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History of Architecture (AP313) | Essay | 2013

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Structural Rationalism During the Age of Enlightenment

Essay for History of Architecture (AP131)

Prashansa Sachdeva
04216901611
Sushant School of Art and Architecture


INTRODUCTION
The seventeenth and eighteenth centuries saw changes in thoughts and
architecture, in social order and society as a whole. (1) The essay discusses the
society and changes in architecture (mainly) that led to new styles and more rational
designs; also looking into advancement and engineering. The essay follows three
parts; first, the society at the age of enlightenment and what changes it brought;
second, the works and theories of architects in that age and thirdly what impact did
this ignition of reason in design led to in the future. To culminate, the essay points
out the structural and architectural advancement in the particular time span and
show the influence of the age of reason in architecture.

THE AGE OF ENLIGHTENMENT (or simply the Enlightenment or Age of
Reason) was a cultural movement of intellectuals beginning in late 17th and 18th-
century Europe emphasizing reason and individualism rather than tradition. (2) Its
purpose was to reform society using reason, to challenge ideas grounded in
tradition and faith, and to advance knowledge through the scientific method. It
promoted scientific thought, skepticism, and intellectual interchange. (3) This
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affected all spheres of life, and its impact resulted in many phases of architecture in
France, Germany, USA, England and other countries of Europe. Neo-classic,
Romantism, Rationalism, Empiricism to Arts and Crafts movement to name some.
(1) The clear definition of Structural Rationalism during this phase cant be quoted,
but according to many, Structural Rationalism was the name given to Rationalism in
architecture and was later better known as Neoclassicism. (4) While some believed
structural rationalism is best expressed in neo classism. (5) Other theories state
that the structural rationalism during this phase of the 17
th
and 18
th
centuries, was
a transitional phase between Rococo to Classism and Neo Classism. (6) Neo
Classicism is the term at present most in favour for the artistic manifestations of
the later eighteenth century, a period of transition between the Rococo and the
more carefully defined movements of nineteenth- century art. (6) After Baroque,
from about 1750 Neo-Classicism followed, when the architectural taste turned to
the calmer architectural details of the Ancient Greece or Rome, to the classical
vocabulary. The name of Classicism also originated from the Latin language and
refers to the classical Ancient art and architecture.to mention that only the
English terminology uses the Neo-preposition before Classicism. In German or in
Hungarian only Classicism, or Klassizismus, opposite to Neo-Classicism used in
England or in the U.S.A. (1) This essay will read structural rationalism as this
transitional phase, as it is true to the meaning of the era of change it was held in.
Structural Rationalism on a more general note, is said to be the era of Viollet le Duc
and his architecture of cast iron and masonry after the industrial revolution. This
phase is longer than the transitional phase during the age of enlightenment and
thus holds more prominence. (7) (1)
The decorated buildings of Baroque and Rococo styles werent desired anymore.
There was criticism of Rococo, whose undisciplined frivolity was contrasted with
the belle simplicite of Antiquity. (1) This marked interest in classic Greek and
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Roman buildings and along with architecture, in archaeology. (8) Neo-classical
Architecture was meant as a return to the perceived purity of the arts of Rome and
Greece. (4) The picturesque gardens of the Baroque style also werent aspired more.
Beside early Neo-Classicism landscape gardening, a new type of garden had
architectural influence. The Neo-Classical buildings with their simple, geometrical
forms were contrasting with the surrounding landscape garden. The symmetrically
planned Baroque garden-architecture didnt succeed, the gardens were more
natural. The name of this garden-architecture, designed naturally, is referred to as
"English garden". In these gardens a Baroque axis cant be observed anymore but
some irregularly winding paths, groves, lakes with fountains, garden houses and
pavilions, rounded temples, statues are laid out amongst the naturally grown,
picturesque plants and clumps of trees. (1) These English Gardens werent only the
new style of landscaping but were seen as a reflection of a society. The character of
English architecture and garden design seemed to mirror the values of a society
that many in France had begun to envy for its political liberties. (6) This reflection
of the society, was considered to be what bounded enlightenment together. The
one subject that united enlightened opinion was the growing sympathy, largely
inspired by Rousseau, for the unspoilt beauty of nature. The informality of the
English garden was linked with the prevalent taste in the decorative arts for the
irregularity and exoticism of Chinese arts, and the anglo chinese or picturesque
garden, as it was called, revolutionized the concept of a building as a work of art
existing in opposition to the country that formed its setting, while also popularizing
more informal patterns for domestic housing that were to proliferate during the
course of the following century and beyond. (6)
Before discussing the changes in architecture, one must mention the changes in the
society, changes which affected architecture. First and foremost, was the
development of architectural schools and schools of philosophies. Second was
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importance given to rational thinking. in which reason was advocated as primary
source and legitimacy for authority. (4) The majority were not essentially
philosophers or trained in abstract thought, but had active professions of their own
and a living to earn, and though they shaped and were shaped by the key
theoretical issues of the day, their commitment to theory seems by and large to
have been instinctively practical and emotional, and at times surprisingly casual.
This is especially striking in the case of Soufflot, for example, or Belanger, and even
with those who were more deeply committed to the written word, like Blondel and
Le Roy. (6) One could trace Plato and Vitruviuss theories being traced back to. (4)
Two names, at the beginning of the age of enlightenment, can be marked for the
progress of architecture. Jacques Germain Soufflot and Voltaire.
Soufflot was an influential architect of the time, who attained academic
qualifications along with learning from Rome.(reading and measuring excavations.)
The general direction of stylistic change and technical progress within the period
can be traced in the evolution of Soufflots church of Ste Genevieve, beginning with
the first design of 1757, and covering the transformations of the 1770s and the
alterations that took place after the Revolution. (6) Before 1757, almost a century
ago, a revolutionary event happened for the first time in history. Today its popularly
known as Measure Drawing. A phenomena of simply measuring a building and
making its drawing, turned to change the perspective via which people looked into
architecture. Antonine Desgodetz, who published the most accurate survey that
had yet been attempted of the antiquities of Rome, Les Edificies antiques de Rome
1683. They challenged the very basis of the traditional Renaissance view that
man himself was the measure of architectural proportions. (6) His detailed
drawings clarified many tiny transitions that took place in history. Example,
lower storey of the Theatre of Marcellus, columns of the Tuscan order with an
unsculpted entablature and no base mouldings of any kind. (6)
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I Order engraved by Desgodetz
Ref: The Architecture of the French Enlightenment
The documentation of these drawings helped students at the academy and inspired
many, like Soufflot to visit Rome for a detailed study. Soufflot discussed the
structure and proportions of Gothic churches in relation to Renaissance practice;
while critical of their decoration he praised the lightness of their interiors, which he
compared with antique basilicas. Vitruvius in his basilica at Fano had no frieze or
cornicethe Goths without wishing to follow them [the ancients] in that, believed
like them that projections, interrupting the sight lines, encumbered the plan of the
churches. (6) They also helped him develop a different order. Instead of the
elaborate French Ionic order that was everywhere to be found in contemporary
architecture, where small garlands hung vertically from the ears of the capital
,Soufflot has an unusual order which is distinguished only by a raised moulding well
below the level of the volutes. (6)
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During the early phase of Soufflot, his main work was the theatre in Lyon.
engravings and drawings suggested that Soufflot made few innovations in
heating, lighting and fire precaution. Unlike court theatres his was also a free
standing building equipped with cafes and a foyer for the convenience of a public
audience.

II Section of theatre at Lyon
Ref: The Architecture of the French Enlightenment
Trusses in roofs can be noticed.
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IIISection 2 of the theatre at Lyon
Ref: The Architecture of The age of Enlightenment
Trusses for roof.
While all this advancement, the true experience of change couldnt be experienced.
Neo classicism has the advantage of stressing the importance of antiquity for the
architecture of the time, even if the prefix Neo carries implications of the merely
derivative which are more suited to the academic classicism of the early nineteenth
century. Few of the buildings of ancient Rome, and still less those of Greece, had
ever been exploited to the same extent as the sculpture of antiquity, or the meagre
remains of antiquity painting.
Architecture was unable to command the freedom that painters or writers then
enjoyed. Its own technique, based upon developments in engineering, could not yet
be frankly exploited and the imitation of past styles became increasingly academic
rather than romantic. (6)
Then came the most important building of Soufflots life and the marker of a new
age in architecture. The church of Ste- Genevive (now the Pantheon), begun by
Soufflot in 1757, reflected throughout its long building history that reappraisal of
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tradition in a mood of optimism and apparent rationality which is fundamental to
the pages of the Encyclopdie. Swiftly following this reappraisal came the freedom
to repudiate the notion of human progress, fundamental to the thought of
Rousseau, and used to great architectural advantage above all in the works of
Ledoux. Architects became more articulate and more conscious of their
responsibilities than before, and many committed their views, sometimes
disastrously, to print. They wrote not treatises on the orders or pattern books of the
traditional kind, but mostly books and articles dealing with their own works that
show a new awareness of what should constitute good architecture both in theory
and in practice. (6)

IV plan of Pantheon
Ref: Great buildings.com
(http://www.greatbuildings.com/cgi-bin/gbc-drawing.cgi/Pantheon_in_Paris.html/Pantheon_in_Paris_Plan.jpg)
The form of a Greek cross with its four equal arms is to be associated not with any
obvious French precedent but with such monuments of the history of architecture
as the designs of Bramante and Michelangelo for St Peters and with Wrens Great
Model for St Pauls. (6)
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V section of Pantheon and Dome
Ref: Greatbuildings.com
(http://www.greatbuildings.com/cgi-bin/gbc-drawing.cgi/Pantheon_in_Paris.html/Pantheon_in_Paris_Sect.jpg)
The three tier dome.
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VI Section of the Pantheon
Ref, The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.
Columns, Lintels, Trusses.

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VII Corner Detail
Ref: Structural Rationalism
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf)

The use of free standing columns and straight lintels in preference to pilasters and
piers. The portico is composed of 24 columns, taller than the columns of the
Roman Pantheon and largely free Standing, which form a temple front far more
extensive than any that had distinguished a Christian basilica in he past. A smaller
order of columns reigns inside the church, columns set on low bases and
supporting not arches but a straight entablature.the interior constitutes a decisive
break with the Renaissance tradition and its reliance upon the wall, the pilaster and
the arcade. The ovals of the drum cast light between the two shells of the
dome, while the rectangular windows below, themselves transformed into ovals in
the interiors, light the crossing of the church. (6)
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VIII Sectional View of the Pantheon
Ref: Structural Rationalism, PPT
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf)
The play of light.

IX View of the Pantheon
Ref: Structural Rationalism, PPT
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf)
Light falling through the centre.
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The Other important person for forming theories and increasing the practise was
Voltaire. Few had the time or the money to concern themselves directly with
building, and Voltaire was almost alone in the extent of his architectural patronage.
The relatively modest buildings he constructed, mainly at Ferney, were
architecturally unremarkable, and not by any of the more famous architects of the
period. My church, he wrote in 1760, will not be built until the Spring. You want
me to dare to consult M.Soufflot about this village church, and I have made my
chateau without consulting anyone. (6)
A piece of architecture is beautiful when it is strong and seen to be strong, and
when it is visibly appropriate to its purpose. Strength is here the equivalent of
health in living creatures; appropriateness to a purpose is the equivalent of
suitability to a given way of life in human beauty.; Voltaire.
After them came Laugier and his three theory, in 1753. In his most influencial
book, the Essai, Laugier argued for a reform of architecture based on the concept of
the primitive hut,..all architecture, Laugier felt, should be based upon the use of
column, the entablature and the pediment. Pediments should only appear at the
ending of the roof, not as its sides or anywhere else on a building. Entablatures
which include a cornice should only appear at roof level, since the cornice
represents the eaves of the roof, and so on. Laugier strongly disapproved of
arcades, of cantilevering and of the use of structural members supported on the
crown of an arch, which he regarded as an extreme case of irrational design. (6)
Laugiers concept of the primitive hut originally dates back to Vitruvius. Thus he,
like all of his age ,went back in search of true architecture.
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X The primitive hut Laugier
Ref: Architecture of the Age of Enlightenment
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XI Censored Columns
Ref: Structural Rationalism
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf)
Before Laugier, the Abbe de Cordemoy, advocated a very similar building to Essai,
in his Nouveau Traite de Toute larchitecture. (6)
Lastly, a particular building of Legeay was worth mentioning along with
revolutionary architecture of enlightenment. the cathedral of St Hedwig in
Berlin.Something of the Roman Pantheon and something of Berninis churches are
combined in a designunusual perhaps in this guise is the smooth dome, rising
from a rusticated wall surface, and the paired columns of the interiors carrying an
unaccented entablature around the circumference of the church, which is otherwise
decorated in a manner that again recalls Bernini. (6)
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XII Plan of Cathedral
Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.
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XIII Section
Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.
Other works included Peyres Hotel De Conde. At the hotel de Conde Peyre reunited
once again the vestibule and staircase, inventing an exactly symmetrical circular
plan which also incorporated free standing columns- and all this he contrived
without diverting the route of access from the court to the state rooms on the
garden side of the ground floor. (6)
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XIV Hotel De conde -Plan and Detail
Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.
Circular staircase with free standing columns.
Next came the circular colonnade, the style which could be seen even ages later
across the world. This was seen in Chateau of Montmusard. The geometrical
planning of the house, a pavilion dedicated to Apollo, is related to the layout of
the adjacent gardens. (6)
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XV Plan of the Mansion
Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.

XVI Remaining Columns
Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.
Circular Colonnade
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Taking forward the circular staircase and colonnade, the Paris market, Halle au Ble,
was constructed in 1762. The building consisted of a double aisled hall with a flat
vault supported on Tuscan columns and a steep upper storey vaulted in brick and
stone.yet as in a circus the circular plan was evidently well suited for ease of
movement in a building that had no particular focus beyond its two
staircases.Oval in shape, and thus recalling the greatest masterpieces of the
French classical tradition, they had two interweaving flights, one for ascending and
one for descending traffic. (6)

XVII Section of building and staircase
Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment.
This phase now in the 1750-1760s shifted to the Neoclassical style and the
transitional phase changed. This resulted in the architecture of the French
Revolution, where imagination grew and with a new generation of architects, the
style changed. (2)
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This age was a mark of fresh ideas in society, arts, architecture, engineering and in
science. This age led to the French Revolution, the American Revolution and at last
the Industrial Revolution. But its impact on architecture can be felt even after 2-3
centuries at the advent of modernity. (1) (4)

List of Bibliography
1. PhD, Agnes Gyetval-Balogh. Architecture of the 19th Century and the Turn of the
century. .eptort.bme.hu. [Online] 2007. [Cited: March 14-03-2014, 2014.]
http://www.eptort.bme.hu/doc/egyeb/bekacomb.pdf.
2. Oxford. Oxford Dictionaries. s.l. : Oxford University Press, 2013.
3. Kors, Alan Charles. Encyclopedia of the Enlightenment. s.l. : Oxford UP, 2003.
4. Ramzy, Nelly Shafil. Between the cole Des Beaux-Arts and the Bauhaus: Modern
Architecture as an Outcome of. Ain Shams Journal of Architectural Engineering.
2010, Vol. 2, nov .
5. Hackett, Lewis. The age of Enlightenment . History- world. [Online] 1992. [Cited:
March 16-03-2014, 2014.] http://history-world.org/age_of_enlightenment.htm.
6. Braham, Allan. The Architecture of the French Enlightenment. London : Thames
and Hudson Ltd, 1989. ISBN 0-520-06739-8.
7. Age of Enlightenment. Scribd.com.
8. Narayanan, Nipesh P. Neoclassicism. [presentation] 2013.


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List of Figures
I Order engraved by Desgodetz Ref: The Architecture of the French Enlightenment ............................. 5
II Section of theatre at Lyon Ref: The Architecture of the French Enlightenment Trusses in roofs can
be noticed. .............................................................................................................................................. 6
IIISection 2 of the theatre at Lyon Ref: The Architecture of The age of Enlightenment Trusses for roof.
................................................................................................................................................................ 7
IV plan of Pantheon Ref: Great buildings.com (http://www.greatbuildings.com/cgi-bin/gbc-
drawing.cgi/Pantheon_in_Paris.html/Pantheon_in_Paris_Plan.jpg) ..................................................... 8
V section of Pantheon and Dome Ref: Greatbuildings.com (http://www.greatbuildings.com/cgi-
bin/gbc-drawing.cgi/Pantheon_in_Paris.html/Pantheon_in_Paris_Sect.jpg) The three tier dome. ..... 9
VI Section of the Pantheon Ref, The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. Columns, Lintels,
Trusses. ................................................................................................................................................. 10
VII Corner Detail Ref: Structural Rationalism
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf) ................................. 11
VIII Sectional View of the Pantheon Ref: Structural Rationalism, PPT
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf) The play of light. ..... 12
IX View of the Pantheon Ref: Structural Rationalism, PPT
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf) Light falling through
the centre. ............................................................................................................................................. 12
X The primitive hut Laugier Ref: Architecture of the Age of Enlightenment ...................................... 14
XI Censored Columns Ref: Structural Rationalism
(http://digitalstudio.gre.ac.uk/downloads/hat/Structural%20Rationalism.pdf) ................................. 15
XII Plan of Cathedral Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. ............................................ 16
XIII Section Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. ........................................................... 17
XIV Hotel De conde -Plan and Detail Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. Circular
staircase with free standing columns. .................................................................................................. 18
XV Plan of the Mansion Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. ....................................... 19
XVI Remaining Columns Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. Circular Colonnade ....... 19
XVII Section of building and staircase Ref: The Architecture of the age of Enlightenment. ................. 20