Monday, February 6, 2012

Scribner's Monthly, December, 1879, The Capitol of New York.

Scribner's Monthly, December, 1879, Vol. XIX. No. 2. The Capitol of New York. pages 161-178.

Assembly Chamber Fireplace, and Detail.

Take A Walk On the Wild Side.

December, 1879, Scribner’s Monthly, VOL. XIX. No. 2.

[Copyright, Scribner & Co., 1879. All rights reserved.]

At the beginning of the year 1875 the new Capitol of New York at Albany presented a disheartening aspect. It had then been in progress for seven years, had reached the middle of the third story and had cost over five millions. It consisted outwardly of a vast parallelepiped of whitish gray granite, 300 by 400 feet in area, hollowed out at a distance of 100 feet from the outer face into an interior court. This ground plan was broken by trifling projections which divided each front into five parts, a projecting center flanked with recessed wings and these again with projecting pavilions at the corners. A model of the building showed that in front of each of the central divisions it was proposed to build a three-story portico, and that from one end of the interior court a tower was to rise to the height of 350 feet or thereabouts. The diagram (page 162) gives an idea of the architectural treatment of the building for the two principal stories. It is very much the same sort of thing, it will be observed, as the New York Post-Office, but upon the whole considerably worse. It is true that the basement of the New York Post-Office is of a light and airy character, and that the basement of the Albany building gives some sense of weight along with its uncouthness, but that advantage is fully neutralized by the fact that the architect of the Post- Office had perhaps too much perception, perhaps too little money, to decorate the curtain walls as well as the projections with pilasters between the openings, and therefore kept, what was nowhere to be found in the Albany building, some spaces of respectable and untreated wall. The openings in the Post-Office, too, give much more impression of depth than was to be had from the Capitol. In neither building was there evidence of any intention to design a whole with necessary and interdependent parts; to signalize in treatment portions superior in importance and portions subordinate to them ; to adapt structure to function in expression as well as in fact. Apart from this consideration, which seems radical, the projections in both cases sufficed to destroy the effect of a great stretch of level wall pierced with the receding ranges of equal openings, while yet they failed to substitute for this the interruption of powerful masses. In neither did the detail, perfectly uninteresting in itself, gain anything from the manner of its disposition. Still, had the original design for the Capitol been executed, the result would have been a building far more huddled and confused than Mr. Mullett's masterpiece, and much of this huddle and confusion would have been added to it by the wonderful wilderness of things into which it was meant to break out at the top : a row of round dormers in metal, eight little copper-covered towers in Sir Christopher Wren's manner, Greek pediments, Louis Quatorze pavilions hung with cast-iron festoons and crowned with iron balustrades, and crestings wherever crestings would go. It is not fruitful perhaps to find differences between the architecture of the Post-Office and the architecture of the Albany Capitol, as the Albany Capitol was meant to be, and certainly it is not desirable to beat the bones of the buried ; but it is necessary to account for the allowances which will always have to be made for the completed building, and to indicate why what has been done since the State discarded the first design has failed to redeem it entirely. The interior of the building showed in 1875, and still shows, that the exterior architecture, such as it has been described, was the main thing in the designer's mind, and that not until after his vision of it was embodied on paper, did he begin to consider how the interior was to be made to conform to it. His belated efforts were not very successful, for the two legislative chambers were placed sixty feet from the ground ; corridors 340 feet long were left without light, except from a window at each end; staircases were lighted only from the top, and so forth. With all this there was such a waste of room that the ground plan is dotted over with stray spaces described as " air" and " light," and one great cavern on the entrance floor, lighted only on one side, is labeled an " art gallery." Some of the details of the interior work were executed, and remain to testify the character the completed work would have had, among them an entrance hall furnished with clumsy piers and ceiled with flat brick arches, and another filled with polished granite shafts with polished bases and marble capitals, which are subjects rather for wonder than for criticism. Some of the interior architecture, which was rescued from execution, had been carried far enough in design to show what it was meant to be. The Assembly chamber, the most important room in the building, was to be a parallelogram of 140 feet by 85, dimensions surely ample for architectural effect; these were to be neutralized by devices which would have been ingenious, had they been means to an intelligible end. The axis of the room was made its breadth and not its length ; the lower windows were cut off on one side by a corridor, and obstructed on the other by a portico; the entrance was effected by a rise of five spiral steps in each of four corners from the floor of the corridor; the ceiling was to be a flat covering of cast- iron, and cast-iron columns supporting a plastered screen of brick were to form the fronts of the galleries. The detail which was to enhance the effect of these dispositions was to be of the same character as that which may still be seen in the entrance halls, detail equally without invention and without knowledge, the rudeness of which had no hint of vigor nor its feebleness any chance of being mistaken for refinement.

What is most singular about the building thus designed and thus in great part determined is that up to 1875 it does not seem to have occurred to anybody certainly not to anybody in authority that the impending edifice would be other than admirable. The commissioners of the new Capitol (up to that time a specially appointed body) were probably not appointed for any knowledge of architecture which they either professed or were presumed to possess, though several of them were men of much experience in the management of public works, and all of them were respectable and eminent citizens. They had taken the customary pains to secure good results. They had invited architects in general to submit designs, and architects, to the number of three, had taken chances in a lottery for the control of a work which any architect in the country would have been glad to undertake. They best of the designs thus obtained, although, in that case, it cannot have mattered much which one they did choose. The design thus selected had been " endorsed by leading citizens," and among them some leading citizens who did pretend to knowledge of what constitutes merit in an architectural design. The tone of the discussions about it in the Legislature was the same as that taken by Governor Robinson's last message concerning the completed fragment It was magnificent, but expensive. It is even alleged that the American Institute of Architects solicited the designers to send their model to the Vienna Exhibition as a specimen of what American architects could do ; but that piece of justice was spared us.

In 1875 grumblings began to be heard, not about the merit of the design, for that had not been publicly called in question, but about the cost of the building, the practical inconveniences it threatened, and the delay in its construction. The work was so far advanced that legislators and state officers could see for themselves that the cost were drawn, was that which he gave them. The result was a feeling, apparently quite natural, though nobody had given way to it before, that there must be a more excellent way to complete the building than that set forth by the plans, and a more suitable person to direct its completion than the author of those plans. These reflections bore fruit, early in the summer of 1875, in the appointment of a board of professional advisers, composed of Messrs. Fred. Law Olmsted, Leopold Eidlitz, and Henry H. Richardson. Mr. Olmsted is not an architect, and his specific services to the new Capitol will be mainly brought into requisition after its architecture is done; but his great experience in the administration of public works, in the creation of the Central was likely to be enormous, and the arrangements for the transaction of the public business far from admirable. During the session of that year the commission was changed to an ex-officio body, composed of the lieutenant-governor, the attorney-general, and the auditor of the canal department. Mr. Dorsheimer, the lieutenant-governor, became the chairman of the commission, and to this fact the State directly owes what- ever has been done for the redemption of the Capitol. But for the perfectly fortuitous circumstance that the duty which thus fell to him was a duty for which he had a special fitness, there would have been nothing in the building worth describing or illustrating. The first real examination which had been given the plans during all the years which had elapsed since they

Park particularly, and the brilliant results of that administration, made him a most valuable member of a body which was to undertake the reclamation of a less tractable wilderness than that out of which the Central Park was made to blossom. Mr. Eidlitz had shown in such works as the Academy of Music in Brooklyn, and the Produce Exchange and the Continental Bank in New York (though always under such limitations, of one sort or another, as had for- bidden him to exhibit it fully) a pre-eminent capacity for monumental design. Mr. Richardson had not at that time completed Trinity Church in Boston, by which he has since become so well known, but in less important buildings he had exhibited the qualities which distinguish that work the same romantic impulse, the same large picturesqueness, and, what is perhaps best, and certainly rarest of all, the same sense of the all-importance of the value and relation of masses, and the same power of disposing them.

To the board thus constituted the com- mission addressed a series of questions, almost all of them of a practical kind. They were instructed to examine the work done and the plans for the work not done ; to consider whether the building could not be reduced in height, since it was committed in every other dimension ; whether the legislative halls were too large, and if so, how they could be reduced ; to examine the dimensions and arrangement of other specified rooms, " and, lastly, all questions of taste and judgment, which may suggest themselves as of practical importance to be now discussed." To these questions the report of the board, presented and printed early in 1876, was one form of the answer, and the designs submitted with it were another. The report was an elaborate and interesting discussion of the building as it stood, and of the plans for completing it, from the points of view of convenience, of economy and of art. Neither the defects nor the causes of them were far to seek, but even a partial cure was hard to find. As the doctors say, diagnosis is more advanced than therapeusis. The conversion of the Capitol into a really convenient, a reasonably expensive and an altogether dignified public building, was, as the report pretty plainly intimated, out of the question, except by a recourse to the heroic remedy of dynamite. The position and the dimensions of every important room had been fixed, and though it was feasible to effect some improvements in arrangement, the essential faults of the plan were fastened permanently upon the building. Outwardly, above the basement, the building was girdled by two tiers of the windows, a specimen of which has been given (page 162), 130 of them in all. It was indeed possible not to build any of the things designed to be put above this line, and this was a valuable privilege of which the architects fully availed themselves. But to impart any expression of breadth and serenity, of strength and richness, to the building as a whole by the treatment of what remained to be done, was as hard and ungrateful a problem as often comes to a designer. The report of the advisory board summed up the architectural faults of the building, by saying that it lacked repose and dignity.

The first purpose of the preliminary studies for the completion of the building was to amend this fault. These studies, it is understood, were prepared by Mr. Eidlitz. One can readily understand how a very brief season of experiment should have convinced a designer that any real expression of dignity, considering the unalterable divisions of the building, required the suppression of the subdivisions marked by the pilasters and the substitution, in the principal masses which contained the great rooms, of an unbroken field which could be emphasized as one feature of the building, and not broken into a succession of features insusceptible of emphasis. When this was done, when the pilasters had been suppressed and the division they marked had been disregarded, the "change of style" had been virtually effected. The effect of this change of style upon the architectural profession was extraordinary. No complaint of the original design had ever been heard from the profession, no hint that the building would be inconvenient or that the architecture of it was puerile. But chapter after chapter of the Institute of Architects, within and without the state of New York, solemnly rose up and protested against a design which involved a change of style, and assured the state that dreadful consequences to art would ensue from a public building erected in two styles. Nothing like this had been seen since the horror of British architects over the project of that (i vandal," Mr. Burges, for decorating the interior of St. Paul's. No doubt there was a good deal of trades-unionism in the attitude of the architects, since the original architect of the Capitol was also the president of a " chapter ; " and a good deal more of what we may call unconscious trades-unionism, meaning the habit of mind which leads a man to regard as sacred those processes of work to which he is accustomed, and which in this case were described as " the received rules of art " and the " accumulated experience of centuries." To an architect of this kind, knowledge of styles is the sum of professional knowledge, and the grammatical putting together of forms of the same period and school is the highest professional achievement. To such an architect the mixture of styles is naturally not only the chief, but the only architectural sin. But then there were also among the remonstrants men who might have been expected to admit that at most fidelity to style is but a means to the end of artistic quality, that there are other qualities besides that of purity, which only fidelity to style is calculated to attain, and that the Albany Capitol, as at first designed, was very far from being a pure building, and that it was impossible to make it pure. If it could not be made pure, it seems praise- worthy to attempt making it at least peaceable. With such men as those of whom we are now speaking, one noble window, or one exquisite capital, might have been expected to outweigh all the bewildered frippery of the old design. A professional journal which was one of the most influential and most temperate of the professional opponents of the modified design has indeed said, since the completion of the existing fragment of the Capitol, that there can be no serious question that the building gained very greatly by the change of architects, which is perhaps as near as could be hoped for to an explicit admission that the opposition was mistaken ; but there has been no such admission, express or implied, on the part of the professional bodies which warned the state not to expose itself to the obloquy of posterity. If the opposition was mistaken, it seems to follow that in so far as it was successful, it has injured the building. It was so far successful that after the arcade (which, next to the roof, forms the most conspicuous and effective feature of the existing " North Center," in which the Assembly chamber is placed) had been built up to the springing line, and the treatment of the deep single arches, which flank it had been determined, the legislature enacted that the outside of the building should be completed in the Italian Renaissance style in which it had been begun, a method of settling the dispute which would have been even more satisfactory if every legislator who voted for it had been required to record, with his vote, his own definition of Renaissance. A literal compliance with this statute was, of course, impossible without destroying the Romanesque work which was already in place. Mr. Richardson, upon whom the commissioners devolved the execution of it, set himself to comply with the spirit of it ; and, as the restoration of the formal Renaissance of the lower stories was aesthetically out of the question, completed the exterior in free Renaissance. There was, indeed, but one architectural period in which precedents could be found applicable to the solution of his problem, and that was the great period which produced the chateau architecture of Francis I., the fantastic front of Blois and the aspiring masses of Chambord. The chateau was the monumental expression of the imposition of antique culture upon a world yet mediasval. Technically, the task of the French court architects of the sixteenth century was very much the same as the mission which so many of the younger generation of English and American architects have assumed, to combine free planning and tree design with antique detail, in short, to do " free classic." It would be hard measure, however, to our own time, to compare the "Queen Anne " work, which these " pale children of the latter light " have for some years been doing, with the romantic richness of the French sixteenth century work, before that in it which was native and vital had been overborne by that which was exotic, factitious, and formal merely. That which was essential in it was the massing and the outline, which give its character of romantic richness; that which was exotic was the classic detail which alone is common to it with Queen Anne, and which, in place of romantic richness, gives, as the highest success of the original or the revived Queen Anne, a comfortable bourgeoisie. The French architecture of the sixteenth century had the further advantage, from what we have called the trades-union point of view, that it was a mixture of styles which, by lapse of time, had come to be recognized as itself a style. One is compelled by the evidence to confess that there are minds so constituted or so trained, as to be somehow soothed, in the presence of a contemporary heresy, by the reflection that the axial lines of openings are disregarded in the town- hall of Beaugency, and that Gothic niches are flanked by classic pilasters in the fagade of the town-hall of Orleans.

The successes of Mr. Richardson's work are where we should expect to find them, both from the character of Mr. Richardson's own gifts and from the limitations under which he has worked. In general composition, the existing fragment of the new Capitol is surprisingly successful. From any point of view from which the outline of the masses can alone be seen, from the river bank below or from the river bank opposite, it already crowns with a picturesque stateliness the hill on which it stands ; and both its picturesqueness and its stateliness will be immeasurably enhanced when this fragment comes to take its place in the completed pile, encompassed with an ordered group of steep-roofed masses, and crowned with the looming bulk of the domed tower. Even the fragment recalls Scott's "impression" of his own romantic town. Its "ridgy back heaves to the sky, Piled deep and massy, close and high."

Nearer at hand, too, from any point of view from which it is possible to forget the monotonous huddle of the lower stories, the aspect of the work is impressive. The projections which form the small flanking towers are still insufficient; but in the upper stages their dimensions are made the very utmost of. Hard as it is, in this whitish-gray material, to get a decisive shadow, there is a real depth in the upper arcade, and still more in the tower arches which flank it, as there is a real breadth in the belt of plain wall above the arcade, and in the surfaces of the tower walls. The towers are simply roofed with slabs of granite. The great, peaked roof of the central mass is unbroken, except by the line of tall dormers at its base and the tall, clustered chimneys which break through it midway. In detail, the work is scarcely so fortunate as in the mass. The dormers (page 163) seem too tall for the arcade beneath them, and when these features re-appear on the south side, the fault is corrected, not by dropping the dormers, but by elongating the arcade. Though the delicate enrichment of the cornice has in itself much elegance and is well disposed, it lacks emphasis, as if the designer had for- gotten to allow for the difficulties of his material ; and the rich shell frieze looks almost like an ornament merely incised, instead of modeled. This defect disappears altogether on the south side, where the ornament has the relief of high light and deeply pitted shade, and an effect of rugged richness takes the place of intricate intaglio (page 164). What remains most admirable, however, in this exterior work, is the skill with which thejumble of things below has been cleared up into a harmonious relation of parts above, and differences which seemed adequate only to confuse monotony have been made to yield a real emphasis and a true variety. On the court side of the building, the statute about styles did not apply, Mr. Eidlitz's design has been carried out, and the contrast with the street side is striking. The breadth and simplicity which constitute the distinction of Mr. Richardson's work, in comparison with what is below it, have here been carried even further ; perhaps the simplicity has been carried too far. The same arcade re-appears, though here it is not merely a relief to the work below it, but a tolerably distinct pro- test against that work. The whole aspect of the upper wall is plain even to rudeness. It is a studied plainness, however, and serves as a foil to the dormers (page 165), which, as upon the other side, are the richest and most elaborately wrought features of the work.

If the aim of Mr. Richardson's work is picturesque stateliness, that of Mr. Eidlitz's is as plainly monumental dignity.

After all, the exterior of the new Capitol is but an example of architectural tinkering. It is interesting to see what skill can do toward redeeming a building so far gone as the Albany Capitol, but it is almost pitiful to think in how great a degree skill must be \vasted upon it. Even the technical unity of pure style could not have been preserved here. Still less can the exterior ever have the unity to which style is but a means, the unity of a realized idea, when the artists must superimpose their ideas upon three stories innocent of idea. The interest of the building must remain in its parts. The real opportunities of the architects were offered in the interior, in the chambers, which were determined only in dimensions and position, and it is in these that their real successes must be looked for. Mr. Richardson's opportunity will come in the Senate chamber and the Executive chamber, which are yet to be built, the former to take the position in the south center which corresponds to that of the Assembly chamber in the north center, and the latter to occupy one of the corner pavilions. The designs for the former are completed and show that in this more dignified and more sequestered of the two chambers magnitude is not especially sought for. As this paper deals only with what may actually be seen in Albany, it is enough to say here that these designs aim at an impression of elegance through rich color and intricate form, and that the attempt gives

every promise of being successful. Mean- while Mr. Eidlitz's interior work stands done and, without doubt, gives the building at present its chief architectural interest. It comprises the whole of the completed north center, and includes the staircase, the Court of Appeals room (the temporaiy Senate chamber) with its corridor, and the Assembly chamber, besides a large number of subordinate rooms. Even here, except in the Assembly chamber itself, one feels that the thought of the architect has not been freely embodied, and that it can only be darkly apprehended through the limitations which beset it. The main entrance hall which will one day be fronted by a richly recessed porch, was committed altogether, for it was already built. This is the hall of the granite piers, rude without vigor, and unmodeled save for one huge roll at each angle. Perhaps as sharp a contrast as the building offers be- tween the old and the new dispensations of its architecture is that between this entrance hall and the corridor of the Court of Appeals room on the floor above it. The corridor (page 1 66) is even simpler in treatment than the entrance hall. Its forms have been left plain because it was conceived in color, and resplendence and intricacy of color are most effective and most appreciable when applied to fair surfaces and simple masses. The corridor is 140 feet long by 20 wide and perhaps 25 high, and extends along the whole "court side " of the north center. It is lighted by seven large windows opening on the court, which naturally divide it into bays of 20 feet square. Each bay is bounded by piers between which arches are turned, and these arches sustain a low and ribless groined vault. The piers themselves are plain but for a bead at the angle. Nothing could well be simpler than this arrangement, but its simplicity is neither rude nor affected. It is the structural basis of a most sumptuous and elaborate decoration in color. The piers are covered with a damask of red upon umber. The angle moldings are solidly gilded. The crimson wall screen on both sides is overlaid with a simple reticulation of gold lines framing ornaments in yellow. The whole vault is gilded and up- on its ground of gold, traversing each face of the vault, is a series of bands of minute ornament in brown and scarlet and deep blue. The method this close mosaic of minute quantities of crude color is entirely Oriental; and the effect is Oriental also. The varying surfaces of the vaulting, each covered with fretted gold, give a vista, lengthened by the dwindling arches, alive with flashing lights and shimmering shadows ; and under the iridescent ceiling there seems always to hang aluminous haze. In the quality of pure splendor there is HO architectural decoration in this country which is comparable to this. The Court of Appeals room (page 168), to which this gorgeous corridor gives access, has a rich- ness as sober as the other is riotous. The room is a square of sixty feet with a height of twenty-five. It is subdivided into two parallelograms, one twice the width of the other, by a line of red granite columns carrying with broad low arches a marble wall. The walls are of sandstone, visible in some places but covered in most with a decoration in deep red, and with the tall wainscoting of oak which occupies the wall above the dado of sandstone. The ceiling is a superb construction "' / system of beams diminishing in size from the great girders, supported by great braces, which stretch from wall to wall, and finally closed by oaken panels. These panels in the shadow of these deep recesses are profusely carved with foliage in high relief, and the panels of the wainscoting are profusely carved in diaper. The chief elements in the harmony of the room are thus crimson and oak. There is a temporary discord in this harmony, and a temporary drawback to one's complete enjoyment of the room in the glare of the white marble wall, to be softened ultimately with a diapered decoration in color. With this exception the room is already as delightful in color as it is rich, grave and impressive in design; and neither the rich modeling of the forms throughout it, nor its weight of color, are carried anywhere so far as to disturb its leading character of simple dignity.

In the staircase (page 169) one finds that there are still allowances to be made. It is crowded into a well which is not only much too small for such a purpose, but is virtually lighted only from the top. Though the whole opening has been glazed, the de-tail of the lower flights cannot be well seen, and the general plan is perforce cramped and undignified. But the staircase itself, which is built of sandstone, and carried between the outer wall of the well and an inner wall, pierced in each flight and at each landing with pointed arches, is a vigorous and scholarly piece of work.

Over the Court of Appeals room and its corridor, reaching eighty-four feet from wall to wall of the " North Center" and occupying with its dependencies the whole 140 feet of the length of it as well, is the Assembly chamber. Here at last, it must seem to the spectators of his work, however it may seem to himself, that the architect has finally rid himself of trammels, and instead of attacking the insoluble problem how to create a soul under the ribs of " the original design " has been empowered to set his own free thought before us. It is only when one considers the limitations imposed by the walls and floors that he sees how very different is the adjustment to this place of the architect's conception of a legislative hall from the unhampered embodiment of such a conception in stone. His problem was: given a parallelogram (page 172), to inscribe in it the lines of an Assembly chamber.

The central space, 84x55, which becomes the Assembly chamber proper, is thus in ecclesiastical language the transept of a room of which the nave is 140 feet long, in five bays., and the aisles are but of one bay at each end. The extreme length appears only in the galleries of the nave, which are carried over the lobbies. In front of the public gallery at the Speaker's end, and below it, is the reporters' gallery. On either hand of this again, lower still and still further advanced, filling the square bays of the aisles, are ladies' galleries. Four great red granite shafts, four feet thick, bound the central bay. From their marble capitals rise and ramify the ribs and arches of six bays, differing in height, in area, and in shape, forming an ordered hierarchy leading up to the keystone of the central vault.

The perspective of the room is so arranged that from the entrance one looks through the large end of the telescope, as it were, down vistas framed in arches narrowing and vaults hanging lower as they recede, from the great red pillars on either hand, along the vast and ever-varying surfaces of the ceilings, their creamy sandstone faces divided by the sweeping lines of the deeper-toned ribs and arches that uphold them, and fretted with wide belts of ornament climbing their climbing courses, touched with the gleam of gold and standing out from hollows filled with deep ultramarine and burning vermilion, to " the dark backward and abysm" of the remotest vault. Through the lower arches one sees the openings of the windows which flood the transept, not with the dim, religious light of old cathedrals, but with naked and open daylight. Around them wheel the intricate arabesques of their arches defined against a ground of vermilion and circled with bands of gold. Above and between the lower three, beneath the broad belt which is some day to carry a sculptured procession, the whole wall is covered with arabesques in a field of dull red. Above the upper arcade are glimpses of the draperies and the attitudes of colossal painted figures.

One feels at once in this great stone room that he is in the presence of a noble monument, and that in what a musician would call the "dispersed harmony" of this hierarchy of ordered masses, and this balance and opposition of sweeping curves there has been achieved in the America of the nineteenth century a work not unworthy to be compared with what has been done in more famous building ages. When the shock of such an impression has subsided and he has time to examine the sources of this effect, he finds them in the general conception of the room rather than in any of its parts or in any aggregation of them less than the whole. Here is a distinctly Gothic room, which in its plan has so many re-semblances to a mediaeval church that it cannot be described without using the terms of ecclesiology, which yet has probably never re- minded a single visitor of a church. Its civic character has been impressed upon it by the force of design alone, and mainly by the modeling of its masses, after the noble arrangement which this modeling assists. There is a vigor in it which reminds one of Romanesque or early Gothic, but it has none of the rudeness of Romanesque vaulted architecture and none of the tentative imperfection of early Gothic work. Except in one conspicuous instance, the structure is completely developed, and complete development is the mark of perfected Gothic.

This completeness, however, nowhere degenerates into the attenuation that comes of excessive subdivision nowhere into a loss of that sense of power which belongs to unhewn masses fulfilling structural necessities. There is nothing here of which one may say : " 'Twere to consider too curiously, to consider so." Neither is there any- thing of that ascetic intensity which most of all has set its stamp upon the ecclesiastical work of the Middle Ages. This work is as daylit as Grecian Doric. It is frank and manly, and it is eminently alive distinctly a product of our time.

The disposition and the modeling of the parts in the Assembly chamber determine its character, and whatever is done after this but enhances an inherent effect. There is a wealth of carved work, modeled and incised, which uniformly accentuates and enriches and nowhere enfeebles or disguises the powerful masses, the leading lines, and the great untroubled spaces. If the masses lacked emphasis or the leading lines were less pronounced, or if the ornament itself were less judiciously de- signed and disposed, the architectural features of the room would disappear under the profusion which now only enriches them. Mr. Ruskin has laid it down that ornament cannot be overcharged so long as it is good. This may be only Mr. Ruskin's way of saying that ornament cannot be overcharged so long as it remains ornamental ; but it is .quite certain that the more lavishly ornament is applied, the greater the necessity that the structure which it tends to dominate instead of decorating should starkly and unmistakably assert itself. The most striking thing about the detail is also the most striking thing everywhere in the treatment of the monument, and the one indispensable factor in its success : it is the fact that the design evidently and everywhere proceeds from the whole to the parts. Parts are not put together to simulate a whole ; they are developed from the whole. It is an evolution from the homogeneous, but to the homogeneous also. The detail, with such exceptions as will readily occur to the reader, is but a modification, a literal detailing for a special service, of the mass. Accord-ingly, the detail, the strength of which is its absolute architectural appropriateness, beautiful as much of it is in itself, cannot fairly be judged by itself. All of it is highly " conventionalized," that is to say, is modified from a natural type to meet the exigencies of a particular situation, which is as different a thing as possible from being $ "conventional," l " and the measure of its success is the degree in which it contributes to the total success. Appropriateness is scarcely the word for this trait. A saying of Wordsworth about Goethe's poetry has lately been quoted which supplies a better. " Goethe," he said, "is not inevitable ; not inevitable enough." This detail is inevitable, because the artist has been so possessed with the idea of the whole that the parts follow necessarily. If this is true, it follows that we need not concern our- selves with the question of the absolute originality of the detail, for an artist sufficiently possessed by the idea of the whole will make or find an expression of it in the parts which shall fulfill this great condition of inevitableness. What is true of modeled detail is true of color. As the carved decoration follows the structure, so the colored decoration follows the carved decoration, and, of course excepting the mural pictures by the late Mr. William M. Hunt, cannot be conceived apart from it. It will be seen that al- though the mass of the work is of creamy sandstone, the system of decoration, which includes gold, red and blue alone, is pitched in a very high key for an accompaniment to mural paintings which are demanded to be the most brilliant and conspicuous parts of the system.

This description of Mr. Hunt's mural paintings is taken from an article in the "American Architect " :

"The space which each is to occupy is bounded by the line of the vault above and at the sides, and by the window heads below, and is some fifteen by forty-five feet in area. The subjects are allegories. That on the northern wall (the axis of the room is east and west) represents the Flight of Night. The Queen of Night is driving before the dawn, charioted on clouds drawn by three plunging horses, one white, one black, one red, without other visible restraint than that of a swarthy guide, who floats at the left of the picture, and whose hand is lightly laid upon the head of the outermost horse. At the right of the goddess, and in deep shade, is the recumbent figure of a sleeping mother with a sleeping child upon her breast. The other picture is equally simple in composition. The discoverer stands upright in a boat, dark against a sunset sky, Fortune erect behind him trimming the sail with her lifted left hand while her right holds the tiller. The boat is rising to a sea, and is attended by Hope at the prow with one arm resting on it and one pointing forward ; Faith, whose face is buried in her arms, and who is floating with the tide, and Science unrolling a chart at the side."

These pictures may be dis- cussed either as pictures or as mural decorations ; but in either aspect, it must be a primary requisite and surely one of the hardest to fulfill that figures colossal in scale, as these are, should be so largely conceived and painted that they demand and deserve to be colossal. No more severe penalty could be inflicted upon an ordinary producer of figure subjects than that he should paint a group of figures twelve feet high on the stone wall of this transept. In this essential, certainly Mr. Hunt's work is triumphantly successful. The figures are not exaggerated into bigness ; they are monumentally imagined, and nobly grouped. It may be said that they are primarily pictures and not decorations, and that if they were less complete pictures they would be more successful decorations. Until the scaffoldings were struck the painter had no opportunity of judging the result in color of his experiment of painting a picture to be lighted from underneath, or of knowing how nearly his vigorous and luminous work would live up to the splendors of pure color by which it is surrounded. If he had had such an opportunity it may fairly be conjectured that he would have given his work a character more rigid and archaic in drawing, and both in drawing and in color made it more strictly a mural mosaic.

Whatever the success of this particular experiment may prove to be in the employment of eminent painters and sculptors in purely architectural decoration, and it is surely so far successful already as to be full of encouragement, the fact of that employment must be gratifying to all people who hope for a national monumental art. The architecture at least is secure. One can look forward to a time in which the session laws of 1879 shall be repealed or forgotten, and even veto messages are no longer read or regarded, when this Assembly chamber shall chiefly cause this generation of New Yorkers to be held in honorable memory by that posterity, for the reproaches of which, on account of the desecration of the capitol by architectural vandals, the chapters of architects have solemnly washed their hands of any responsibility. Even before posterity arrives, it may be hoped that the remonstrants will regret that what is now pretty generally admitted to be, or rather to comprise, the most monumental and most honorable work of public architecture which this country has to show for itself, should be absolutely the only work of public architecture, the erection of which has encountered the organized opposition of the body of architects and called out a formal protest in favor of continuing the commonplace level of trades-union work. If posterity should happen to contain any architectural purists, or any architectural practitioners governed by the same " received rules of art," as those which the chapters uphold, we cannot expect them to approve even of Mr. Eidlitz's Assembly . chamber. For even the Assembly chamber exhibits a mixture of styles. In truth, the main academic interest of the Assembly chamber is the union in it of Gothic architecture and Saracenic decoration. Not only is the whole method of applying color the Oriental method, that is to say, the production of "tone" by the juxtaposition of positive colors rather than by the mixture of pigments, and by the application of color in different planes of surface ; but the modeled ornament which alone is found in medieval architecture is modified in innumerable instances into the flat incised arabesques, of simple outline, which make alive the color by which they are enriched. The decoration of the ceiling and of the walls owes its peculiar vitality to the excavation of the surfaces. The incised decoration of the walls, of the gallery girders and of the impost is distinctly Moorish in method and feeling, and some of it even in form. We have said that there was one instance in which the architecture failed of that full development of the structure in virtue of which it became Gothic. In fact there are at least two, but what was then meant was the arrested development, at the stage of smooth cylinders, of the great granite columns (page 173). The full Gothic development of these columns would have required of them to pre- figure in their forms the organization of the vault above them, and would have made of each a clustered pier instead of the classic column, the form of which they now take. This is a defect, not because it is classic, but because it is rudimentary, and moreover because these great, shining shafts attract attention and admiration partly for their own sakes, and not entirely, as every other member of the architecture does, for their contribution to the whole. Compare this " classic " rudeness with the treatment of the pier (page 175) from which rises the arch behind the Speaker's chair, and, which is perhaps the most admirable single piece of Gothic modeling, that is to say of poetic logic, in the chamber. In this clustered pier, the large transverse and the smaller longitudinal arch and even the rib of the vault are even in the given parallelogram, were al- ready the elements of this power of mass and grace of detail, of all this life and movement and variety. From the idea of the whole proceeded this clear division, this interdependency of parts, this graduated subordination of the less to the greater of these, and of all to the sum of all. One can scarcely insist too strongly upon this order or recur to it too often, for it is in the conception of the whole that there resides that imagination which afterward bodies forth, by dint of merely technical power and all foretold. The other instance of an incomplete architectural development is furnished by the great arches, the voussoirs of which merge into the wall above them without any definition of the extrados, and, indeed, with hardly a continuous line to mark their outer boundaries, while the less important arches of the wall openings are carefully and strongly emphasized.

Here, then, is the completed evolution of the germ that inhered in the ground plan which notes the fundamental conception of the Assembly chamber. Here, inscribed technical accomplishment, the shapes of things unknown. In the Assembly chamber there has been produced what is not to be found elsewhere in this country upon the same monumental scale, and what is the rarest of achievements in modern architecture, a real and living organism. Here has been established, as truly as in a Doric temple or a thirteenth-century cathedral, an architectural type ; and this is the sign, not merely of creative power in the individual designer, but of life in art. Finally, had the execution of the building from its inception been confided to the architects who have been intrusted with the mitigation of some parts of it, we might have had in the whole the organic unity which can now be looked for only in the parts, and of the pile there might have been much more to say than that it presents a noble sky-line and contains rich and ingenious detail.

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