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ARCHITECTURE AT THE WORLD'S COLUMBIAN
O the building for the department of Electricity was assigned an area 350 feet on the court and 700 feet long, the major axis running north and south. Though peculiarly fortunate in its site, having an important frontage on the lagoon as well as on the court, it was the smallest building of the principal group. It thus became incumbent on its architects, Messrs. Van Brunt & Howe of Kansas City, so to design this building that it should not be overwhelmed by the superior mass of its neighbors, and that, if possible, it might have such characteristics as should at once conceal and justify its inferiority of size; which inferiority, however, is only comparative, the actual area to be occupied being considerably in excess of that covered by the Capitol at Washington. Its purposes seemed to suggest a playful animation of outline, somewhat like that of the early French Renaissance in the châteaux, approaching even the fantastic joyousness of Chambord, combined with a certain delicacy or preciousness of detail, which might legitimately differentiate it from the rest in regard to expression, while, in respect to general style and feeling, and in loyalty to scholastic types, it should still belong to the same architectural family.
The area is conveniently divisible into 23foot squares by two systems of parallel lines crossing at right angles. Upon the intersection of these lines the columns and piers of the exterior and interior are placed. This module of 23 feet, being somewhat less than that adopted for the other buildings, assists in carrying into execution that more delicate scale of design, that nervousness of movement and avoidance of massiveness, which, as we have intimated, seem to be suggested by the idea of electricity. It soon became evident that the space set aside for this department of the Exposition, though covering 4.85 acres,would be insufficient to meet the demands of exhibitors, unless the largest possible amount of floor-space which could be gained within it should be made available to them. This at once suggested a second story of flooring, covering as large a space as the necessary openings for the admission of day
light from the roof into the central parts of the first story would admit. To obtain the obvious advantages of grand central avenues in both directions, it was clear that the building should be crossed by longitudinal and transverse naves, open from floor to roof and free from columns. The module of 23 feet enters fifteen times into the width of the building. Five of these modules, or 115 feet, are taken for the width of the naves, and they are covered with pitched roofs, supported by steel arched trusses, set 23 feet on centers, and lofty enough to permit a line of clearstory windows to be elevated above the rest of the building, which, for its part, is divided into five aisles on each side of the longitudinal nave, each one module wide, and these are covered with continuous flat roofs, with a series of skylights over the central aisles corresponding with openings in the second floor. Access to these galleries is obtained by grand staircases, one on each side of each of the four main central porches.
The main exterior architectural expression depends upon these simple primary conditions. Where these high naves abut against the center of each of the four façades, an important entrance pavilion is naturally established. As for the inclosing architectural screen walls around the rest of the building, the interior module of 23 feet naturally produces a corresponding series of divisions into bays, which must be 60 feet high to the cornice for the sake of that unity of style agreed upon for all the court buildings. These screen walls are hardly long enough to permit the arrangement of the bays in groups or large divisions, without by this means drawing attention to that comparative inferiority of size which it appeared to be the obvious duty of the architects to conceal or condone; nor do the conditions of the plan suggest such groups or divisions anywhere except in the center of each front. Each bay, therefore, is made complete in itself, and is so devised as to admit of repetition all around the building, interrupted only by such slight breaks, with variations of motif, as are essential to illustrate the plan, to furnish bases for frequent towers, and to prevent the monotony from becoming mechanical and fatiguing, but not of sufficient emphasis to clash with that expression of continuity which is recognized as an important element in noble architecture, and which, in the present case, is an echo of the plan.
8 feet high, which is made continuous to prevent the composition from becoming disjointed, but having the cornice and the paneled attic above the cornice broken around them. Each pilaster, so emphasized anddetached, is finished with a pedestal upholding a staff for banners and for a constellation of electric lights, thus carrying the vertical line lightly to the sky, and securing an ef fect somewhat similar to that of a pinnacled buttress. This order of piers, or pilasters, is adjusted to the proportions and details of the highly enriched Corinthian of Vignola. Between each pair of pilasters the bay is divided horizontally, on the line of the gallery floor, by a subordinate Ionic entablature, supported by two jamb pilasters and by a central column of that order, the space above being treated with an arch deeply embayed. Behind this architectural screen are placed the windows, set in bronze frames. These openings occupy an unusually large proportion of the wall-veil, because of the necessity of throwing abundant light across the five ranges of aisles in both stories. Near each end of the façades this continuity of similar open bays is relieved, or punctuated as it were, by a solid bay of the same width, but of slightly increased projection, pierced with a small window in each story, the upper one having a balcony supported by The sculptured brackets. narrow pavilions thus formed are finished on the attic line with highly enriched pediments, and form the basis of a more emphatic expression of vertical energy by supporting in each case a slender open campanile of the Composite order, rising suddenly from behind the balustrade of a platform, on the corners of which are planted tall candelabra with groups of electric globes. On the long fronts, midway between each end pavilion and the central
CARL ROHL SMITH, SCULPTOR.
Now the horizontal line, which is the predominant characteristic of all classical buildings, implies dignity and repose. But the present object is to obtain in some way an expression of brightness and movement. To this end the piers, regularly spaced, 23 feet on centers, along the façades, are treated as boldly projecting pilasters, resting upon a stylobate
porch, the succession of similar bays is again broken by a postern doorway, set in a narrow intermediate and subordinate pavilion, crowned with a low square dome decorated with eagles.
As we have already intimated, where the transept abuts against the center of the long east and west fronts, an important central pavilion is developed. In pursuance of the scheme of this design, which is to take advantage of every opportunity to emphasize its vertical elements, this pavilion is flanked by two towers, one bay wide and three bays apart. Each of the towers supports an open belvedere, crowned with a high, round attic, decorated with festoons and vases, and roofed with a stilted dome, after the manner of Sir Christopher Wren. Each of these belvederes finishes with a girandole, 195 feet from the ground, furnished with a corona of incandescent lights under a reflecting canopy. Between these towers projects a flatroofed portico, composed of columns 42 feet high, continuous with the order of Corinthian pilasters of which we have spoken, arranged upon a plan with rounded corners, so that, by the necessary multiplication of breaks and returns in the entablature at the angles, the seriousness of the more classic motif might be tempered to the lighter mood to which the architecture of this building is committed. Above is a high Composite attic with windows, set between the towers, and finishing with a balustrade, decorated with obelisks. Twenty-three feet behind this balustrade the gabled end of the transept roof may be seen.
DRAWN BY E. ELDON DEANE.
The north front, toward the picturesque lagoon, being, by its position, relieved to a certain extent from strict conformity to the classic ideal, seemed to invite a greater freedom of treatment than was admissible elsewhere. Here, therefore, the order of the façades, after
passing the point of demarcation furnished by the corner pavilions, is made to sweep around two apsidal projections, 115 feet in diameter, between which is recessed the north porch, composed of two towers, similar to those of the east and west porches, flanking a broad central pavilion, pierced with a great arched
window, corresponding with the arch-lines of the steel trusses in the long nave, and divided by transoms and mullions. The sky-line between these towers is made horizontal, and the spandrel panels of the arch are occupied by gigantic reclining figures typifying Investigation and Discovery. The porch is formed by the Ionic order of the façades, which is extended between the apses in the form of an arcade of five arches supporting a wide terrace or balcony.
Up to this point, for the reasons stated, the design of the Electricity Building is characterized by an emphasis of vertical expression un
usual in academical architecture, the sky-line being fretted by ten campaniles, varying in height from 154 to 190 feet, and by the four square intermediate domes, which mark the position of the posterns. But, on the south front, it was necessary to make a concession to that spirit of grandeur and ceremony which should prevail around the great court of the Exposition. Accordingly the vertical line, predominant elsewhere in the building as a foil to its long, low, horizontal mass, is here subordinate to the spirit of repose. To this end the campaniles on the corners are set back from the front, but connected with it by gabled pavilions, 23 feet wide, and the principal entrance of the building on this side is treated as a triumphal arch, 60 feet wide and 92 feet high, of which the archivolt springs from the main cornice as an impost, the jambs being formed of coupled full columns of the main order with corresponding pilasters. This arch is crowned with a classic pediment containing an escutcheon, which bears the electromagnet as a symbol of electricity, and is supported on each side by a female figure representing the two principal industries connected with this science -electric lighting and the telegraph. Above, in contrast with the somewhat fantastic movement of the sky-lines elsewhere, rises a solid elevated attic, forming a severe horizontal outline against the sky. This central mass is buttressed on each side by great consoles, supporting emblematic statues and resting on pedestals, continuous with the clearstory of the nave, and embellished with medallions of Morse and Vail, the American discoverers of the electric telegraph. The most famous and most cherished association of America with the history of the science of electricity is the discovery of the electric properties of lightning by Franklin. The architects determined, therefore, that a statue of the patriot-philosopher should stand under this great arch, and that to him the main porch on the court should be dedicated. This work was intrusted to the Danish-American sculptor, Mr. Carl Rohl Smith, whose conception of the subject is happily realized in a spirited figure, 15 feet high, representing Franklin as the philosopher, with the historic kite and key, observing the storm-clouds. This noble statue is elevated on a high pedestal in the center of the porch, and behind and over it is formed a colossal niche, of which the triumphal arch is the frame, covered with a half dome or conch, divided by ribs, and profusely enriched with bas-reliefs, recalling, in general aspect, the much admired hemicycle or belvedere in the court of the Vatican palace, and, in detail, the characteristic stucco embellishments in the vaults of the Villa Madama. Around its curved walls is carried the great order of the building,
with grouped pilasters. On the main frieze of this niche is written the famous epigram of Turgot in honor of Franklin:
ERIPUIT COELO FULMEN SCEPTRUMQUE TYRANNIS.
In the five bays of the niche are the main doorways, three of which, in the back, open into the central nave; the other two, toward the front, give access to an open ambulatory or portico, which forms the first story of the court frontage of the building. To this portico the subordinate Ionic order of the façades is arranged to form a screen, with two detached columns in each bay. Upon the frieze of this order, where it occurs in the hemicycle, appear the names of the most famous deceased Americans connected with electricity: Henry, Morse, Franklin, Page, and Davenport; while outside, upon the same frieze, in alphabetical order all around the building, are the names of sixty-six great electricians of all ages and countries, whose names have passed into history. The fame of living electricians must rest upon their displays within the structure.
So far as practicable, the decorations of this building are devised to suggest its uses, the conventional embellishments of the orders being varied by the frequent recurrence of the electromagnet and lamp, and the recesses of the hemicycle and porticos being enriched with color. It is intended also to illuminate and emblazon the architectural features at night with an electric display of unprecedented interest and magnitude.
The architectural modeling of this building was done under a contract with the Phillipson Decorative Company of Chicago, the sculpture of the main pediment being from the hand of Mr. Richard Bock of Chicago.
THE suggestion which has been made that that part of the Electricity Building toward the lagoon would permit of a freer treatment, by reason of the more natural conditions in the landscape of that region as compared with the artificial character of the court, has a much larger and more important application. All the buildings which we have been considering, because they formed a distinct group,and inclosed an area where art was everything and nature nothing, were for obvious reasons developed according to classic formulas. It seemed proper that, in this entrance-court of the World's Exposition, the world should be received with a formal and stately courtesy, illustrated and made intelligible by an architecture which is the peculiar expression and result of the highest civilizations of history. It was like the use of the Latin language, which, by monumental