Saturday, February 9, 2013

recalling Viollet-le-Duc in Boston and Toronto

The miniature columns cantilevered at an angle off the side of this townhouse on Exeter Street in Boston recall the imaginative designs of 19th-century French architect Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. In his designs for concert halls, arcades, and other civic spaces, gothic columns fashioned out of cast iron were tilted on an angle and used to support cantilevered balconies, domes, and walkways over wide open gathering spaces. These angled columns became a central design element and an expression of structural might, and were often highlighted in Viollet-le-Duc's magnificent drawings, as can be seen below. Interestingly, the gothic decoration and branch-like grouping of these angled columns that characterizes Viollet-le-Duc's designs seem to have been loyally retained, albeit in miniaturized and distilled form, by the architect of the townhouse in Boston who would have been a contemporary of Viollet-le-Duc.

Another interesting comparison to Viollet-le-Duc's work can be made with Alsop Architects' 2004 expansion of OCAD University in Toronto, a structure that is supported by immense, angled steel columns grouped together in pairs, as can be seen below. Painted in bright colors, these columns are highlighted as a central design feature framing a wide open covered gathering space that acts as a passageway to an adjacent park.

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