The Musee du Louvre and its Pyramid, and St Paul’s Cathedral with the nearby 30 St Mary Axe were the chosen topics by both members of our group. All of these buildings are iconic building within their cities, and all were designed and built with vastly different contexts and purposes in mind. In this essay we will compare and contrast the different buildings in a manner that will help us understand the juxtaposition of old and new buildings.
We will also investigate what made the contemporary buildings in question switch status from controversial to widely accepted as unique and brilliant pieces of architecture. After considering the different context(s) and style(s) of the building we will present our informed personal opinions based upon our research, to reach a conclusion in accordance with the research question. Before we undertake an analysis we will quickly summarise what has been aforementioned in Patchworks 1 & 2. The two buildings that one of the members of the group researched were the Musee du Louvre and the Pyramide du Louvre.
The Musee as it stands now, was designed by Pierre Lescot for the King of France (at the time Francis I), however the designed and context of the building was radical and completely out of context with the western European style of its time (THOMPSON, Renaissance Paris: Architecture & Growth 1475-1600, p183). The style of architecture that the Louvre is of Renaissance origin, the architect; Pierre Lescot was said to have never visited Italy, and studied Italian Renaissance architecture only from third parties.
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Meaning his point of reference was only that of textbooks, sketches and other architects (HANSER, Architecture of France, 2006, p116). However this does not mean he didn’t manage to create a Renaissance style building, the design and style of the Louvre is typical of the Renaissance, with the over-ornamentation and relief, and not plain surfaces. These are examples of typical French Renaissance over-decoration (MOORE, Character of Renaissance Architecture, 1905, p200). In patchwork 2 the focus was on the Pyramide du Louvre (a. k. a.
The Louvre Pyramid), the design of which was done by I M Pei (as part of a commission by the president Francois Mitterrand). The need for a reception/ welcome area for the museum was urgent, but space was scarce. Pei constructed an idea to go underground, topped with a pyramid made of glass and steel. A somewhat radical idea when considering a high-tech architectural construction would be positioned next to the Renaissance era architecture of the Louvre Museum (PIMLOTT, Without and Within: Essays on Territory and the Interior, 2007, p255; HEYER.
American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century, 1993, p275-278). Of course placing a pyramid (being a symbol of burial, and of an entirely different culture) in front of The Louvre did not go too smoothly with the public, and many criticised both Pei and Mitterrand’s intentions. However the pyramid was not a direct connotation to Ancient Egypt, but rather a fresh approach to a classical design.
Mitterrand was also criticised for blocking the view of the historical buildings by putting the pyramid in the middle of the courtyard, but due to its semi-transparent nature the pyramid juxtaposes The Louvre perfectly with the contrast of transparency and opaqueness (RUSTOW, ‘Transparent Contradictions’: Pei’s Pyramid at The Louvre, 2006, p6). The two buildings that the other member of the group researched were St Paul’s Cathedral designed by Christopher Wren, (construction finished in 1677), and 30 St Mary’s Axe designed by Norman Foster and partners, (construction finished in 2003).
Both these buildings were built to replace previously destroyed buildings. St Paul’s was built to replace old St Paul’s which was one of the biggest buildings in Europe at the time. Most of the building was destroyed by the Great Fire of London and in 1668 a Royal Warrant was issued for the complete demolition of old St Paul’s (GERAGHTY bbc. co. uk). Also in the time period between 1540 and 1650 the population grew by five or six fold. (ALLISON - Architects and architecture of London page 48) Ken ALLINSON notes, “it is against this background that Wren set about creating St Pauls cathedral”.
Wren chose white Portland stone which had been used to great success by architects before him, one example being Nicholas HAWKSMOOR’s St Mary’s Church (GLANCY- The story of architecture page 84-85). 30 St Mary Axe was designed by Norman Foster and Partners and AUP Engineers and was built for the insurance company Swiss RE. Swiss Re had been working out of a number of buildings in London and the company was looking to build one building that would replace all previous buildings to help unify the company.
The purpose of this focusing on one building was “getting people to interact, exchange idea’s, become a creative community” in the words of John COOMBER the then CEO of Swiss Re when they planned to build 30 St Mary Axe. Many locations were considered for the building but in 1992 a bomb with 100lbs of Semtex destroyed the Baltic Exchange (POWELL, 30 St Mary Axe A tower for London, 2006, page 14). This presented the ideal location for 30 St Mary Axe to be built. The initial plans for 30 St Mary Axe were for a much bigger building than the one finally constructed.
To gain planning permission Norman Foster and partners had to scale down the design. The design was described by London advisory committee as being “unduly dominant and assertive by reason of its height, form, bulk, massing and relationship to nearby high buildings”. (POWELL, 30 St Mary Axe A tower for London, 2006, page 19) One comparison to be made between St Paul’s Cathedral and the 30 St Mary Axe, and The Louvre and its Pyramid; is that of context at the time of design and construction. The London buildings were both designed and created within the context of their era.
St Paul’s was designed at the start of an English-Baroque movement (similar to that of other European movements, but much more conservative). (WHINNEY, Wren, 1971, p81; GLANCY, The Story of Architecture, 2000, p84), It follows very baroque traits, which would have appeared on other buildings built before it. The Cathedral was built in the context of its surroundings. The same could also be said about the 30 St Mary Axe. It was built in a very modern era where the style of high tech/modern architecture is very common. Therefore relating to the quote at hand, we believe that the London buildings are rooted in the context of their surroundings.
On the other hand, this conclusion cannot be said for The Louvre, and especially not for The Pyramid. The Musee du Louvre, (at the time, Palais du Louvre) was built as a one of a kind building, it did not follow a style that was already prominent in Paris, or indeed most parts of France at time of design and construction. We did agree that following completion; The Louvre did fit the style more closely when the renaissance and baroque movement swept through France, therefore more buildings of a similar style/context appeared.
Thus creating relevance to the Louvre’s style. As for the Pyramid, although it is an interesting juxtaposition with the older style Louvre; its context is not rooted with The Louvre. Had it been constructed near l’Arche de la Defense, in the more industrial part of Paris, then yes it would have context within it’s surrounding(s). This is probably the reason that it caused so much controversy upon completion, and seen as such an out of place building.
Another comparison that we made is that the London buildings were used to replace buildings that had been pre-existent and consequently destroyed (Old St Paul’s by the Great Fire of 1666, and The Baltic Exchange by an IRA terrorist attack). This means that the context of which the new buildings are built upon is relevant to their purpose now. Old St Paul’s and the previous buildings before it had always been that of a religious context: Roman temple, Saxon church and a Norman church (ALLINSON, Architects and Architecture of London, 2006, p49).
The Baltic Exchange being the predecessor of the St Mary Axe means that the financial context of the building has remained, being in the heart of London’s financial district brings this truth home, along with the unison of all five ‘Swiss Re’ buildings into one, again follows the financial context of the building (Swiss Re is a major insurance company). The difference between them and The Louvre and The Pyramid is that both Louvre and Pyramid were built for purpose and not to replace older buildings.
The Louvre, originally a fortress-turned-palace was stripped of its living necessities and turned into a museum, no building was required. The Pyramid was designed and built because of a lack of reception and link to all wings of the museum. Both are original builds and as a result have created their own context within their surroundings as opposed to relying on the context of its surroundings to determine the style. To conclude, as a group we believe that the context of a building is not simply rooted in the setting, and building can determine the context of a setting just as much as a setting can determine the context of a building.
We were given two examples, one in London where the setting has driven the context, and the other in Paris where a new style had changed the context. So to relate to the original quote by Dalibor Vesely, the relationship between buildings and intervening spaces is formal, but where the context is rooted is a chicken-or-egg question; one will govern the other, but this is likely to change based of multiple factors including location and the purpose of the building. [Word count with references: 1619] Word count without references: 1512] Bibliography •Renaissance Paris: Architecture and Growth 1475-1600, David THOMPSON, University of California Press, Los Angeles 1984 Extract paraphrased, page 183 •Architecture of France, David A. HANSER, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2006 Extract paraphrased, page 116 •Character of Renaissance Architecture, Charles Herbert Moore, The Macmillan Company, New York, 1905 Extract paraphrased, page 200 •Without and Within: Essays on Territory and the Interior, Mark PIMLOTT, 2007, Episode Publishers.
Extract paraphrased, page 255 •American Architecture: Ideas and Ideologies in the Late Twentieth Century, Paul HEYER, 1993, John Wiley and Sons. Extract paraphrased, page 275 – 278 •‘Transparent Contradictions’: Pei’s Pyramid at The Louvre, Stephen L. RUSTOW, 2006 Paper given at the Annual Meeting of the Society of Architectural Historians Extract paraphrased, page 6 •30 St Mary Axe A tower for London: Kenneth POWELL, published by Merrell 2006 Page 13 - 15 •2000+ London: Sam LUBELL, published by Maconcelli press 2008
Page 164 -165 •Article published by Dr Anthony GERAGHTY 17-02-2011 http://www. bbc. co. uk/history/british/civil_war_revolution/gallery_st_pauls_01. shtml(Referenced on the 19-11-2011) •Margret WHINNEY: Wren, Published by Hudson 1971 Page 81 - 84 •Christian NORBERG-SCHULZ: Baroque Architecture, published by Electra architecture, 2000 Page 194 - 195 •Jonathan GLANCY: The Story of Architecture, published by DK, 2000 Page 84 - 85 •Ken ALLINSON - Architects and Architecture of London, published by Architectural Press, 2008
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