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baroque


2000.10.26 15:20
Baroque beginnings?
A. asks:
To repeat a previous question: who designed the Baroque? OR How did the Baroque arise (emerge)? Any takers?
S. offers:
I think Michelangelo's architecture (which was more or less a product of his late life) manifested tremendous 'new' inspiration for 16th -17th century architecture. The details of the Porta Pia and the wholly integrated articulation of the Sforza Chapel offer architectures completely unprecedented until that time, which in turn inspired new architectures. Likewise, the 'undulating' wall of St. Peter's no doubt became the new paradigm, especially considering that St. Peter's then (as now?) represented the ultimate place of worship. In simple terms, it is best to learn from the best.
To this day, I am intrigued by Michelangelo's fortification designs for Florence (some executed and otherwise recorded as plan drawings). They exhibit many proto-Baroque flourishes, and it is interesting to note the military connection.
"This places Michelangelo's fortification projects among the incunabula of modern military architecture, just at the most fluid and inventive moment in its history, at a time when experience had established no proven formula of design. Unlike the situation in other arts, the lessons of antiquity and of preceding generations were of little account; this is one of those rare events in the history of architecture when technological advances altered the basic precepts of design."
James Ackerman, The Architecture of Michelangelo (Penguin, 1970), p. 127.
ps
I see architecture as the product of human imagination(s), and that is why I spend my time trying to figure out where human imagination comes from.

2000.10.27 12:43
Baroque ending (for sure)
Although most of the current discussion at architecthetics deals more or less with theorizing of how 'style' (might) come to be, generally how things/styles emerge, I nonetheless offer the following as an example of how (a) style ends, in this particular case the Baroque style.
The following is a passage I first read over 23 years ago. It comes from Thomas K. Kitao, Circle and Oval in the Square of Saint Peter's: Bernini's Art of Planning (New York: New York University Press, 1974), pp.22-23. I was reminded of this passage after some reflection upon the recent bit of cyber theater that occurred here at design-l [i.e., the email list I first sent this post to on 16 October 2000--design-l and architecthetics are the double theaters I play in] a month and a half ago.
"In the well know production of the Due Teatri, first given in 1637, Bernini developed a simulated amphitheater of a very elaborate kind. This is, of course, the best known of Bernini's theatrical works, but a recapitulation is in order.
According to Massimiliano Montecuculi, who witnessed the performance, the stage was prepared with "a flock of people partly real and partly feigned" so arranged that, when the curtain had fallen for the opening of the play, the audience saw on the stage another large audience who had come to see the comedy. Two braggarts, played by Bernini himself and his brother Luigi, then appeared on the stage, one facing the real audience and the other the fictitious; and recognizing each other in no time, they went on to claim, each in turn, that what the other saw as real was actually illusory, each firmly convinced that there was no more than one theater with its audience in that half he was facing. The confusions of realities in mirror image thus heightened, the two firmly decided "that they would pull the curtain across the scene and arrange a performance each for his own audience alone." Then the play was performed to the real audience, that is, the main act to which that preceded was only a pleasant prelude. But through the play another performance was supposed to be taking place simultaneously on the second stage introduced by Luigi; the play was, in fact, interrupted at times by the laughter from those on the other side, as if something very pleasant had been seen or heard.
At the end of the play, the two braggarts reappeared on the stage together to reaffirm the "reality" of the illusion. Having asked each other how they fared, the impresario of the fictitious performance answered nonchalantly that he had not really shown anything but the audience getting up to leave "with their carriages and horses accompanied by a great number of lights and torches." Then, drawing the curtain, he displayed the scene he had just said he had shown to his audience, thus rendering complete the incredible reversal of reality and illusion to the confused amazement of the real spectators, who were now finding themselves ready to leave and caught in the enchanting act of feigning the feigned spectators."
Here's my analysis:
Of course, the Baroque style continued beyond Bernini--I believe even the double porticos of St. Peter's Square were done after the above performance. All the same, Bernini's theatrical performance manifests the Baroque's consummate ending. Within his double theater Bernini capsulized the beginning of Western culture's new bifurcation of the real and the illusory, introduced mirroring as a henceforth dominant Baroque (stylistic) theme, and, at base (or should I say at the ultimate end), inverted reality into a reenactment of its own illusory mirror (--is this perhaps also the genesis of historiography?).
Essentially, beyond the Baroque (and still often in our own modern times) architecture at its best is very sophisticated theater, keeping in mind that theater is one of the earliest forms of (man made) reenactment.

2000.11.07 09:07
Baroque Intuition?
Alex states:
When in my previous post I rhetorically asked who had 'invented' or 'designed' the Baroque, I was somewhat shocked to see candidates actually being proposed for this mythical position.
Steve replies:
When I proposed Michelangelo as a place to look for the 'beginnings' [Alex's original rhetorical only asked about who 'designed'], I also particularly called out Michelangelo's fortification designs for Florence. In the almost two weeks since then I did some further reading/research on the fortifications. I read what Ackerman and Argan/Contradi offer, and I was surprised to learn that fortifications by Michelangelo were indeed executed, but in an impermanent fashion--packed dirt and straw--and did not stand up well to attack. Their only record today are Michelangelo's design sketches. Also surprising were the dates of the designs: 1528-29, i.e., before Michelangelo's mature [architectural] works in Rome. I was surprised because of the relative earliness within the 16th century--"is it possible that there were Baroque 'beginnings' so early in the 16th century?"
I also took a more careful look at Michelangelo's fortification designs, of which there are several dozen drawings, and, in purely design terms, they are indeed extremely (i.e., at the beginning of a alpha-omega polarity) Baroque.
I then looked through The Timetables of History, a reference book that chronologically lists events year by year. There I found that the Sack of Rome occurred in 1527 and is "referred to as 'End of the Renaissance'." Now I was very intrigued by what was going on politically and socially in Italy at that time, and did further reading throughout Encyclopedia Britannica. For example, the Marxist view of the end of the Renaissance calls out Luther's "protests" of 1517. In any case, very unstable times for the Roman Catholic Church, 'the' Establishment.
History is both a collective and an individual collection of occurrences, especially in terms of design.
On 27 October 2000, I posted a "Baroque ending"--a double play by Bernini first performed in 1637, again a very early date and closer to what is generally termed the beginning of the Baroque. In The Timetables of History, I found that Poussin painted The Arcadian Shepherds (Et in Arcadia Ego) in 1638 and in Rome! This surprised me because I always viewed that particular painting as holding strong Romantic and Neo-Classical evocations--again a date much earlier than I expected.
I stated that Bernini's play capsulized Western cultures new bifurcation, so what was this new split? The fact that the Roman Catholic Church was no longer 'believed' to be the harbinger of the 'true' reality throughout Europe is now on one side and the Roman Catholic Church's now mostly violent (albeit sanctimonious) insistence that they were still the 'true' reality is on the other side. Europe, between roughly 1528 and 1637 was very much a bloody double theater.
The above is only a very basic outline of a (new) thesis (for me) that the essential Baroque occurred between 1528 and 1637. There are many more factors to consider and research, e.g., the rise of French political and cultural 'power' during the same period. I realize that the [so-called?] Mannerist period occurred within the early half of what I now propose as the Baroque's essential 'period', but I also propose that architecture after 1637 is reenactionary, specifically reenacting the Baroque 'play'.
ps
Does it help to be 'baroque' when analyzing the Baroque?

2006.05.19 17:48
Rem=Renaissance Greg Lynn=Baroque
Try my patented Baroque Pregnancy test. If you fulfill all of the following requirements, then you are "bestimmt Barock."
1. does your work manifest a bifurcation of the real and the illusory?
2. does your work introduce mirroring as a henceforth dominant theme?
3. does your work invert reality into a reenactment of its own illusory mirror?

2008.10.20 17:24
Tripartite cantilevering Cloverfield of a stair: "Live Wire" by Oyler Wu Collaborative
...make that elaborated to excess appearance.
"...in essence the Baroque involved: a) a bifurcation of reality and illusion, b) pervasive mirroring (figuratively and literally), and c) reality reenacting its own illusory mirror."
--Lauf
Good design often amounts to a honing-in process.
Simply being overwrought doesn't get you to baroque, but an overwroughtness honed-in might just be the ticket.

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