In the revolution of 1789, France set out to replace its absolute monarchy with a government based on a separation of legislative, judicial, and executive powers. In Geometries of Power: Royal, Revolutionary, and Postrevolutionary French Courtrooms, Katherine Fischer Taylor asks how the goal of separating powers affected the reform of French justice through its physical housing. Providing the first overview of French courtroom layout, Taylor identifies four geometric configurations that characterize in turn the late ancien régime, the revolutionary decade, and the Napoleonic era and beyond. While taking account of changes in the conduct of trials, the analysis emphasizes instead how the courtroom’s spatial arrangement expresses the political source and status of justice. The revolution’s hitherto-unstudied circular layout is placed in the context of the novel curvilinear legislative chamber and influential theater reform. It proposes that the Napoleonic replacement, a rectangular layout inspired by contemporaneous basilican church interiors, instead reframed justice as a sacral power distinct from the theatrical legislature.
Architecture, Anatomy, and the New Science in Early Modern London: Robert Hooke’s College of Physicians focuses on an important but overlooked building in late seventeenth-century London: the College of Physicians on Warwick Lane designed by the scientist and architect Robert Hooke in the 1670s. The building, which was commissioned in response to the previous college’s destruction in the Great Fire of London in 1666, was itself demolished in the nineteenth century. In this article, Matthew Walker argues that the conception and design of Hooke’s college had close links with the early Royal Society and its broader experimental philosophical program. This came about through the agency of Hooke—the society’s curator—as well as the prominence of the college’s physicians in the experimental philosophical group in its early years. By analyzing Hooke’s design for the college, and its prominent anatomy theater in particular, this article thus raises broader questions about architecture’s relationship with medicine and experimental science in early modern London.
The Folkwang Museum (1902) in Hagen, Germany, represented a radically new approach to museum design and display. Based on principles of a Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk, the museum overturned historicist museum principles. Following Nietzsche, the Folkwang’s founder and director, Karl Ernst Osthaus, advocated a spontaneous and individual relationship to artworks and praised art that yielded rich, synesthetic experiences. With the help of art critic Julius Meier-Graefe and designer Henry van de Velde, Osthaus defined an advanced formal language based in Parisian painterly aesthetics that he believed could provide the terms for coordinating the arts. In The Birth of the Modernist Art Museum: The Folkwang as Gesamtkunstwerk. Katherine Kuenzli shows that at the Folkwang, principles of simultaneity displaced linear narrative and historical and geographical classification. Through visually striking displays and ambitious educational programs, Osthaus and his colleagues also sought to expand the public for art. Unity remained elusive, however; Osthaus, Meier-Graefe, and van de Velde adopted competing ideological agendas that reveal the political heterogeneity of the Gesamtkunstwerk around 1900.
Noted art historian William H. Goodyear (1846–1923) spent the better part of his career documenting what he called the “widening refinement,” the intentionally out-of-plumb construction of Gothic churches. Builders, he believed, inclined their walls in service of a sophisticated art of irregularity designed to grant vitality to their edifices. Yet such a practice was antithetical to the motives of the Gothic masters, for whom these deformations due to vault thrusts were unwelcome—for whom wall plumb was an imperative not only of constructional but also of theological order. In An Architecture of Perfection, Andrew Tallon uses evidence of an ideal of rectilinearity found in scripture and its medieval exegesis, in which moral and architectural perfection are explicitly linked, along with analysis of the cathedrals of Chartres and Bourges using laser technology to demonstrate that rectilinear perfection was actively sought—and attained.
Leo Steinberg’s doctoral dissertation of 1960 contained an exposé of the complex geometry of Francesco Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, and while his scheme has been the starting point for subsequent interpretations, Joseph Connors points out that the majority of drawings relied upon by Steinberg were in fact reworked by Borromini in the 1660s, after the church was built. The geometrical armature of the 1660s plans must therefore be read with caution, measured against the dimensions of the actual building and the geometry discernible in the drawings of the design stage. Whatever the basis of the geometrical reconstruction, something remains unclear, namely, the rationale of the curvature of the lateral chapels. In Practical and Symbolic Geometry in Borromini’s San Carlo alle Quattro Fontane, Michael Hill explores the geometrical rationale of the plan, particularly the role of the biangolo, to unlock its developmental sequence. He also argues for the symbolic importance of the biangolo that provides a cue for a consideration of the plan in terms of an epiphanic representation of the Trinity, a characterization that in turn sheds light on the devotion of San Carlo Borromeo, co-dedicatee of the church, as well as the meaning of the normally ignored altarpieces.