
After the Renaissance classical architecture once again referred to the inexhaustible heritage of antiquity and served the social order of the monarchical state. Classic buildings and ensembles had to emphasize logic and greatness of its status quo. Classical architecture was important because it performed this work. But now, many years later, it becomes obvious that the utilitarian ideological role of art and classical architecture is only a small part of the huge historical and cultural potential of this style. Also, classical architecture was important because the undeniable beauty and grandeur, that inherent to any artwork of Classicism turned out to be the indispensable qualities which will remain a reliable reference points of civilization for a long time. The most ardent critics of the Classicism doctrine still have not found what can replace classical education in the arts.