CLASSICAL COMMENTS: THE TEMPLE OF APOLLO EPICURIUS AT BASSAE AND ITS ORDERS

Calder Loth

Calder Loth

by Calder Loth

Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Member of the Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council.

Temple of Apollo Epicurius, from an 1812 drawing by John Foster

High on a mountaintop in the Peloponnese, the fifth-century B.C. Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae is among the least known, least accessible, and most intriguing of all Greek temples.[1] (Fig. 1) It is the only Greek temple to have incorporated all three ancient orders in its design: Doric for the exterior, Ionic for the cella or naos, and a single Corinthian column marking the entrance to the adyton or inner sanctum. The 2nd-century A.D. Greek traveler and geographer, Pausanias, stated that Iktinos, best-known as one of the Parthenon architects, designed the temple, but scholars have found no further evidence to document his attribution. The temple was unknown to James Stuart and Nicholas Revett, so it was not included in their pioneering and highly influential treatise The Antiquities of Athens (1762-1795). It finally received serious study in 1811-12 when the temple was the subject of an expedition that included British architect Charles R. Cockerell and German scholar Karl Haller von Hallerstein. They and their colleagues undertook detailed measurements and drawings, but also plundered the site for artifacts.

1. Temple of Apollo Epicurius before enclosure (Wikipedia images)

Exposure to the elements on Mount Kotilion has caused progressive deterioration of the temple’s predominately limestone fabric. In 1987, the entire structure was covered with a canopy supported on a metal framework to provide temporary protection from damaging winds and rain while long-term conservation is undertaken. (Fig. 2) Although this huge tent hinders viewing the temple in context, it has a dramatic sculptural quality of its own.  No schedule for the canopy’s removal has been announced, and such protection may need to be permanent.

2. Temple of Apollo Epicurius with canopy enclosure (Loth)

Despite the canopy, it is possible to walk the temple’s perimeter within. Most of the thirty-eight Doric columns of the exterior peristyle have survived in situ. (Fig. 3) Two of the columns and sections of the naos walls were reassembled in a program of anastylosis undertaken in 1902-08. Antiseismic scaffolding erected in 1985 included wooden braces clasping the tops of the Doric columns just under the capitals. Although attributed to Iktinos, earthquake damage and settlement have made it difficult to determine whether the temple incorporated the visual refinements found in the Parthenon. Nonetheless, seeing the temple moved Pausanias to write, “Of all the temples in Peloponnese, next to the one at Tega, this may be placed first for the beauty of the stone and the symmetry of its proportions.”[2]

3. Temple of Apollo Epicurius west colonnade (Loth)

The temple plan illustrates the unique arrangement of the interior, which for clarity I will describe in the present tense. (Fig. 4) Passing through the north portico columns, the pronaos, or vestibule, is entered between two free-standing Doric columns. The pronaos precedes the naos or temple sanctuary. Defining the naos are five spurs or fins projecting from each of the side walls, forming recesses possibly used for shrines. Clasping each spur end is a fluted Ionic column topped by a distinctive capital. On axis at the far end of the naos is a single Corinthian column. Beyond the column is the adyton or inner sanctum where the most sacred ceremonies were performed. The central position of the Corinthian column has led some scholars to conclude that the image of the deity, probably a statue of Apollo, was positioned off axis. A tall opening in the adyton’s left side allowed daylight to illuminate the statue and back-light the column, creating a singularly dramatic effect.

4. Temple of Apollo Epicurius plan (Napoleon Vir @ ni.wikipedia)

A somewhat romanticized view of the temple interior made by Charles Cockerell in 1860, displays the axial placement of the Corinthian column and the flanking Ionic columns that terminated the projecting spurs. (Fig. 5)  Also depicted is the richly sculpted frieze that topped the naos walls. The surviving sections of the frieze were extracted from the ruins by Cockerell and his colleagues during in their 1811-12 expedition and sold to the British Museum in 1814, where they are displayed today. The concave abacuses of the Ionic capitals are conjectural since none of the capitals remained in situ. The vaulted ceiling is conjectural as well. Shown also in the image is the off-center statue of a deity, which appears to be a female figure rather than Apollo.[3] Cockerell’s view, however, captures the striking quality of the adyton’s indirect lighting, pouring in from the side opening shown on the plan.

5. Temple of Apollo Epicurius interior, Charles Cockerell, 1860 (Wikimedia Commons)

Possibly the earliest published image of the distinctive Bassae Ionic capital and its base appeared in a German edition of Charles Pierre Joseph Normand’s Nouvelle Parallèle des Ordres d’Architecture, published in three parts in 1830-36. (Fig. 6)  Normand accurately depicted the capital’s arched top, a conspicuous departure from the flattened volute tops found in nearly all other ancient versions of the Ionic capital. He shows no abacus since, as his narrative states, it was not in existence in its original form.  Normand admits, however, that the central anthemion or honeysuckle ornament was his own conjecture.[4] The capital had no evidence of any ornaments either there or in the echinus. Normand’s illustration of the base accurately records its strong curved projection (an exaggerated scotia). Several of these unusual bases remain in place in the temple today.

6. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Ionic order [detail] (Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture/Acanthus Press, 1998)

The British Museum holds what is believed to be the only known original fragment of the temple’s Ionic capitals. (Fig. 7) Charles Cockerell salvaged it from the ruin during his 1811-12 expedition and later presented it to the museum.[5] While the fragment is only a portion of a volute, enough is intact to appreciate the bold curve of the top edge. We are not told whether Cockerell and his colleagues found more Ionic capital fragments during their venture. Indeed, Haller von Hallerstein’s ca. 1812 drawings, the earliest reliable depictions of the temple, show none of the capitals in place. Consequently, this rare artifact remains the one tangible clue to the singular shape of the Bassae Ionic.[6]

7. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Ionic capital fragment, The British Museum (Loth)

The Bassae Ionic has inspired numerous modern versions. Appropriately, Charles Cockerell was perhaps the first to use the order when he applied it to the columns of the portico and side elevations of Oxford University’s Ashmolean Museum and Taylorian Institute, built 1841-45. (Fig. 8)  Its use for an exterior was considered somewhat daring since the order was originally an interior order. Cockerell was faithful to the original by avoiding ornaments on the volutes as shown in Normand’s Parallèle. However, he added discreet ornamentation to the abacus and echinus and topped it with an abacus employing concave sides and sharp tips. We can only speculate that he was basing the sharp tips on fragments that he may have seen in the ruin. Alternatively, he may have derived the abacus design from the abacus of the temple’s Corinthian capital. In any case, the architectural details of the pediment are entirely Cockerell’s, including the plaited decoration of the pulvinated frieze, an arresting treatment of an exterior frieze having no ancient precedent.

8. Ashmolean Museum portico, Oxford University, England (Remi Mathis, Creative Commons Attribution—Share Alike)

Daniel Burnham devoted as much attention to the decorative details of Washington’s Union Station as he did to the functionality and engineering of this great classical landmark, completed in 1908. This is evident in the terminal’s original main dining room (now a gift shop), which is a festival of Grecian decorations. The room’s walls are divided into a series of bays with recessed panels framed by fluted columns in the Bassae Ionic order. (Fig. 9) The capitals are picked out in gold, green, and red, a color pallet repeated in the entablature and other decorations.  Burnham also employed the Bassae Ionic for the columns supporting the canopies on the lower track platforms.[7] (Fig. 10) In both places, the capitals are decorated with enlarged anthemion ornaments and egg-and-dart echinuses, details shown in Normand’s Parallèle but not found on the originals.

9. Ionic capital, Union Station Gift Shop, Washington, D.C. (Loth)
10. Ionic capital, Union Station train canopy, Washington, D.C. (Loth)

The architectural firm of Zantzinger, Borie, and Medary applied a modified version of the Bassae Ionic for the corner pavilions of the 1931-34 Department of Justice in Washington’s Federal Triangle. (Fig. 11) The capitals are true to the Bassae precedent with their arched tops, but are expressed with parallel volutes rather than volutes having the forward curvature of the originals. Other departures from the original model are the egg-and-dart echinuses and the concave abacuses with their chamfered tips. As noted above, the form or even the existence of original abacuses is uncertain. However, following Normand’s conjecture, the capitals have an anthemion ornament in their centers.

11. Department of Justice portico, Washington, D.C. (Loth)

It is gratifying when one can discover a creative use of a rare and beautiful classical feature in one’s hometown. Such a find occurs on a small but elegant bank in Richmond’s historic Church Hill neighborhood. (Fig. 12) Appropriately named The Church Hill Bank, the building was designed by local architect Bascom J. Rowlett and opened 1914.  The main entrance is framed by two engaged columns in the Bassae Ionic order with each topped by a seated eagle holding wings aloft.  (Fig. 13) As with other modern versions, the volutes are flat-faced rather than gently curved forward. While Rowlett’s source for the order is not documented, a likely candidate is William R. Ware’s The American Vignola (1903), which illustrates the Bassae capital with a similar thick block for the abacus. The American Vignola was a standard textbook for American architects in the early 20th century.

12. Church Hill Bank, Richmond, Virginia (Loth)

13. Church Hill Bank Ionic capitals, Richmond, Virginia (Loth)

Most scholars contend that the temple’s Corinthian capital is the earliest known use of the Corinthian order. The illustration shown here was drawn by J. M. von Mauch for the 1830-36 German edition of Normand’s Parallèle, and is based on field notes and sketches by Haller von Hallerstein of fragments found during his 1811-12 expedition to the site. (Fig. 14) Regrettably, only a few of the fragments survive, preserved in the National Archaeological Museum in Athens. Even so, several parts of the illustration in the Parallèle are conjectural, such the flaring of the tops of the shaft flutes since the upper part of the shaft did not survive. The tips of the abacus were missing too, so it is uncertain whether they were pointed or chamfered. Nevertheless, Mauch’s restoration has a distinctive beauty and it is lamentable that it has inspired so few modern replications.

14. Temple of Apollo Epicurius Corinthian capital [detail] (Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture/Acanthus Press, 1998)

A rare (possibly unique) use of the Bassae Corinthian for an American house appears on the porch of the 1850 Hackerman house, an Italianate mansion on Baltimore’s prestigious Mount Vernon Place. (Fig. 15) The order is employed for both the forward and recessed porch columns as well as for the hall columns of the lavish interior.  Designed by the Baltimore architectural partnership of Niernsee and Neilson for Dr. John Hanson Thomas, the house became part of the Walters Art Museum complex in 1985. (Fig. 16) A native of Vienna, Austria, architect John Rudolph Niernsee studied in Prague and settled in Baltimore in 1839.  His source for the order was likely the German edition of Normand’s Nouvelle Parallèle des Ordres d’Architecture,(1830-36), which included J. M. von Mauch’s plate 78 showing the Bassae Corinthian.

15. Front porch capital, Hackerman House, Baltimore, Maryland (Loth)

16. Hackerman House, ca. 1890, Baltimore, Maryland (The Walters Art Museum)

Undoubtedly, the most ingenious and informed modern-day reference to the Temple of Apollo Epicurius is the Fellows’ Dining Hall of Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University. (Fig. 17) Designed by John Simpson and opened in 1998, the room is a reduced version of the temple’s naos, complete with the spurs fronted by their Ionic order, and the single Corinthian column on axis. All of the elements in the room are richly decorated with Grecian-style polychrome ornamentation that sets off the custom-designed Grecian-style furnishings. The Ionic capitals are true to the originals by lacking the anthemion ornaments added by Normand. Simpson employs a square abacus for the capitals with detailing echoing that on the Corinthian capital abacus. (Fig. 18)

17. Fellows’ Dining Hall, Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge University, England (Courtesy of John Simpson Architects)

18. Ionic capital, Fellows’ Dining Hall, Gonville and Caius College (Courtesy of John Simpson Architects)

The focal point of Simpson’s Fellows’ Dining Hall is the single Corinthian column following the precedent of the original. The polychromy and gilding emphasize the special beauty of this elegant order. (Fig. 19) The only liberty taken with known features of the capital is the insertion of a double row of compressed acanthus leaves at its base in place of the single row of leaves shown in Haller von Hallerstein’s drawing. Since Haller was working from fragments, it’s possible that an extra row was missing and therefore he didn’t draw one.

19. Corinthian capital, Fellows’ Dining Hall, Gonville and Caius College (Courtesy of John Simpson Architects)

John Simpson’s strikingly handsome room is clear demonstration that the Temple of Apollo Epicurius at Bassae yet offers design resources appropriate for adaptation in contemporary classical projects. It is important for such notable works of the past to continue to inform designs of today.

The author is grateful to Dr. George Skarmeas and his wife Dominique Hawkins for generously taking me to the temple in 2007.

REFERENCES

Johann Matthaus von Mauch & Charles Pierre Joseph Normand, Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Compiled and edited by Donald M. Rattner (Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture, Acanthus Press, 1998).

Alexander Tzonis & Phoebe Giannisi, Classical Greek Architecture: The Construction of the Modern, (Flammarion, Paris 2004).

Kali Tzortzi, The Temple of Apollo Epikourios: A Journey through Time and Space, (Ministry of Culture, Committee for the Preservation of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai, 2001).

David Watkin, The Life and Work of C.R. Cockerell, (A. Zwemmer Ltd, London, 1974).


[1] Epicurius (or Epikourios) was a reference to Apollo as a god of helping, a designation resulting from the belief that Apollo helped deliver the area from the plague. 
[2]
Quoted in Kali Tzortzi, The Temple of Apollo Epikourios: A Journey Through Time and Space (Ministry of Culture Committee for the Preservation of the Temple of Apollo Epikourios at Bassai), p 12.
[3]
Although the temple likely had a statue of a deity in this position, no fragments of one were found during Cockerell’s expedition.
[4]
Johann Matthaus von Mauch & Charles Pierre Joseph Normand, Parallel of the Classical Orders of Architecture, Compiled and edited by Donald M. Rattner (Institute for the Study of Classical Architecture, Acanthus Press, 1998), plate 33 text.
[5]
David Watkin, The Life and Work of C.R. Cockerell, (A. Zwemmer, LTD, London, 1974) p. 13.
[6]
A plaster cast of this fragment was given by the Metropolitan Museum of Art to the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art and is now displayed at the ICAA headquarters in New York City.
[7]
A proposed enclosure of the track platforms will result in the removal of the canopies and their supporting columns.

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Spring 2014 Continuing Education Schedule

Because we know that many of you are interested in furthering the scope of your knowledge of the classical building arts, we are pleased to share the Spring 2014 schedule of Continuing Education courses here at ICAA Headquarters. Ranging from foundational classes like Traditional Drafting by Hand to more topic-specific courses like A Crash Course in Period Style, the schedule offers classical enthusiasts and practitioners the opportunity to improve their architectural literacy and celebrate the many compelling aspects of the classical tradition.
Please find our course offerings below, or visit the ICAA website to enroll online. As per usual, all courses are held in the evenings and/or on weekends so as to better accommodate professional schedules. AIA/CES LUs are available, and all courses count towards the ICAA’s reputable Certificate in Classical Architecture. Please do not hesitate to contact education@classicist.org with any further questions that you may have.


Spring 2014 Continuing Education Courses

Traditional Drafting by Hand
Five evening sessions: Wednesdays April 2 – 30, 2014

Elements of Classical Architecture: Introduction to Classical Mouldings
One Saturday session: April 5, 2014

Classical Interior Design & Detailing
Five evening sessions: Mondays, April 21 – May 19, 2014

Elements of Classical Architecture: Drawing the Tuscan Order
One Saturday session: April 26, 2014

Drawing Architecture in Two-point Perspective  
Six evening sessions: Thursday, May 1 – June 5, 2014

Exploring Urbanism: Disrupting the Grid 
One Saturday session: May 3, 2014

Basic Architectural Literacy 
Two evening sessions: May 6 & May 7, 2014

Know Your House in Detail
Two weekend sessions: Saturdays, May 10 & May 17, 2014

A Crash Course in Period Style
Four evening sessions: Tuesdays, May 13 – June 3, 2014

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Peter W. Lyden Named ICAA President

Peter W. Lyden

The Board of Directors of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art (ICAA) – the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to advancing the classical tradition in architecture, urbanism, and the allied arts – is pleased to announce that Peter W. Lyden has been selected as the ICAA’s new President, effective March 18, 2014. Previously, Mr. Lyden was the Chief Philanthropy Officer of the American Museum of Natural History.

Mr. Lyden assumes the ICAA presidency with more than twenty-five years of leadership experience as a fundraising professional and nonprofit administrator. Over the course of his career, he has raised more than $2 billion in philanthropic support for major New York City cultural and medical institutions.

In his new role at the ICAA, Lyden will work to expand the ICAA’s regional reach, promoting nationally the organization’s core mission of advancing understanding and awareness of classical architecture and art, as well as its impact on humanity and the environment, among students, architects, artists, and philanthropists.

Mark Ferguson, Chairman of the ICAA Board of Directors, states that “Peter brings formidable leadership skills to his new position as well as a lifelong passion for the noble tradition we cherish. The National Board looks forward to working with him as he unites our members to pursue our most ambitious aspirations.”

As a volunteer trustee of the Blenheim Palace Foundation, Lyden has raised significant philanthropic support for the Palace’s preservation and was instrumental in establishing the future Winston Churchill Memorial Garden. Lyden’s involvement with the preservation of classical architecture also includes work to support the restoration of the John Russell Pope building on Central Park West and its halls at the American Museum of Natural History, as well as that of Irish Georgian buildings at the Dartfield Estate and Equine Museum.

Lyden is an active member of the Royal Oak Foundation and the National Trust of England. Prior to the American Museum of Natural History, Lyden’s professional leadership positions included a directorship of the American Ballet Theatre’s Development Department; he was also Senior Executive Director of Development of the Montefiore Medical Center and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

“I am delighted to be joining the dedicated and enthusiastic team of staff, volunteers, and directors that have made the ICAA a renowned cultural and educational force,” says Mr. Lyden. “Now, with its expansive initiatives and growing network of chapters, the ICAA is poised to offer its diverse range of services to a much broader audience. I look forward to cultivating relationships between the ICAA and students and professionals working in the classical tradition, as well as the general public. I will be honored to help inspire and encourage the next generation of architects, artists, planners, and design professionals.”

Peter W. Lyden received his Bachelor of Science degree from Providence College and a Master’s degree in Public Health and Administration from Yale University. Since 1991, Lyden has served as an adjunct faculty member of New York University where he lectures on nonprofit administration, fundraising, and marketing.

The ICAA resulted from the 2002 merger of Classical America and the Institute of Classical Architecture, founded in 1968 and 1991 respectively. Today, the ICAA is represented by 15 chapters nationwide and is a highly regarded resource for students of art, planning, architecture, design professionals, and the general public. The ICAA provides a broad array of resources that include continuing education classes, travel programs, lectures, salons, and conferences.

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Ames-Webster Mansion: History & Restoration of a Gilded Age Boston Landmark

Originally designed in 1871 by the storied firm of Peabody and Stearns, the Ames-Webster Mansion stands, dignified and resolute as a time-honored sentinel, at the corner of Dartmouth Street and Commonwealth Avenue in Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood. In its early years, the residence passed through the hands of some of the city’s most influential industrial magnates and cultural benefactors, including Frederick Lothrop Ames, whose fascination with European art and fine craftsmanship resulted in the merging of artistry and architecture in his family’s urban home.

View of the Ames-Webster Mansion as seen from Commonwealth Avenue

ICAA Board of Directors member Kahlil Hamady first suggested the possibility of turning the renovation and restoration into an ICAA educational program in 2013 subsequent to his firm being offered the project by the mansion’s recent buyer. Because the renovation relies upon the participation and expertise of many specialized craftsmen, it presented the opportunity to offer lectures on a variety of aspects of restoration by those actively involved in the process.

In coordination with the Education Department, Kahlil and his colleague Leslie-jon Vickory welcomed 32 classical enthusiasts to the mansion last Friday, March 7. Traveling from as far as California to attend the course, participants instantly found themselves enveloped in 26,000 square feet of old-world grandeur. Among the residence’s 50 rooms can be found 28 fireplaces, numerous hidden passageways concealed behind ornately shelved walls, a music room complete with orchestral balcony, and an ambience fit for the world’s most intriguing game of Clue.

As seen from the orchestral balcony, the mansion’s music room served as the primary forum for course lectures and discussions.

Kahlil welcomed students with a poetic introduction to the building’s history and significance to the city, the relevance of which was further expanded by the presence of Frederick Ames’ grandson, whose father spent his childhood in the mansion. At the time of its construction, the building’s significance as a veritable jewel box of artistic and architectural mastery was supplemented by the dedication of its owners to the cultural development of the city as a whole. Ames, a Harvard graduate who would become owner and director of the Union Pacific Railroad and an original shareholder in General Electric, was, during his lifetime, one of the city’s most philanthropically inclined residents. A central figure in the the establishment the now world-famous Museum of Fine Arts Boston, he aimed to make the fine arts accessible to all and secure Boston’s reputation as a bastion of American refinement and learning, a reputation that persists to the present day.

In addition to Leslie and Kahlil (both of Hamady Architects), the first day of the course brought Mark Jackson, Designer and Project Coordinator for Hamady Architects; Andrea Gilmore, Director of Building Conservation Associates, Inc.; Gianfranco Pocobene, Head of Conservation at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum; and Roberto Rosa, Restorer and Principal of Serpentino Stained Glass before students to present the various processes, methods, and considerations central to the restoration process.

Originally crowned with a glass-domed roof, the mansion’s Commonwealth Avenue-facing conservatory is part of the section of the house that was used as corporate office space beginning in 1971.

Subsequent to Friday’s morning presentations, guests were treated to a highly anticipated tour of the property, including upstairs spaces that, for over thirty years, had been used as corporate offices – the presence of which likely saved the house from the fate of residential gutting. Highlights of the tour included an upstairs conservatory room whose ornately latticed windows cast an ever-shifting sunlit grid upon the floor; a basement that offered insight into life in the 19th Century, complete with a coal-fired washing machine, wine cellar, and a winter pantry the size of a “spacious” Manhattan apartment; and a crowning artistic achievement resulting from a timeless collaboration – the mansion’s sprawling LaFarge skylight supported by Benjamin-Constant’s delicate-yet-enduring rendering of Justinian’s council and, below that, a spirited Venetian procession.

Perhaps the artistic crown jewel of the house, the LaFarge skylight and Benjamin-Constant mural of Justinian’s council is suspended above the main stairwell and is viewable at close-range from the third floor balcony.

LaFarge, a poor businessman who would die with ten dollars to his name and sizeable debt against it, began his artistic journey as a painter and muralist and only ventured into the realm of stained glass at the request of an insistent patron. Often outshined in legacy by the financially prosperous Louis Comfort Tiffany, LaFarge’s glassworks are considered by many in the industry to be of more masterful quality due to their nuanced leading techniques and exhaustive layering. Even in the smallest of window sections, LaFarge and his craftsmen often pieced as many as five individual pieces of distinctly colored glass atop one another to add complexity, depth, and richness of color  – a process which undoubtedly took much time and indicated a man who derived much joy from attention to detail.

A second view of LaFarge’s expansive stained glass skylight panel

His techniques, evident in the skylight, provide similar joy to Rosa, whose impending restoration of the Ames-Webster glass represents the continuation of a lifetime of work restoring Tiffany and LaFarge works. Gianfranco Pocobene echoed this respect for 19th and 20th Century craftsmen during his discussion of mural restoration and the work of Benjamin-Constant. Having spearheaded the time-consuming restoration of the John Singer Sargent murals at the Boston Public Library, Pocobene’s intimate knowledge of restoration techniques are the result of hundreds of hours of cleaning, touch-up, and preservation efforts. It is this knowledge that will ease the restoration of the mansion’s Benjamin-Constant murals, which remain in relatively good condition given their age and exposure to environmental conditions like humidity and fluctuating temperatures.

Southward view from an upstairs window

Having the benefit of a day of historical background and a crash-course in the specifics of a large-scale restoration effort, course participants arrived on Saturday eager to try their hand at rendering some of the house’s many inspiring spaces and striking decorative details. And render they did, in ink, pencil, and watercolor, creating a beautiful and personal body of work unmatched in breadth. With the intent of including some of the sketches in a future monograph of the restoration, Kahlil and Leslie-jon scanned all of the students’ works after offering technical guidance and feedback throughout the day.

Course attendee Kate Johns sketches a relief detail in the main dining room.

The course concluded on Saturday evening with a generous reception hosted by the New England Chapter of the ICAA and spearheaded by Chapter President John Margolis. Members of the Chapter toured the mansion prior to admiring student sketches and learning more about the restoration.

Saturday’s sketching session produced a peaceful work environment and many beautiful student renderings of the mansion’s unquantifiable attributes.

Filled with content elaborate and poignant enough to provide substance for a weeklong course, the weekend was a smashing success and sets a marvelous tone for future national education initiatives in partnership with member firms. The Education Department looks forward to many more such collaborations in the future, and would like to thank the staff of Hamady Architects, Andrea Gilmore, Gianfranco Pocobene, Roberto Rosa, Ariana McSweeney, Hugh Geiger, Frederick Ames, John Margolis, and the New England Chapter of the ICAA. Special thanks must be given to Kahlil Hamady and Leslie-jon Vickory whose hard work, generosity, and thoughtfulness transformed a course into an unforgettable forum for architectural appreciation and a celebration of the arts and those who devote their lives to them.

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BRICKWORK MISCELLANY: A Look at Some Distinctive Treatments of Bonds and Joints

Calder Loth

Calder Loth

Classical Comments
by Calder Loth

Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Member of the Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council.

1: Brick arch, Basilica of Maxentius, Rome (Loth)

People have made bricks since 1700 B.C. when mud bricks dating to that time were found in the upper Tigris region of Iraq. The Romans perfected brick construction, using bricks for structural cores or as facing for concrete cores in the creation of impressive architectural and engineering works. For important buildings such as temples, the Romans covered their brick walls with marble veneer. Unlike modern bricks, Roman bricks are more like thin tiles, though dimensions varied considerably. Lengths can range from twelve to eighteen inches, and widths from six to twelve inches, but thickness stayed to around one and half inches. The thinness of Roman bricks is apparent in the core walls of the massive ruins of the Basilica of Maxentius in the Roman Forum, complete in 312 A.D. (Figure 2) Firing the bricks to a hard consistency kept them durable for centuries. The Romans had a practice of stamping the larger bricks with the name of the owner and often with the name of the brickyard and the date, allowing convenient documentation of many structures.

2: Roman brick, Basilica of Maxentius, Rome (Loth)

We see a splendid display of artistry in Roman brickwork in the Markets of Trajan, a work attributed to Apllodorus of Damascus, the Emperor Trajan’s principal architect. Erected 100-110 A.D., the complex consists of a multi-tiered hemicycle of market stalls, offices, and apartments serving as a support facility for the adjacent Forum of Trajan. The middle level is a rich architectural composition of arches, pediments, pilasters, and entablatures, all constructed in thin Roman bricks and highlighted with bits of stone detailing. (Figure 3)  It is uncertain whether the various brick surfaces were originally coated with stucco, or if all the brick elements were left exposed. Nevertheless, the precision of the masonry, particularly the moldings, strongly suggests that the brickwork was intended as a decorative color contrast to the stone details.

3: Markets of Trajan, Rome (Loth)

Roman brick became fashionable in the late 19th century for monumental classical works of the American Renaissance. A conspicuous use of Roman brick of this period is  New York’s famed Carnegie Hall, a bold composition in the Florentine Renaissance mode. (Figure 4) Designed by William Burnet Tuthill, and completed in 1891, the structure’s original section is one of New York’s last major works employing solid masonry construction though later additions incorporated steel frame. As with most examples, the Roman bricks here are a golden ochre color, providing compatibility with the building’s profusion of terra cotta ornaments.

4: Carnegie Hall, New York City (Loth)

Frank Lloyd Wright relied on Roman brick to accentuate the horizontality of his Prairie Style houses. We see it used effectively in the 1909 Robie house, his seminal work in the Prairie idiom. (Figure 5) For its structural system, Wright employed double-wythe brick walls laid in standard-size bricks, but he faced their exterior surfaces with a red-orange spotted Roman brick veneer. To emphasize the dwelling’s long parallel lines, the horizontal joints are bedded in a cream-colored mortar while the thinner vertical joints are visually minimized through the use of a brick-colored mortar. Roman bricks remain commercially available and can provide an effective alternative to standard bricks in classical-style buildings.

5: Robie House, Chicago (Lykantrop)

During the late 18th century, the practice of scoring mortar joints with a thin groove to provide visual regularity gave way to penciled joints. The word pencil in that period referred not just to a writing instrument, but also to a small pointed brush, the term deriving from the Latin penicillus—a small brush. Using a steadying straightedge, each mortar joint was painted (or penciled) with a thin white line so that from a distance the brickwork appears more precise and  visually suggests a finer quality mortar. A comparatively late example of penciling survives in an attic of Enniscorthy, an 1850 Virginia plantation house. (Figure 6) This area remains exceptionally well preserved through being encased almost immediately within a later addition. The close-up view reveals the irregularity of the actual mortar joints resulting from the use of rough-edge handmade bricks.

6: Penciled mortar joints, Enniscorthy, Albemarle County, Virginia (Loth)

The penciling of mortar joints was usually done in conjunction with the coating of the brick surface with red paint or redwash. Redwash had numerous recipes. Common ingredients included iron oxide and linseed oil, but sometimes blood was added. The redwash hid the folds and rough edges of handmade brick and served as an elementary waterproofing. In the section on bricklayer’s labor, James Gallier’s 1836 American Builder’s General Price Book and Estimator lists the following price quote: “Brick fronts painted one coat, and the joints drawn white, per yard, 03 cts.” We see a ca. 1820 example of original redwash and penciling on the front walls of the Jeffersonian student rooms at the University of Virginia. (Figures 7 & 8) Sheltering colonnades have protected the paint from weathering. Regrettably, original redwash and penciling are often removed in well-intended but misguided restoration projects, not recognizing the treatment as an important early feature.

7: West Lawn, University of Virginia (Loth)

8: Painted and penciled brickwork, University of Virginia (Loth)

The side walls of Virginia’s 1826 Goochland County Courthouse display a deviation from the more standard American or common bond used for secondary elevations in the early 19th century. (Figures 9 & 10) In place of a continuous course of headers to three or five courses of stretchers, the header courses here are substituted with courses of headers alternating with stretchers as in Flemish bond. This treatment is sometimes referred to as American bond with Flemish variant and normally is applied with three courses of stretchers rather than five. Though employed infrequently, it provided a more decorative alternative to regular American bond. We find examples of this bonding dating well into the 20th century. Typical of the period, the courthouse façade is laid in finely tooled Flemish bond.

9: Goochland County Courthouse, Goochland, Virginia (Loth)

10: East wall, Goochland County Courthouse (Loth)

A distinctive but rare variation of standard Flemish bond is staggered Flemish bond. Instead of having the headers centered over the stretchers, the headers are vertically aligned in a staggered fashion. (Figure 11) This results in slightly wavy vertical striations of headers through the wall. The effect can be visually exaggerated with the use of glazed headers. Examples of staggered Flemish in Virginia are confined mostly to the western part of the state, particularly the central Shenandoah Valley, and generally date from the 1820s into the 1840s.  The sample shown is the 1830s Treasurer’s Office in the village of Washington, Virginia, the county seat of Rappahannock County.

11: Treasurer’s Office, Washington, Virginia (Loth)

Another brickwork style that gained popularity in the mid-19th century is stretcher bond, a bond consisting of all stretchers in every course. A typical example is the façade of the 1845 Campbell house in Lexington, Virginia. (Figure 12) The bricks here are handmade and likely had a redwash coating since eroded off.  We might ask how bonding to the backing courses was achieved without the use of headers to tie to the core. A common method in this period and vicinity was the setting in of intermittent courses of square bricks as we see in a photograph of a partially demolished mid-19th century structure. (Figure 13)[1] From outward appearance, no one would know that the square bricks were not ordinary-size stretchers.

12: Campbell House, Lexington, Virginia (Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources)

13: Square bricks, Southwest Virginia dwelling (Michael Pulice)

A method of treating mortar joints practiced in Britain, but very rarely in America, is tuckpointing. In this country, the term is often used incorrectly to mean repointing. Tuckpointing is a method of simulating fine-quality rubbed and gauged bricks. It consists of coating a wall with a uniform color wash, red or blue-black, to hide the joints. Each joint was then scribed with a narrow groove that was filled with a thin beaded line of very white lime mortar, a treatment requiring considerable skill to achieve the desired precision. A famous example of tuckpointing is preserved on London’s No. 10 Downing Street, the official residence of the British Prime Minister. (Figures 14 & 15) If we look closely, we can just barely see the much wider original joints. A few examples of early tuckpointing survive in Charleston, South Carolina.

14: No. 10 Downing Street, London (Loth)

15: Tuckpointing, No. 10 Downing Street (Loth)

The development of brickmaking machines in the early decades of the 19th century enabled the production a large quantities dense, fine-quality bricks. One of the types emerging from these improved manufacturing processes was pressed brick. Pressed bricks were made using the dry-clay process—stiff clay with only a seven to ten percent moisture content.  The clay was pressed into metal molds by means of steam-powered pistons or plungers using great pressure. Thusly molded, the bricks were then fired in kilns. The result was a very solid brick with smooth faces and precise arrises. An early example of the use of pressed brick is the 1856 Armistead House in Williamsburg, Virginia, described as being built of Baltimore stock bricks.[2]  (Figures 16 & 17) In the detail of the Armistead house brickwork we see that its bricks have an elegantly uniform precision allowing for the thinnest of mortar joints of very little sand content. The walls consist of all stretchers thus forming a veneer. While the bonding of the veneer bricks to the core wall common bricks is not accessible for examination, the usual method of bonding pressed brick was with thin metal ties embedded in the mortar joints.

16: Armistead House, Williamsburg, Virginia (Virginia Dept. of Historic Resources)

17: Armistead house brickwork detail (Loth)

Cream-colored pressed bricks gained widespread popularity in the late 19th century, especially for high-style classical works such as the 1892 Oliver Hill Building, a state office building on Richmond’s Capitol Square. (Figure 18) Their resemblance to stone and their light color, resulting from high lime content in the clay instead of iron oxide, made them an attractive contrast to the older red-brick urban buildings which had become dingy through decades of coal-soot build-up. The washing of rain over the smooth, hard surfaces of the pressed bricks enabled soot to be kept in check. Cream-colored pressed bricks were often used in conjunction with white terra cotta or carved stone ornaments. The moldings and pilaster capitals of the Oliver Hill Building are all white terra cotta. (Figure 19)

18: Oliver Hill State Office Building, Richmond, Virginia (Loth)

19: Oliver Hill Building, brickwork detail (Loth)

Brick types and brick construction methods make for a vast and complex subject. The three essays on brickwork that I have contributed thus far to the ICAA Classicist Blog cover only a tiny fraction of existing information on the subject. So much of our architecture, from ancient to modern, is built of brick, a material that lends character and durability to structures. The ability to read brick tells us much about the buildings around us and the people who designed and built them. I hope this present essay will keep us on the lookout for evermore brickwork types and inspire us to explore creative uses of this material. I hope also to offer additional Classical Comments essays on brickwork in the future.


[1] I am grateful to my colleague, Michael Pulice, for informing me about square bricks and providing the photograph shown here.
[2]
1858 letter from Samuel S. Griffin to his son Lemuel C. Griffin: Griffin Letters, MSS William & Mary College Archives. Baltimore was among the few early centers of pressed brick manufacturing in that period.

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The Corinthian of the Temple of Castor and Pollux: An Order for Special Occasions

Calder Loth

Calder Loth

Classical Comments
by Calder Loth

Senior Architectural Historian for the Virginia Department of Historic Resources.
Member of the Institute of Classical Classical Architecture & Art‘s Advisory Council.

1. Temple of Castor and Pollux capital (detail): Jean-Tilman Françoise, 1816 ink rendering; Rome Antiqua (Paris, 1985).

The Roman Forum at its height comprised one of world’s greatest architectural assemblages. Sadly, throughout the Middle Ages and Renaissance its temples and civic buildings were plundered for their materials. The surviving fragments are only hints of this formerly unparalleled splendor. Dominating the Forum’s central area was a magnificent temple of which only three columns remain. Yet these columns and the unique treatment of their capitals have served as models for various, though not numerous works since recorded by Andrea Palladio and published along with his conjectural restoration drawings in I Quattro Libri dell’Architettura or The Four Books on Architecture (1570).[1]  We have some idea of what Palladio found to record through Giovanni Piranesi’s famous mid-18th-century view of the Forum, little changed from Palladio’s time two centuries earlier. (Figure 2) The columns stand as lonely sentinels in what had become a cow pasture—the Campo Vaccino.

2. Giovanni Battista Piranesi, View of the Roman Forum, ca. 1750.

The three marble columns belong to a rebuilding of an earlier temple by Emperor Tiberius in 6 A.D., but with subsequent restorations.[2] (Figure 3) Later removal of the many layers of earth around the base of the columns has revealed remnants of the high podium on which the temple originally stood. Palladio was somewhat at a loss as to the temple’s identity. He stated that some believed it was dedicated to Vulcan but that others thought it honored Romulus; still others stated it was the Temple of Jupiter Stator (Jupiter the Steadfast), the designation that Palladio accepted.[3] Scholars have since determined that it was dedicated to the demi-god  twins, Castor and Pollux, mythical cavalry heroes.

3. Temple of Castor and Pollux ruin (Loth).

A close-up view of the temple’s capitals shows us their defining features. (Figure 4) The intertwining or interlocking center stems or volutes (sometimes called helices) are unique to this temple. They distinguish the capitals from all other versions of the Roman Corinthian and lend animation to the composition. Regrettably, the corner volutes are long gone from each capital, leaving their exact form subject to interpretation. Surviving in the abacus are fragments of a rinceau of elaborate foliage topped by an egg-and-dart molding. These abacus embellishments are often omitted in modern versions, but the intertwining stems are essential distinguishing features.

4. Temple of Castor and Pollux column capitals (Loth).

Palladio’s detailed recording and later publication of the Castor and Pollux order in Book IV of I Quattro Libri captures the order’s general character and its details. (Figure 5) Yet, as we will note below, Antoine Desgodetz’ more precise examination a century later detected a number of inaccuracies in Palladio’s version. Nevertheless, Palladio’s depiction generated an important early awareness of the order, leading to replications mainly of its capital though usually with simplifications. Provided here is a small sampling, hoping that it will rejuvenate appreciation of this elegant order and encourage us to be on the lookout for more examples. They are always a visual treat.

5. Andrea Palladio, Castor and Pollux order, The Four Books, Book IV, Chapter XVIII.

Palladio’s elevation of the temple in I Quattro Libri is completely conjectural since no remnants of the façade remained at the time of his survey. (Figure 6) Most authorities agree that it had an octastyle portico. The order of the surviving side columns obviously continued onto the portico. Palladio shows eustyle spacing of the columns (the center bay made slightly wider than the flanking bays), a treatment that would have been consistent with most Roman temples and one advocated by Vitruvius. The doorframe design and statues are assumptions. Moreover, Palladio was unaware that the temple stood on a high podium. Other than the podium, subsequent reconstruction images and narrative descriptions differ little from Palladio’s.

6. Andrea Palladio, Temple of Castor and Pollux elevation, The Four Books, Book IV, Chapter XVIII.

Palladio was also the first to attempt a conjectural plan of the temple. (Figure 7) We have to appreciate that Palladio was working with only three columns whose bases were buried at the time. Palladio correctly surmised that the temple was peripteral with an octastyle front, but he guessed that each side had fifteen columns whereas modern archaeologists and scholars have concluded that the sides consisted of eleven columns. He also assumed that the stereobate (the three-step platform) was at grade though excavations have revealed that the temple stood on a tall (nearly 20 feet) arcaded podium which may originally have included a speaker’s platform approached by lateral stairs.[4]  Despite its flaws, Palladio’s plan effectively coveys the temple’s monumental character.

7. Andrea Palladio, Temple of Castor and Pollux plan, The Four Books, Book IV, Chapter XVIII.

One of the earliest reliable depictions of the Castor and Pollux capital appears in Antoine Desgodetz’ Les Édifices Antiques de Rome of 1682. (Figure 8) A stickler for precision, Desgodetz takes Palladio to task for his numerous inaccuracies (not only here but also in his other ancient temple drawings). For instance, Desgodetz states of this order: “Palladio in the abacus of the capital puts a little rose in the middle of the great one, instead of the pomegranate that is there. He makes the large rose of olive-leaves, which is of leaves of parsley. . . . He makes the astragal at the top of the column too high by five twelfths of a part, and too projecting by a half part, the fillet under it too low by the sixth of a part. . . .The capital is too high by two parts two thirds.” [5] In Desgodetz’ illustration, we see how the intertwining stems have channels and are not flat as Palladio has them, and that the fleuron indeed has a pomegranate bud, not a rose. He continues his critique on many other parts of the order.

8. Antoine Desgodetz, Temple of Castor and Pollux capital, Les Édifices Antiques de Rome, Chapitre X, plate II.

A conspicuous but rarely observed use of the Castor and Pollux Corinthian embellishes James Gibbs’s St. Martin-in-the-Fields (completed 1726), one of the most influential church designs of the English-speaking world. (Figure 9) Gibbs makes no mention of the order in his A Book of Architecture (1728).  Nor are his various illustrations of the church in this design book detailed enough to discern that his capitals are other than a generic Corinthian order. However, a recent cleaning of St. Martin reveals the capitals to be particularly faithful replicas of the ancient precedents, even including the foliage decoration on the abacus, which most examples avoid. (Figure 10) Whether Gibbs used Palladio’s I Quattro Libri or Desgodetz’ Les Édifices Antiques de Rome as his source is uncertain. Records show that he owned Palladio’s treatise, but not Desgodetz’. Yet Gibbs definitely relied on Desgodetz for details in other of his works.

9. St. Martin-in-the-Fields, London (Loth).

10. St. Martin-in-the-Fields, portico capitals (Mike Peel).

The Birmingham Town Hall is likely the most ambitious attempt at replication of the Forum’s great temple. (Figure 11) Its architects, Joseph A. Hansom and Edward Welsh, produced a masterpiece of the Classical Revival, a movement that fostered archaeologically correct interpretations of ancient architecture.[6] Like the original temple, the hall is set on a tall arcaded podium. Hansom and Welsh followed Palladio’s ground plan by providing the hall with fifteen columns on each side, seemingly unaware that this was in error. The capitals are close copies of the originals. No steps approached the portico since it was not yet certain whether the temple had steps. Opened in 1834, the hall has served primarily as a concert venue.

11. Birmingham Town Hall, Birmingham, England (credit: VeryQuiet).

Robert Mills chose the Castor and Pollux Corinthian for the order on his 1842 General Post Office, one of the District of Columbia’s most eloquent early public buildings. (Figure 12)  Mills accurately reproduced the order for both the engaged and freestanding columns, but used a simplified version for the pilaster capitals, applying only one principal row of acanthus leaves instead of the standard two. (Figure 13) I have illustrated one of the pilaster capitals as they survive in a relatively good state of preservation. The column capitals have suffered significant deterioration caused by the fragile quality of the marble. The building has had a complex expansion. The F Street (north) façade with its recessed portico is an 1855 addition by Thomas U. Walter, which closed in the original U-shaped plan. Though the side elevations have been lengthened, they and the south elevation generally retain the character of Mills’ original design.[7]

12. Former General Post Office Building, Washington, D.C. (John DeFerrari).

13. Pilaster capital, Former General Post Office Building (Loth).

Palladio’s dictum that temples should be “built with ample and beautiful proportions, because all grandeur and magnificence is required for divine worship” [8] gave license to erecting imposing houses of Christian worship in the form of ancient pagan temples. The 1850 Trinity Methodist Church, prominently situated on Charleston’s Meeting Street, evokes this Palladian ideal for temples.[9] (Figure 14)  Although local architect Charles C. Jones drew inspiration for its form from the Maison Carrée, he selected the Castor and Pollux Corinthian for its hexastyle portico. The capitals closely match published images, even incorporating the pomegranate bud in the center of the fleuron. (Figure 15) Unfortunately, the right corner capital has lost portions of the intertwining stems. We need to focus on the capital immediately behind it to see this essential detail in undamaged form.

14. Trinity Methodist Church, Charleston, South Carolina (Loth).

15. Trinity Methodist Church, capitals (Loth).

Huge colonnades in the Castor and Pollux Corinthian define the main elevations of San Francisco’s Bank of California. (Figure 16)  Designed by the local firm of Bliss & Faville and erected in 1906-1908, the building is a landmark in the heart of the city’s financial district. Walter Bliss and William Faville were both California natives but began their careers in the office of McKim, Mead & White. Except for the order, their design, with its tall bays of bronze lattice, parallels Stanford White’s 1904 Knickerbocker Trust Company (now unrecognizably remodeled). White’s Corinthian capitals were based on the Temple of Mars Ultor as depicted by Palladio. Bliss and Faville may have chosen the Castor and Pollux Corinthian as a reference to the ancient temple’s supplementary function as a depository for Rome’s state treasury. (Figure 17)  Like most modern versions, the bank’s capitals lack the foliage decorations on the abacus, but are otherwise handsome adaptations. The bank is one of several buildings designed by Bliss & Faville in the wake of the San Francisco earthquake.[10]

16. Bank of California Building, San Francisco (Loth).

17. Bank of California Building column capitals (Loth).

The Museum on Natural History on the National Mall undeservedly receives little attention as a premier monument of the American Renaissance. (Figure 18) Designed by the little-known Washington firm of Hornblower and Marshall, and completed in 1911, the building was originally proposed to be in the French Beaux-Arts style. Through the influence of Charles McKim, an advisor on the Mall’s development, the design was changed to one with a strong Roman character. The resulting scheme is dominated by a central domed section fronted by a Corinthian colonnade. The colonnade provides a base for a massive Diocletian window projecting into an open tympanum. For the colonnade’s order, Hornblower and Marshall chose the Corinthian of Castor and Pollux, all executed in white granite. (Figure 19)  Though slightly dimmed by a covering of netting to deter birds, the beautifully carved capitals evoke  the imperial splendor of the originals.

18. Museum of Natural History, Washington, D. C. (Loth).

19. Museum of Natural History column capital (Loth).

We can lament that in recent decades the use of the Castor and Pollux Corinthian has all but vanished from the repertoire of practitioners of classical architecture. Indeed, contemporary examples of the Corinthian order are nearly always generic ones. The Castor and Pollux order was unique to one of the greatest monuments of ancient times, lending elegance and distinction to a temple once dominating the heart of the Roman Empire. It is an order to be kept for special circumstances and not left as an unsung relic in the ruins of the Forum.

20. The Roman Forum (Loth).


[1] Sebastiano Serlio published a somewhat stylized image of a half capital resembling the Castor and Pollux order but without the entablature. He identified it only as “Colomnes, beside the Colises [Colosseum].” The image appeared in Book IV, Regole generale, published in 1537 as the first installment of his treatise L’Architettura. The full treatise was published in English in 1611. 
[2]
Sources are inconsistent as to whether the existing columns date from Tiberius or from reconstructions as late as the sixth century A.D.
[3]
Andrea Palladio, The Four Books on Architecture, Robert Tavenor and Richard Schofield translation (MIT Press, 1997), Book Four, p 67.
[4]
Amanda Claridge, Rome, An Oxford Architectural Guide (Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 91. She states the stairs were later changed to a single flight of front stairs.
[5]
Antoine Desgodetz, The Ancient Buildings of Rome, English translation by George Marshall (London, 1771), Vol. 1, p. 64; ECCO Print Edition.
[6]
Hansom is better known for his many Gothic Revival works and for his invention of the Hansom cab.
[7]
The building ceased its postal service function in 1897. Following housing  other government agencies and a period of abandonment, it was restored as the Monaco Hotel, opened in 2002.
[8]
The Four Books on Architecture, Book IV, p. 216
[9]
The church was originally built as a Presbyterian church. The Trinity Methodist congregation purchased the property in 1926 when the Presbyterians moved to an uptown location.
[10]
Founded in 1864, the Bank of California became the Union Bank of California in 1996.

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