Greek Revival architecture | Wikipedia audio article

Greek Revival architecture | Wikipedia audio article


The Greek Revival was an architectural movement
of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, predominantly in Northern Europe and the United
States. A product of Hellenism, it may be looked upon
as the last phase in the development of Neoclassical architecture. The term was first used by Charles Robert
Cockerell in a lecture he gave as Professor of Architecture to the Royal Academy of Arts,
London in 1842.With a newfound access to Greece, or initially the books produced by the few
who had actually been able to visit the sites, archaeologist-architects of the period studied
the Doric and Ionic orders. In each country it touched, the style was
looked on as the expression of local nationalism and civic virtue, and freedom from the lax
detail and frivolity that was thought to characterize the architecture of France and Italy, two
countries where the style never really took hold. This was especially the case in Britain, Germany
and the United States, where the idiom was regarded as being free from ecclesiastical
and aristocratic associations. The taste for all things Greek in furniture
and interior design, sometimes called Neo-Grec, was at its peak by the beginning of the 19th
century, when the designs of Thomas Hope had influenced a number of decorative styles known
variously as Neoclassical, Empire, Russian Empire, and Regency architecture in Britain. Greek Revival architecture took a different
course in a number of countries, lasting until the Civil War in America (1860s) and even
later in Scotland.==Rediscovery of Greece==
Despite the unbounded prestige of ancient Greece among the educated elite of Europe,
there was minimal direct knowledge of that civilization before the middle of the 18th
century. The monuments of Greek antiquity were known
chiefly from Pausanias and other literary sources. Visiting Ottoman Greece was difficult and
dangerous business prior to the period of stagnation beginning with the Great Turkish
War. Few Grand Tourists called on Athens during
the first half of the 18th century, and none made any significant study of the architectural
ruins.It would take until the expedition funded by the Society of Dilettanti of 1751 by James
Stuart and Nicholas Revett before serious archaeological inquiry began in earnest. Stuart and Revett’s findings, published in
1762 (first volume) as The Antiquities of Athens, along with Julien-David Le Roy’s Ruines
des plus beaux monuments de la Grèce (1758) were the first accurate surveys of ancient
Greek architecture.Meanwhile, the rediscovery of the three relatively easily accessible
Greek temples at Paestum in southern Italy created huge interest throughout Europe, and
prints by Piranesi and others were widely circulated. Access to the originals in Greece itself only
became easier after the Greek War of Independence ended in 1832; Lord Byron’s participation
and death during this had brought it additional prominence.==Britain==Following the travels to Greece of Nicholas
Revett, a Suffolk gentleman architect, and the better remembered James Stuart in the
early 1750s, intellectual curiosity quickly led to a desire to emulate. Stuart was commissioned after his return from
Greece by George Lyttelton to produce the first Greek building in England, the garden
temple at Hagley Hall (1758–59). A number of British architects in the second
half of the century took up the expressive challenge of the Doric from their aristocratic
patrons, including Benjamin Henry Latrobe (notably at Hammerwood Park and Ashdown House)
and Sir John Soane, but it was to remain the private enthusiasm of connoisseurs up to the
first decade of the 19th century. An early example of Greek Doric architecture
(in the facade), married with a more Palladian interior, is the Revett-designed rural church
of Ayot St Lawrence in Hertfordshire, commissioned in 1775 by Lord Lionel Lyde of the eponymous
manor. The Doric columns of this church, with their
“pie-crust crimped” details, are taken from drawings that Revett made of the Temple of
Apollo on the Cycladic island of Delos, in the collection of books that he (and Stuart
in some cases) produced, largely funded by special subscription by the Society of Dilettanti. See more in Terry Friedman’s book “The Georgian
Parish Church”, Spire Books, 2004. Seen in its wider social context, Greek Revival
architecture sounded a new note of sobriety and restraint in public buildings in Britain
around 1800 as an assertion of nationalism attendant on the Act of Union, the Napoleonic
Wars, and the clamour for political reform. It was to be William Wilkins’s winning design
for the public competition for Downing College, Cambridge that announced the Greek style was
to be a dominant idiom in architecture, especially for public buildings of this sort. Wilkins and Robert Smirke went on to build
some of the most important buildings of the era, including the Theatre Royal, Covent Garden
(1808–09), the General Post Office (1824–29) and the British Museum (1823–48), the Wilkins
Building of University College London (1826–30) and the National Gallery (1832–38). Arguably the greatest British exponent of
the style was Decimus Burton. In London twenty three Greek Revival Commissioners’
churches were built between 1817 and 1829, the most notable being St.Pancras church by
William and Henry William Inwood. In Scotland the style was avidly adopted by
William Henry Playfair, Thomas Hamilton and Charles Robert Cockerell, who severally and
jointly contributed to the massive expansion of Edinburgh’s New Town, including the Calton
Hill development and the Moray Estate. Such was the popularity of the Doric in Edinburgh
that the city now enjoys a striking visual uniformity, and as such is sometimes whimsically
referred to as “the Athens of the North”. Within Regency architecture the style already
competed with Gothic Revival and the continuation of the less stringent Palladian and neoclassical
styles of Georgian architecture, the other two remaining more common for houses, both
in towns and English country houses. If it is tempting to see the Greek Revival
as the expression of Regency authoritarianism, then the changing conditions of life in Britain
made Doric the loser of the Battle of the Styles, dramatically symbolized by the selection
of Barry’s Gothic design for the Palace of Westminster in 1836. Nevertheless, Greek continued to be in favour
in Scotland well into the 1870s in the singular figure of Alexander Thomson, known as “Greek
Thomson”.==Germany and France==In Germany, Greek Revival architecture is
predominantly found in two centres, Berlin and Munich. In both locales, Doric was the court style
rather than a popular movement, and was heavily patronised by Frederick William II and Ludwig
I as the expression of their desires for their respective seats to become the capital of
Germany. The earliest Greek building was the Brandenburg
Gate (1788–91) by Carl Gotthard Langhans, who modelled it on the Propylaea. Ten years after the death of Frederick the
Great, the Berlin Akademie initiated a competition for a monument to the king that would promote
“morality and patriotism.” Friedrich Gilly’s unexecuted design for a
temple raised above the Leipziger Platz caught the tenor of high idealism that the Germans
sought in Greek architecture and was enormously influential on Karl Friedrich Schinkel and
Leo von Klenze. Schinkel was in a position to stamp his mark
on Berlin after the catastrophe of the French occupation ended in 1813; his work on what
is now the Altes Museum, Schauspielhaus, and the Neue Wache transformed that city. Similarly, in Munich von Klenze’s Glyptothek
and Walhalla were the fulfilment of Gilly’s vision of an orderly and moral German world. The purity and seriousness of the style was
intended as an assertion of German national values and partly intended as a deliberate
riposte to France, where it never really caught on. By comparison, Greek Revival architecture
in France was never popular with either the state or the public. What little there is started with Charles
de Wailly’s crypt in the church of St Leu-St Gilles (1773–80), and Claude Nicolas Ledoux’s
Barriere des Bonshommes (1785–89). First-hand evidence of Greek architecture
was of very little importance to the French, due to the influence of Marc-Antoine Laugier’s
doctrines that sought to discern the principles of the Greeks instead of their mere practices. It would take until Laboustre’s Neo-Grec of
the Second Empire for Greek Revival architecture to flower briefly in France.==Russia==The style was especially attractive in Russia,
if only because they shared the Eastern Orthodox faith with the Greeks. The historic centre of Saint Petersburg was
rebuilt by Alexander I of Russia, with many buildings giving the Greek Revival a Russian
debut. The Saint Petersburg Bourse on Vasilievsky
Island has a temple front with 44 Doric columns. Leo von Klenze’s expansion of the palace that
is now the Hermitage Museum is another example of the style.==Greece==Following the Greek War of Independence, Romantic
Nationalist ideology encouraged the use of historically Greek architectural styles in
place of Ottoman or pan-European ones. Classical architecture was used for secular
public buildings, while Byzantine architecture was preferred for churches. Examples of Greek Revival architecture in
Greece include the Old Royal Palace (now the home of the Parliament of Greece), the Academy
and University of Athens, the Zappeion, and the National Library of Greece. The most prominent architects in this style
were northern Europeans such as Christian and Theophil Hansen and Ernst Ziller and German-trained
Greeks such as Stamatios Kleanthis and Panagis Kalkos.==Rest of Europe==
The style was generally popular in northern Europe, and not in the south (except for Greece
itself), at least during the main period. Examples can be found in Poland, Lithuania,
and Finland, where the assembly of Greek buildings in Helsinki city centre is particularly notable. At the cultural edges of Europe, in the Swedish
region of western Finland, Greek Revival motifs might be grafted on a purely baroque design,
as in the design for Oravais Church by Jacob Rijf, 1792 (illustration, right). A Greek Doric order, rendered in the anomalous
form of pilasters, contrasts with the hipped roof and boldly scaled cupola and lantern,
of wholly traditional baroque inspiration. In Austria, one of the best examples of this
style is the Parliament Building designed by Theophil Hansen.==North America==Thomas Jefferson owned a copy of the first
volume of The Antiquities of Athens. He never practiced in the style, but he played
an important role introducing Greek Revival architecture to the United States. In 1803, he appointed Benjamin Henry Latrobe
as surveyor of public building in the United States, and Latrobe designed a number of important
public buildings in Washington, D.C. and Philadelphia, including work on the United States Capitol
and the Bank of Pennsylvania.Latrobe’s design for the Capitol was an imaginative interpretation
of the classical orders not constrained by historical precedent, incorporating American
motifs such as corncobs and tobacco leaves. This idiosyncratic approach became typical
of the American attitude to Greek detailing. His overall plan for the Capitol did not survive,
though many of his interiors did. He also did notable work on the Supreme Court
interior (1806–07), and his masterpiece was the Basilica of the Assumption of the
Virgin Mary, Baltimore (1805–21). Latrobe claimed, “I am a bigoted Greek in
the condemnation of the Roman architecture”, but he did not rigidly impose Greek forms. “Our religion,” he said, “requires a church
wholly different from the temple, our legislative assemblies and our courts of justice, buildings
of entirely different principles from their basilicas; and our amusements could not possibly
be performed in their theatres or amphitheatres.” His circle of junior colleagues became an
informal school of Greek revivalists, and his influence shaped the next generation of
American architects. The second phase in American Greek Revival
saw the pupils of Latrobe create a monumental national style under the patronage of banker
and hellenophile Nicholas Biddle, including such works as the Second Bank of the United
States by William Strickland (1824), Biddle’s home “Andalusia” by Thomas U. Walter (1835–36),
and Girard College, also by Walter (1833–47). New York saw the construction (1833) of the
row of Greek temples at Sailors’ Snug Harbor on Staten Island. These had varied functions within a home for
retired sailors. At the same time, the popular appetite for
the Greek was sustained by architectural pattern books, the most important of which was Asher
Benjamin’s The Practical House Carpenter (1830). This guide helped create the proliferation
of Greek homes seen especially in northern New York State and the Western Reserves of
Ohio. From 1820 to 1850, the Greek Revival style
dominated the United States, such as the Benjamin F. Clough House in Waltham, Massachusetts. It could also be found as far west as Springfield,
Illinois. Examples of vernacular Greek Revival continued
to be built even farther west, such as in Charles City, Iowa.This style was very popular
in the south of the US, where the Palladian colonnade was already popular in façades,
and many mansions and houses were built for the merchants and rich plantation owners;
Millford Plantation is regarded as one of the finest Greek Revival residential examples
in the country.Other notable American architects to use Greek Revival designs included Latrobe’s
student Robert Mills, who designed the Monumental Church and the Washington Monument, as well
as George Hadfield and Gabriel Manigault.==British colonies==
In Canada, Montreal architect John Ostell designed a number of prominent Greek Revival
buildings, including the first building on the McGill University campus and Montreal’s
original Custom House, now part of the Pointe-à-Callière Museum. The Toronto Street Post Office, completed
in 1853, is another Canadian example.==Polychromy==The discovery that the Greeks had painted
their temples influenced the later development of the style. The archaeological dig at Aegina and Bassae
in 1811–12 by Cockerell, Otto Magnus von Stackelberg, and Karl Haller von Hallerstein
had disinterred painted fragments of masonry daubed with impermanent colours. This revelation was a direct contradiction
of Winckelmann’s notion of the Greek temple as timeless, fixed, and pure in its whiteness. In 1823, Samuel Angell discovered the coloured
metopes of Temple C at Selinunte, Sicily and published them in 1826. The French architect Jacques Ignace Hittorff
witnessed the exhibition of Angell’s find and endeavoured to excavate Temple B at Selinus. His imaginative reconstructions of this temple
were exhibited in Rome and Paris in 1824 and he went on to publish these as Architecture
polychrome chez les Grecs (1830) and later in Restitution du Temple d’Empedocle a Selinote
(1851). The controversy was to inspire von Klenze’s
Aegina room at the Munich Glyptothek of 1830, the first of his many speculative reconstructions
of Greek colour. Hittorff lectured in Paris in 1829-1830 that
Greek temples had originally been painted ochre yellow, with the moulding and sculptural
details in red, blue, green and gold. While this may or may not have been the case
with older wooden or plain stone temples, it was definitely not the case with the more
luxurious marble temples, where colour was used sparingly to accentuate architectural
highlights. Similarly, Henri Labrouste proposed a reconstruction
of the temples at Paestum to the Académie des Beaux-Arts in 1829, decked out in startling
colour, inverting the accepted chronology of the three Doric temples, thereby implying
that the development of the Greek orders did not increase in formal complexity over time,
i.e., the evolution from Doric to Corinthian was not inexorable. Both events were to cause a minor scandal. The emerging understanding that Greek art
was subject to changing forces of environment and culture was a direct assault on the architectural
rationalism of the day.==Notes====References=====Primary sources======Secondary sources===Crook, Joseph Mordaunt (1972), The Greek Revival:
Neo-Classical Attitudes in British Architecture 1760-1870, John Murray, ISBN 0-7195-2724-4
Hamlin, Talbot (1944), Greek Revival Architecture in America, Ohio University Press
Kennedy, Roger G. (1989), Greek Revival America Wiebenson, Dora (1969), The Sources of Greek
Revival Architecture Hoecker, Christopher (1997), “Greek Revival
America? Reflections on uses and functions of antique
architectural patterns in American architecture between 1760-1860”, Hephaistos — New approaches
in Classical Archaeology and related fields, 15, pp. 197–241
Ruffner, Jr., Clifford H., Study of Greek Revival Architecture in the Seneca and Cayuga
Lake Regions Tyler, Norman and Ilene R. Tyler (2014). Greek Revival in America: Tracing its architectural
roots to ancient Athens. Ann Arbor. ISBN 9781503149984.==External links==
Greek Revival architecture in Canada

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