Rhythm and ‘cues’


Music creates order out of chaos: for rhythm imposes unanimity upon the divergent, melody imposes continuity upon the disjointed, and harmony imposes compatibility upon the incongruous                                                                                                     Yehudi Menuhin

This is an exercise that I show to my first year architectural history students, in the attempt to have them understand some of the values inherent to the knowledge of architectural history. This reasonably iconic Wellington building, when analysed in relation to the rhythm of its fenestration and major vertical elements, I argue, is a good example of notions of symmetry and rhythm in Classical architecture, which are strongly (perhaps jarringly?) juxtaposed here with a more modern development arising from the old (it is not difficult to distinguish the two).

The new development does, however, reference the rhythm of the building upon which it is based, but not in a sympathetic, or even ‘harmonious’ manner. The question is, when reduced down to the basic elements such as this, is the attempt facile, or is it very clever and appropriate to contemporary ideas of architecture, and, perhaps, the irony of ‘sympathetic’ interventions to ‘heritage’ buildings and/or streetscapes? I’m actually yet to decide…

When the actual building is revealed (which it is after the break if you have not guessed it by now), it becomes impossible to judge it objectively when presented by the awful kitschiness of its Postmodernised Classical motifs – but I think there is worth in attempting to do so…

Symmetry is the proper agreement of the members of the work itself, and relation between the different parts and the whole general scheme, in accordance with a certain part selected as the standard…

                                                                                Vitruvius c25BC


3 responses to “Rhythm and ‘cues’”

  1. richard Avatar

    I’m afraid I have to disagree with you – I don’t think it’s worthwhile judging – or even looking at this hideous hideous thing. I agree with the Arch Centre which listed it as one of the worst buildings in Wellington – if I remember correctly. But thank you for putting in a black and white image. The colour version would have ruined my day.

    The excerise just proves the skeletalism tendencies of things like design guides are ridiculous when it comes to producing good design. Uck I still feel sick – thanks very much.

  2. richard Avatar

    maybe it just proves that ornament does matter?

  3. For a minute there I thought you had a visual of that well respected block of apartments known as Croxley Mills. It too has a more classical base, and a more modern top half, but is thankfully not as hideous as the example shown here.

    Phew. I feel relieved.

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