Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Edwin Smith

Discovered this photographer on the weekend. I am now trying to find a copy of any of his books to buy. I love the photos, the detail in the landscape and architecture scenes is incredible. There is a real sense of depth, which can be hard to achieve, so many photos of gardens and landscapes end up looking flattened out. The more intimate photos are also beautiful, the contrasts of shadows cast on skin or snow.

Forgive my photos of photos but you get the idea!

And a few better images via the V&A website:

Edwin, Smith, Bealin Cros Twyford, Ireland, 1965
Edwin Smith, Castle Ward, Co. Down, Ireland, 1965

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Elizabethan garden labyrinth spotted in luftwaffe spy photo

A German spy photograph of a ruined house in Northamptonshire surrounded by oddly marked fields, has revealed a secret unguessed at by the Luftwaffe cameraman: such important evidence of a lost Tudor garden that the site has been awarded Grade I status by English Heritage, ranking it among the most important gardens in Europe.
The garden's grass ring marks, shown clearly by the aerial, monochrome, photograph, are 120 metres across and almost certainly mark a Tudor labyrinth tracing in symbolic form the religious faith of its creator – a faith that finally cost the man his family fortune and his son's life, after the latter was exposed as one of the Gunpowder plotters.
In 1944 the photographer was probably disappointed with his efforts: the house and garden of Lyveden New Bield, near Oundle, and now owned by the National Trust, were undoubtedly peculiar but could have had no military significance.
The Luftwaffe images are now part of the US national archive, kept in Maryland, and were only studied closely when the National Trust ordered copies in the past six months.
The full story is here 

This is very interesting. Aerial archaeology is quite a big thing but I have never read much about it in relation to garden archaeology, I guess partly because only very large and obvious designs would be visible, more subtle plantings would be harder if not impossible to see. Aerial photos are an interesting source for the study of gardens. I have been using the ones on Google Earth and Google Maps to look for historical garden sites. This may sound odd but often I actually have very little idea about the modern state of a seventeenth or eighteenth-century garden just from primary and secondary sources. Less famous gardens are often only referred to in passing and may only be illustrated with an old engraving rather than a modern photo.  I'll try and find some of the comparisons I put together for a post tomorrow.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Teatro Olimpico Vicenza

Something short and sweet tonight. I just had this photo up to add to my thesis catalogue. Some of you probably know it - the Teatro Olimpico in Vicenza, Italy. Designed by Andrea Palladio and  then completed by Vincenzo Scamozzi. It is unusual for its survival, theatres usually have terribly short life spans, especially before the advent of electric light when the combination of many many candles and a lot of flammable wood and paper meant they tended to burn down. It is also unique as an example of an attempt to recreate an ancient Roman theatre. It was built for the humanist Accademia Olimpica in Vicenza who wished to perform plays in it after the style of ancient Rome, both revivals of ancient plays as well as new plays written in the same style. It is very closely based on antique examples with the semi circular seats (the cavea) the permanent scenery (scaenae) with its screen of columns and sculptures (columnatio). The streets are very much based on 16th scenery, though we do know that Roman theatres did have some kind of scenery behind the columnatio. By the time it was completed in the 1580s the interest in reviving ancient plays was on the wane and instead most theatrical productions were using a theatre in a style that is still very familiar today, with  a semi-circular auditorium, a single proscenium arch and scenery on some kind of moveable machines and a backdrop. You can still watch plays and operas in this theatre, I have never been there at the right time of year though.
The illusion is quite amazing and one always wants to wander up the street to see just how short it really is.


So I decided to sign up for this in a  fit of procrastination, which is possibly unwise as I am trying to finish my PhD and I will soon have mountain of marking. My plan is that if I have this to do when I need a break from either of the above things it  will help focus me. That's the theory. I posted twice yesterday and will post something later today. I am currently working on my image catalogue for my thesis so expect a lot of musings on images from that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Snapshot East Melbourne

I posted this on Walking Melbourne and ended up writing some thoughts about what style it is and I thought I would re-post them here. It is an interesting little building, quite different to most of the 1930s apartment blocks in East Melbourne.
Called Bradoc House it was built in 1933 and is on George St between Simpson St and Hoddle St.

The info from the East Melbourne Historical Society http://emhs.org.au/history/buildings/ea ... adoc_house says it is Tudor-Byzantine with Spanish influence, but well, that just sounds a bit silly to me. I guess the white and dark colours is a bit Tudor, but is is also Spanish Colonial. I have no idea why Byzantine, I guess maybe the tower could be and the way the forms are massed together, and it has some hints at crenelations, but once again this all could come from a Spanish colonial influence as well. If anything it makes me think more of Romanesque style than Byzantine. Personally rather than Tudor-Byzantine I would say it has Spanish Colonial and Arts and Crafts influences. I don't think there are really hard and fast descriptions for 20th century architectural styles, especially in periods that experimented with a lot of revival styles. What do others think?

Snapshot Adelaide

A small terrace house in North Adelaide in the late afternoon sun. I was particularly taken by the patterns made by the shadow cast by the porch supports (no idea what the proper term for these would be...)

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