Heterodoxia working capital

Inside corner of Corinthian columns. (searshomes.org)

Inside corner of Corinthian columns. (searshomes.org)

From Heterodoxia Architectonica

From Heterodoxia Architectonica

Heterodoxia Architectonica, the treatise being written primarily by Andrés Duany and whose text I am penciling my way through as text editor, contains material that has been made public only in dribs and drabs, mostly pictorial. Its author has over several years hinted in his, um, discourse at the eventual content of the document, although an exegesis of his remarks can be assembled to support almost any contentious presumption about what Heterodoxia might ultimately contain. I know. I’ve assembled not a few of them myself.

Completely out of left field, however, comes this luscious descriptive passage on the behavior of the Corinthian capital as it performs its duty, that of a tool to enable the transfer of tectonic energy from the act of bearing to the act of spanning. Andrés has let me print this passage as a sort of teaser. My idea. I once used a low phrase for this kind of writing that thrills me, but that term falls beneath the dignity of a treatise in the manner of Vitruvius, Palladio, etc., and I will not repeat its use here. No. This is poetry:

The existence of the Corinthian capital is essential to turning the inside corner [of a peripteral portico], which is impossible with the Doric. The Doric is swallowed by the mass of the colliding entablature and reduced to an oval herniation, while the abacus of its capital seems beset by the architrave above it. The Ionic, on the other hand, is unresolvable at an inside corner. It becomes crushed in the most revolting manner. The Corinthian, however, emerges triumphantly to support the corner of the abacus. The diagonal outward reach of the Corinthian makes it the only capital available to enable the hyper-compact echeloning of Orders that is sometimes required for syntactic intensification, or for the resolution of a complex Baroque dome bearing down. Whereas the circular arc of the Doric capital would be subsumed by the wall, the diagonal volute of the Corinthian reaches out of the wall to assert itself. And, as for the Ionic — it simply cannot turn an inside corner; it would be engulfed in an unresolved manner.

About David Brussat

This blog was begun in 2009 as a feature of the Providence Journal, where I was on the editorial board and wrote a weekly column of architecture criticism for three decades. Architecture Here and There fights the style wars for classical architecture and against modern architecture, no holds barred. History Press asked me to write and in August 2017 published my first book, "Lost Providence." I am now writing my second book. My freelance writing on architecture and other topics addresses issues of design and culture locally and globally. I am a member of the board of the New England chapter of the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, which bestowed an Arthur Ross Award on me in 2002. I work from Providence, R.I., where I live with my wife Victoria, my son Billy and our cat Gato. If you would like to employ my writing and editing to improve your work, please email me at my consultancy, dbrussat@gmail.com, or call 401.351.0457. Testimonial: "Your work is so wonderful - you now enter my mind and write what I would have written." - Nikos Salingaros, mathematician at the University of Texas, architectural theorist and author of many books.
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9 Responses to Heterodoxia working capital

  1. Pingback: New blog, old conversation | Architecture Here and There

  2. steve bass says:

    Perhaps before you jump into the Hetrodoxia pool head first you might keep in mind that some members of the classical architectural community have serious reservations about it. The paragraph you cite, for example, should not be taken as gospel. Personally I don’t think the origins of the Corinthian order had anything to do with turning corners. This is a contemporary intellectual obsession that may have some theoretical value but is of zero help to people who actually design. How could one say that it is ‘impossible’ to turn an inside corner with the Doric order when a hundred Greek temples say otherwise?
    Though I realize your blog is fairly spontaneous stuff perhaps when it comes to this work you might seek a range of opinions before gushing. Recently I had the benefit of participating in a round table discussion on the book moderated by ND Prof. Steve Semes, to be published in the next ‘Classicist’, in which a wide range of views were opened up. Because of the prominence of its authors and its institutional backers Hetrodoxia will make a big splash and, in turn, generate a genuine debate. Hopefully this blog could be one of the venues of that coming discussion.


    • Steve, thanks for your note. Your objections are entirely valid. I am not an architect and have no architectural education. My perceptions, while based on what I consider a lot of reading and a lot more observation, are spontaneous and effusive. But I have been among the main people on the TradArch list objecting to major themes of Heterodoxia, and yet Andres respects my journalistic objectivity enough to have me edit it. I do not try to get my own view into it, but I do try to strengthen and clarify his views, and let him know where I believe they are weak. So there my role is that of an editor, not an advocate.

      Steve Semes asked me to be on that round table of people discussing Heterodoxia for the Classicist at the time of the symposium on Henry Hope Reed, at which I was a speaker. Unfortunately my schedule did not enable me to participate, but if I had, I would have been the least academically knowledgeable person at the table on architecture, but perhaps (or perhaps not) the person with the greatest capacity to look at the architectural situation with fresh eyes, and to advocate on behalf of the public rather than a certain segment of the architectural or even the classicist community.

      What I am saying is that a “naive” view of architecture, or of a florid passage in a treatise on architecture, is not, I hope, always one without its usefulness.


  3. Erik Bootsma says:

    Well the inside corner you show is actually the inside of an outside corner, which any order of columns can do. What is a real problem is the inside corner when there is a corresponding outer range, like in a cloister. Even Bramante struggled with this in the Corinthian of S. M. della Pace leaving only a sliver of pilaster and a nub of the capital.


    • You know more about this than I do, I’m sure, Erik. But it seems clear that in two rows of Ionic columns forming an inside corner, the votutes will clash rather than rounding the corner as would the Corinthian or the Doric. On the outside, too, Ionic columns turning a corner will show one or the other side a different “facade” at the end of the row of column capitals.


      • Erik Bootsma says:

        Thus why there is an ionic with two faces with a corner volute. The Sacmozzi ionic, really the Saturn Ionic, works the corners well too.


        Really the problem is one you can see in Calder’s blog, in the Burgerweehuis, Amsterdam where there’s just a tiny little remnant capital in the inside corner. Sometimes that goes away, and probably should. Or a full pilaster on both faces.


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