31 March 2014

Number magic

I read the first half of By Hand & Eye,  that's the  George Walker  part, the second half is by Jim Tolpin. I was not too happy with it.  That's the information part of this post,  the rest is sort of a rant.

After some thinking I focused my dislike in three parts - it's sort of a long rant:  American taste.  Whole numbers,  there is no harmony in drawing.  Classical order in columns.

... that was it,  we are a few months later now,  time to create and finish that post.

Whole numbers,  there is no harmony in drawing.
I liked George Walker post about the Golden Rectangle where he exposed that the close relatives of the golden rectangle: 3:5 and 5:8 feel just as right. But as I discovered through the book, for him it is about the exact whole number proportions,  where for me it's about the ballpark of the golden rectangle.  And that's where for me drawing differs from music.  If in music proportions 2:1 (octave) 3:2 (quint, violin tuning) 4:3 (quart, guitar tuning) ... can be very precise,  I don't know if we need or can achieve a similar precision of proportions when just looking.

American taste
Even if we share much in common with USA-Americans,  it's for example difficult to not see the Simpsons every day - even dubbed in French, sometimes there is a difference. The book uses three pictures of a high boy to ilustrate design.  For me it's a good example of weird looking furniture.  It looks as a semainier, a small seven drawer chest.  The square body  is set on overly curved legs,  probably animal legs,  going for a baba yaga style.  With its legs the top drawers stand too high and are inaccessible.
To finish there is a top that makes me think of a French pre-revolutionary hair piece, unsurprisingly as the periods agree.  The whole can be seen as anthropomorphic,  with its legs, waistline, round faced central top drawer and hairpiece. And with anthropomorphism we go Disney style.
To be fair we have here in town also an overdecorated period (17th century) thing,  probably never liked by everyone. Specifically in may 1944 a keen eyed pilot followed tram tracks towards the church and led it's bombers flight into hitting the church (hitting the center preserving the front) and many other things,  missing their target, the large railway station covering a surface of over 40 football fields, 1km east. The google earth picture shows the narrow street and church on the left and a small part of the railway station right.

Classical Order in columns
Classical fronts are uncommon here, classical columns as discussed in the book, are nearly inexistent.  My house is an exception it got a neo-classic redesign and front in 1830+ without columns. But things changed overt time, in 1950 for example the first floor lowered it's ceiling from 4m to 3m, impacting the appearance of windows. So it's not a pure classical form anymore.
As far as I know there is only one example of columns in town,  also dating back to neo-classic tastes of 1830+.  And as the picture shows it is preserved architecture,  as the building has already been recreated a few times and this time only the front was left to stand. But if I measure the size of the building - order depends on size,  I could check if this is the classical order of Vitrivius or Alberti, Serlio, Palladio, Vignola, De l'Orme, ... ,  but then and now a building is more than exact  proportions.

Being me, I am more interested in the origins of the Doric order rather than its standardized proportions. Certainly the functional wood origins of what would become later decorative aspects.

What I do share with the book is a liking of classical sophisms, here I think to have found one:
"Ornament and mouldings must have a function. While we think today of function as primarily a structural element (a way to meet a physical requirement), the craft idea of function was much broader, because the definition of function included visual appearance."

 Next time I hope it will be about a book I do like.  But then maybe I prefer talking about books I don't like.

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