1923 - National Mall, City of Washington
Palazzo as gallery on the Mall, designed by Charles A. Platt for railroad magnate Charles Lang Freer. The most well-known story about Freer and the arts has to do with the Peacock Room created by James McNeill Whistler who was greatly influenced by Chinese prints and ceramics and it shows in many of his portrait paintings. Thanks to Freer, it's here - as were live peacocks in the courtyard, until the 1970's.
The gallery is home to many of Whistler's works, but I should probably mention that the Freer is mostly dedicated to Asian arts; screens and porcelain. Alas, my visits always have a singular goal: to visit my old friend "Breakfast In The Loggia" 1910, by John Singer Sargent. As far as a painter's painter is concerned, it doesn't get better than JSS - I mean, how on earth did he get so many pigments into a single brush stroke?
(reprint from 1913 mongraph- sure wish I had the original)
North Facade - facing National Mall
Facing Independence Avenue
Original Rules of Basket Ball
Winter 1891 - Springfield, Mass
Visited the Nelson-Atkins Museum last Friday for the opening of "James Naismith's Original Rules of Basket Ball" exhibit. Two typed pages defining the original 13 rules were purchased at auction last December for $4.3 million. The new owner intends to install the historic documents in a place of honor at the University of Kansas where Dr. Naismith was coach and athletic director from 1919-1937. His KU coaching record of 55 wins and 60 losses makes him the only losing basketball coach in Jayhawk history.
Dr. James Naismith - Inventor of Basketball
Original Rules of "Basket Ball"
1. The ball may be thrown in any direction with one or both hands.
2. The ball may be batted in any direction with one or both hands.
3. A player can't run with the ball. The player must throw it from the spot on which he catches it, allowance to be made for a man running at good speed.
4. The ball must be held in or between the hands; the arms or body must not be used for holding it.
5. No shouldering, holding, striking, pushing, or tripping in any way of an opponent. The first infringement of this rule by any person shall count as a foul; the second shall disqualify him until the next basket is made or, if there was evident intent to injure the person, for the whole of the game. No substitution shall be allowed.
6. A foul is striking at the ball with the fist, violation of rules three and four and such described in rule five
7. If either side makes three consecutive fouls, it shall count a goal for the opponents (consecutive means without the opponents in the mean time making a foul).
8. A goal shall be made when the ball is thrown or batted from the grounds into the basket and stays there (without falling), providing those defending the goal do not touch or disturb the goal. If the ball rests on the edges, and the opponent moves the basket, it shall count as a goal.
9. When the ball goes out of bounds, it shall be thrown into the field of play and played by the first person touching it. In case of dispute the umpire shall throw it straight into the field. The thrower-in is allowed five seconds. If he holds it longer, it shall go to the opponent. If any side persists in delaying the game, the umpire shall call a foul on that side.
10. The umpire shall be the judge of the men and shall note the fouls and notify the referee when three consecutive fouls have been made. He shall have power to disqualify people according to Rule 5.
11. The referee shall be judge of the ball and shall decide when the ball is in play, in bounds, to which side it belongs, and shall keep the time. He shall decide when a goal has been made and keep account of the baskets, with any other duties that are usually performed by a scorekeeper.
12. The time shall be two fifteen-minute halves, with five minutes rest between.
13. The side making the most points in that time is declared the winner.
1700 - College of William & Mary, Virginia
The oldest college building in the United States isn't in Cambridge (Massachusetts Hall, 1718); the "Main Building" on the William & Mary campus has been in use as academic facility since it's completion in 1700. According to the 1794 writings of Hugh Jones: "...the building is beautiful and commodius, being first modeled by Sir Christopher Wren..." Originally called simply "College" was renamed for Wren in the 20th century. It burned and was rebuilt twice: 1716, 1869; large scale renovation/restoration projects were executed in the 1930's and again in the 1960's, and yet again in 1999-2000. The interior Great Hall and classrooms are still used as they were when Thomas Jefferson was a student (class of 1762).
Wren Building, W&M (HABS photo)
Buried away, among the many wacked-out facts learned while at architecture school - I always remember being told that the genius of Thomas Jefferson was unlimited. Included among his talents - that he could tie arteries and, in his day, was the only person in the commonwealth to have ice at his house in the summer time. I am now reading an interesting biography of Sir Christopher Wren and he seems to me the same sort of genius. Prior to creating some of the world's most brilliantly composed structures, he was well established as an astronomy academic and with a scientific interest in performing splenectomies on dogs. Even while his career as an architect was taking off, he held the posts of Professor of Astonomy-Gresham College, Savilian Professor, and Fellow of Royal Society while publishing on the following subjects: "Fabrick of Muscles" 1677, "Rectilinear Motion of Comets" 1667, and "The Geometry of Sailing, Swimming, Rowing, Flying and the Fabrick of Ships" 1670.
Sir Christopher Wren (1632-1723) is almost singularly responsible for the development of an English signature in Baroque and Mannerist architecture; his work (most prominently St. Paul Cathedral in London) places him along side Shakespeare and Dickens in the British cultural pantheon. During my most recent trip to London, as pilgrimage to Wren (and Hawksmoor) designed churches - I visited some exquisite jewels which I recommend going out of your way for, such as: St. Stephen Walbrook, St. James Garlickhythe, St. Clement Danes, and St. Bride's. Also very worth the journey down the River Thames, is the Royal Hospital and Naval College in Greenwich.
Royal Chelsea Hospital - 1692
St. Stephen Walbrook, London - 1680
Considering that rap stars and football players are more treasured by contemporary society than architects; maybe it's become the fault of such singular professionalism as architects that has led us astray. With such a current array of mediocre, uninspired, and ego-filled buildings - is it really difficult to imagine why the general public is so indifferent toward the "craft" and its practitioners? Anyone for a cheap splenectomy - I've the "hands of a surgeon."
Entrance to Gardens, Fontainebleau, France
1924 - Daniel MacMorris
Daniel MacMorris is mostly recognized by his contribution as a public muralist painter and his devotion to the beauty, color and truth of classical genre painting. He is also known for a few very well-known portraits of Marcel Duchamp, Forrest Clare "Phog" Allen, Auguste Francois Marie Gorguet, and Leon Gaspard.
"The Applied Arts", 1932 - South Vestibule Lunette,
and ceiling vault murals, Nelson-Atkins Museum of Fine Art
In the 1930's, MacMorris painted three Nelson-Atkins South Vestibule Lunette panels symbolizing the fine arts, the applied arts, and architecture. He also painted the decorative ceiling vaults in the South Vestibule with very clear connection to Neo-classical and Renaissance imagery - festoons reminding me of Raphael's loggia in the Vatican and the garden-facing loggia at Villa Farnesina in Trastevere.
MacMorris also painted all the vaulted ceilings surrounding the Nelson-Atkins Rozzelle Court atrium. Here he used faded pigments, painted directly on the ceiling plaster (while on his back!) and the paintings look wonderfully ancient as a result.
Rozzelle Court Ceiling Vault, 1938
MacMorris played a major role in the murals of Memory Hall at Liberty Memorial in Kansas City. He famously edited the Pantheon de la Garre originally created by Auguste M. Gorguet.
Liberty Memorial dedicated to the fallen soldiers of World War I was completed in 1926, located on a hillock on the edge of downtown Kansas City. A 1921 winning design competition entry by Harold Van Buren Magonigle (McKinley Memorial, Canton, Ohio; Monument to USS Maine, Columbus Circle) features a tall memorial tower with eternal flame, two exhibition halls and two colossal Egyptian sphinx-like sculptures "Memory" and "Future", their heads shrouded by wings in order to shield their view from pain and suffering of war and skepticism of things to come.
In 2006, after major renovations, the National WWI Museum opened underneath the Memorial Court; exhibits and curation of the museum collection rival any Smithsonian Museum I've visited.
"Dedication of the Memorial Site, November 1, 1921"
1948 - Memory Hall, Liberty Memorial
This MacMorris mural on the West-most wall depicts the portraits of the five allied military leaders: General John J. Pershing (USA), Marshal Ferdinand Foch (France), Admiral David Beatty (Great Britain), General Armando Diaz (Italy), and General Baron Jacques (Belgium) in 1921 as they presided as distringuished speakers at the Liberty Memorial site in Kansas City - and is record of the only time all allied leaders were together in one place at the same time. The foreground is llustrated with 15 vestal virgins - in the background: 100,000 spectators and Union Station.
Pan American Union Building
(Organization of American States)
1910 - Washington, D.C.
From Paul P. Cret, Dec. 22 1940 (ten commandments):
- Don't: try to please everybody; try to please yourself first of all.
- Don't: save time during the study of a project - it will save time during its construction, and worry too.
- Don't: believe you know it all; a building calls on many craftsmen; make use of them.
- Don't: promise your client the moon at bargain prices; there is a day when bids come in!
- Don't: classify commissions into those worth taking trouble and those not worth it. People judge you on both.
- Don't: believe architecture was invented ten years ago.
- Don't: repeat your story. Try to tell a better one if you can.
- Don't: think a design is good when it is merely different and, if you believe, a new one.
- Don't: hope for a formula to something beautiful.
- Don't: worry too much about what others are doing. "The only competition worthy of a wise man is with himself."
1907 competition entry drawing from the office of Paul Phillippe Cret for 17th street facade.
Paul Cret travelled to Mexico to research its architecture. "And thereby was able to present a dialogue between function and aesthetic, artifice and nature, and perhaps most memorably, between the Classical architecture that defines much of the nation's capital and the architectural traditions, both ancient and colonial of Latin America." (Curatorial descrition from House of the Americas Turns 100 Years: Paul Phillippe Cret and the Architecture of Dialogue)
Entablature detail with polychromatic brackets.
1801 - Washington D.C.
John Philip Sousa, born a few blocks away from the Marine Barracks, in SE Washington, joined the Marines as a musician apprentice at age 13. Most famous for composing marches the most familiar to my ear is The Washington Post March - for a newspaper? Awesome!. He also composed a march for the Wildcats of KSU and of course, Semper Fidelis for his loved Marine Corps.
Who doesn't love a parade? Especially as bayonetted rifles are being flung through the air!
Last Friday I had the chance to sneak into the Marine Barracks for a standing room spot to watch the Marine Corps Evening Parade. While the Barracks and Commandant's Residence are historic (Thomas Jefferson selected this site for the barracks in 1801) and stately in their own right - the architectural experience really belongs to the formation and drilled movements of the Marines.
U.S. Patent Office
1836 - City of Washington, District of Columbia
I am currently on assignment in Washington (more about with a future post), and had a chance to visit one of my favorite buildings designed by one of my favorite American architects for this post. Prior to designing the US Patent Office (currently serving as National Portrait Gallery and American Museum of Art), Robert Mills designed our country's first Washington Monument in Baltimore, circa 1815. Mills was a master of Greek revival designs - his buildings are successful on every scale, from the urban monument, to column capital and entablature profiles. Mills' work in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Richmond and Washington helped to define a young country's language of building and established the necessary skills as that of professional status.
His talent for architecture was first noticed by Thomas Jefferson, who helped Mills by providing him access to books on Palladio, etc. Jefferson also recommended Mills to Benjamin Latrobe for whom Mills apprenticed in 1802. Mills won the 1836 design competition for the National Washington Monument, for which construction was started in 1848, but not completed until 1884. Robert Mills died in 1855.
Early 20th century photo of US Patent Office (from Historic American Building Survey collection).
View from within the South Portico. The South wing was built using sandstone from a Virginia quarry - as where the White House and original Capitol building both sealed with white paint to minimize erosion (hence "White House," by the way). The East, North and West wings were built using white marble quarried in Maryland. The basement level is clad with a Maryland grey granite.
North facade of South Wing - with segment of Sir Norman Foster's atrium design. It is unfortunate that the Museum felt the need to enclose this courtyard space. I have always thought that the simplicity of the courtyard and its plantings made it one of the most successful in Washington. Now, it's a bit of a cafe/party space.....
Columns with super-capitals in Lincoln Hall - a well-preserved space which hosted one of Abraham Lincoln's inauguration balls.
Plaster removed from load-bearing brick vaults in basement.
August Robert Meyer Memorial
1909 - The Paseo, Kansas City
Meyer Boulevard and Meyer Circle are probably the most fitting tributes to the life of August Meyer-each are landmark realizations of the George Kessler designed Parks and Boulevard system in Kansas City. It was Meyer who as the first president of the Kansas City Parks Department hired Kessler to transform this "cowtown" of late 19th century Kansas City into City Beautiful.
The bronze relief was executed by Daniel Chester French, one of America's greatest sculptors. Previously he'd sculpted figures for the Richard Morris Hunt memorial on the Upper East side, the Rear Admiral Samuel DuPont circle fountain in NW Washington DC. But he is most famous for his great seated monumental figure of Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln Memorial.
Stone inscription on north side of memorial:
HOUSES AND SHOES ARE MANS
BUT GRASS AND TREES AND FLOWERS
ARE GODS OWN HANDIWORK
UNDAUNTED THIS MAN PLANNED AND TOILED
THAT DWELLERS IN THIS PLACE
MIGHT EVER FREELY TASTE ALL
SWEET DELIGHTS OF NATURE
Louis A. House Memorial
Southwest High School, Kansas City, Missouri
See dedication plaque below. Intriguing, isn't it? Also neat, is that these stones currently reside adjacent to the interesection of 65th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue. Different Pennsylvania Avenue, but I'd like to think it's no accident. According to the Truman Library archival staff, confirmation of the origin of the flag pole base stone pieces, is likely contained in files created by the Commission on the Renovation of the Executive Mansion, now defunct (of course).
1948-1852 mark the years of massive renovation at the White House initiated by the Truman Administration. The second floor balcony was added during this period of time, hence "The Truman Balcony." Not sure I get all the reasons for it - sure, convenience and not a bad view - but architecturally speaking the south facade is weaker as a result.
(1948 photo from White House Museum)