What Shapes Architecture

Reaction Paper: What Shapes Architecture
by: Bea C.

            In evaluating the different architectural movements that have flooded Europe, one will get a rich picture of the localities that comprise the continent—the history, culture, and residents of an area. As demonstrated in the video documentaries, the architectural styles (Baroque, Renaissance, Rococo, Gothic) of Europe did not simply spring out of an individual’s mind; rather, these styles were shaped by unique realities of the region. Architecture, while a beautiful creation of man, is also a statement. Each style carries with itself a distinct personality ingrained with its history.

The dramatic and occasionally gruesome Baroque architecture, for example, blurs the lines between art and the onlooker; between the imaginary and reality. It is a physical manifestation of the Protestant movement’s effect on the church at that time—dark and edgy, after having turned away from the Catholic rule. Baroque architecture seems to pull onlookers into itself instead of taking a passive role.

Likewise, Rococo is not simply a combination of pastel shades and charming figures. Beyond the pink, twisting columns and the bright interiors, academics have observed that the style actually takes unattractive and awkward subjects and depicts them in a better light. The whimsical mood entices the public (to perhaps remain loyal to the Catholic faith), all the while hiding the uglier aspects of its subject.

Renaissance architecture was born following Europe’s darkest time period—the Middle Ages. Unlike Gothic structures, Renaissance buildings took after the original Roman proportions and followed human scale. In the same vein, philosophy began to call attention to a new line of thought: Humanism. The documentary showed how the dome of Sta. Maria del Fiore was constructed, where new systems and machines had to be invented to execute the architect’s plans. The renaissance era was much like this; a period of new discoveries and enlightenment.

Finally, the Gothic style, built at the time when the Catholic church was at the seat of power, is tall and domineering. The huge windows, allowing daylight to flood into the space, creates such a poignant impression on townsfolk and onlookers that their faith in God is strengthened. Coupled with the grandeur of both the interiors and exteriors, the full strength of the church is displayed by the building.

On another note, it is not only the phenomenological and metaphysical aspects that shape architecture, but also the technology present in an era. Does technology come before design, or is it the other way around? History has shown that the two entities go hand in hand. In example, the Gothic church would never have been built if not for the development of pointed arches and the flying buttresses.

Fine art is also paired with Architecture, as progress in one field creates ripples in the other. One event triggers new philosophies and emotions within people. Architecture is only one outlet for which these thoughts are manifested and take shape.

But what a wonderful outlet it is! The inescapable art that is architecture sets the stage for which Europe’s great legacy continues to thrive. The different styles worn and refined by the Europeans endorse their heritage and exemplifies the richness of their history. In the end, one is left to wonder what actually shapes the spaces we move in. Evidently, it is all of these little things that have been mentioned. Architecture is a unique experience in and of itself, like a painting preserved throughout time and space. The various built wonders in Europe echo Wolfgang von Goethe’s sentiments; architecture really is frozen music, a flurry of elements that influence each other to create a distinct and cohesive composition.

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