The Secret of Architectural Excellence

“The secret of architectural excellence is to translate the proportions of a dachshund into bricks, mortar and marble.”
Sir Christopher Wren

 
 

Portrait of Sir Christopher Wren, Godfrey Kneller, 1711

 
 

Sir Christopher Michael Wren (20 October 1632 – 25 February 1723) is one of the most highly acclaimed English architects in history. Other notable buildings by Wren include the Royal Naval College, Greenwich, and the south front of Hampton Court Palace. The Wren Building, the main building at the College of William and Mary, is attributed to Wren. It is the oldest academic building in continuous use in the United States.

In Wren’s age, the profession of architect as understood today did not exist. Since the early years of the 17th century it was not unusual for the well-educated gentleman, (virtuosi), to take up architecture as a gentlemanly activity; a pursuit widely accepted as a branch of applied mathematics. This is implicit in the writings of Vitruvius and explicit in such 16th century authors as John Dee and Leonard Digges. When Wren was a student at Oxford, he became familiar with Vitruvius’s De architectura and absorbed intuitively the fundamentals of the architectural design there. In English Medieval tradition, buildings were constructed to the needs of the patron and the suggestions of building professionals, such as master carpenters or master bricklayers.

Educated in Latin and Aristotelian physics at the University of Oxford, Wren was a notable anatomist, astronomer, geometer, and mathematician-physicist, as well as an architect. He was a founder of the Royal Society (president 1680–82), and his scientific work was highly regarded by Isaac Newton and Blaise Pascal.

 
 

Saint Paul’s Cathedral, London – plan and section. Christopher Wren, (1675-1709). Wren wrestled with the design of the famous St Paul’s dome even as it was being built, remodeling its profile countless times.

 
 

Marlborough House, Westminster as designed by Wren

 
 

Cambridge University, Wren Library, Trinity College

 
 

In the 20th century the potency of the influence of Wren’s work on English architecture was reduced. The last major architect who admitted to being dependent on him was Sir Edwin Lutyens, who died in 1944. With the purposeful elimination of historic influences from international architecture in the early 20th century, Wren’s work gradually stopped being perceived as a mine of examples applicable to contemporary design.

 
 

Rashtrapati Bhavan (formerly known as Viceroy’s House) is the official home of the President of India, located in New Delhi, Delhi, India. It was designed by Lutyens. Lutyens said the design evolved from that of the Pantheon in Rome, while it is also possible that it was modeled partly after the great Stupa at Sanchi, or St. Paul’s dome.

Advertisements

References to Franz Kafka and Popular Culture

 
 

Haruki Murakami makes numerous literary, musical and film references throughout the novel Kakfa on the Shore, particularly to (who else?) Franz Kafka. Several of the characters in the book have a relationship with Kafka or “Kafkaesque” themes, the most obvious being the name the protagonist gives to himself, Kafka Tamura. While the reader never finds out his real name, he explains why he chooses the name Kafka to represent his identity. But why Kafka? It is possible that Murakami used Franz Kafka to emphasize themes of isolation and alienation, as well as to critique forms of Japanese bureaucracy and the police force investigating his father’s murder in particular.

 
 

“Nobody’s going to help me. At least no one has up till now. So I have to make it on my own. I have to get stronger–like a stray crow. That’s why I gave myself the name Kafka. That’s what Kafka means in Czech, you know–crow.”

 
 

Franz Kafka is also a figure that draws many of the characters together. Kafka Tamura is only allowed to stay in the library after revealing his name, which has an profound effect on the library staff. The tragedy of the death of Miss Saeki’s lover is shown in a song she writes for him, named Kafka on the Shore, which also becomes the title of the book. There is a consistently a switching of identities concerning the protagonist which all seem linked in some way or another to Franz Kafka. He switches from 15 year-old runaway, to “Crow”, his alter-ego, to Miss Saeki’s 15-year old boyfriend (who is also named Kafka by Miss Saeki) when he enters his old quarters. In this way, Murakami ties together some of the surreal events in the book by using Franz Kafka as a continuous reference.

With the majority of the novel being set in a library, it is abundant with literary and musical references. Much like the Franz Kafka reference, Murakami uses these references a moments in the plot that draw characters together. In their isolation, the main characters are absorbed in literature, music, and art, providing a starting point for much of their conversations and relationships. In addition to the obvious Oedipial reference throughout the novel, as Kafka searches desperately for his mother and sister, however at the same time, Murakami brings references from popular culture to life, adding a surreal and oddly comical overlay to the events in the novel. In a parallel storyline, Kafka Tamura’s father, brilliant sculptor and crazed cat murderer, takes on the pseudonym of Johnnie Walker. Colonel Sanders, the KFC icon, becomes a character in the novel, a pimp that guides Nakata and Hoshino to Takamatsu and the library, merging both storylines. Truck driver Hoshino, throws away his job and uproots himself after listening to Beethoven’s Archduke Trio, while Kafka Tamura calms himself in an isolated cabin, listening to Prince on his walkman. Murakami cultivates these references similarly to the way he develops architecture in the novel; both historical and contemporary, they blur the passing of time and are devices for the character’s self exploration and identity.

 
 

LITERARY REFERENCES:

The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night, Translated by Sir Richard Francis Burton

The Banquet, by Plato

The Castle, by Franz Kafka

The Trial, by Franz Kafka

The Metamorphosis, by Franz Kafka

In The Penal Colony, by Franz Kafka

• Complete Works of Natsume Sōseki

The Tale Of Genji, by Lady Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Jun’ichirō Tanizaki

Trial of Adolf Eichmann, (Unknown)

Macbeth, by William Shakespeare

Hamlet, by William Shakespeare

Romeo and Juliet, by William Shakespeare

Agamemnon, by Aeschylus

The Trojan Women, by Euripides

Rhetoric, by Aristotle

Poetics, by Aristotle

Electra, by Sophocles

Oedipus Rex, by Sophocles

The Hollow Men (poem), by T. S. Eliot

Tales of Moonlight and Rain, by Ueda Akinari

Matter and Memory, by Henri Bergson

Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel

Aladdin, Added by Antoine Galland to French translation of The Book of Thousand Nights and a Night

The Frog Prince, The Brothers Grimm

Hansel and Gretel, by The Brothers Grimm

Uncle Vanya, by Anton Chekhov

A Discourse on the Origin of Inequality, by Jean Jacques Rousseau

 
 

AUTHORIAL REFERENCES:

Leo Tolstoy

Federico García Lorca

Ernest Hemingway

Charles Dickens

 
 

MUSIC REFERENCES:

Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, by The Beatles

The White Album, by The Beatles

As Time Goes By, from the movie Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)

Blonde on Blonde, by Bob Dylan

Mi chiamano Mimi, from La Bohème, by Giacomo Puccini

Sonata in D Major (known as the Gasteiner), by Franz Schubert

Crossroads, by Cream

Little Red Corvette, by Prince

Greatest Hits, by Prince

Sittin’ On The Dock of the Bay, by Otis Redding

Archduke Trio, (by Rubinstein, Heifetz and Feuermann) by Ludwig van Beethoven

First cello concerto, (solo by Pierre Fournier) by Franz Joseph Haydn

Posthorn Serenade, by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Kid A, by Radiohead

My Favourite Things, by John Coltrane

Getz/Gilberto, by Stan Getz

 
 

ARTIST/COMPOSER REFERENCES:

Duke Ellington

Led Zeppelin

Schumann

Alfred Brendel

Rolling Stones

Beach Boys

Simon & Garfunkel

Stevie Wonder

Johann Sebastian Bach

Hector Berlioz

Richard Wagner

Franz Liszt

A Statement in Favor of Individual Freedom

 
 

Le déjeuner sur l’herbe (The Luncheon on the Grass) – originally titled Le Bain (The Bath) – is a large oil on canvas painting by Édouard Manet created in 1862 and 1863. Rejected by the Salon jury of 1863, Manet seized the opportunity to exhibit this and two other paintings in the 1863 Salon des Refusés where the painting sparked public notoriety and controversy.

Odilon Redon, for example, did not like it. There is a discussion of it, from this point of view, in Marcel Proust‘s Remembrance of Things Past. One interpretation of the work is that it depicts the rampant prostitution that occurred in the Bois de Boulogne, a large park at the western outskirts of Paris, at the time. This prostitution was common knowledge in Paris, but was considered a taboo subject unsuitable for a painting.

It is not a realist painting in the social or political sense of Honoré Daumier, but it is a statement in favor of the artist’s individual freedom. The shock value of a nude woman casually lunching with two fully dressed men, which was an affront to the propriety of the time, was accentuated by the familiarity of the figures. Manet’s wife, Suzanne Leenhoff, and his favorite model, Victorine Meurent, both posed for the nude woman, who has Meurent’s face, but Leenhoff’s plumper body. Her body is starkly lit and she stares directly at the viewer. The two men are Manet’s brother Gustave Manet and his future brother-in-law, Ferdinand Leenhoff. They are dressed like young dandies. The men seem to be engaged in conversation, ignoring the woman. In front of them, the woman’s clothes, a basket of fruit, and a round loaf of bread are displayed, as in a still life. In the background a lightly clad woman bathes in a stream. Too large in comparison with the figures in the foreground, she seems to float above them. The roughly painted background lacks depth – giving the viewer the impression that the scene is not taking place outdoors, but in a studio. This impression is reinforced by the use of broad “photographic” light, which casts almost no shadows; the lighting of the scene, in fact, is inconsistent and unnatural. The man on the right wears a flat hat with a tassel, of a kind normally worn indoors.

 
 

Judgement of Paris (circa 1515). Engraving by Marcantonio Raimondi to a design by Raphael

 
 

As with the later Olympia (1865), and other works, Manet’s composition reveals his study of the old masters, as the disposition of the main figures is derived from Marcantonio Raimondi‘s engraving The Judgement of Paris (c. 1515) after a drawing by Raphael.

Scholars also cite two works as important precedents for Manet’s painting Le déjeuner sur l’herbe, The Pastoral Concert, 1508, attributed to either one of the Italian Renaissance masters, Titian or Giorgione, and Giorgione’s The Tempest, both of which are famous Renaissance paintings.

 
 

The Pastoral Concert (c. 1509), attributed to either one of the Italian Renaissance masters, Titian or Giorgione

 
 

The subject was perhaps the allegory of poetry and music: the two women would be an imaginary apparition representing the ideal beauty, stemming from the two men’s fantasy and inspiration. The woman with the glass vase would be the muse of tragic poetry, while the other one would be that of the pastoral poetry. Of the two playing men, the one with the lute would represent the exalted lyric poetry, the other being an ordinary lyricist, according to the distinction made by Aristotle in his Poetics. Another interpretation suggests that the painting is an evocation of the four elements of the natural world (water, fire, earth and air) and their harmonic relationship.

 
 

Giorgione, The Tempest (circa 1508)

 
 

There is no contemporary textual explanation for The Tempest, and ultimately, no definitive reading or interpretation. To some it represents the flight into Egypt; to others, a scene from classical mythology (Paris and Oenone) or from an ancient Greek pastoral novel. According to the Italian scholar Salvatore Settis, the desert city would represent the Paradise, the two characters being Adam and Eve with their son Cain: the lightning, as in ancient Greek and Hebrew times, would represent God who has just ousted them from Eden. Others have proposed a moral allegorical reading, or concluded that Giorgione had no particular subject in mind.

Eye-catching Symbology

“One wanted fifty pairs of eyes to see with, ” Lily Briscoe reflected. “Fifty pairs of eyes were not enough to get round that one woman with”, she thought.

Virginia Woolf

To the Lighthouse (Page 303)

 
 

Alexander McQueen 2008-2009 Autumn/Winter collection

 
 

Chris Noth and Sarah Jessica Parker photographed  at the Greek and Roman galleries at  the Metropolitan Museum of Art, by Anie Leibovitz. Vogue  USA, June 2008

 
 

A peacock displaying his plumage is seen by many as a symbol of vanity. Several legends have flourished around this animal, which from ancient times is associated with royalty and its attributes. For instance, in Babylonia and Persia the peacock is often seen in engravings upon the thrones of kings and queens.

 

The Indian Peacock or peafowl is best known for the male’s extravagant eye-spotted tail, which it displays as part of courtship. The “eyes” can be seen when the peacock fans its tail (also called “train”). Like a cupped hand behind the ear, the erect tail-fan of the male helps direct sound to the ears.

 

In the deepest jungle the male goes about to clean the ground with its legs, and in a limited space he awaits until the female appears. When she does appear, the peacock begins a wonderful dance that finishes with its tail displayed. The female falls, subjugated after the show of grace and beauty.

 
 

Hera

 
 

Juno und Argus, 1610,  Peter Paul Rubens

 
 

According to Greek mythology, Hera is the wife and one of three sisters of Zeus in the Olympian pantheon of Greek mythology and religion. Her chief function is as the goddess of women and marriage. The name of Hera admits a variety of mutually exclusive etymologies; one possibility is to connect it with hōra(ὥρα), season, and to interpret it as ripe for marriage. Another possibility stems from “Hero. “Her counterpart in the religion of ancient Rome was Juno. The cow, lion and specially the peacock are sacred to her.

 

Hellenistic imagery depicted Hera’s chariot being pulled by peacocks, birds not known to Greeks before the conquests of Alexander the Great. Alexander’s tutor, Aristotle, refers to it as “the Persian bird.” The peacock motif was revived in the Renaissance iconography that unified Hera and Juno, and which European painters focused on.

 

Hera almost caught Zeus with a mistress named Io, a fate avoided by Zeus turning Io into a beautiful white heifer. However, Hera was not completely fooled and demanded that Zeus give her the heifer as a present.

 

Once Io was given to Hera, she placed her in the charge of Argus to keep her separated from Zeus. Zeus then commanded Hermes to kill Argus, which he did by lulling all one hundred eyes to sleep. In Ovid‘s interpolation, when Hera learned of Argus’ death, she took his eyes and placed them in the plumage of the peacock, accounting for the eye pattern in its tail.

 
 

Hindu deity Karktikeya or Murugan (god of war and victory) with his consorts on his Vahana peacock, by Raji Ravi Varma

 
 

Tawûsê Melek

 
 

Peacock angel

 
 

ملك طاووس‎, Tawûsê Melek, Melek Taus or the Peacock Angel, is the Yazidi (a Kurdish ethnoreligious group with Indo-Iranian roots) name for the central figure of their faith. The Yazidi consider it an emanation of God and a benevolent angel who has redeemed himself from his fall and has become a demiurge who created the cosmos from the Cosmic egg.

 

After he repented, he wept for 7,000 years, his tears filling seven jars, which then quenched the fires of hell. They believe that God first created Tawûsê Melek from his own illumination (Ronahî) and the other six archangels were created later. God ordered Tawûsê Melek not to bow to other beings. Then God created the other archangels and ordered them to bring him dust (Ax) from the Earth (Erd) and build the body of Adam. Some Christians, Muslims and others identify Tawûsê Melek as Lucifer or Satan. According to the Yazidi Black Book, the Yazidi are forbidden to say the name “Shaitan” because their people would be religiously persecuted by other faiths.

 
 

Artist(s) unknown, possibly Master of the Madonna Grog or Aert van den Bossche, formerly Master of the Embroidered Foliage, c. 1492-1498

 
 

This bird was the original symbol of the Catholic Church (the peacock denoted the many-eyed church) and it was an early symbol of Jesus, denoting the Christ’s resurrection and immortality. Because of these associations to the Christ, peacocks were commonly portrayed in medieval paintings hovering around the baby Jesus’ crib. During the time Jesus walked the earth, and also afterwards, the peacock alternated with the phoenix as the symbol of immortality in both Egypt and the Middle East. It is for this reason that the peacock as associated with the Christian St. Barbara even though she was the patron saint of Heliopolis, the ancient home of the phoenix.