Introduction to the History of Western Architecture August 26, 2013 Final Written Assignment Non-traditional (Billingsgate) And Traditional Architecture (Batcher Mansion) On our way home from dropping the kids off at the mid-point between Albany and Hilton Head Island my wife and I decided to deviate from driving through the 1-95 route we normally take. Making the better choice to travel through the beautiful countryside of Pennsylvania saved us countless hours of never ending traffic. As we rolled through the countryside of the historic state we had to make a couple of stops.
At one of the stops we picked up a Pennsylvania vacation guide. Once home I took a few minutes to browse through the guide. To my delight I found two places I would like to visit the next time we drive through Pennsylvania. One is not what you think. The first place I put on our agenda the next time through the Keystone State is a model train barn with miles of track. As a beginning enthusiast of model railroading I took interest in what the Coho Coho Barn has to offer. The next item on our agenda would have to be Billingsgate (Figure 1) in Mill Run, PA, roughly 60 miles southeast of Pittsburgh.
Billingsgate is an architectural marvel designed by Frank Lloyd Wright, arguably America’s most famous architect and as luck would have it is one of the architects mentioned in the module assignment. Wright designed the house for his clients, the Kaufmann family and was completed by 1939. Edgar Kaufmann was a businessman and philanthropist. The family owned Kaufmann Department Store in the sass’s which now part of the Macy’s chain. Mr.. Kaufmann and his wife, Lillian, had one son, Edgar Jar. The Kauffmann used Billingsgate as a mountain retreat like many other Pittsburghers.
They could hike in the forest, swim and fish in the streams, go horseback riding, and do other outdoor activities. Following true to their philanthropy, the Kauffmann became acquainted with the Conservancy when they were involved with the early acquisition of Friendlier Peninsula, later to become the cornerstone of Peephole State Park. Their son, Edgar Kaufmann Jar. , commented on the importance of Billingsgate to Western Pennsylvania Conservancy Design & development when he said, Such a place cannot be possessed.
It is a work of man for man; not by a man for a man. Over the years since it was built, Billingsgate has grown ever more famous and admired, a textbook example of modern architecture at its best. By its very intensity it s a public resource, not a private indulgence. Billingsgate came to the Conservancy with its buildings, collections and site intact. As stated by Loll in a travel log in 2005, Billingsgate is truly unique. The most notable feature was a series of cantilevered balconies protruding from every side and level of the house.
In figure 2 large cantilever anchors are embedded in the rock. In breaking with traditional architecture Wright designed the house using the cantilevered system to support the structure. Since there was no visible support, they seemed to Just magically extend from the walls of the house. Frank Lloyd Wright believed in organic design, which meant that he wanted the structure to blend in and be a part of its surrounding environment. To accomplish this he used sandstone quarried right on the property so that it matched perfectly with the surrounding stone.
The site Billingsgate pictures: photos of Kaufmann house above the waterfall, states beautifully the following with regards to figure 3: Notice that the warm glow from the interior lighting resonates with the autumn colors in this fall photo. Dramatic cantilevered terraces reflect the similar structure of he rock ledges below. Roomy terraces on either side of the living room on the main level, as well as the large terrace above it, create strong horizontal lines balanced by the almost unbroken vertical lines in the tower on the left (which in addition to stone columns over 10 meters tall, has 3 stories of floor-to-ceiling windows).
These and many other clear horizontal and vertical lines in the house may be compared with the formation of the rock, with the horizontal and vertical of ground and trees, and with the water moving horizontally in the stream (Bear run) and vertically as “falling eater” in the form of waterfalls (visible in the photo and downstream Just out of view in this photo). The falls visible in the photo break at an angle, creating an illusion of water flowing out from beneath the middle of the house.
The sound of the flowing water fills the house continuously. The website Billingsgate pictures: also states the following about figure 4: There is no grand front entrance, if that meaner big double doors flanked by decorations and symbolizing the barrier between outside and inside. Rather, the continuity of inside and outside is emphasized, in keeping with the theme of a ruinous and natural relationship to the setting.
Other examples of this, besides everything mentioned above, include windows wrapping all the way around 3 sides of the huge living room, and at the corners where two window panes meet – here and at other places in the house such as the west tower (as well as in other Frank Lloyd Wright houses) – there are no bulky vertical support beams. The Kaufmann house affectionately known as Billingsgate is non-traditional architecture if the definition of traditional architecture is simply that which is having historical precedent and ornamental design.
As I look at each photo of the structure I am immersed in the beauty of the simplistic lines and the sense of airiness and the manner in which it appears to float over the waterfall. Additionally, I feel a sense of calm and a desire to find more photos. This building has made its own historical precedent in the way it uses nature as its filler while using strong steel as the roots that allow the building to stand freely amongst the trees. When it comes to traditional architectural form, The Batcher Mansion Inn stands as one of the premier examples. The Batcher Mansion is a stately and renowned Saratoga Inn, with quite a history.
This elaborate Victorian home turned inn sits in historic Saratoga Springs, NY. As it is put into words by the Innkeeper on the Inn’s website: One of the outstanding landmarks of Saratoga Springs, it is an architectural pastiche of High Victorian Eclecticism combining French Renaissance Revival, Delineate and Egyptian influences. It is crowned by a mansard roof and its tower is topped by the evocation off minaret. Built in 1873 by George Sherman Batcher, it still sits majestically on the corner of Circular Street and Whitney Place with a commanding mintage of Congress Park, the heart of historic Saratoga Springs.
Resplendent with beautiful gardens, architectural detail and magnificent views, this Saratoga Bed and Breakfast now hosts guests in the timeless tradition of grace and ease, reminiscent of another century. The history lesson continues: George Sherman Batcher began life on July 25, 1837 in the tiny village of Photoelectrical, in the township of Edinburgh, Saratoga County. He was related to Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence as well as to the great orator and statesman Daniel Webster. Batcher received his legal education at Harvard Law School where he received a AL.
B in 1856, when at age 21 he was elected to the New York State Assembly he was at that time the youngest person yet elected. In 1861 he married Catherine Cook, daughter of the state’s comptroller, and they had three children but only their daughter Kate, born May 19, 1870 survived infancy. It was in 1873 that Batcher commissioned the Albany, NY architectural firm of Nichols & Walcott to build the magnificent mansion at 20 Circular Street, which Batcher named Easer-el-Enough, Arabic for palace of pleasure. Built at a cost of $100,000. 0 its three floors contained, among other features, eleven bedrooms, five bathrooms, two steam-vapor furnaces, a music room, a library, and was fully illuminated by gas light. Its large basement kitchen fed food to the butler’s pantry off the formal dining room by dumbwaiters. The plans for the house were considered so unique and its modern features so effective that they were copyrighted. The intricate woodworking includes decorative molding and beautifully carved inlays, that when adding some gilded mirrors, furnishings of the period, Oriental USGS, and elegant chandeliers and the refurbishing is as close to the original as one can get.
An excerpt from Saratoga Springs Crown Jewel Enlivens Upstate New York by Gail Rudder Kent on the Inn’s website Handsome paneled wainscoting runs the length of the center hall, with a coffer ceiling; spectacular high-arched doorways that conceal imposing pocket doors lead from living room to library to dining room – framed and capped by intricate pediments with neoclassic details; tall recessed windows are Romanesque with ornamental cornices; and each capacious room is warmed by a fireplace of carved arable.
The red-and-gray slate mansard roof in figure 10 is bifurcated by dormers, each accented by a huge clamshell arch; the ivory stucco facade is studded by a myriad of ornate bays and balustrade balconies, and, as if that weren’t enough to impress, its conical tower resembling a minaret is right out of Arabian Nights. Our lives are vastly different today than 100 years ago when life was slower, less mobile and more lethargic. Our ancestors were not lazy nor were they boring. What happened is technology has advanced so much in the last 100 plus years that our ivies have gotten faster, increasingly mobile and definitely more dynamic.
The advancement in technology has allowed us to make better and stronger materials for building. The innovation that comes with strength has allowed for the non-traditional architect and builder to plan and build more open floor plans with independent support for walls, flooring and roof tops. Strong traditional values continue to play a role in how an architect plans a design. Billingsgate will someday, if not already, become a traditional form with the straight lines and the use of nature as part of the structure.
What Billingsgate lacks in satirical precedent is more than made up in the bold design and the manner of which Wright designed this classic non-traditional structure. When it comes to falling into the traditional form, the Victorian mansion designed by Nichols & Walcott for Batcher takes the cake. In this case tradition was dictated by society not so much as a “have to” but more as a “need to”. The grandiose nature of the structure was perfect amongst the wealthy and above nearly all people’s financial meaner back in the late sass’s. Though not as popular or noteworthy to the architectural world as Billingsgate, the
Batcher Mansion is a notable location to stay for a weekend as a meaner to get away from the modern world and relish in a time long forgotten. An architect wants to make a name for them-self. The “need to” as dictated by society refers to the basics of form and technology of the era. What we find in the pyramids of Egypt, the Parthenon, Pantheon and others are worldwide awe inspiring works of art beyond their days in technology yet are the very reason why architects push the boundaries even with today’s technological advancements. All buildings still need doors to enter into.
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