Sunday, February 5, 2012
1879, The American Architect and Building News,
1879: The Internet Archive has volume 5, covering January-June 1879.
January 4, 1879, American Architect and Building News, The Capitol at Albany, Page 1,
January 18, 1879, The New Capitol at Albany, Page 17,
January 18, 1879, The State Capitol at Albany, Part I, Page 19,
January 25, 1879, The State Capitol at Albany, Part II. Page 28,
A New Fountain at Albany. page 32
January 4, 1879, American Architect and Building News, The Capitol at Albany, Page 1,
THE New York legislature will meet after the holidays in their new capitol, a building which has been the centre of many battles, both artistic and financial, for the last three years. Our readers will doubtless remember the struggle which followed the effort of the Advisory Board to change the style of the building, of which we gave a pretty full account at the time (see American Architect for 1876, passim), the battle of styles among architects, and the final order of the legislature that the exterior of the building should be finished in Renaissance. The violent opposition of the New York architects, intemperate as it was, undoubtedly did good in the end by preventing an abrupt and conspicuous transition at mid-height from a rigid Renaissance treatment to an easy-going Romanesque ; and pains has been taken in what has thus far been added to the exterior to secure a degree of harmony between the lower part and the freer Renaissance work which has been built upon it. No restriction, however, was set on the style of the interior, and the architects of the Board have been indulged in a Gothic Assembly Chamber, as well as, we believe, a Romanesque treatment of the interior court. We published three weeks ago a correspondent's interesting description of the building as it is, particularly of the new Assembly Chamber, which is at present its most interesting feature. Mr. Hunt's work has meanwhile been finished, and by the seventh of January (the day appointed for the formal opening of the building) that part of it which is meant for immediate use will be in order. This is only the north wing, perhaps a third of the building, and for the present the State Senate will be housed in the room beneath the Assembly Chamber, which was originally intended for the Court of Appeals, the Senate Chamber proper being in the south wing, which is still unfinished. The New York daily papers, apparently confused by the traditions of the old quarrel, have treated their readers to some amusing comments upon the discordance between the Romanesque lower stories of the exterior and the Renaissance of the upper part.
January 18, 1879, The New Capitol at Albany, Page 17,
THE opening of the New York State Capitol, last week, incomplete as the building still is, only about a quarter of it being yet ready for occupancy, is the most important architectural event of our day since the completion of the United States Capitol at Washington. The building will be in fact, if it is carried out in the spirit in which the work is now going on, the next in point of cost to that at Washington ; for while its dimensions are considerably less, it is finished on a scale of greater magnificence and of more genuine and durable, and therefore of more costly material. We give on another page a careful and detailed account of the building as it now is, which will be read with interest, we think, by those who have seen it as well as by those who have not. Whatever may be the opinions of those who see the building, as to the original merits of the battle between its architects, or the special criticisms to which in its present estate it is open, there can be no serious question that as an artistic achievement the building has gained very greatly by its change of architects. The unity of a harmonious whole it can never have. The architects who are now in charge of it will not sacrifice the individuality of their own ideas to the beginnings of their predecessors enough to secure this, nor can they for its sake sufficiently harmonize their diverse manners of working in the separate portions into which they have wisely divided it among themselves. Thus the stimulating influence which it will unquestionably have as an example of design will lose something in this respect. But instead of the monument of commonplace splendor which was originally promised, we have now a work which in its different parts is up to the highest level of professional attainment. We have work of vigor, individuality, and artistic power, which, in spite of a forced conformity to an original scheme that does not suit with it, and that involves many shortcomings in the final result, will give it a place of permanent honor.
THE opening ceremonies were of great splendor, ten thousand or more persons being gathered in the building, it is estimated. The people of New York are proud of their capitol if we may judge by the criticisms in the city papers, most of which have described the building at length, and with liberal admiration. There are those who scold about the cost of it, and some papers have no good word for its architecture. Thus the Commercial Advertiser, in its account of the opening, wonders that ''the idea never entered the stupid heads of the architects and the commissioners " to provide more room for spectators in the galleries of the assembly chamber, or that this room and the senate chamber should be remanded to the upper story ; and thinks that there is no public building in the country so badly arranged. It does not stop to remember that these faults were essentially fixed upon the building before the commissioners and their advisers meddled with it, nor to concern itself with the serious labors of the architects further than to say that " the architectural display is a mixture of High and Low Dutch, Bruyn, Eidlitz, and Dorscheimer." So much for popular appreciation of the highest artistic effort, an appreciation which is less encouraging than that of the critics who have set the Romanesque architecture beneath the Renaissance, because it betokens less interest.
WE have seen very reckless estimates of the amount of money that has been spent on the building thus far, ranging from seven to sixteen millions of dollars. Up to 1876, when the change of architects was made, more than seven millions had been appropriated for the building, and the most of this had been spent. Since then the total appropriation has reached nine and a half millions, and the expenditure over nine millions. The estimate of the Advisory Board for finishing the building according to their original design was four and a half millions ; but the design has been changed, and some millions more will be needed, how much, probably no one can say accurately. Governor Robinson, in the first message delivered to the legislature in their new quarters, summed up its history reproachfully, and recalled the restriction under which money was first voted for it, that the whole cost should be limited to four millions. He reminded the legislature that only one wing out of four was as yet completed, and urged that, although the adoption of the original plan had made the restriction impossible, it was possible to finish it in much simpler style than was intended, and that the unfinished parts, although long uncovered, had not suffered, nor were likely to. He therefore recommended the legislature to stop its appropriations for the time, and insist upon deciding how it should be finished and at what cost. The people, he said, were ill able to pay the tax demanded for it, and he added : "If we concede the artistic merit claimed for the present design, it yet seems to me that in times like these the food and raiment of our people are more to them than the development of schools of art." One is tempted to wonder who persuaded the governor that unfinished work exposed to the weather did not suffer from the exposure. With the ability of the people of New York to pay the tax demanded, or with the question of "schools," we need not meddle now ; but there are those who think that the development of art is a thing worth considering even beside food and raiment, so long as it is not a question of actual destitution. There are persons who like, after they find themselves decently clad and comfortably fed, instead of spending more in that direction, to spare it for a picture or a bit of decoration, or for something else that depends upon the development of art. One cannot have the architecture of a state-house, or a hall of assembly, or even a great mural painting in his own house, as he can have a picture ; but then those things are visible to a great many people, and cost much less per head, besides being monuments for generations.
Two other States, Connecticut and Michigan, have in like manner celebrated their New Year by occupying their new capitols. The Connecticut capitol, at Hartford, of whose main staircase we not long ago published a drawing (see American Architect, November 9, 1878), has been building since 1872, from the designs of its architect, Mr. Richard M. Upjohn. It is an imposing building of white marble, vigorously grouped and rich in detail, treated in the broad and rather horizontal Gothic which Mr. Upjohn is fond of adopting in his civic work. Its design must be tolerably familiar to most of our readers ; and we shall not attempt any description of it until we are able to lay it before them in illustrations. It was soon after the oscillating legislature of Connecticut decided to fix itself at Hartford, that a new capitol was decided on. The state appropriated half a million dollars for it on condition that the city should do the same, and should provide a site. The city bought the grounds of Trinity College, adjoining its own park, and gave them for the purpose, receiving in exchange the title to the old capitol at Hartford when it should be disused. In a competition for designs Mr. Upjohn's was accepted, and contracts for it were made in October, 1872, the cost being fixed at eight hundred and seventy-five thousand dollars. When the work had gone on for a year the legislature decided to change the character of the building, making it fire-proof throughout, and increasing its elegance. A new commission was appointed, with power to get new plans and increase the cost to a million and a half. The commission finally settled upon a modification of Mr. Upjohn's design, on which, to suit their idea of due dignity, they had obliged him to engraft a dome. This was authorized by the legislature and new contracts signed while the limit of cost was extended to two millions and a half. The building is now done as far as its practical uses are concerned, and was formally occupied by the legislature last week. The only things that remain to be done for the building itself are to finish the dome, of which half the panelling of the brick shell is in place, and some details of the roofing and sculpture, all of which, the commissioners say, will be included within the appointed cost.
January 19, 1879, Page 19, The State Capitol at Albany, Part I,
The New Architecture at Albany.
To THE EDITOR OF THE AMERICAN ARCHITECT:
Sir, The provisional occupation of the Court of Appeals Room at the Capitol at Albany, by the State Senate, and the permanent occupation by the Assembly of their magnificent Chamber, on Wednesday, the 8th instant, were preceded on Tuesday evening by a grand reception, at which the new architecture of the great building was for the first time displayed to the public. As the evening was distinctly architectural, rather than social or political, it seems eminently proper to accept the challenge suggested by the occasion, and seriously to discuss this latest, most imposing, and perhaps most significant manifestation of the national progress in art. As a contribution to this discussion, the writer, who was fortunate enough to be present at these opening scenes, ventures to accept your invitation, Mr. Editor, and to give the result of his impressions, with the frankness which befits a theme so interesting and important.
The history of this undertaking is too well known to be again rehearsed, and much of it would not be germane to a purely architectural discussion. It is sufficient to say that two architects of high reputation have, in this building, undertaken the very serious task of completing and correcting a work begun by another professional brother, and carried on by him, at vast expense, to a point which must necessarily commit all subsequent work to the realization in great as a professional Advisory Board to the Capitol Commission, was published in this journal March II, 1876, together with reproductions of the first studies of their proposed alterations. The violent contrasts between the original and this modified design, the sudden and phenomenal transition in the latter from the well-defined Renaissance of the two lower orders to the equally well-defined new Romanesque in the upper orders, and the fundamental change in the character of the skylines, elicited, it will be remembered, a very formal expression of dissatisfaction from one or more chapters of the Institute, followed by a resolution of the legislature, requiring that the building should be completed in the style in which it had been begun.
After Messrs. Eidlitz and Richardson, the professional members of the Advisory Board, had been constituted the architects of the building, and they had assumed the actual responsibilities of construction, their more deliberate studies and their more serious reflections were, it may- be supposed, sufficient in themselves, without any extraneous impulses, to cause an essential modification of the most objectionable parts of their original scheme of alteration which was evidently merely a preparatory"study. The fruits of this sober second thought are very evident in that portion of the exterior which is advanced towards completion, namely, the new north front, which, it may be remembered, according to the original conception, that has not been fundamentally changed in the plan, is composed of two square flanking pavilions, the curtain wall between them being broken by two comparatively slender towers enclosing the main central division of the facade. This curtain wall has been, throughout this front, reduced from the original in height by one story, and the rentral division between the two towers is now crowned by a vast steep roof, of severe and effective outline, covering the new Assembly Chamber, and broken by well-designed, tall chimney-shafts, the whole recalling the French civic architecture of the fifteenth century, of which the Chateau of Blois may be considered the type. These curtain walls are crowned with balustrades and tall gabled dormers, also conceived with the feeling of early French Renaissance, and certainly well composed. The Romanesque arcade of windows, which in the published design audaciously surmounted the Corinthian order of pilasters below, and arrogantly disregarded its centre lines, is now adjusted to the order upon which it rests in this latter respect, is increased in height, and its Romanesque quality seems to have been modified by certain late Roman characteristics, such perhaps as might have been seen rather in the palace of Diocletian at Spalatro than in that of Frederick Barbarossa at Gelnhausen.
The corresponding window in each of the two towers which flank this arcade is still, however, distinctly Romanesque, its jamb shafts being Lombardic or Norman, and the audacious spirit which controlled the first condemned study of alteration has left its trace upon the cornice of the Corinthian order below, which has been very frankly changed in outline to the profile of a vigorous Gothic string-course. If in the portico, which is to project from the lower order of this curtain wall, the architects can manage to carry out a corresponding freedom of design without too boldly challenging the order with which it will be continuous, it will be possible to leaven the mass, and obtain a certain degree of unity in the result. Even as it is, the whole composition up to this point is certainly more interesting by far than if developed in a coldly classic spirit, with no inspiration higher than mechanical correctness. Although such amalgamations as this must needs offend from the technical and academical point of view, they have in them certain elements which must commend themselves to him who has at heart the rehabilitation of architecture, to the end that it may express rather the boldness than the timidity of knowledge. In the presence of this especial experiment the spectator who knows and venerates his orders will be pleased at the general result so long as he allows himself to be led by his first emotions, but when he has time to bring his learning to bear on the subject, and spies out the anachronisms of detail, he will be apt to recoil in astonishment from his first impulse of approval, and say, " Is this indeed the architecture which is promised, or are we to look for another? " Evidently the combination so far is not the result of mere vulgar audacity nor of ignorance, for there is a unity of spirit about it, if not of letter, which could not have been fortuitous. The new ornamentation is bestowed with a spirit of elegant reserve. Above the cornice of the second order appears the decorated belt, which was a feature of the original study of the present architects ; the two Romanesque windows in the towers are made especial points of enrichment.
The pediments of the dormers are also embellished with sculpture, and under the cornice of the high central division is a rich shell frieze, the effeminate delicacy of which is judiciously corrected where the same feature occurs on the unfinished north facade. This statement comprises, so far as I remember, substantially all the decoration.
Of course, Mr. Richardson, to whom the work on the exterior has been assigned, will know how to make use of the picturesque sky-lines of the French chateaux on the corner pavilions of this north front, as he has done on its central division over the Assembly Chamber; and with his peaked roofs, high dormers, and lofty chimneys, he will be enabled to create a very effective facade, especially when viewed in the somewhat violent perspective compelled by the comparatively narrow strret on which it stands. The same remark is true of the south facade. But Chambord itself will scarcely give u a prevision of the effect of the main east facade when the towering dome is united to the other aspiring features of the composition. Mr. Richardson has not signified in what manner this difficult feat of design is to be accomplished. Certainly, the heavy German Romanesque of the dome in the original study of the Advisory Board, before it can in any respect be affiliated with this new work, must undergo a fundamental change.
The only portions of the interior which are at all complete are the Hall for the Court of Appeals in the first story above the high basement, the great Assembly Chamber occupying the two stories above, one grand staircase giving access to these, a great entrance hall, and various surrounding corridors and offices; all these occupying the main part of the south wing, and comprising apparently less than one quarter of the whole building. For this part of the work Mr. Eidlitz is responsible, and to it he has brought the resources of a trained intellect, great experience and boldness in design and construction, and an inventive power which has already been exhibited in many important works. These qualities have served him well, especially in the lower parts of the building, where the work had been already so far advanced when it fell into his hands that his task was confined to the adjustment and extenuation of existing features. But in the newer parts, where he was less embarrassed, he has given us an example of honest and elegant workmanship, of careful design and profuse invention, which cannot fail to exercise a great influence upon contemporary art in this country, but which, in its present application, exhibits also such a contemptuous disregard for the style to which he was called upon to adapt his ideas that one hardly knows whether to admire him for the boldness of his convictions, or to be amazed at his want of sympathy for what we have been accustomed to regard as the obvious proprieties of design.
His interior is unrelenting Gothic. without any touch of affiliation with the mask of orders which encloses it. It is possible to imagine a medievalism so adapted even to classic conditions that the line of demarcation would be hard to find, a reconciled medievalism and classicism which would impress the beholder with the idea that the learned and accomplished architect of the nineteenth century knows how to use his great inheritance of architectural forms so as to create a harmony even among the most discordant elements of design. But no such harmony is here attempted, and Mr. Eidlitz has allowed himself frankly and openly to make an absolute and sudden change in the fundamental idea of the composition. According to this new dispensation, the lion and the lamb lie not down together. The function of the modern architect among his books is indeed liberty, but it is not license; he should be in the largest sense cosmopolitan, not partisan, in his use of knowledge; this perpetuation of the battle of the styles in a monumental building, which should be a standard of progress, is therefore an ill-timed offence to the spirit of architecture, and implies a presumption of popular ignorance or indifference upon the subject which should not be allowed to pass without notice.
If an architect of the thirteenth century had built a vaulted hall in his own fashion, within the shell of the Roman amphitheatre at Pola, we can imagine that he would have done the very same sort of thing that we see at Albany. But an architect of the nineteenth century in America should be held to a very different account in a similar emergency, for obvious reasons.
Forgetting, however, for the moment this confusion of tongues, we may study Mr. Eidlitz's Gothic with pleasure and profit. It is, as we have said, solid and monumental work which he has given us, thoroughly studied, and, within the arbitrary limitations of the style which he has chosen to set for himself, there is no better or bolder modern composition to be found anywhere, none with more refinement and elaboration of execution, and none with more ingenious and beautiful detail. The great staircase is in two flights, and is a grammatical example of modern Gothic in the English sense. It is built in light and dark sandstones around a square well, which is enclosed in an open screen of columns and pointed arches carried up to the highest runs of the stairs, and there stopped. These arches on the ranges are stilted on the lower side in each case, the higher impost being marked on the lower side by the capital of a jamb shaft, which starts from the abacus of the next capital below. The rail is supported by a die elegantly pierced with open Gothic panels repeated in blank on the dado against the wall. The screen, however, considering its functions, seem 1 ! quite too heavy, and its details are coarse enough for exterior work. It is to be regretted that a constructor so skilful should not have availed himself of the opportunity for a lighter and bolder treatment, and given us perhaps a single ramping or flying arch for each run. The vaulted corridor by which the main entrance to the Court of Appeals is reached is lighted by a glazed arcade, opening on the court, and affords us our first salutation of color, an ingenious symphony (shall we say) in red patterns upon a gold ground, the naturally varying nature of the gold n different aspects admirably illustrating the different inclinations of the vaulted surfaces, which are further separated at the angles of the vault by small gilded heads, a temperate but very effective enrichment. It is to be noted, as a fair example of the intellectual as opposed to the sensuous spirit, which has made its way into the best modern design, that the functions of each member of this tiin pie architectural ordinance are recognized by some difference of treatment. Thus, as regards the walls, the eye is balked of its natural, or perhaps inherited, desire to see certain of the belts of deep ra'ion upon the piers continued along the wall surfaces between, so as to bind the whole together. All such lines stop without ceremony at the internal angles, where also the belts of the wall surface experience a sensation of discontinuance ; but if the senses are cheated of their birthright in this manner, the intellect, which recognizes that the pier has a different service from the wall-veil, is expected to be moved by an emotion of gentle approval.
The Court of Appeals is a parallelogram in plan, divided by a screen of stone arches, with a flat ceiling arranged in coffers of oak elaborately carved ; the room is wainscoted some ten or twelve feet high in the same manner, with richly carved oak, having a wall treatment of red above. The light sandstone of construction appears iu the window jambs and doorways, and the wainscoting is set flush with it. The color of the oak, with the red walls, makes a beautiful harmony of subdued richness. The carving is very abundant, very beautiful, and very real, and the draperies are large, rich, and ornamental in character. The carpet is crimson. The Gothic element, as a contrast to the classic, off en Is less here than elsewhere, but one inclined to criticise might object to the elaborate affectation of honesty in the truss-work by which the oak-encased iron girders are to the eye supported at their be,.rings. In the neighboring office of the Attorney General the corresponding iron girder, which by the bye is in every case a part of the original construction, is frankly gilded, with all its bolts and rough angle irons, and the floor arches which it supports are confessed in the decoration, which is simple and effective, although the portion of the wall surface above the impost line is too nearly equal in width to that between the impost and the dado, and too heavy in color. Perhaps the intellectual sensitiveness of the modern architect wou'd have been better content if, in the case of the oak ceiling of the Court of Appeals, which in reality forms an impervious screen under the floor arches, it had been designed in open-work, to ;-how that it was a screen, and not a piece of construction. The grosser professional sense, however, which loves it knows not why, may well be content with the show as it is.
The testimony of the countless throngs of ladies and gentlemen, on the night of reception, wandering through the solemn Gothic corridors, so monumental both to the eye and to the understanding, and entering these apartments so rich but so serious and comfortable, for all their color, was a testimony of undoubting delight and surprise. And well it might be, for so rare a feast has never been set before them on this side of the water. The greater, therefore, the offence of the wise but cunning Aladdin who rubbed his wonderful lamp with such bewildering effect. If it had indeed been a lamp of truth, these pointed arches, would they not have been changed to round, and these beautiful details, would they not have yielded somewhat of their medievalism for the sake of the harmony which should prevail in a great monument of architecture?
I propose in another letter to treat of the Assembly Chamber, which of course was the main object of interest. H. V. B.
January 25, 1879, The State Capitol at Albany, Part II. Page 28,
THE NEW ARCHITECTURE AT ALBANY.
To THE EDITOR OF THE AMERICAN ARCHITECT:
Sir, In the letter which you printed last week I ventured to give my impressions of the exterior architecture, and the interior decorations and constructions, of the new capital at Albany. In this letter I propose to devote myself to a description and study of the essential points of the Assembly Chamber.
This room has already achieved a reputation as presenting the most monumental interior in the country ; it certainly has the primary advantage of size, without which element no' contrivance or skill of the architect can avail to produce an effect of grandeur, although of 'course it is a very common thing for architectural effort to be so ill bestowed as to diminish the apparent area. In this case the full value of the available space as an element of effect has been retained by the judicious simplicity of the leading features as contrasted with the complication and delicacy of the subordinate parts. Four great polished red granite columns with marble capitals sustain a vast quadripartite vault of stone over the central space; this vault is surrounded by four narrow lateral vaults with four square vaults in the corners, all having their outer bearings upon wall piers, as shown upon the accompanying plan. This simple disposition at once fills and satisfies the mind and leaves no essential point to be explained. The square compartments C and D are enclosed upon the floor with open stone screens supporting galleries about two thirds of the way up the height of the shaft ; on a level with the capitals of the shafts is a higher gallery, extending across the end of the hall over the lobby G ; a disposition of features nearly similar occurs at the other end of the hall, back of the Speaker's desk, so that the longitudinal dimensions of the upper regions are extended to the outer limits of this plan. This arrangement of galleries is very noble and impressive. The screen surfaces beneath them are highly enriched in the spandrels and over the arches with incised diapers, giving to them, with their filling of positive color distributed in small quantities, an effect almost Saracenic in profusion of surface enrichment. The lower galleries are furnished with stone railings pierced with patterns in geometrical Gothic; those of the upper galleries are flamboyant in character and broken around the piers at H and K, thus forming great corbelled capitals. The wall-surface B B is in the centre of the north front, while A A opens on the central court. These two wall-surfaces include the two upper orders of the central division of the facades, which 1 have already described. On each side we have thus two stages of windows, the lower stage showing three great round-arched windows on the main floor level, the upper showing six small divisions of the famous so-called Romanesque arcade, all glazed ; two other continuous divisions of the arcade flank, this range over the square compartments on either side. Between these two stages is a frieze or belt of panels to be occupied by Mr. Ward's bas-reliefs, and in the tympanum, formed on each side of the hall by the pointed lateral vault impinging against the wall-surface over the archivolts of the arcade, appears Mr. Hunt's decorative painting, too high to be easily seen from the floor, occupying a space too small by comparison to be conspicuous, and too much bedazzled by the windows beneath to assert itself as an indispensable element of the decorative scheme. The conditions of Mr. Hunt's work are seriously complicated also, first, by the large, positive, incised decoration, enforced with black and primary colors, with which many courses of the stone remplissage of the vault are embellished, and, second, by the absence of a wall-rib which should prevent these decorative ranges from coming into absolute contact with the edges of the painting. With such unsympathetic surroundings it would seem that the only way by which Mr. Hunt could secure to himself the necessary freedom in his composition, both as regards form and color, was to isolate his pictures, after the fashion of the Venetian and Roman masters of fresco, by a sur- rounding frame, or to make a conventional background of black or gold against which his subject should be projected. I cannot but think that the manner in which he has carried his picture out to the perilous edges of the spaces at his disposal, and his preference for the natural rather than for the conventional treatment of his subjects, are, under the circumstances, not justified by the results. No artist, however subtle, could secure in such a place the preeminence which is due to a work of higher art unless he frankly started with the de- termination to vanquish these surroundings by a tour tie force, and create rather a pictorial decoration than a decorative picture. The decision and firmness of the conventional forms by which the nei"h- boring vaulting surfaces are enriched, the general character of Uie architectural features by which these tympana are beset, and the blaze of light which penetrates the arcade beneath them, all these appear to demand of the artist not so much measures of compromise, as measures of absolute conquest. Mr. Hunt's vigor of drawing and boldness of color have hardly proved sufficient to this task. There are, however, vacant wall-surfaces under the vaults at the ends of the hall, far better lighted, which offer a much better field for such work as Mr. Hunt has given, and which we understand he will be invited to occupy. But tlie immediate results are unimportant as com- pared with the fact that an attempt is here made on a great scale to give to Architecture and to Painting their proper relations in respect to each other. No one interested in the progress of better art can be indifferent to a beginning so noble in its intentions and so fruitful in its promise.
There are several vital points of design with respect to this magnificent ceiling which the careful critic cannot fail to notice. Mr. Eidlitz, true to his parti pris, exhibits in this part of the work his characteristic indifference, even to those external conditions of the facade which lie might himself have controlled and adapted to his interior if he had so chosen. His vaulting at the wall-piers A A and B B starts below the level of the upper arcade of windows, which was designed and executed under the present administration of the work, and cuts across those openings of the arcade which adjoin the piers in a manner which in France would be called brutal, but which we should prefer to characterize as audacious and defiant. More-over, one looks in vain for an abutment to the thrusts of these vaults at the points named ; there is no such appliance to be seen within or without, nor is the honesty of the Italian builders imitated by any visible tie at the springing line. But even this magician cannot conjure up a vault which will hold itself, and we must seek in the dark recesses above the vaulting for the hidden contrivances of iron which must bind the construction together.
All this work is Gothic, and Gothic which is at the same time vigorous and delicate. The lower parts of the wall-surfaces are profusely decorated with countersunk arabesque, defining the masonry of the wall, and filled in with strong color, well contrived to unite with the stone and relieve it from coldness and monotony. The scale of the corresponding decorations in the filling-in of the vaulting surfaces is so much larger than that of the diapers below, and occupies so much more of the space, that the effect of masonry, at the point where it is most desirable to show the solidity and reality of the work, is in part lost. The vaulting is so noble that to treat it thus seems almost like a painful excess, and it has certainly, as I have intimated, increased the difficulty of an artistic treatment of the wall- surfaces. The furniture is in all eases carefully designed and of course very richly decorated, and the drapery of the lower windows is sumptuous in fabric and large and noble in detail. The chimney- pieces under the square galleries and in the neighboring offices are of sculptured stone, and in some cases very elegant; but they seem in scale somewhat too domestic and hardly adequate in size of opening. The obvious difficulty of arranging the screen-work under the square galleries, so that it may adjust iiself against the four great, round shafts, is frankly acknowledged, but the solution here attempted is not in all respects satisfactory. In short, in the innumerable details of an architecture so vast and complicated as this, a critic might find a boundless field for objections more or less petty if he chose to hunt for them. Yet, setting aside, for the moment, my objections to Mr. Eidlitz's contemptuous indifference for the casket in which his jewel is enshrined, I am prepared to believe that there is no modern work recalling the mediteval spirit of design, conceived with greater intelligence and learning or executed in a manner more thorough and, on the whole, sincere.
Mr. Richardson will, it is to be hoped, remember his academic training in the schools of Paris, and respect the exterior enough to continue at least the sentiment of it into the portion of the interior assigned to him. But as to the qualities of design and workmanship, he will find in the parts already done within the north wing a competition of the most stimulating kind. H. V. B.
MAY 10, 1879. Page 152, Notes: 21. NATIVE STONES.
A few years ago, efforts were made to develop some native stone quarries. The writer would like to know whether any of the following stones can now be piocured :
(1.) Newburyport marble, a beautiful, bright green variety.
(2.) Hoosac soapstone, the compact, greenish kind.
(3.) Eastern marble, so-called, apparently a black serpentine.
(4.) Is there any quarry of the Saugus porphyry from which pieces of fair size can be obtained ?
(5.) Why is not the Stoneham marble quarry worked ?
It is rather humiliating to think that the Albany Capitol Commissioners send to Africa for purple marble, while our Saugus farmers build their pasture walls of porphyry, and that architects should be obliged to content themselves with black slate and granite for ashlar and columns, while the owners of a quarry of stone almost equal to black porphyry look on in- different. Would it not be a good idea to begin an architectural museum, where architects can find where to procure the materials which they want only occasionally, but want very much at those times? As matters now are, if one wants a porphyry column, he runs about among all the dealers, who chill him by saying that it " would be impossible to work a quarry for one job," and in the end he has to use the familiar old red grnnite. The next week another architect has the same desire for porphyry, and meets with the same disappointment, and so on. Some means of combining the demand might lead to its being supplied. C.
February 22, 1879, Page 57,
The Debate on the Congressional Library.
March 15, 1879, Page 81,
The Hartford Capitol,
March 15, 1879, The State Capitol, Hartford, Conn., Page 86
March 22, 1879, The Piers of the Capitol at Hartford. Page 89,
March 29, 1879, The Dome Piers of the Hartford Capitol. Page 101,
April 5, 1879, Page 109,
The Competitive Plans for the New Legislative Buildings. ---A Local Lawsuit, St. John, N.B.
April 19, 1879, Page 121
April 19, 1879, Page 126
Charges Against the Department of Buildings, New York.
April 26, 1879, Page 129
The Investigation of the New York Department of Buildings,
May 3, 1879, Page 141
The Reciprocal Duties of Architects and Their Employers, Especially in Relation to Public Buildings. Part I,
May 10, 1879, Page 146,
The Reciprocal Duties of Architects and Their Employers, Especially in Relation to Public Buildings. Part II,
Illustration, after page 156
Papier Mache Capitols
May 24, 1879, page 162,
The Reciprocal Duties of Architects and Their Employers, Especially in Relation to Public Buildings. Part III,
May 24, 1879, Page 167, Why Buildings are Not Made Fire-Proof,
May 31, 1879, Page 170,
On the Relation of Architecture to Underwriting. Part I
June 7, 1879, Page 179,
On the Relation of Architecture to Underwriting. Part II,
June 7, 1879, Page 182, Slow-Burning Construction,
June 14, 1879, Page 189,
On the Relation of Architecture to Underwriting. Part II,
June 14, 1879, Page 191, Fire-Proof Partitions,
June 21, 1879, Page 198
June 28, 1879, Page 201, Cleopatra's Needle in New York,
June 28, 1879, Page 206, The Capitol, Hartford, Conn.,
January 4, 1879, Page 2, Architect's Competitions. Part II. Trial by Architects.
January 4, 1879, Page 5, Fire Traps
January 4, 1879, Page 6, The Electric Light.
January 11, 1879
January 18, 1879, Page 18, Architects' Competitions, Part III, Distribution of Patronage.
May 3, 1879, The American Architect and Building News,
THE RECIPROCAL DUTIES OF ARCHITECTS AND THEIR EMPLOYERS, ESPECIALLY IN RELATION TO PUBLIC BUILDINGS.
Read before the New York Municipal Society, by A. J. Bloor, F. A. I. A., on December 3, 1877, and presented November 14, 1878, to the Twelfth Convention of the American Institute of Architects, by whom it as referred to the Committee on Publications. [VOL. V. No. 175. ] page 141
Mr. President, and Gentlemen of the New York Municipal Society :
I have been asked to prepare and read a paper on the duty of architects as to economy and appropriateness in their designs, especially for public edifices, and as to the responsibility (in whom generally) for the cost so generally being immeasurably beyond the estimates." In my answer, acknowledging the honor done me by the request, I said that if I complied with it, " I should have to join in the theme the reciprocal duties of owners and building committees."
Let me say, in the first place, on the point of economy, that, so far as my information goes, it is only in a very few cases of public buildings that the cost is largely beyond the estimates. It is with buildings as it is with people. The individual is lost in the crowd unless preeminent either for good or for bad. The million inhabitants of New York go about their daily business with little comment. But let one of that million, of any grade, commit a murder, or one of them, of prominent grade, be detected in any flagrant breach of a conventional law, and for nine days, more or less, the newspapers feed all the rest of that million with the scandal. Just so with the buildings of the community. The larger or smaller capitalists build their blocks of houses in the city, or their single houses in the country, and no one, except those interested as disbursers, or recipients or prospective occupants, hears anything about them. They are built sometimes with, but oftener without, the intervention of an architect. When one is employed, I think it is very seldom that the charge of going beyond the estimates, except under the owner's orders, can, after investigation, fairly be brought against him. Few people in this community build more than one or two houses for their own occupancy during a lifetime; but while this one is building it is the owner's hobby. Nothing is too good to incorporate into it. Self-importance and sentiment all the feelings of the pater familia, the desire for the maximum of domestic comfort and of opportunity for the display of resources, all are actively at work from the first line drawn on paper to the setting of the capstone; and I tliink it is, perhaps, more common for the architect to incur the displeasure of the owner, tacit or expressed, for attempting to control his inclination to lavishness, than for endeavoring to lead his employer into avoidable expense. When the day of reckoning comes the owner may find it a relief to his feelings to lay the blame for over-expenditure on another's shoulders. The payment of extra bills is not conducive to amiability or candor. And I think it is just at this stage that an owner is apt to wax eloquent over what he chooses to call the extravagance of architects. I doubt if, in one case out of ten, an owner will, after the settlement of bills is quite off his mind, have one word to say in relation to the cost being beyond the estimates, except so far as, by additions and changes, he has himself gone voluntarily beyond the original estimate.
Public buildings of course attract greater attention than private ones; and the facilities for increasing expenditure, whether lawfully or unlawfully, are also greatly in excess. Many reasons conspire to this. For one thing, there is often long delay between the tendering of estimates and the commencement of the work, and the market price of material and labor for they generally fluctuate together may have greatly increased in the interim. The work will then progress on an enhanced scale of prices, which is not nearly so apt to be sedulously kept before the eyes of the tax-paying community as the first low estimates were. Hence a great newspaper hubbub, when, on being called to foot the bills, the tax-payers discover the difference between their amounts and the original estimates. Again : In the case of a private building the architect has but one employer. In the case of public buildings of importance he is quite likely to have a dozen. Each man on the building committee has his own pet theory, and often his own personal interests, more or less direct, to advance; his local interests, his social interests, his family interests, perhaps his direct pecuniary interests; the last, it may be, in a perfectly lawful way from a commercial, if not from a public-spirited point of view, and perhaps not, as investigation sometimes proves. And I may be allowed to remark here that I know of no instance where legal investigation has resulted in fastening a charge of corruption on the architects of any of our public buildings. Whatever may be thought of the design or lack of design of the new County Court House in this city it has yet to be proved and there has been much litigation and airing of facts in the matter that in the ease of that greatest scandal in the way of building operations in this or probably any other country the architect was at all responsible to any fair estimate of its value as a pile of building materials. Tweed's recent testimony whatever that may be worth includes building contractors on that structure in its damaging statements, but not so far as I have observed the architect. The recent investigation into the affairs of the new Capitol at Albany casts suspicion on Commissioners and Senators and Superintendents, but not on any architect. I speak only of legal culpability, and will not exceed my limits by entering on the question of how far an architect deserves to be criticised who draws a commission on costs he cannot help knowing are immensely above fair market rates; or who, without allowing the question of fitness in selection to interfere, makes secret arrangements by which stone from a quarry, or iron from a foundry, in which he has an interest, is used; or who adds to greed a morbid egotism that blinds his eyes to the merits of any work but his own, and leads him to foist his cuckoo eggs in another's nest, at no matter what cost to artistic congruity or to the public credit, or who leads, or endeavors to lead, his employers, who may be simply the trustees of other people's contributions, a dance of disbursement, at their cost and his profit from one insufficient building for public uses to another, of equally fine promise and equally disappointing result, probably.
The charges of dishonesty against the architects of the Jefferson Market Court House were not sustained after legal investigation. All that was proved was that a competent subordinate in the architect's office had permission to receive, on his own account, a moderate compensation for furnishing bills of quantities to the mechanics, a more useful and valuable practice, which prevails in Europe in building operations, and, as many experts think, is much needed in this country.
It has been asked whether architects have not a moral responsibility on the side of the public, as apart from their own personal emoluments and professional ambition, when they have any real share (which, however, I think the manipulations of the financial and political managers of public buildings seldom leave to them) in shaping the expenditure of public money. I think they are morally bound to use whatever influence they can command to dissuade building committees from wasting the money collected for purposes of public beneficence from the tax-payers, on showy facades to asylums and prisons, at the expense of interior space and convenience, sanitary or other; and consequently at the expense of the health and comfort of the poor and unfortunate in their community, whose wants might be cared for with the money thus used. But if reform is really wanted in this matter, there is more need to attack the rivalrv and ostentation of commissioners and building committees than "their architects. The latter are in fact only the hired servants of the former, and the mass of them closely resemble men of all other professions and vocations in preferring for themselves and their dependents bread, and as much butter as they can scrape on it, to creating enmity among their employers by attempting to lecture or reform them. It does not take a man of much observation or insight, architect or other, to find out that swift and early reward in a worldly sense (no matter what success a higher course may command to those who remember the Italian proverb that " everything comes to those who know how to wait will be, not according to his faithfulness to what is right, but according to his pliancy to egotism and greed, and the effrontery and impudence, the trickery and falsehood, which are born of them. For faithfulness is a virtue which, though he may lie glad to employ it, in the person of others, for his own interests, is at heart greatly despised by the average soi-il/sant self-made man (though he is generally yet with many admirable exceptions not more than quarter made in reality), whose success has been mainly achieved by, it is true, the virtues of energy, enterprise, economy, and foresight, but also too often by persistent domineering selfishness and the deliberate repression of the finer instincts; and who of course carries his vices as well as his virtues into his relations with the current forces of the society he dominates. The architect of an important public building has generally enough to do without turning reformer and philanthropist, in protecting the interests of himself and those dependent on him from the rapacity or ignorance, or both combined, of those who are masters of the 'Situation. For there is quite likely to be a ring behind himself and the honest men on the building commission, a ring which is, in popular phrase, "on the make ; " and he will be very apt to lose pay for his own work and reimbursements for his employees' work already performed and in prospective, if he in any way interferes in its machinations. Indeed, like the rest of the community he may have no knowledge of them that would have any standing in a court of law, no matter what his moral certainty, or his suspicions, may be, till some internal quarrel results in public exposure.
And even if no ring for ulterior purposes exists, the various members of a building committee, though they may be ever so honest and well meaning; though they may be shining lights of the church, the forum, or the exchange ; though they may be travelled men of large general culture, even of scientific and artistic culture, hardly ever have any available knowledge, for practical purposes, of the theory or technics of the building art. The unhappy thing, both for themselves and for the architects, is that they conceive, if they have skimmed over the three or the five " orders," whichever number suits them the better, and have paid their mechanics for putting up a stereotype house of their own, or have simply read the weekly quotations of the prices of brick and lumber, tlir.t they thereby become adepts on every point that exercises the powers of the architect in his complicated and difficult field. Of course the ideas of such persons as to what is due the architect are apt to be very hazy. Amateurs for the nonce are very apt to see no difference, not only in resultant value, but in cost of production, between the tokens of their own irresponsible surface work, and those of the practitioner's years of general, and weeks or months of special, study and application. After a little observation of the.routine of an architect's ollice the more sensible of them soon learn to place a juster estimate on the value of his skill and the coat of rendering it on paper for the use of the employer and mechanic. But there are some men who seem never to get quite over a misty feeling that an architect is a sort of cross between a mason and a sketcher, and that his time and labor are not gaugeablc for practical and remunerative purposes as other men's are. Yet the fact is, so far as instinct and capability go, that except in the exercise over their drawing boards of more or less of the creative faculty, a faculty not greatly exercised by the multitude, architects are remarkably like other men, while in their current necessities they are absolutely like them, from him who eats the best of bread and the sweetest of butter by plying his trade of king-craft, down to the chiffonnier who scrapes his crust out of the ash barrel. Like most well-reared people, they are much addicted to eating and drinking. As a rule architects don't smoke poor tobacco if they can get good cigars. They live in, as well as build, houses. They wear clothes, and their tailors are not called on to leave orifices for wings as well as as for limbs. Their pinions are not so well developed but they can brace them down with their ordinary sartorial appliances. Being taught that there is neither marrying nor giving in marriage in heaven, most of them not being Newtons, or Pascals, or Turners consider it their duty to society to get married here, and ever afterward take a vivid interest in the market rates for children's shoes and school bills.
There is really no reason why architects, as a body, should be cut off from the practical sympathies of the rest of mankind on the score of genius so exceptional as to be able to dispense with the advantages of association with safe and easy-going mediocrity. Carlyle states as an enthnological fact that Great Britain is peopled with forty millions of inhabitants, mostly fools ; and it is well known that the amiable sage of Chelsea has, at least, no better opinion of their forty millions of his Atlantic cousins. No doubt he classes the architects with the rest of the inhabitants, while Ruskin's latest dictum and it may be accepted as his latest, at least, till the next number of Fors-Claeigera appears about the profession is that it comprises the most sordid and stupid of mankind. Yet the average architect is as apt to see the entire length of his nose as other aver- age men. When hard pressed by his needs or his ambition, he is as apt to know how to use suppression, detraction, or equivocation, when he does not employ something still more positive, in the case of a real or assumed rival, or of one who cannot be used as a tool, quite as well as the next average man, and he has been known to evince his adaptability for all the uses of average citizenship by allowing the wool to be well pulled over his eyes, and by following the track of the best-fed leaders in a way that would honor the agile allurements of the most unctuous bell-wether of a Tammany Convention.