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Baroque Architecture

Appunti di History of architecture su Baroque Architecture basati su appunti personali del publisher presi alle lezioni del prof. Piccoli dell’università degli Studi del Politecnico di Torino - Polito, Interfacoltà, Corso di laurea in architettura. Scarica il file in formato PDF!

Esame di History of architecture docente Prof. E. Piccoli



Les Invalides, church and hospital, by J. Hardouin Mansart, since 1677

Academie Royale d’Architecture – founded in 1671 by 8 members, later brought to a

max of 35 (1755); suppressed in 1793 by the French Revolution. In 1671 the Academy

sponsored a competition for the creation of a French Order to be used in the

completion of the court


Baroque architecture could be described also as the celebration of absolutism. In

England this absolutism was reduced by the Parliament, which was taking the power

away from the Crown, which so didn’t have the possibility to built a “Versailles” for

themselves. However and equivalent to it was built, presented as a gift from the

nation to a citizen.

1705-1725 Blenheim Palace, by Sir John Vanbrugh - built with the money of

Parliament to thanks John Churchill. Since the house was paid with public funds, the

designer kept enlarging the plans. The house was divided into 3 huge parts: the

kitchen court, the stable court and the central part of the house, enclosing a vast

entrance court. The components of the complex were built toward the center. The

scale of everything, ornaments and building elements, it is huge. Ornaments are

drawn is such a way that everybody could read them, for example the ones used atop

the chimneys showing a duke’s crown over a cannon ball crushing the French fleur-de-

lis, symbolizing the victory over France.

→ This theatricality was typical of Baroque architecture!

In the 1666 a fire in London destroyed most of the churches, which were then re-built

by Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723). He was educated as a mathematician,

astronomer, scientist, but he had an avocation for architecture caused him to be

appointed Surveyor-General of the King’s Works in 1669.

He first drew a plan for the center of London, with major streets radiating from public

squares and focusing on the Royal Exchange and the great Cathedral of Saint Paul.

With this re-building of the city Wren showed his familiarity with Italian and French


Of the 87 Gothic churches that burned down, 51 were re-built. The problem that Wren

had to face was how to design English Protestant churches, and moreover the sites

where he had to design were often small and irregular. The result was that some of

them were centralized, some were longitudinal. All were drawn in a way to improve

the acoustic.

London medieval skyline was characterized by Gothic spires, and Wren wanted to

restore this image but in Classical terms. The towers he designed consisted of

diminishing stages of classical squares and octagons, belvederes and cupolas, rising to

slender spires.

Wren’s greatest achievement was the rebuilding of Saint Paul’s Cathedral. The walls

of it were too damaged so Wren proposed an ideal centralized plan (1670). The

scheme was an enormous Greek cross capped by a great dome, like the one of Saint

Peter but simpler in decoration. Then a domed vestibule was added at the west with

the result of an axial building. But the clergy and the royal family were still not

satisfied, and insisted for a more traditional plan, which was then provided and the

works started in 1675. During the construction Wren continuously modified the upper

part of the cathedral and of the dome.

The result is a building with studied proportions and full of paradoxes. The choir and

nave are classical and covered with domes resting on pendentives; the outward thrust

of these domed vaults are transferred to the outer side walls by flying buttresses,

which are hidden by the second level upper walls; under the dome Wren used 8 small

pendentives over 8 piers. The dome is 34.1 m large but the structural wall of the drum

has a slope that actually reduces its diameter. It is entirely composed by 3 shells. In

this cathedral we can see the application of Wren mathematical and structural studies

about the distribution of the forces in the drum walls and in the iron chains added as a

support to the lateral forces.


The 3 expansions

State buildings

Counter-reformation churches.


During the Baroque period the staircase acquired more importance and became an

element to celebrate and to which entire rooms were dedicated. Staircase

development was important in the German-speaking areas of Bavaria and in Austria.

1663-1666, Scala Regia, Vatican Palace, by Bernini

Curved double stairs of Guarini, Palazzo Carignano, Torino. These stairs

inspired the staircase in the Episcopal residence of the prince-bishop of Speyer,

in east Germany, by Neumann. Neumann became an expert of staircases. The

best example is the staircase in the palace for the prince-bishop Johann Philipp

Franz Schinborn in Wurzburg, central Germany (1737-1742). These stairs had

an imperial plan = central flight which ends in a landing at the rear wall and that then

it’s divided into two flights.



EUROPEAN OVERVIEW OF ROCOCO – I half of the 18 century

The last phase of Baroque architecture in France (Paris 1720s) went toward more

slender decorative features, as delicate, irregular, curvilinear ornaments, and a much

lighter palate of colors. From here then it swept all over Europe.

The term “rococò” was invented by the later Neoclassicists in the 1790s; it come from

the French work rocaille = shell, which was used in reference to the shell-encrusted


grottos fashionable gardens at the beginning of 18 century.

The Rococo style is characterized by Importance of ornaments in the definition of

space. Ornaments are important per se. Rococo is parallel to Art Nouveau. It begins

around Paris → Hotel de Subis. Roots of Rococo are in the palaces of Paris!


The decoration used was called during the 18 century exotic or chinesery (was typical

exposing Chinese porcelain). Chinese cabinets = small rooms inspired by Chinese

taste through study of Chinese porcelain of Chinese wallpapers (but we know they

were adjusted to western taste!)

Putting aside the traditional elements of the arch, as the order, it means that exotic

ornaments can be used.

Chantilly, near Paris: it seems a Rococo traditional room, but there are Chinese

iconographic elements.

The style of the accommodation for the court in Versaille became to be seen as

oppressive, so as soon as Luis XIV died all the member of the court when back to Paris

where started erecting spacious private houses, hotels in the outskirt of the city.

Hotel de Matignon, Paris, by Jean Courtonne, 1722-1724 – is asymmetric on

purpose, the entrance façade is much smaller than the garden façade; it has a

bilateral symmetry: the axis of the entrance is then shifted to become the axis of the


These hotels were built on the ground, with principal rooms on the groundfloor,

opening to garden terraces by means of the French door. The parts of the walls not

filled with windows or doors were usually glazed to emphasize the effect of light and

de-emphasize the idea of structure. The colors used were often ivory, cream white,

pale pastel tints. The ornaments derived from natural forms, particularly if they had a

double S-curve in them, drawings of natural motifs and irregular elements.

Salon de Princesse of the Hotel de Soubise, by Germain Bouffrand, 1732-


Rococo architecture, which was developed in Paris, was probably the first architectural

idiom to arise primarily as a style for interior decorations. In a decay Rococò expanded

across Europe.

Small hunting lodgeAmalienburg, round Nymphenburg, outside Munich,

1734-1739 – white and plain exterior, with a Ionic order, while for the interior delicate

encrustation of silver filigree set against an azure blue background that covers every

surface which is not covered by windows or mirrors. Mirrors multiply the impression of

windows, space and light → indefinition of space. The deconstruct the simple shape of

the circle. Use of theatrical elements as birds. In the adjoining rooms the walls are pale

yellow with silver leaf on delicate paneling. The delicate profusion of carved and gilded

stucco work by Johann Baptist Zimmermann made painted panels unnecessary. In the

plan we see the signs of a change in the domestic space: innovation in the European

domestic architecture: birth of the modern home. No other Rococò interior surpassed


(Influence of Guarini) Most splendid pilgrimage church in Germany is the church of

Vierzehnheiligen, Bavaria, by Neumann, 1742-1772 – but the supervising builder

Krohne deviated from Neumann’s design, modifying the plan so that the principal

shrine of the Fourteen Saints would be in the center of the nave instead of in the choir

under the main altar. In 1774 Neumann was engaged to rectify the mistakes of Krohne.

He decided to make the spatial division more fluid reshaping the plan as a series of

overlapping ovals, the largest containing the main shrine. The interior has no

relationship with the exterior. This arrangement allowed the pilgrims to circulate

around the church without disturbing the celebration.

The interior decorations are a very good example of late Rococo stuccos by J.M.

Feichtmayr and J.G. Ubelhot and G. Appiani. Here the marble columns, as in most of

Rococo German and Austrian churches, are not stone, but actually painted plaster =


Baroque and Rococo architects created an architecture that was mainly concern with

the shaping of space; architecture became something to apply over something else.

BUT by the time Vierzehnheiligen was completed (1770s) a radical change was already

established in France, where architecture had already taken a completely opposite

way: rationalism.


1736 Juvarra’s death th

Guarini’s influence is felt till the end of 18 century.


2 typical 18 century architects:

BENEDETTO ALFIERI – his family is from Asti, is aristocratic (uncle of Vittorio Alfieri). He

was born in Rome, raised initially there, he comes to Turin at 16 years old where he

studied law but develops also an interest in architecture and he starts an architectural

career (1730s).

BERNARDO VITTONE – bourgeau, he had apprenticeship and worked with Juvarra, who

sent him to Rome for one year. He won the most important price: Premio

dell’Accademia di Juvarra o Concorso Clementino for the study and development of a

city on the sea.

BUT Benedetto Alfieri makes te Project for the Teatro Regio (burned down, now by


Benedetto Alfieri is called as a successor of Juvarra → He will be the only architect in

Piedmont who excels in Rococo architecture.


Renovation of domestic architecture of the court.

Enlargement of the Residence of Stupinigi - is quite simple since is an hunting

residence. BUT the way the plan is developed it reminds us the proliferation of Rococo

decoration. He creates a magnificent domestic place, open toward outside.

(In this period we assist also to the birth of the idea of the modern architect,

influenced by the French taste and culture and by a libertine life.)

Church of Carignano – the shape is similar to half Pantheon, the nave is a sort of

amphiteatre. Structure: massive bricks pillars projecting outward supporting an anular

barrel vault. Inside it was probably whitand with few decorations.


He completed the research started by Brunelleschi about the centralized church and

religious architecture. While Alfieri was able to adapt himself to the needed style (he

was an adaptable figure), Vittone is different, he is linked to two major architects:

Guarini and Juvarra. This is probably the reason why he is so effective in combining

the interest for light of Juvarra with the structural complexity of Guarini (he

deeply studied Guarini since he was the editor of his treaties). He adapts this to small

and medium scale buildings → he was a community architect.

Vallinotto Chapel (Chapel of Visistazione), near Carignano – chapel for people

that worked in the land of the banker who commissioned the work. Is built on the place

of a miraculous event. Small scale. Interest in the combination of layers and luminous

appearance (geometric complexity from Guarini, but Vittone was influenced also by

Borromini: Sant’Ivo alla Sapienza, Borromini, Rome ↔Vallinotto Chapel). Plan:

Centralized plan church, exagonal/circular plan with 6 main piers. Vittone tries to unify

the space also vertically + perforation of the walls at many different levels almost till

the ground. Direct influence of Guarini in structure. structure: The dome is open and

there are secondary spaces covered with semi-domes connected through openings

with the central dome → effect: the light changes continuously.

Light and ornaments are something that any architecture must have, even the poorest

church. The small chapel is visually as rich as the church. Since we all have vision, it

doesn’t matter the kind of material. The cheapest way for decorating was painting:

painted decoration, painted architectural effect and real architectural effect mixed

together. In his drawing he sketches the entablature to give more depth to the chapel.

Vittone represents a sort of anthology to the question of Baroque: light, illusion,

complexity of structure (example: Vallinotto is different from S. Lorenzo, because this

church can be understood).

Vittone evolves toward an abstract us of light and transparent structures. The idea of

the dome nearly dissolves putting the dome in communication with other spaces. Re-

using walls → need of light structure dome + polygonal window lantern supporting the

dome. The interior is small and spectacular: interplay among vaults and different

levels. Square structure that becomes and octagon that support a vault. The

pendentives are not bearing: he open them to have light.

Santa Maria di Piazza, Turin – small church, use of the dome as a symbolic

element. The dome, which is actually composed by small barrel vaults interplaying, is




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+1 anno fa

Corso di laurea: Corso di laurea in architettura (I Facoltà di Architettura e II Facoltà di Architettura)
A.A.: 2018-2019

I contenuti di questa pagina costituiscono rielaborazioni personali del Publisher alessiachiambretto di informazioni apprese con la frequenza delle lezioni di History of architecture e studio autonomo di eventuali libri di riferimento in preparazione dell'esame finale o della tesi. Non devono intendersi come materiale ufficiale dell'università Politecnico di Torino - Polito o del prof Piccoli Edoardo.

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