Victorian Academic Classical Architecture

20 Jun
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Australian Museum Sydney Police Law Courts Sydney Balmain Post Office and Courthouse  Sydney
     
During the Victorian era, Western nations shared a belief that the human race was progressing towards ever higher levels of material prosperity. There were grounds for such confidence. The British Empire continued to expand, and many other European nations acquired colonies overseas while promoting industrialisation at home. The energetic citizens of the United States drove railways across America, settled and developed farmlands, built cities, and laid the foundations for the nation’s industrial might.A scholarly brand of classical architecture was the ideal language with which the Victorian age could proclaim its confidence and celebrate its achievements when a high degree of formality was needed. From mid-century onwards, the refined elegance of ancient Greece was no longer the ideal, and preferred models were found in the extroverted pomp of imperial Rome and the grandeur of the fully developed European Renaissance. In America, almost every state capitol was clothed in correct classical raiment and had a central dome raised high on a colonnaded drum. The growth of local government in Britain’s booming industrial cities created some impressive and quintessentially Victorian monuments. One of the most influential examples, Leeds Town Hall, is notable for a feature which has no classical precedent—a grandiose central tower which gives the city a visual landmark and proclaims its civic pride. In Britain, Europe, America and Australia there arose innumerable law courts, libraries, art galleries and museums which expressed their importance and dignity through the correct use of the language of classicism.

Buildings in the Victorian Academic Classical style are usually symmetrical in plan and massing unless special conditions (for example, a street- corner site) dictate otherwise. Whether the architecture is exuberant or restrained, façades always display a strong sense of systematic composition, and this is usually achieved by the use of one or more of the five architectural orders (Tuscan, Doric, Ionic, Corinthian, Composite). Classical proportions determine the major subdivisions of the façade and also control the shape, size and placement of smaller elements such as window and door openings. As in all architecture derived from classical models, the parts contribute to the whole while maintaining their individual identity. The design of elements such as pediments, aedicules, consoles, balustrades and mouldings in this style is always in accordance with long-established conventions.

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