SAH Blog

  • Louis I. Kahn Study Tour: Contemporaries

    Sep 9, 2008
    by: Amber Wiley

    While on the Kahn tour we had the pleasure of visiting architectural works by persons associated with Kahn, either by virtue of collaboration, education, or simply overlapping periods of significant work in Philadelphia and its suburbs. We looked at the work of many of his contemporaries including Robert Venturi, I.M. Pei, Mitchell/Giurgola, Joel Levinson, and GBQC.

    The Cooper House (1961) by architecture firm GBQC was particularly impressive because of the intense geometry and radial symmetry that ruled the plan of the house. Spaces intertwined and flowed into each other, leaving the visitor guessing at each turn. The tour group was treated very warmly by the owners, who provided refreshments and a chance for the group to utilize and admire the backyard landscaping and beautiful wooded scenery.

    Equally gracious was Pritzker Prize winning architect, teacher, and theorist Robert Venturi at the Vanna Venturi House (Venturi & Short, 1959-64). Venturi greeted the tour group by speaking about his inspirations for the house and design details, and how the house related to the development of some of his theoretical paradigms in the polemic Complexity and Contradiction in Architecture (1966). We toured the exterior as well as the rarely seen interior of the house.

    Two of the first projects we viewed on the tour were the Bingham Court Townhouses (1962- 67) and Society Hill Towers (1964), both by I. M. Pei. The group was provided a private tour of a type “A” Bingham Court Townhouse (1962-67) and a brief overview of the Society Hill Towers (1964) which were built as part of an urban renewal design aimed at increasing and improving residential occupancy of the surrounding area.

    The Kurtz House (1969-71) (also known as Arbor House) by Joel Levinson was a palace of surprise. Nestled in the Latham Park community just outside Philadelphia, Levinson designed an unconventional house for the Kurtz’, inspired by a variety influences, including Quaker meeting houses, Japanese shrines, and Alvar Alto’s country estate. Architect Joel Levinson lead the tour of the house, and explained his design process which resulted in the seamless integration of interior and exterior spaces by creating a trellis structure that wrapped around the whole house, screening yet not crowding nor suffocating it.

    Finally, we stopped briefly at the Penn Mutual Life Insurance building (1970-75) by the firm of Mitchell/Giurgola. The Penn Mutual building was a particularly interesting example of façadism,
    where the architecture firm not only added to the 1913 neoclassical office tower designed by Edgar Seeler (later expanded by Ernest Matthewson in 1931), they also kept a pre-existing façade intact. The scale of the Penn Mutual tower dwarfs the previous façade, however the inclusion of the façade in the final design reminds one of the scale and architectural vocabulary of early Philadelphia.

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  • Louis I. Kahn Study Tour: Institutional Work

    Sep 9, 2008
    by: Amber Wiley

    Institutional, Community, and Religious Work

    During the tour we traveled to New Haven to view some of Kahn’s most famous institutional work. Carter Wiseman led us on tours of the Yale University Art Gallery and the Yale Center for British Art, with a quick trip to the archives of Sterling Memorial Library to view original drawings by Kahn and Paul Rudolph.

    The Yale University Art Gallery (with Douglass Orr, 1951-53) is considered by many to be Kahn’s earliest substantial commission. The Yale University Art Gallery (YUAG) was the first of three art museums that Kahn would design, and was dramatically different from the context of buildings on the Yale campus, many of which were designed by James Gamble Rogers in a neo-Gothic vocabulary. The main façade of the YUAG is highly simplistic, with string coursework that runs the length of the building, slightly mimicking the levels of articulation in the adjacent original 1928 “Tuscan Romanesque” building by architect Edgerton Swartwout.

    One of Kahn’s major innovations in the YUAG was the use of the tetrahedron ceiling design that housed the electric and ventilation systems. The YUAG originally included art and architecture studios as part of its building program.

    The building underwent extensive renovation by Polshek Partnership, LLP, which was completed in 2006 and brought the building closer to Kahn’s original vision.

    We also visited the Jewish Community Center Bath House and Day Camp (1954-59) outside Trenton, New Jersey. A guided tour of the site revealed extensive neglect as evidenced by the water damage, deterioration, and patina on the exposed concrete surfaces of the building. Immediate plans for restoration of the building were outlined on the tour. This icon of modernism was simple and elegant, with a cruciform plan, a central atrium, and four square concrete block rooms. Each room was topped with a pyramidal roof. This building displayed ingenuity in its simplicity, and was the point where Kahn crystallized his ideas about “served spaces” and “spaces that serve.”

    I discovered myself after designing that little concrete block bathhouse in Trenton.

    It was the Richards Medical Building (1957-61) on the campus of the University of Pennsylvania that was a true breakthrough for Kahn in the form of critical acclaim in and outside of the architectural sphere. Some of the major themes that characterized Kahn’s work were evident in our guided tour: heavy external massing that clearly demarcated “served” and “servant” spaces, rigid geometrical structural systems, refinement of exposed materials, and the dissolution of the corner. Kahn’s use of concrete cantilever technology in the medical labs allowed for the creation of a space that did not depend on structural support at the corner, hence the ability to leave large expanses of glass meeting at a point on the far end of the lab.

    Erdman Hall (1960-65) at Bryn Mawr College is a dormitory on the women’s liberal arts campus. Here Kahn created the major spaces by designing a plan of intersecting diamonds, putting the service areas in the middle, and stringing the student rooms around the periphery of the building. Kahn used slate on the exterior, a choice that made the building fit with the rest of the campus’ color palette, while setting a direct precedent in contrast to the medieval Gothic aesthetic that pervaded the campus.

    The Temple Beth-El Synagogue (1966-72) in Chappaqua, New York is clad almost completely in wood with concrete framing, a testament to its design inspiration- the wooden synagogues in Europe that were destroyed during the Holocaust. Kahn abstracted the shape of the typical wooden synagogue to geometric simplicity, literally resting the elevated square roof and walls of the sanctuary on massive concrete pillars, creating a dialogue of light, weight, and gravity between the upper and lower parts of the sanctuary.

    The Yale Center for British Art (Kahn, 1969-74; Pellechia & Meyers 1974-1977) was completed after Kahn’s untimely death. It is very much a jewel of a building that not only speaks to its surroundings with street level shops that invite pedestrians in, but also creates the soft ambiance of an old English country house on the interior. Kahn delivered his signature flood of natural light in the form of two major interior courtyards, one at the entrance and one that is located deep within the museum and is flanked by archival and research centers.

    Contrasted with the Yale University Art Gallery, the Yale Center for British Art had a softer palette of materials. The YUAG was constructed of brick, concrete, glass, and steel, while the Yale Center for British Art utilized marble, white oak, and Belgian linen.

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  • Louis I. Khan Study Tour: Residential Work

    Sep 8, 2008

    by Amber Wiley

    Kahn’s career in residential work began with the Jersey Homesteads project (1935-36). This was a collaborative effort with Alfred Kastner, who served as principal architect of the project. Kastner, a German immigrant, was strongly influenced by the Bauhaus aesthetic. Various forces shaped the development of the neighborhood which was an initiative of Roosevelt’s New Deal era, created under the New Deal Resettlement Administration. The visionary for the development was Benjamin Brown, and the main developer was Rexford Guy Tugwell. The Jersey Homesteads project is regarded as part of the greenbelt movement, an idyllic suburban movement that had at its basis a rejection of the city for the bucolic effects of the country, with strong moral undertones. 

    Jersey Homesteads was considered a “social experiment in cooperative living,” where families who previously resided in unfavorable conditions in tenement filled New York were relocated to rural New Jersey with the promise of a better life, a better house, and the security of a job. Part of the development’s main appeal was the creation and inclusion of a garment factory and farm, and the families paid $500 for their share in the co-op.

    The Jersey Homesteads became a miniature haven for various artists during the New Deal era. Muralist Ben Shahn was one of the first and most prominent artists to move into the development. We toured the house where he lived with his family, and his son, sculptor Jonathan Shahn, was an extremely gracious tour host, and was particularly descriptive about life in the house and its development, including the George Nakashima additions (1960 and 1965). We also toured the Mallach House, and visited the Roosevelt School. The Roosevelt School design was based on preliminary sketches by Kahn, and included a large mural by Ben Shahn in the lobby. The Jersey Homesteads were renamed Roosevelt, New Jersey in 1942 in honor of Franklin D. Roosevelt after his death.

    One of Kahn’s next major residential commissions was the Oser House (1940-42). Kahn designed the Oser House in the Philadelphia suburban community of Elkins Park. Here we saw the beginning of Kahn’s architectural vocabulary for his residential projects. Most of these projects were made of intersecting and/or joined cubes, and the massing of this project was particularly simple, with the two main volumes being co-joined cubes, one of local masonry and the other of wood. The wooden section was later expanded.

    We also viewed the Wharton Esherick House and workshop in Malvern, Pennsylvania. Wharton Esherick was a painter turned sculptor who worked mainly out of his home studio. Kahn designed Esherick’s workshop (1955-57) in a manner very much unlike any of his other major commissions. While certain aspects of design motif remain – heavy massing, geometricality – the rest is an experimentation in color and bold, sharp angles, actually echoing the eccentric Wharton Esherick House itself. The studio is turned away from the driveway, but the rear elevation is what reveals the Kahn hand more dominantly- a façade full of windows that flood the interior with natural light.

    Kahn designed another house for a member of the Esherick family, the Margaret Esherick House (1959-61) in Chestnut Hill, Pennsylvania (not far from George Howe’s High Hollow country house). Margaret Esherick, the niece of Wharton Esherick, commissioned the house as a residence for a single woman without a family, therefore the program of the building was different from many of Kahn’s other residential ventures. The building was divided into two main spaces, clearly articulated in the façade, with a two story living room which was programmatically divided from the kitchen and private living spaces by the centrally located stairs. Several of the best features of the Esherick house included the breezeways afforded by large windows, the kitchen designed by Wharton Esherick, and the “T” motif that was seen in everything from the smallest details to the fenestration pattern on the façade.

    The Fisher House is a demonstration of Kahn’s maturation with the use of wood and stone in his residential work. The group toured the exterior of the house, and was highly impressed with the simple volumes and intense detailing in the wood work. The use of wood, however, became problematic for the residents when woodpeckers began to destroy the exterior.

    The Korman House was the last house Kahn designed, and fittingly the last house the tour group visited. The Kormans were exceedingly welcoming, and gave a tour of the house, citing influences, inspirations, and the vision that they shared with Kahn for the creation of the house. Kahn designed a house program that fit the characteristics of the family- Kahn was interested in creating a home that embodied the values and priorities of a young family with three active sons. Continued themes at the Korman House included a tight integration and contrast of materials- wood and brick in this case, the “T” shape motif in the fenestration, an efficiency of space, as well as an abundance of light on the interior of the house.

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  • SAH Study Tour, Unveiling Southern Italian Architecture: Naples and Campania from Antiquity through the 18th Century

    Jul 29, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni, Scott Opler Fellow

    13 to 23 May 2008

    On behalf of the leaders and participants of the SAH Study Tour of Naples and Campania, I bid you welcome. We hope you enjoy this virtual experience as much as we enjoyed the tour itself.

    Because of the depth and breadth of architecture covered, the tour was treated like an “opera,” with a fabulous cast of characters.

    Medievalist Caroline Bruzelius conceived of and led the tour.

    Mantha Zarmakoupi took us through the sites of Antiquity.

    Bianca de Divitiis (right) discussed the Renaissance, while Paola D’Agostino (left) covered the Baroque.

    Tour participant and SAH representative Dianne Harris provided commentary on landscape architecture and flora throughout the tour – and throughout the milennia, starting in ancient Pompeii and ending with the mid-18th-century palace of Caserta.

    Medievalist Virginia Jansen (right) spoke about Sant’Angelo in Formis, and her fellow admirer of Amalfi lemons, Naomi Miller (left), was the tour MVP in every possible way!

    The incomparable Valentina Semeraro ( made sure the trip ran smoothly – no small feat in Naples!

    And this is me, the thoroughly delighted Scott Opler Fellow, pretty much just holding on to my hat and enjoying the (if you’ll excuse the pun) tour-de-force that was our trip to Naples and Campania.

    Study tour participants are: Jacob Albert, Louise Todd Ambler, Ramla Beniassa, Joan and John Blew, Sheila Donahue, Robert W. Deumling, Hank Dunlop, Mia Reinoso Genoni (Opler Fellow), Peter and Gail Goltra, Susan Green, Dianne Harris (SAH Rep), Virginia Jansen, Carol H. Krinsky, Jonathan S. and Linda B. Lyons, Myra Malkin, John Martine, Gary Menges, Fraser and Helen Muirhead, Naomi Miller, Janis and John Notz, Edward Pass, Carole and Richard Rifkind, Charles Robertson, Marilyn Schmitt, and K. Lisa Lang. Photos in this blog are by me, except where noted otherwise. Many thanks to those who contributed their photos.

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  • Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore - 14 July 2008

    Jul 14, 2008

    Baird Jarman

    Rather than slackening our pace, the fourth and final day consisted of the greatest number of buildings yet, quite a few of them being recently conserved or currently undergoing restoration. We began with Wright’s spacious Usonian house built in 1951 for Charles Glore. Here the main entrance brings visitors into a central corridor connecting perhaps the two most distinctive features of the house, its dramatic hanging staircase and the polygonal living room with a second floor balcony. Steps also lead gently downward to a wide expanse of patio.

    Beside the entrance to the Charles Glore House (1951) by Frank Lloyd Wright

    The 1929 James R. Leavell House, a medieval-revival manor designed by Anderson & Ticknor, features a balconied great hall with large exposed wooden beams adjoining a stone turret stairwell and a half-timbered inner courtyard. Additional plans for expanding the estate were abandoned after the Wall Street crash later that year.

    The James R. Leavell House (1929) by Anderson & Ticknor

    Beyond a winding path through woodland designed by Warren Manning, we next came upon the striking entrance to Wyldwood with its steeply pitched entrance gable of diamond-patterned brickwork above an imposing wrought-iron gateway decorated with signs of the zodiac by the medievalist metalworker Oscar Bach. Behind this imposing doorway lies an octagonal reception area floored in medieval-revival tiles. Appearing as a cottage from the front, the 1916 house by architect Harrie Lindeberg opens out onto lakefront property at the rear, where it takes on the character of a large Tudor manor house.

    The entrance to Wyldwood (1916) by Harrie Lindeberg, metalwork by Oscar Bach

    The rear facade of Wyldwood (1916) by Harrie Lindeberg

    We lunched at Glen Rowan, the Barnes estate, designed by Shaw in 1908 and now owned by Lake Forest College. Built of red brick, the plan features a wide, barrel-vaulted, central hallway that segues at the rear of the house into a far less formal Arts & Crafts study with Mercer tiles incorporated into the fireplace surround.

    The patio at Glen Rowan (1908) by Howard Van Doren Shaw

    Returning to the lakefront again, we visited Bagatelle, home of the architect Edward Bennett. Born in England and trained at the Ècole des Beaux-Arts, Bennett designed this homage to eighteenth-century French classicism for his own family in 1916 after moving to Chicago. His International Style studio, built behind the house in 1930, demonstrates his newfound interest in modernism.

    Bagatelle (1916) by Edward Bennett

    After returning to Lake Forest College for a quick peek at the Romanesque-revival Durand Institute by architect Henry Ives Cobb in 1892, we proceeded to the Lawrence Williams House, designed by Walter Frazier in 1928 as a compact cottage with a steeply pitched gable and surrounded by garden landscaping by Thomas W. Seyster.

    The Durand Institute at Lake Forest College (1892) by Henry Ives Cobb

    The Lawrence Williams House (1928) by Walter Frazier
    We then proceeded to the astonishing array of gardens at the restored John T. Pirie estate, anchored by a brick house designed in 1904 by Marshall & Fox that is surrounded by landscapes created by Rose Standish Nichols.
    The John T. Pirie Estate (1904) by Marshall & Fox

    One of the garden axes at the John T. Pirie Estate

    Our tour concluded with a festive dinner at the 1928 Deerpath Inn, modeled on the mid-fifteenth century Manor House of Chiddingstone.

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  • Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore - 13 July 2008

    Jul 13, 2008

    Our third day began at Ragdale, architect Howard Van Doren Shaw’s own home begun in 1897 in an Arts & Crafts style. The stucco exterior with its crisp geometric forms as well as the wood-paneled rooms on the ground floor have a great deal in common with Voysey’s iconic estates in England’s Lake District. Ragdale was always a hub of artistic activity—Shaw’s mother Sarah Van Doren Shaw was a painter, Shaw’s wife Frances Wells Shaw was a poet and playwright (for whom he designed an open-air theater on the estate in 1912), and his daughter Sylvia Shaw Judson was a sculptor. Appropriately the estate is now a residential artists’ retreat.

    Ragdale (1897) by Howard Van Doren Shaw

    We next toured one of the landmarks of the second wave of mansion building, the 1928 Noble Judah estate, a Tudor Revival manor by Philip Goodwin, who would design the Museum of Modern Art in New York City a decade later in a far more modern idiom. After exploring the interior we moved to the well-kept axial formal garden where we posed for our group portrait.

    The Noble Judah Estate (1928) by Philip Goodwin

    The garden of the Noble Judah Estate

    We then explored the house and lunched in the garden of Shaw’s 1909 House of the Four Winds, built for Hugh J. McBirney. This structure is an atypical design for Shaw in that it draws upon an unusually wide variety of design motifs, leading some architectural historians to speculate that Adler rather than Shaw was chiefly responsible for handling the commission. As we walked through the house, both Italianate and Moorish prototypes were mentioned in conjunction with the massing and layout of the house and gardens—and inside Macintosh, Voysey, and Luytens were all cited as possible influences for the entryway, hall, and living room.

    The House of the Four Winds (1909) by Howard Van Doren Shaw

    From the garden at the House of the Four Winds

    Our next stop was the Gothic Revival church built in 1888 by Cobb & Frost as the campus chapel for The Young Ladies’ Seminary of Ferry Hall. After the school ceased to operate in the 1970s, this ecclesiastical edifice, along with the large dormitory adjacent to it, was eventually creatively adapted for reuse as domestic structures.

    The Ferry Hall Chapel (1888) by Cobb & Frost

    We next visited Campbell, designed by architects Walcott & Work with a landscape created by Root & Hollister, which was erected in 1929 just before the onset of the Depression.

    Campbell (1929) by Walcott & Work

    Then we toured a major commission for David Adler from 1923, just before the second wave of estate building swung into high gear. A decade after leaving Shaw’s firm to start his own partnership (with Henry Dangler), Adler designed the Carolyn Morse Ely House in Lake Bluff, which is based upon the 1787 hunting lodge at Versailles, the Pavillion de la Lanterne.

    The Carolyn Morse Ely House (1923) by David Adler

    We ended our day at a gathering of the Lake Forest-Lake Bluff Historical Society in the shoreline garden of a 1970 house by Roy Binckley on the same grounds where leading Chicago architect Daniel Burnham had designed a home for Stanley Field called Lakelandwood in 1913 (now destroyed). By the edge of the bluff, Arthur again lectured on the history of the area, this time dealing more specifically upon aspects of the local preservation movement.

    The old Stanley Field Estate with a 1970 House by Roy Binckley
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  • Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore - 12 July 2008

    Jul 12, 2008

    Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore
    Baird Jarman

    Day two began with visits to two major Prairie School homes by Frank Lloyd Wright. With Arthur’s voice whispering in our ears through radio headsets, we tiptoed around the Ravine Bluffs Development in Glencoe, where Wright designed a half dozen homes in 1915. We wended our way over Wright’s ravine bridge—his only bridge—to the Sherman Booth House with its dramatic setting along the edge of a wooded gorge and its striking interior woodwork.

    Bridge entrance to the Ravine Bluffs Development (1915) by Frank Lloyd Wright

    After this we traveled to the 1901 Ward Willets House in Highland Park, widely regarded as Wright’s first Prairie Style home, where we discussed the history of the house, its ongoing conservation, and its design innovations. Here Wright created an open plan with four arms branching out from a central brick hearth with multiple fireplaces. Art-glass windows are set into door frames that open onto a porch and allow the wall to disappear, thereby linking indoors with outdoors. A low-pitched, hipped roof with deep cantilevered overhangs appears here in Wright’s first fully realized vision of the Prairie Style.

    The Ward Willets House (1901) by Frank Lloyd Wright in Highland Park

    During the rest of the day we encountered our first structures by some of the leading, Chicago-based, domestic architects of the Country Place Era, such as Howard Van Doren Shaw and the brothers Irving and Allen Pond. We began with a ‘sawdust tour’ of the James Ward Thorne estate, designed by Otis & Clark in 1912, which is currently undergoing extensive renovation. While lunching we explored Shaw’s 1916 Market Square, an eclectic but largely Tudor Revival mixed-use development opposite Lake Forest’s railway depot.

    The Lake Forest Market Square (1916) by Howard Van Doren Shaw

    From this iconic suburban city beautification project we transitioned to a fine example of a Downing-inspired Italianate villa, the 1860 Devillo R. Holt residence, called the Homestead. An influential early figure in the Lake Forest community, Holt succeeded in having all businesses pushed west beyond the original railway boundary of the suburb. It is thus ironic that some people have explained the strange fact that the Homestead is a masonry structure covered with wooden clapboards as a subtle form of advertisement for his lumber business. In the library of the Homestead, a design debate over the likely date of an unusual set of built-in bookshelves displaying both Eastlake and Gothic Revival features was settled by trip participant Beverly Brandt, whose book on turn-of-the-century design criticism, The Craftsman and the Critic, will appear in print this fall.

    The Homestead (1860) in Lake Forest

    Next we viewed Thalfried, the 1909 Wheeler House, with its unusual pairing of high wainscoting and low Gothic arches, and where we first saw Pond & Pond’s distinctive, diamond-pattern, window sashes. After working in Chicago for William Le Baron Jenney and Solon S. Beman, in 1885 Irving K. Pond started an architectural firm with his brother Allen B. Pond. In addition to settlement houses, most notably Hull-House, Pond & Pond designed several elegant North Shore estates that blend Arts & Crafts influenced brickwork and woodwork with a more sparse, geometric, modernist façade treatment.

    The Wheeler House (Thalfried, 1909) by Pond & Pond

    Following a serendipitous stop at the Charles Dyer Norton House, we ended at Adler’s luxurious William E. Clow, Jr. House, with its Vienna Secession styling, high ceilings, expansive mirrors, and creative use of floor levels within a hilly lot. This structure is a fascinating example of Adler’s creativity and his ability to overcome difficult challenges with the site plan, namely a busy road adjacent to the property and a steep incline. A low wall covered with Greek key designs along the high-ground defines the perimeter of a courtyard for croquet while successfully screening off nearby road traffic. The Doric temple fronts that face onto this green space are actually the second floor of the structure, which is built into the hill. The main entrance, around the corner, brings visitors in on the lower floor of a two-story brick manor.

    The William E. Clow, Jr. House (1927) by David Adler
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  • Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore - 11 July 2008

    Jul 11, 2008

    Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore
    Baird Jarman

    We spent most of our first full day exploring the extensive grounds at Crab Tree Farm, a dairy in Lake Bluff whose early history proves instructive regarding development in the region. Grace Garrett Durand, wife of Chicago broker Scott Sloan Durand, originally operated a successful hobby farm in Lake Forest that she named after its location along Crab Tree Road. The couple commissioned a Shingle Style main house from William Carbys Zimmerman in 1896, the same year that Cyrus McCormick, Jr. commissioned his own Shingle Style home, Walden, which ushered in a new era of landed country estates on parcels of land much larger than the approximately four-acre lots typical in the original 1857 Lake Forest plan. Expansive estates soon infringed upon Durand’s growing dairy operation, which earned complaints from her new neighbors about unpleasant odors. In 1905 the Durands bought another dairy farm on the current site and shifted their base of operation. In 1910 a large fire destroyed the extant wooden farm buildings एंड the following year they hired Solon Spencer Beman, known for his design of the planned workers’ village of Pullman, to create a courtyard surrounded by new fireproof structures.

    The Entry Drive at Crab Tree Farm

    These five courtyard buildings, designed in a style variously characterized as either South African or Scandinavian, have steel frames and walls assembled from terracotta blocks coated with concrete and stucco. The roofs are cast concrete tinted to resemble terracotta. Four of the five buildings, including part of the large central structure with the clock tower, house an outstanding collection of American and English Arts and Crafts furnishings. Crab Tree Cottage, filled with a great deal of Gustav Stickley furniture, also displays TECO and Grueby ceramics as well as English designs ranging from Morris and Voysey textiles to de Morgan ceramics.

    The main Farm House at Crab Tree Farm (1911) by Solon Spencer Beman

    Nearby the courtyard a bungalow was built in 1993, modeled on drawings by Harvey Ellis that appeared in the December 1903 issue of Stickley’s magazine The Craftsman. The basement of this Ellis house contains a cross-section of English Arts and Crafts design, including chairs by Pugin, Baillie Scott, and Macintosh as well as metalwork by Dresser, Ashbee, and Benson. Contemporary art also appears at the farm; the old grain silos now serve as installation spaces and one wing of the bell-towered farmhouse serves as a large shop with woodworkers in residence.

    The Ellis House at Crab Tree Farm (designed in 1903 by Harvey Ellis, built in 1993)

    Departing from the Craftsman vein, we then visited two small and significantly older structures both relocated to the eastern stretch of the farm, a rebuilt medieval brick English hermitage with a newly thatched roof and a recently conserved 1830s log house moved from its original site along Green Bay Road.

    Medieval English Hermitage
    1830s Log House from Green Bay Road

    In the afternoon we visited the restored Art Deco gem, the Colonel Robert Hosmer Morse House, built in 1931 by Zimmerman, Saxe & Zimmerman (the Chicago-based firm of the aforementioned W. C. Zimmerman in partnership with his son and son-in-law). Our hosts discussed the lengthy restoration process the house required, including the painstaking refurbishment of scores of light fixtures and etched-glass mirrors. Built adjacent to a golf course, the 25-room mansion was built to entertain, with a locker room for golfing groups in the basement as well as several moderne drink-mixing closets scattered about the house despite its Prohibition Era origin.

    Colonel Robert Hosmer Morse House (1931) by Zimmerman, Saxe & Zimmerman

    Returning to the Crab Tree Farm estate in the late afternoon, we further explored a medley of architectural treasures on an 11-acre tract of land sold by the Durands to Helen Bowen and William McCormick Blair in the 1920s. Here the Blairs hired David Adler to build them a large house in an early American colonial style, with walls of limestone and white shingles (the wooden shingles are unpainted on the roof and in the dormers).

    William McCormick Blair House (1926-28) by David Adler

    A walled garden designed by Ellen Biddle Shipman nestles into the west-facing side of the house, where it is sheltered from the lake, which is visible over a bluff to the east. In addition to numerous outbuildings, the estate also contains a Georgian tennis house designed by Adler shortly after the main house.

    Shipman Garden at the William McCormick Blair House

    Tennis House on the William McCormick Blair Estate

    The Blair estate also contains a cottage with neoclassical and Tudor period rooms across from an eighteenth-century Palladian folly (all relocated from parts of the United Kingdom).

    The Palladian Folly

    The day concluded with two lakeshore sites bearing remnants of the great McCormick family estates, Walden and Villa Turicum. Both houses were designed by East Coast architects, respectively Jarvis Hunt and Charles Platt. Only the Ravello terrace remains of Walden, built in 1896 for Cyrus McCormick II and torn down in the 1950s. An elegant, glass-walled, New Formalist house by New Canaan architect John Black Lee was built beside the Ravello in 1960.

    The Ravello at Walden (1896) by Jarvis Hunt and Warren Manning

    Perhaps the most famous of the Lake Forest mansions was Villa Turicum, whose tragic history mirrors the troubled life of its owner Edith Rockefeller McCormick. Along the shoreline sit the stairways, cascade, and garden urns that once decorated the lakeside grounds of the majestic mansion. The house had an astonishingly short life as an active home. Platt continued to work on the estate and its sprawling grounds (including a polo field and acres of gardens) for over a decade, from 1908 to 1918 (the house was completed in 1909), but after 1912 Edith Rockefeller McCormick allegedly spent only one night on the property. The house itself was demolished in 1965, but not before a group of investors hoping to repurpose the property lost a sizeable investment.

    The remnants of the Villa Turicum water cascade (1909) by Charles A. Platt
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  • Estates and Gardens of Chicago’s North Shore - 10 July 2008

    Jul 10, 2008

    Baird Jarman

    Our trip commenced with a witty and informative dinnertime lecture about North Shore history by tour leader Arthur H. Miller, Archivist of Lake Forest College. Calmly ignoring a violent thunderstorm, he discussed topics ranging from the role of the Presbyterian Church in the settlement of Lake Forest to the heavy summertime demands on the local water supply created by the popularity of extensive landscape gardening to the vogue for English-style country life that established polo and fox hunting in the greater Chicago area in the 1890s.

    Arthur also discussed the enormous impact of income-tax rate changes upon the viability of operating large residential estates, noting that most of the structures on our itinerary were built during one of two periods. A first wave of large estate building lasted from 1896 to 1916, when the upper tax bracket jumped from 15% to 67% to finance World War I. A shorter second wave occurred after the highest bracket fell below 50% in 1924 and lasted until 1932 when the rates were again hiked (from 25% to 63%). Even the wealthiest families found it increasingly difficult to maintain large estates following the Great Depression. At the outbreak of World War I the top bracket paid merely 7% income tax, but from 1936 through 1981 the rate stayed above 70%. The peak years for the abandonment, repurposing, and demolition of North Shore country estates came from 1951 to 1963, when the rate stayed above 90%. Conversely, in the period since 1987, when the top rate has remained below 40%, many of these estates have been restored and refurbished.

    Thursday’s downpour cleared the way for great weather during our four travel days, and with the midsummer landscapes in full bloom the tour was like stepping into the scenic pages of Arthur’s book, Classic Country Estates of Lake Forest: Architecture and Landscape Design 1856-1940, coauthored with Kim Coventry and Daniel Meyer.

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  • Naples and Campania, Day Eleven 23 May 2008

    May 23, 2008
    Mia Reinoso Genoni
    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    We started our last day with a huge bite of 18th-century Campanian architecture: the palace at Caserta. It was begun in 1752 for Charles of Bourbon, who wanted his own Versailles, despite the fact that at this point the idiom of the great French palace was out-of-date. He asked Luigi Vanvitelli specifically to imitate it. Among other quotations, we also see traces of the Royal Palace of Madrid and the Palazzo Farnese in Caparola; Charles was the son of King Philip V of Spain and Elizabeth Farnese.

    (Photo by Marilyn Schmitt.)

    The spectacular grand staircase is the most inventive element of the palace, though it too is reminiscent of the Royal Palace of Madrid.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    The garden complex is also based on Versailles. The grand scale is a clear symbol of power and authority – only the wealthy and powerful can afford to use land gratuitously, as opposed to productively, and to maintain it.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    On the other end of the spectrum is San Leucio, located about 35 km northwest of Caserta. This complex was conceived of as a grand utopian experiment, another of my favorite topics. In his Enlightenment-tinged vision, Charles’ son Ferdinand IV imagined a silk factory with a commune for workers, in which everyone would have their own home with a loom and a courtyard and everyone would also receive an education. In keeping a typical and wonderful utopian conceit, the area was to be called “Ferdinandopolis.” Some of his vision was completed; the ideal plan was begun by Francesco Collecini in 1789, and the factory and some of the housing were built.

    Now on site is a silk production museum, which delighted and amused us greatly.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    However, we had to cut our visit short because we were racing against the clock to get to Sant’Angelo in Formis before a scheduled afternoon wedding. We just made it, as the presence of the flower girl in the doorway suggests. The Romanesque church made our haste worthwhile, however. Built on the ruins of the Temple of Diana Tifatina, it was given to the Benedictines of Montecassino, who rebuilt it in 1072-86/7.

    Part of the fame of the building is its narthex, with its early pointed arches. The actual date of the structure is currently a matter of great debate. Here you can also see some of narthex frescoes with scenes from the lives of Anthony and Paul the Hermit.

    The frescoes are clearly related to Montecassino. It is assumed that Desiderius created the program; the artists are likely among those he brought back from Constantinople to work on the great monastery.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Although the left apse cycle is lost, the right one remains: the Virgin Mary with Christ Child and Two Angels over Martyred Female Saints. In the foreground the wedding band is setting up – a wonderful vision of the continued use of the church throughout the millennium.

    (Photo by Helen and Fraser Muirhead.)

    That night we toasted Naples and Campania from La Fenestella, looking out over the Bay of Naples at Vesuvius. She kindly did not erupt during our visit, which probably means I should get to work on an SAH guglia. Ciao, Napoli e Campania! Mille grazie SAH e Scott Opler!

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  • Naples and Campania, Day Ten 22 May 2008

    May 22, 2008
    Mia Reinoso Genoni

    On our final day in the city of Naples, we returned to the via Tribunali area, with a first stop at the Cappella Pontano. As I have a great fondness for small, harmonious, classicizing chapels, I found this building to be utterly enthralling. It is a sepulchral chapel commissioned by the Neapolitan humanist and soldier-politician Giovanni Pontano, built in 1490-2. Such a monument actually commissioned by the humanist himself is unusual, and Pontano put his knowledge to great use. In his own work Pontano wrote that the best way to celebrate during one’s life is through a triumphal arch motif, the use of which is apparent here. Also evident is that the structure follows Vitruvius’ prescriptions for small temples: it is rectangular, erected on a podium, and features a facade punctuated by pilasters, seen also in the following detail:

    In many ways we can think of the chapel itself as a built treatise, a concept of particular interest to me. The exterior also features a series of classical epigraphs…

    while the interior has epitaphs both classical and of his own composition; the latter primarily express his sorrow over the death of his wife, their sons, and his friends. The altar also features Madonna and the Two Saint Johns, a fresco by Francesco Cicino da Caiazzo.

    We moved on to San Domenico Maggiore, a building that, like the Cathedral of Naples, truly deserves the name “complex.” The main church was built by Charles II in 1238-1324. The Angevin structure incorporated San Michele Archangelo a Morfisa, and continued to grow with the addition of a vast theological complex. Such was its renown that scholars such as Thomas Aquinas and Giordano Bruno came to lecture.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    As seen here, the interior is of a scale and structure most commonly found in cathedrals. The interior went through a Baroque renovation, and the “restoration” by Federico Travaglini, of 1850-3, stripped down the decor and replaced it with the Neo-Gothic creation seen in this image. The only Baroque elements that remain are the floor, the ceiling of the nave, and the balustrades of the chapel. In its original Angevin incarnation, the interior would have resembled that of San Pietro a Maiella (see entry for 19 May/Day Seven).

    The Dominican church also became home to numerous funerary monuments, dating from the 14th to the 19th centuries, including tombs of Angevin and Aragonese rulers. Depicted here is the Tomb of Diomede Carafa, in the Chapel of the Crucifix. It dates to 1470-1, and is often cited as the first “completely” humanist tomb in Naples. It deviates from the Angevin model, replacing the baldachin motif with a Romanizing round arch with pilasters, a la Andrea Bretagno. The chapel received its name because it houses the crucifix through which God is believed to have spoken to Thomas Aquinas, saying “You have written well of me Thomas.”

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    The Sacristy contains an amazing 10 tombs of Aragonese and Spanish rulers and 35 dignitaries, all around the walkway. Included among these are Ferrante d’Aragona and Giovanna II of Aragon. In addition, the floor holds the 19th-century funerary slab of the first Catholic Bishop of New York, Richard L. Concanen, who died in Naples shortly after his consecration, while waiting for his transportation to arrive. Neapolitan drivers are clearly hell-bent on no such occurrence ever happening again, to which anyone who has navigated amongst the maniacally speedy citizens can attest.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Similarly to the Cathedral complex, in the Piazza San Domenico we find the Guglia di San Domenico, begun in 1656 in thanks for deliverance from the plague of that year. It was designed by Cosimo Fanzago, and finished in 1727 under the first Bourban king, Charles III. Saint Dominic himself crowns the spire.

    Continuing with our Neapolitan Day of the Dead, we visited Sant’Angelo a Nilo, home to to the serene and powerful Tomb of Cardinal Rinaldo Brancacci. It was built in Pisa by Donatello and Michelozzo in 1426-8, and shipped to Naples. I was ecstatic to visit this work, as I have studied it extensively but had not yet had the chance to see it. The tomb is very similar to that of (Antipope) John XXIII in the Florence Baptistery, also built by Donatello and Michelozzo. At the same time, the tomb exists in a dialogue with Neapolitan monuments – which is very clear when one has the chance to examine all of them in person. As with the Tomb of John XXIII, we see a lunette above a sarcophagus with three figures below.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    That said, the floor-standing baldachin type is also very typically Angevin. Unlike either Angevin monuments or that of John XXIII, the baldachin takes the form of a round arch; this arch appears again in the Tomb of Diomede Carafa in San Domenico, but without the baldachin.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Likewise, the three figures of the lower register are found throughout Angevin funerary monuments and in the Tomb of John XXIII, but here we see a trabeated-like structure with caryatids, akin to the one in the Monument to Ladislao in San Giovanni a Carbonara. I’ve always loved the pillows given to the caryatids to aid them in their support of the heavy burden of the tomb.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Gesu Nuovo is across the street from Santa Chiara – a great study in contrasts. Built by the Jesuits in 1584-97, it incorporated the late-quattrocento Palazzo Sanseverino di Salerno. The Renaissance portal is still visible.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    The interior features a buoyant use of triumphant arches, clearly indebted to St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome.
    The power and joy of this motif is evident throughout the church – including the ceiling.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    We ended our day at the Cappella Sansevero. It was founded in 1590 as the family chapel of the Sangro, and was renovated completely by Prince Raimondo di Sangro di Sansevero from 1749-71. The interior is filled with a intricate iconographic program of Raimondo’s devising that is related to family imagery and lore. Unfortunately, we were not allowed to take pictures inside, but once again we can turn to youtube to remedy the situation:

    Go comment!
  • Naples and Campania, Day Nine 21 May 2008

    May 21, 2008
    Mia Reinoso Genoni
    (Photo by Helen and Fraser Muirhead.)

    Moving outside the city walls, on Wednesday we started our day at the mid-14th-century Augustinian monastery of San Giovanni a Carbonara. The original site was home to many bloody tournaments, and the name “Carbonara” also reveals its earlier medieval identity as a town dump.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra).

    The church features numerous tombs, including the Monument to King Ladislao, located just behind the altar at the end of the nave.

    (Top two photos by Peter Goltra.)
    As these details show, the architectural idioms employed in this tomb are related to the political moment in which it was created. King Ladislao dies in 1414, leaving Joan II Anjou Durazzo as the shaky head of an Angevin kingdom threatened by a range of foes and “pretenders” to the crown. She commissions this tomb in 1428, dying herself in 1435 after having adopted Alfonso I. Because of the tenuous hold of the Angevins, the tomb is primarily constructed in a purposely retardataire way, to suggest connections to earlier Angevin monuments. As you can see in the first two details here, the upper levels of the tomb are medievalizing, reminding one of the portal of Sant’Eligio and the Tomb of Mary of Hungary in Santa Maria Donna Regina Vecchia. Here we see statues of Ladislao and Joan Enthroned, as well as Ladislao on horseback; as equestrian statues are not typical of funerary monuments in churches, it is clearly a statement of power. Fascinatingly, it is only in the lowest register, here pictured in the third detail, that we start to see a classicizing structure. It is a trabeated structure – a flat coffered vault – and harkens to the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum Augustus, as does the later Succorpo chapel in the Cathedral of Naples.
    (Left photo by Helen and Frasier Muirhead.)

    There are also two tombs in adjoining chapels that reveal the changing languages of and imagery employed in funerary monuments in Renaissance and Baroque Naples. Behind the altar is the circular Chapel of Caracciolo del Sole. It features the tomb of Sergianni Caracciolo (here on the left), who was Grand Senechal and Joan II’s lover. The tomb, created by Andrea da Firenze, dates to 1441. To the left of the altar is the 16th-century Chapel of Caracciolo di Vico, containing the Tomb of Galeazzo Caracciolo (here on the right).

    (Left photo by Marilyn Schmitt.)

    It was appropriate that we chose to visit San Giovanni a Carbonara today, as it was also the visit of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi. Fulfilling a campaign promise to hold his first cabinet meeting in Naples, he came to address the issue of garbage strike, so it was a very Carbonara day. On the left is a photo of the garbage outside our hotel, which miraculously disappeared right before his arrival, and on the right is one of the many posters of protest.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Avoiding the protesters and the rain, we turned to Santissimi Apostoli, a splendid church reconstructed by Francesco Grimaldi starting in 1610, for Cardinal Ascanio Filomarino. At this time it became a Theatine structure, as is San Paolo Maggiore.

    (Photo by Virginia Jansen.)

    Of greatest interest in the church is the Filamarino Altar, created by Francesco Borromini for Cardinal Filamarino. The Cardinal had very strong ties to the court of Pope Urban VII, and wished to create an altar testifying to his Romanness. This altar is the only work by Borromini in Naples, and in many ways it was a trial run for his work in the Oratorio in Rome. He signed it in c. 1640.
    Our final stop on a day filled with Berlusconi-induced detours was Santa Maria la Nova. It was originally built in 1279, created to house the Franciscan friars displaced by Charles of Anjou’s construction of the Castel Nuovo. In the 16th century it was completely remodeled. We were not allowed to take pictures of the interior, but many reproductions exist, primarily of the famous ceiling that contains 46 paintings, which in essence serve as examples of work by the most important Neapolitan school artists before Caravaggio’s arrival.

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  • Naples and Campania, Day Eight 20 May 2008

    May 20, 2008
    Mia Reinoso Genoni

     Moving away from the via dei Tribunali toward the waterfront of Naples, we began the day with a trip to Sant’Eligio. Founded in 1270, it was designed for French nationals who had been injured during Charles of Anjou’s 1266 and 1268 battles of conquest. The church eventually also served as hospital and cemetery. The portal is well known as being perhaps the “purest” example of what is known as “French Gothic” in Naples, with its slender colonnettes topped with crockets.

    (Left photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Because the interior underwent many renovations and was heavily damaged in World War II, its character is less coherent or definable, but the space retains a feeling of sanctuary.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Near to Sant’Eligio is Santa Maria del Carmine, whose origin is also linked to Charles’ conquest. It was erected on the site where Conrad Hohenstaufen was beheaded after losing the 1268 battle, built in this location in part to commemorate the victory and in part to purify the land. Very little of the original Angevin decoration and articulation remains; the facade seen here is 18th century.

    (Left photo by Peter Goltra.)

    A Carmelite church, it is also famous for its so-called Brown Madonna, housed in the center of the apse behind the altar. The Carmelites were an Eastern order, and the icon Byzantine, leading to its moniker.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Moving across town, we visited Santa Maria della Concezione a Montecalvario, the only church on the tour that dates wholly to the 17th and 18th centuries. Reconstructed completely by Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, the church typifies the Neapolitan Barochetto style: fluid, light, and playful, in some ways a mix of the earlier Baroque and what would be Rococo. The design is a circle with a Greek cross within it, making it octagonal and allowing for eight chapels.

    This view of the dome gives an excellent sense both of the beauty, lightness, and gaiety of the space, as well as of its structure.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Continuing along the via Toledo, we came to San Giacomo degli Spagnoli, the church founded in 1540 by Peter of Toledo, known as the “Urban Viceroy” for his many projects in the city. Of particular interest is the tomb of Peter and his wife Maria, pictured here. It was created by Giovanni da Nola, starting in 1539, with full assembly in 1570. The front features the couple in prayer along with a triumphal frieze depicting Holy Roman Emperor Charles V’s entrance into Naples.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Heading southeast from via Toledo we went to the Castel Nuovo, one of the highlights. Of all the sites on tour, it is the one with which I was most familiar beforehand, and it was sheer joy to visit it again. The Castel Nuovo was founded by Charles of Anjou in 1279 and then rebuilt by Alfonso I (the Magnanimous) of Aragon in the mid-15th century. It earned its name because there were already two royal castles, but Charles felt that the Castel d’Ovo was too isolated along the shore and the Castel Capuano was too far from the shore. Alfonso I increased the fortifications, and built the fantastic classicizing entryway, the so-called “Aragonese Arch.”

    Its majesty cannot be captured in a picture this size. Alfonso I was adopted by the last Angevin queen, Joan II Anjou Durazzo, during a power struggle. He was a lover of Antiquity and already knew many of Naples’ humanists before he came to power. Credited with working on the arch are a gamut of sculptors, including: the Milanese Pietro di Martino, the Dalmatian Francesco Laurana, the Roman Pietro Taccone, Isaia da Pisa, the Lombard Domenico Gagini, Andrea dell’Aquila, Antonio di Chelino, and the Catalan Pere Johan.

    The most fascinating element for me has always been the brilliant incorporation of the triumphant arch motif: the Aragonese Arch harkens to classical arches (the Arch of Trajan in Beneveto and the Arch of the Sergii in Pula), the medieval Gate of Frederick II in Capua, and to the new humanism of the Italian Renaissance, all in one fell swoop.
    New to me was the Room of the Barons, so-called because the feudal lords who had conspired against Ferrante I were arrested in it. Here we have a view of the spectacular vaulting of the octagonal dome.
    We ended our waterfront day at the Castel del’Ovo, seen here in romantically stormy circumstances. The fortification dates back to an Early Christian hermitage, and the building underwent a series of additions and renovations, including under Angevin and Aragonese rule. The legend of this “Castle of the Egg” is that Virgil, who was believed to have powers with which he could protect the city, hid a magic egg in a secret dungeon. This local myth remained so powerful that when one of the arches crumbled during the reign of poor beleaguered Joan II, she had to announce that she had personally cared for the egg in order to ensure the safety of the castle and maintain order.

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  • Naples and Campania, Day Seven 19 May 2008

    May 19, 2008
    Mia Reinoso Genoni

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)
    Monday morning we returned to sites in Naples, beginning with the Cathedral complex. Pictured here is the current entrance, facing the via del Duomo. Incorporating Early Christian and medieval structures with medieval and Early Modern decoration, the building is a tour of Naples in and of itself. In 1294, Archbishop Filippo Minutolo and King Charles II of Anjou began the building campaigns of the complex; as is evident from the chapels, renovation and expansion continued well into the Baroque.
    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    The cathedral complex includes one of the first Early Christian churches, built shortly after the Edict of Milan. The 4th-century Basilica of Santa Restituta is now accessed through an entrance halfway down the left aisle of the main cathedral. The Basilica, however, has a north-south orientation, which allowed its original entrance to face the decumanus.

    (Upper photo by Peter Goltra.)

    One reaches the 4th/5th-century Baptistery from the right side aisle of Santa Restituta. The mosaics are of extremely high quality and are deeply classicizing.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra).

    The main cathedral, dedicated to the Assumption, is oriented east-west, so that the altar is in its traditional location to the east, but the building now interferes with the Hippodamus plan of the city. The height of the nave and transept was changed by the addition of a gilt wooden ceiling in 1621, while the presbytery and apse were rebuilt in the 17th and 18th centuries.

    (Two left photos by Peter Goltra.)

    One of the chapels to the right of the altar is the late medieval Minutolo family chapel. It has some fine frescoes, including a wonderful Quo Vadis? scene, as well as fabulous crockets (left). The 1402 tomb of Enrico Minutolo (center) was the setting for Boccaccio’s story of Andreuccio da Perugia in the Decameron. Immediately to the left of the entrance there is an eye-catching fresco of Mary Magdalene (right), an image which today suggests the combination of Lady Godiva and a hair shirt.

    Under the altar is the Chapel of the Succorpo, or Crypt of San Gennaro. It is all’antica in form and structure, quoting the Temple of Mars Ultor in the Forum Augustus and utilizing a trabeated support system. It was built at the behest of Cardinal Oliviero Carafa, to house the bones of San Gennaro and to be the cardinal’s own eternal resting place. The Succorpo is thus both a reliquary and a funerary chapel, as well as a stunning example of Neapolitan classicisizing architecture. Pictured here is the 16th-century Roman sculpture of Oliviero Carafa, with the family stemma visible above.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    The Treasury is directly opposite Santa Restituta, reachable via an entrance in the middle of the right aisle of the main cathedral. It was built in response to a terrible plague that rampaged through Naples in 1526-7; begun in 1608, this chapel was dedicated to their patron saint, San Gennaro, and two medieval chapels were demolished for its construction. Francesco Grimaldi designed the space; Cosimo Fanzago created the gilt brass gate; it was frescoed by Domenichino and Giovanni Lanfranco; and it features painting by a number of masters, including Jose de Ribera.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    In front of the original entrance to the cathedral, in the Piazza Cardinal Sisto Riario Sforza, now stands the Guglia di San Gennaro, a votive spire typical of Naples. It was erected in response to a Vesuvian eruption of 1631. Designed by Cosimo Fanzango in 1637, it was completed in the 1650s. The dome of the cathedral complex is just visible in the upper left of this image. Across the street (via dei Tribunali) is the church of Pio Monte di Misericordia, which houses Caravaggio’s spectacular Seven Works of Mercy of c. 1607, dating to his first stay in Naples. Tragically we were not allowed to take pictures, but there is a short, grainy video on youtube that is of some aid:

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    North and just slightly west of the Cathedral are the churches of Santa Maria Donna Regina, Vecchia and Nuova. Pictured here is the entrance to SMDR Nuova. The original church was created under the patronage of Queen Mary of Hungary, begun in 1307. It was enlarged in the 17th century, and, somewhat bizarrely, in the campaign of 1928-34 G. Chierici separated it into two churches, the “old” and “new”.

    One reaches SMDR Vecchia through a separate entrance via a classicizing courtyard. The church consists of a single nave with a truss roof, which is now hidden by a 16th-century ceiling, and has a polygonal apse, as seen here. SMDR was created for the Clarissans. As such, it had two audiences, as was also true of Santa Chiara. Here we see a different solution to this problem of two audiences, both of whom needed to face the altar, but one of which needed to remain invisible:

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    This view is taken from an angle, just in front of the apse. Here we see the nun’s choir is actually elevated over the rest of the congregation, so that the Clarissans could celebrate mass but remain hidden. In the 1992 Gesta article “Hearing is Believing: Clarissan Architecture,” Caroline Bruzelius suggested that perhaps it was more important that the nuns were able to hear the mass, as opposed to seeing it; although they would have faced the altar, the height of their choir may well have precluded any view of it. At the bottom right of this image we see part of the tomb of Mary of Hungary…

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    seen in full in this photograph. It was built after her death in 1323, by Tino di Camaino, and became an important model for Angevin tombs.

    At the far west end of the via Tribunali, down the road from the original cathedral entrance and Pio Monte, we find the oddly difficult to photograph church of San Pietro a Maiella. It is dedicated to Pietro Angeleri, a hermit who lived on the Maiella, and who became Pope Celestine V. Tragically for him, he was better suited to being a hermit than a pope. He abdicated, fleeing to Montecassino, where, legend has it, Benedict arrested and then later poisoned him. The church dates to c. 1313-4, and is of interest in part because, as this view of the left aisle shows, it retains its original medieval facing. San Domenico, which we visited on the 22nd (Day Ten), had a similar appearance before it was stuccoed.

    I happen to be interested in images of the Madonna del Latte, and was quite taken with this one: the Madonna del Soccorso, attributed to an anonymous quattrocento painter, and located between the first and second chapels to the left of the presbytery.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Our last architectural stop for the day was San Paolo Maggiore, located on the via dei Tribunali back towards the Cathedral complex. It is Theatine, that is to say, a church of the Order of Clerks Regular (founded 1524). Francesco Grimaldi, who was a member of the Confraternity, designed it in the early 17th century. It was built on the site of an ancient temple, and the elevation of the staircase coincides with the height of the podium of the temple. The portico of the temple was incorporated into the facade, set back a bit, but a 1688 earthquake caused it to collapse. All that remains are the two columns still standing, seen in the photo above, and…
    in this detail. San Paolo Maggiore is the only church reproduced by Palladio, no doubt in large part due to this adept use of spolia.

    A number of the great Baroque masters active in Naples also contributed to the decoration and articulation of San Paolo Maggiore, including Francesco Solimena, Domenico Antonio Vaccaro, and Ferdinando Sanfelice.

    We had the remainder of the afternoon to ourselves. Some of us went to the Archaeological Museum, where we were treated to wonders like the Farnese Hercules, one of my favorite works. The size! The scale! The power!

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    In this, and other stolen moments, others went to Capodimonte – pictured here is the Porcelain Room.

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  • Naples and Campania, Day Six, 18 May 2008

    May 18, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni

    We had something of a lazy Sunday on the Amalfi coast, relatively speaking. In the town of Amalfi itself we focused on the beautiful medieval cathedral, and also spent time just enjoying the area.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)
    Amalfi Cathedral dates to the 10th through 12th centuries. It is a double cathedral complex, incorporating the earlier Church of the Crucifix as well as the main cathedral of San Andrea. In 1206 Amalfi acquired relics of St. Andrew, probably due to the 1204 Sack of Constantinople, and from this point onward was very invested in the apostolicity of the site. The facade pictured here was rebuilt in the late 19th century.

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    Like so many Campanian churches, San Andrea underwent a series of renovations throughout the centuries.

    The Church of the Crucifix primarily functions as museum now, and from it you enter the Crypt of St. Andrew:

    (Photo by Peter Goltra.)

    an elaborate space of apostolic celebration.

    (Photo by Virginia Jansen.)
    Of primary interest in the Amalfi Cathedral complex are the campanile and, especially, the Cloister of Paradise. In this view of the campanile framed by the arches of the Cloister, we see a melange of styles similar to that of the Salerno Cathedral.

    The upper register of the campanile is particularly playful and successful.

    The stepped arches and moldings of the Cloister are clearly influenced by the strong Islamic presence in this area; in addition, these structures are easy to mass produce and are light, making them an ideal solution for building upon a mountain.

    Of greatest import in regards to the Cloister (1266-8) are its origin and function. Bishop Augustariccio requested its creation, in order to have a cemetery for illustrious citizens – hence the name “Cloister of Paradise.” Caroline Bruzelius spoke of her recent research on the topic, conveying her belief that at this time cathedrals such as Amalfi were competing with the monastic orders for the burial of the noble and wealthy. In this way the Cloister must be considered along with the Camposanto in Pisa, for example. For those not lucky enough to be on this trip, you can read about these ideas in greater detail in her new essay “The Dead Come to Town: Preaching, Burying, and Building in the Mendicant Orders,” just published in The Year 1300 and the Creation of a New European Architecture, and/or await Bodies, Building, and the Medieval City, currently in progress.

    (Photo by Virginia Jansen).
    Continuing up the mountain, we came to the town of Ravello, perched atop a cliff. Here we were treated to the magnificent Villa Rufolo (1260), belonging to a family of great wealth that was described by Boccaccio, a family that first profited from and then were persecuted by the Angevins.

    In the original phase of profit, the Villa, with its exquisite and extensive gardens, was built as a pleasure palace to delight the senses.

    Also in Ravello is the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, founded by the first bishop of the city, Orso Papirio, in c. 1086-7.

    One of the highlights here is the Byzantinizing ambo built by Constantino Rogadeo in 1130, featuring before and after pictures from the story of Jonah and the whale.

    The cathedral is also dedicated to a local saint, Pantaleone, and our visit happened to coincide with his feast day, here documented in photos by Virginia Jansen (above).
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  • Naples and Campania, Day Five, 17 May 2008

    May 17, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni

    The first of our visits to Early Christian Naples was to the San Gennaro catacombs, where we were not allowed to take pictures, and our intrepid leader Caroline Bruzelius (left) translated in real time as our mandated local guide (right) spoke to us. These catacombs are very important to Naples, and, unlike the Roman catacombs, were never abandoned, staying in use throughout the Middle Ages (and serving as shelter in World War II). San Gennaro is the patron saint of Naples, though he was born in Benevento and martyred via decapitation in Pozzuoli. Our guide related a sweet explanation for this state of affairs, in which she characterized Naples as more open-minded than its neighbors: this open-mindedness and inclusiveness led to a dearth of martyrs so Naples had to borrow one from its more bloodthirsty brethren.

    Continuing our tour of Neapolitan catacombs, we visited those of San Gaudioso. Dating to the 5th and 6th centuries, they are located under the church of Santa Maria della Sanita. Here we see an eye-catching part of the catacombs: male and female skeletons painted onto the wall, with a space left for the actual skull.

    Santa Maria della Sanita was erected from 1602 to 1613 by Fra‘ Guiseppe Nuvolo over the catacombs, which had been rediscovered a few years earlier. This image shows the main dome, but there are 12 small domes created in line with the design of the nave and 2 side aisles.

    This view of the right aisle shows this division, and the relationship of a dome to the space below.

    Also in the Sanita quarter is the 18th-century Palazzo Sanfelice, designed by Ferdinando Sanfelice to be his own residence. The complexity and energy of these stairs is typical of Sanfelice’s work.

    Moving to Angevin Naples, we turned our attention to the late medieval church of Santa Chiara, a fascinating building in the history of Naples and of monastic architecture. It was built by Queen Sancia of Mallorca, an Aragonese noble who had wished to enter the convent but was forced to marry Robert of Anjou for political reasons. Erected from c. 1310-1340, it served a double audience of Franciscan friars and Poor Clares. This view is of the back of the church, taken from the Clarissan cloister, renovated in the 18th-century .

    The pious Sancia conceived of it as a true Franciscan institution, as opposed a conventualized one. She envisioned it as a return to simplicity and poverty, yet it served as the de facto church of the royalty. This view toward the altar shows its seemingly paradoxical identity: the church is essentially a Franciscan barn, but a sumptuous one, with Angevin funerary monuments, including that of Robert. This photo reveals something of the plainness, although the building is currently the result of a post-World War II “renovation” that stripped away Baroque decoration to create a Modernist-influenced vision of the original Angevin building.

    Most fascinating is the solution to the issue of the double populations, both of whom had to face the altar, but one of whom, the Clarissans, could not themselves be seen. Here the nuns’ choir is placed on the other side of the altar, separated from the main church by a wall with a grate, and each join of the grate was topped with an 8-inch spike to ward off inappropriately interested parties.

    In contrast, San Lorenzo Maggiore is a conventualized Franciscan institution, including a theological school that would have made use of the Chapter House pictured here.

    San Lorenzo Maggiore was originally a 6th-century church begun by John the Mediocre. In 1234 it was given to the Franciscans, and subsequently went through a series of medieval renovations and expansions in order to meet the needs of a populace desperate to have prime religious real estate: a tomb or other funerary marker within the building. As it stands today, the church has side chapels and a polygonal apse with a deambulatory and radial chapels to accommodate the demand for memorial spaces.

    Pictured here is the tomb of Catherine of Austria by Tino di Camaino, dated to c. 1323, located in the deambulatory.

    San Lorenzo is also built upon Early Christian ruins. Beneath the church a road and a market have been excavated, featuring stores such as the bakery seen here.

    Finally, for those not exhausted, nor faint of heart, nor claustrophobic, there was the option of taking the “Napoli Sotteranea” tour: a trip through ancient ruins primarily located under San Paolo Maggiore. Our guide, who was clearly channeling Roberto Benigni, showed us the Roman theater accidentally discovered in a local family’s basement and the Roman aqueducts that also served as shelter during World War II.
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  • Naples and Campania, Day Four, 16 May 2008

    May 16, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni

    Our focus on Campanian Antiquity ended with a series of visits to sites of the “Phlegrean Fields” (Campi Flegrei); derived from the Greek phlegraios, or “burning,” this area is west of Vesuvius and includes Naples, Baia, and Cumae. We started at Baia, which was a popular Roman resort and spa, featuring numerous volcanic hot springs. It was not harmed by Vesuvius, and was a site of interest for the ruling families of Naples throughout her long history. Pictured here is an image of the Aragonese fortress in Baia, taken from offshore during our boat trip.

    Baia was named after Baios, Odysseus’ navigator, believed to have died in the bay. The fortress now houses the Archaeological Museum of the Phlegrean Fields.

    In the museum are the remnants of the Nymphaeum at Punta Epitaffio (left) as well as a model reconstruction (right). The Nymphaeum was a luxury banquet hall, and the scene featured Odysseus and Baios serving Polyphemus.

    Our next stop was to the aptly named Piscina Mirabile, easily one of the most memorable and awe-inspiring structures I have ever encountered. So-named by Petrarch, it is a Roman reservoir that collected rainwater for the fleet at Misenium, dating to the Age of Augustus. The structure is 15 m deep, 70 m long, and 25.5 m wide, dug into the tufa and covered in cocciopesto to waterproof the walls. As this picture shows, many of us were simply awestruck by the Piscina…

    though John Martine, who kindly agreed to serve as my referent for scale (5’7″ – see below), expressed the sentiment best.

    Even these pictures, which cannot do justice to the magnificent structure, continue to amaze me. I find myself continually reminded of the Cathedral of Speyer in Germany. For more details on the Piscina, there is an English-language tourism information site that is helpful:

    Still agog, we turned our attention to Cumae, which was the earliest Greek colony on the Italian peninsula, dating to c. 740 BCE. Seen here is the entrance to the Sybil’s Grotto. As Virgil reports in the Aeneid, the Cumaean Sibyl was greatly venerated during the Age of Augustus. The Grotto is an intensely yonic structure, with a ponderous triangular entrance at which one was supposed to whisper questions, and receive the answer without ever catching a glimpse of the Sybil.

    This interior view accurately conveys the heft and power of the structure.

    A medieval fortress was built among the ancient ruins, and from it one can see the Arco Felice in the distance, evidence of the Roman infrastructure.

    After climbing all the way up the via Sacra one reaches the so-called Temple of Jupiter, where one can see both the (reinforced) remnants of Antiquity…

    as well as Early Christian adaptations, such as the baptistery basin.

    We ended our visit to the Phlegrean Fields with a trip to the Cratere della Solfatara, one of the youngest and best preserved volcanoes in the area. Also on site are a Roman sudatorium and a Bourbon Vulcanologic Observatory, further reminders of the many and layered histories of Campania.
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  • Naples and Campania, Day Three, 15 May 2008

    May 15, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni

    On Thursday we turned our attention to Pompeii, buried by Vesuvius in 79 CE. Beginning at the amphitheater, we tried to get a good sense of the urban planning of the city, with the intensity of our efforts documented in this picture. The amphitheater itself is perfectly captured here, in all of its startling completeness. This site was well-chosen as an entrance point, as we discussed how the amphitheater testifies to Roman colonial strategies. Retired soldiers were given land and rights and sent to populate colonial holdings; as these soldiers were trained in gladiatorial games amphitheaters were a necessity of colonial policy and urban planning. Also fascinating is the evidence of flora unearthed in areas like the palaestra, next to the amphitheater, and the surrounds: after the eruption of Vesuvius, cavities of plant roots remained, and casts made from them allow ethnobiologists to have an extensive knowledge of ancient Roman flora

    Pompeii provides significant evidence in regards to gardens, more important and integral in Roman society than in Greek. Here we see the peristyle garden of the House of the Gilded Cupids (Amorini Dorati). This garden would probably have featured boxwood, which Pliny praises as an aid for sight and memory, and arbutis, an edible red berry. In gardens such as this, hairpins and perfume ampules have been found, testifying to the presence of women tending the garden and the harvesting of herbs to make scents.

    Of the many, many sites of Pompeii, the visit to the Villa of the Mysteries stands out as a phenomenal experience. The famous frescoes are often reproduced but attempts to capture them often make the room seem much bigger than it is. This photo gives a better sense of the intimate scale of the room.

    This great image compares the original statue in the House of the Faun (left), now in the National Archaeological Museum of Naples, along with the copy placed in situ (right). A comparison of this sort is only possible on a trip that has the scope of this tour, visiting Pompeii and the institutions of Naples in one swoop.

    From the busy and extensive city of Pompeii we turned to a luxury Roman settlement, the Villa Oplontis in Torre Annunziata, which in many ways is comparable to the Villa San Marco we visited previous day. It is datable to 100 BCE-79 CE.

    The Villa Oplontis answers questions and, at the same time, poses new ones. In Pompeii the only second style wall paintings are in tiny houses, so it was originally believed that they were primarily meant to function as trompe l’oeil works to create the illusion of space. This hypothesis was challenged upon discovery of the second style paintings in the spacious rooms of the Villa Oplontis, such as this image of a sanctuary of Apollo, located in the sitting room.

    Logically, we rounded off the day with a trip to Herculaneum, which was probably a luxury suburb of Naples. Much less of the area has been excavated in comparison to Pompeii. From this photo of the entrance ramp, you can see how much lower the sea level was at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius than it is today.

    The change in sea level is also apparent in a view from the House of the Stags, as is the importance of the garden and the sumptuousness of the furnishings.

    One of the most exciting things about Herculaneum is that structures of two stories were preserved, such as the House of the Beautiful Courtyard, seen here.

    Thanks to David Steward, SAH Life Member, of the Center for Urban Earthquake Engineering, CUEE, Tokyo Institute of Technology, for bringing to my attention a great article on the eruptions of Vesuvius through the millennia: “Vesuvius Countdown” by Stephen S. Hall, National Geographic (Sept. 2007):
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  • Naples and Campania, Day Two, 14 May 2008

    May 14, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni

    On Wednesday we turned our attention to the Campania of Antiquity, starting with the Villa San Marco of Ancient Stabiae (now Castellmare di Stabia). Before being buried by the eruption of Vesuvius, Stabiae was a luxurious Roman resort area. The Villa San Marco dates to c. 100 BCE – 79 CE, and is a very well-preserved example of early imperial luxury architecture.

    Stabiae was buried at the same time as Pompeii and Herculaneum but reemerged much earlier – at the end of Antiquity. Charles of Bourbon was also especially interested in the site.

    It is notable that the villa contains an atrium despite the fact that one was not necessary: the villa is outside of a city and received plenty of light. The convention is nonetheless followed in this truly lovely example.

    The villa also had a canal of water, with the unusual addition of a waterfall.

    After our introduction to Antiquity, we briefly stopped at the Caseificio Vannulo to learn about the production of and to taste the famous Mozzarella di Bufala Campana. For this participant, the stop included a first – and quite surprising – encounter with a caffe latte made with buffalo milk.

    We moved on to Paestum, now known as Pesto and originally called Poseidonia by the Greeks when founded in c. 600 BCE. Seen here are the Temple of Hera I or the Basilica (front) and the Temple of Hera II or the Temple of Poseidon (left, rear). Dating to the mid-6th century BCE and the mid-5th century BCE, respectively, these two buildings are fascinating – they show the development of the Doric order in Magna Grecia, before and after the Parthenon.

    Hera I (foreground) has chubby columns and larger capitals, but we already see the use of entasis. It is an enneastyle temple, with 9 columns in the front.

    Hera II (back, left) has thinner columns and a more complicated architrave. Optical corrections include the catenary curve of the stylobate. It is a hexastyle temple, with 6 columns in the front.

    The exciting experimentation with and development of the Doric in Magna Grecia is most dramatically apparent when we look at the capitals of the two buildings: Hera I (left) and Hera II (right). Taken together, they are a truly magnificent visual expose of the architecture of Magna Grecia.

    The icing on the cake in Paestum is its museum, which includes a famous early example of Ancient Greek wall painting: The Tomb of the Diver (470 BCE). Teachers beware: reproductions of this iconic image do not do it justice! The paint itself is much more matte, while the figure and setting are really quite plastic, even in two dimensions.

    Jumping ahead in time though remaining local geographically, we moved on to Salerno Cathedral, built from 1076 to 1085 by the Norman ruler Robert II Guiscard and Bishop Alfanus, who was closely linked to Abbot Desiderius at Montecassino. As these views of the facade, atrium, and campanile show, this cathedral incorporates Early Christian, Romanesque, Byzantine, “Gothic” (“medieval modern”) and Islamic elements, as is particularly evident in its structure, decoration, and use of spolia. Viewing this coherent melange was one of the pure delights of the tour.

    Not content with the meager span of the tour – Antiquity to the 18th century – we charged on, voracious if bedraggled, and ended the day with a visit to the Ceramica Artistica Solimene, Vietri sul Mare – a 1951 ceramics factory designed by Paolo Soleri.

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  • Naples and Campania, Day One, 13 May 2008

    May 13, 2008
    by: Mia Reinoso Genoni

    The tour began the afternoon of the 13th, with a ride on the Naples funicular, immortalized in the 19th-century song Funiculi, Funicula (lyrics and music by Peppino Turco and Luigi Denza ). We went to the top of the Vomero Hill, where we were treated to a panoramic view of the city of Naples with Vesuvius looming in the distance.

    Of particular interest is the view of the Spaccanapoli, or “Naples-Splitter”; one of the original east-west streets of the Greek city of Neapolis, it became a Roman decumanus, and is now known as the via Benedetto Croce. The building with the green roof is the late medieval church of Santa Chiara.

    The spatio-temporal layering visible from Vomero hill is also omnipresent in the structures atop it. The Castel Sant’Elmo is a fortress named after a 10th-century church on site. It was begun by King Robert of Anjou in 1329, and the Viceroy Peter of Toledo reconfigured it in 1537-46. It was built in part by slicing through the rock to create what is essentially a moat without water.

    The Certosa di San Martino is a Carthusian monastery founded by Charles of Anjou, Duke of Calabria in 1325. In the 16th and 17th centuries two architects were responsible for a complete renovation, originally inspired in part by the Counter-Reformation: Giovanni Antonio Dosio (1589) and Cosimo Fanzago (1623).

    The interior is a testament to Mannerist and Baroque Neapolitan splendor, as well as a palimpsest of sorts: note Giovanni Lanfranco’s 17th-century frescoes inserted into the “Gothic” (or “medieval modern”) vaulting of the Angevin structure. Also fascinating is Fanzago’s use of marble. There were no nearby quarries, so marble came at a premium; Fanzago the sculptor solved this problem by creating slender marble revetment, seen here.

    The Chiostro Grande was designed by Dolsio in 1591-1609. Fanzago created the balustrade of the monk’s cemetery, seen here in the foreground.

    Examples of his deft architectonic-sculptural touch abound: here we see the skulls of the balustrade of the cemetery…

    while elsewhere we find the elements of greater articulation he added to Dosio’s design. Quite striking are the elegant moldings that frame the busts of Carthusian saints found on the portals.
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