Architecture for Urban Sketchers (2)

July 28, 2012

Here are more doodles based on the Chiesa San Lorenza in Milan. On the right I’ve started with the floor plan, minus the front portico and chapels, and progressed to working out how the roofs work following the protruding curves of columned walls. The third drawing down aims to understand how the Baroque octagonal dome drum fits (the church underwent fires and collapse and was extensively remodelled in the Baroque). The last is a drawing based on the photo in Copplestone’s World Architecture, again (rather self-consciously) ignoring the portico.

The 5th-century architect who thought up the tetraconches, the curves on all four sides, was truly inspired. What if a less inspiring architect stuck to two squares of straight walls? I’ve imagined this wholly less interesting scenario in the sketches on the left. Thus the roofs above them would have been oblong. Finally, the imposition of an octagonal shaped dome drum compounds the design problem visually.

I’ve gone with the idea of the four corners of the building being dominant towers. Anyone looking at the building today will be somewhat confused, because the towers are different heights, have been remodelled over the ages.

Once I finish with tackling the portico, I will move on to Sta Costanza in Rome and San Vitale in Ravenna both of which feature the double-shell or tetraconch design. This style seems to have come and gone quite quickly (4th to 6th centuries) but I feel myself being dragged inexorably towards Hagia Sofia. I passed the Gallipoli Mosque at Lidcombe in the train last week, so I guess that is all grist to this particular mill at this time.

References – Professor Dale Kinney’s excellent historical background and architectural analysis of this building. I particularly like the idea of the congregation being able to get closer to the action here compared to the basilica oblong-shape. I wonder how many contemporary Christians realise they have gone full circle: from being close to the action originally, to being cut off from the religious and the altar via a rood screen (certinly the religious had the wondrous light-filled area to the east in Notre-Dame-de-Paris all to themselves, leaving the congregation in the dark at the western end – this so annoyed one monarch that he had a walkway installed overhead so he could see what the religious were doing up and past the rood screen…) to contemporary churches where the priest officiates in the centre of the congregation.

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