« ZurückWeiter »
It compelled him to add a cyma to the proper entablature, to remove the metopes from the frieze, and substitute glazed windows between the triglyphs, opening into the space behind the cornice. Though it should now be futile to censure these barbarisms, we deem it a duty thus openly to bear our testimony against them. “ The public at large,” observes the acute Dr. McCulloch,“ has a claim over the architecture of a country. It is common property, inasmuch as it involves the national taste and character ; and no man has a right to pass himself and his own barbarous inventions as a national taste, or to hand down to posterity his own ignorance and disgrace to be a satire and libel on the knowledge and taste of his age.” But what idea will posterity be likely to form of the government architects of the nineteenth century, or of the government commissioners, who could abet such reckless squandering?
We have thought it expedient thus to go through with this structure, step by step, and to leave no serious error in it unnoticed, because it is a fair type of the whole class of modern Grecian edifices, and the solecisms upon which we have here animadverted are observable in nearly all. It is, also, without doubt, one of the most expensive undertakings ever attempted in Boston. More than eight hundred thousand dollars have not been sufficient to raise it to a proper height to receive the dome, — its last and crowning absurdity. By what precedent, what reason, or what rule of taste, a Doric temple is bestridden in such a way, must for ever lie beyond the comprehension of ordinary individuals ; while the additional
money, which will be needed to complete it, may justly be considered a problem to tax the ingenious calculations of the economist to their utmost limit. After all this vast outlay, it is confidently asserted by practical judges, that the interior will never afford the requisite accommodation for the revenue offices, in a large and rapidly increasing metropolis. Its aspect, to say the least, is sufficiently gloomy and forbidding; the sullen “caves of Domdaniel” could scarcely inspire more cheerless emotions ; and we question is the ill-digested arrangement of the principal apartments will not prove very inconvenient for the transaction of the business. What might have been effected, had the architect been willing to shake off the arbitrary and whimsical restrictions with which he has fettered himself, we will not now venture to suggest. But in the present edifice, at least, we may look in vain for any confirmation of the sentiment of Cowper, that
“ Art thrives most
And stirs his own to match them, or excel.” The High School, erected in Bedford street during the past year, is another exemplar of the worst taste. Though it presents only one front to the eye, that towards the street, on which the architect has bestowed all the pretension of the building, it yet contains, in that one, nearly as many faults as it is possible, by any ingenuity, to collect in so small a space. The lower story is in rusticated work, which, when properly executed, is susceptible of a high degree
of appropriate effect. But that which is here employed is copied from the manner of the vicious French school, — consisting only of shallow horizontal stripes, as meagre and unmeaning as they are offensively monotonous. They really contribute nothing towards the intended expression of solidity, baving rather the effect of weak places in the masonry. The simple introduction of vertical joints, with a different tooling of the raised surface, admitting, as it does, great diversity of arrangement and distribution, would have produced a very different result, and changed the whole character of the basement, from utter tastelessness to characteristic and pleasing beauty. This edifice is also without any door in the front, so that all visible means of obtaining entrance to it are entirely wanting. Those who watched the progress of its erection may indeed know, that the doors are constructed in the sides ; but to one who sees it for the first time, there is no evidence of any such fact; and we can conceive, that an intelligent foreigner would be sadly puzzled to find his way into the apparently impregnable stronghold.
“ Scamozzi,” observes Sir William Chambers, “compares the door to the mouth of an animal, and as nature,' says he, “has placed the one in the middle of the face, so the architect ought to place the other in the middle of the front of the edifice ; that being the most noble situation, the most majestic and convenient." But when it is left out of the design altogether, it is almost useless to pass a censure upon an example of so. low a character. If an increased convenience in the plan be assigned as the reason for this strange proceeding, we are satisfied, that every person of common discernment will peremptorily disallow it.
A considerable degree of inconvenience should be submitted to, before such a gross violation of rule is committed. Nor would this result have been inevitable ; for, by a little painstaking and contrivance, the architect might have avoided any ill arrangement of the interior. Such Aimsy excuses are becoming by far too common. " When the Devil can't swim,” says the old proverb, “ he always lays the fault on the water.” It is, at the best, but a very feeble apology for ignorance ; and we insist, that the door should in all cases be placed in the principal front, though it only find a place in one corner of it, as in Mr. Barry's exquisite Traveller's Club House. Thus, the architect, though unable to conform exactly to recognized principles, shows, at least, that he entertains some little respect for them.
Non videtur meruisse laudem, culpâ caruisse." The windows of the principal floor are adorned with handsome facings; but this species of decoration is wholly omitted in the next, or highest story. We are presented, therefore, with a row of plain apertures, over windows properly executed in themselves, but thus thrown wholly out of keeping, and appearing quite foreign to the taste displayed in all the rest of the weak composition to which they are attached. A mixture of apertures with and without dressings, in the same façade, is one of the most glaring solecisms that can be committed. These blunders, however, are even surpassed by the highly original pediment, finished, as it is, in bold defiance of every recognized principle of building, and capping this small front with a perfect climax of absurdity. There is no horizontal entablature, but in its place, a profuse display of costly flourishes in granite, overhung by a bold, raking cornice, that appears in no way improved by its most unjustifiable divorce from its horizontal companion. In short, we believe, that there are very few offences, that can be committed against the simplest principia of architecture, which have been overlooked, or left out of this design,
so that it seems to have been composed, not with any intention of conforming to rules, but by way of a pleasant defiance to all of them. Yet all the mouldings employed are savagely Grecian in profile, and even the contraction of the architraves to the windows is rigorously copied from Athenian examples. Where this excess of pretension exists on the one hand, it is natural to expect some little excellence of performance on the other ; but we fear it will be found, that the present age stands not more apart from all others for the vain boasts of its architecture, than for its real and immeasurable inferiority We have abundant reason to cry out against the defects of the prevailing system, when we find its consequent evils thus coming home upon ourselves.
The front of the Tremont theatre was noticed in a former number of this Journal, * as one of the best proportioned and most agreeable structures in Boston. But since the publication of the article referred to, it has undergone a fearful change. The rusticated arcade of the lower story has been destroyed, the arched openings being filled in with long, straight 'blocks of stone, and the solid wall which flanked them, at the extremities of the façade, receiving a similar kind of treatment. This was done to adapt them to shop fronts, while the next or principal story has fared, if possible, somewhat worse. From the niches, where stood the statues of the tragic and comic Muses, statues, pedestals, and wall, have alike been pulled away, and the circularheaded spaces filled up with flaring glazed windows, divided into two lights by a floor cutting them across the middle. It can be imagined, how well these assimilate with the handsome, square-headed windows, which open in the central intercolumns. Five recessed panels next above these have also been opened and glazed, making a kind of mezzanine story, which could nowhere be more unsightly than in its present situation. The granite front, having begun to acquire a few picturesque tints from the action of the weather, has been scrubbed, and hammered, and pointed, until it looks like a staring geometrical drawing in an architect's portfolio. The interior has been barbarized into a lath and plaster hybrid of church and concert-hall, — an ingenious reconciliation of God and Mammon which it. remained for the liberal and enlightened nineteenth century to discover. The superb Corinthian columns, which formerly adorned the
* See North American Review, Vol. XLIII., p. 364. VOL. LVIII. NO. 123. 50
prosceniuin, and which shone with every grace that form and color could impart, have been pulled down, and wantonly sacrificed" for a song” at a public auction. Instead of the tasteful and even elegant interior, which it formerly exhibited, and of which every Bostonian had reason to be proud, a desolate and monotonous expanse of dirty white is now spread before the eye, - small cast-iron props sustaining enormous galleries, and bare, unpainted pine supplanting all the former attractions of drapery and gilding. " Patience,” exclaimed old Sir Henry Lee, “is a good nag, but she will bolt sometimes ; and we must take the license to confess, that we have scarcely any terms in which adequately to speak our idea of this Vandalic spoliation.
The Exchange, in State street, has many faults, with very few real beauties to counterbalance them. portions of the front are, indeed, tolerably good, and there is some dignity of effect produced by the breadth and regularity of its shadows. But the capitals of the great pilasters are bald and trivial, and the entablature must be objected to, as far too plain for the somewhat ornate character of the building. It is a grand mistake with our modern Grecian imitators, that they expend their whole means upon the columnar arrangement, to the neglect of all the other parts which require an equal attention. The frieze is almost universally left quite plain, however high a degree of embellishment is bestowed
the lower members of the order. The columns, according to the present practice, predominate too obtrusively, and their capitals often appear cumbrous with enrichment, while the superior entablature is nude and insignificant. This produces a sad poverty of effect, inverting the natural order of enrichment, and leaving a disagreeable hiatus in the propriety of the whole design. Among the Greeks, the frieze was rarely without the highest decoration that sculpture could bestow; the metopes of the Parthenon were adorned with the master-pieces of Phidias, and the tympanum of the pediment was crowded with the exquisitely sculptured ideals of their whole mythology. The temple of Minerva was only the frame to the Elgin marbles. Where every thing of this kind is wanting, it will always be noticed, that there is an utter absence of the richness which belongs to the upper line of the structure. If continued sculpture be rejected, on account of its increased expense,