Form and Stylistic Characters

Last Updated: 19 Apr 2023
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Form refers to the shape or configuration of a building, it is three dimensional and encloses space (Crisman 2016). Having background knowledge about form and style characteristics from formal lectures, it is easier for one to be able to describe a building in terms of its three dimensionalism and the styles that have been used to give the building character. Going to see the building in person, walking around and in it enabled one to quickly spot these characters of the building just by looking at it. There are free forms and geometrical forms (Crisman 2016), in this case when analysing the form of the Johannesburg art gallery (JAG) building it is clear that it is a geometrical form.

Geometrical form is basically composed of basic geometrical shapes that are interlinked to form the plan of the JAG building (Ching 1943:36). As seen in the figures above the floor plan that is encrusted on the floor right in front of the newly pronounced front entrance as well as the floor plan right next to it show different regular shapes such as the circle, square and rectangle interlinked to form the base of the building form.

According to design principles the form of a building should relate to its intended function. In the encrusted plan on the JAG grounds it is clear that it was to be a symmetrical form which indicates that it would be used as a formal and orderly building. This suggests to 'one that form related greatly to the function or the purpose of the building the architect used additive, subtractive and interlinking forms (Ching 1943:197). The architect Sir Edwin Lutyens supplied the plans of the foundations at the time that the laying of the foundation stone had started on 11 0ctober 1911 (Carman 2003:231).

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The construction was delayed and in 1915 the unfinished building opened for use. At this point the form of the building was incomplete until in 1940 when the side wings which are the east west wings of the building were added according to Lutyens original design. Though it can be argued it is clear to the eye that the stylistic characteristics of the building changed due to the addition by different architects. The building shows clearly with the mid section which was the part built by lutyen that it carried a lot of classical styles to it.

Though they were different classical styles mixed together it was quite evident which direction Lutyen wanted to take. The wings that were added however were very modern as opposed to the classical mid section of the building , this clearly shows to those with deeper knowledge in art and architecture that this building was built by different architects using the same plan(Carman 2003:231).

Figure1: Janek Szymanowski(photographer), Johannesburg Art Gallery-wiki loves monuments,1988

The JAG building has a variety of styles that were used to design the building. With background knowledge it was identified that the classical, neo classical and baroque styles were used in the South Entrance which was once the main entrance. A writer from Chadwicks "home of the building Materials"(2016) states that there is one common link between these three styles that allows one to Identify them, the Pediment. In figure 1 above is the south entrance that shows the Pediment. The pediment is found in a lot of Classical Greek architecture like the temples as well as baroque architecture as one of the key elements of the stylistic characterstics e.g The Palace of Versailles. (Chadwicks 2016)

Cath everett(photographer), IBTimes-My South African Adventure, 2014

The second style identified in the design of the JAG building is small elements of the Victorian style. There is a hexagonal skylight structure atop the roof that is built like a spherical bay window. Bay windows are a key element in the Victorian building style in architecture. It is very classical but has also been used in today's morden residential apartments and houses. It can be easily incorporated in a few architecture styles (Chadwicks 2016). The third is the Romanisque style.

The key elements identified are the rounded archs found at the North entrance of the building as well as the walls at the south entrance side. There are also repetitive rows of rounded arches which are well found within the Roman built structures. Inside the building there are also columns found in the corners of the exhibition rooms with floral and foliage stone decoration. These stone decorations are strongly identified as the different classes represented by the columns mainly the Doric, Ionic and the Corinthian (Chadwicks 2016). The fourth style identified is the Bauhaus style originally from Germany formed in the 1900's.

The Bauhaus principle of cubic shapes is found in the plan of the building as well as the east and west wing of the building. Other key elements are the open floor plans and the glass curtain walls. the inside of the gallery there are exhibition rooms that are open plan meaning than if any special additions are needed they can be added without a doubt. These rooms can be altered and remodeld if need be. It is also possible to house free standing exhibition stands as the space and the volume allows it. On the lower level of the building in the east and the west wing glass curtains were added but can barely be seen on the outside.

These glass curtains allow daylight to come through but not direct sunlight as other parts of the building have stood infront and on a higher level than the position of the glass curtains walls ( Chadwicks 2016). The fourth style is the Neo classical style identified by the Granduer of scale, black walls excessive use of columns, large building and clean lines. This building enormous in size with high volume. Proportion has been used skilfully. The cielings are as high as 4m and very spacious.

The architect was able to play around with scale well to emphasize its size. Different order columns are identified within the building as well as the outside. The orders have been mixed where the doric and the corinthian has been mixed together or the ionic and the corinthian together. They are either carved out of the walls at the corners or supporting the pediment on the south entrance as well as the entrances from the courtyard. The fifth is the Renaissance, its key elements are square buildings, flat cielings, classical mortifs arches and domes, Roman columns and an enclosed courtyard.

The building is comprised of squares linked together showed on the plans, these squres indicate the rooms that are squares on the inside. There are also a lot of exhibition rooms that are four cornerd with clean lined walls. in some parts it is a generally square building with a little bit of curved walls here and there. In the courtyard as well as the wings of the building there are walls that have flat roofs. Majority of the buildings have flat roofs. The cielings however have decorative elements to them and some with bulk heads very few plain ones in the lower level west and east wings.

The courtyard is enclosed but not completely as it has steel frames on the roofing without a solid material that can fully enclose it. The sixth style that dominates half of the building is Mordenism. This is a movement at the turn of the 20th umbrella term for styles such as futurism, post mordenism and new classical. The key elements found in these styles are lack of decorative elements, use of modern materials, interaction of exterior and interior spaces, use of sun and shading( passive design strategies) as well as using glass and natural lighting. The east and the west wing have less decorative elements than the initial part of the building before the extentions,. This building comprises of all these different stylistic characters from from different eras

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Form and Stylistic Characters. (2019, Mar 11). Retrieved from

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