As promised:musings on the gothic architectural underpinnings of Madonna’s Confessions tour By Mitch McEwen 11/13/07
There is confusion right now, within architecture and throughout society, about what consitutes the penultimate architectural object. For most of the 20th century, I would argue, this status was shared between the museum and the airport.
With the very recent engineering feats that make expressive skyscrapers possible (see my posts on Dubai or go straight to the real estate data), this contest now continues between the skyscraper and the museum (as the airport, suffering from its excessive success as a futuristic object, has drifted into cliche - if you doubt me on this, check out the "SKY360° by Delta" lounge in midtown before it closes this weekend).
Wasn't this post supposed to be about Madonna and the Confessions tour? Yes, hold on.
What's shocking about this architectural trinity of museum-airport-skyscraper is the two big guys left out: God and country. One could possibly argue that the entire history of architecture, prior to the 20th century, could be framed as a tense collaboration/competition between architecture as theological tool and architecture as political tactic. After the fall of the Roman empire, with the spread of Christianty through Europe, the political project and the religious project faced two very different architectural challenges. With the military invention of the catapult in the 12th century, monarchic political structures improved upon the architecture of thick-walled castles by building UP.
Towers emerged as a defensive-offensive tactic.Christianity, not yet linked with dominate political structures throughout most of Europe, faced the entirely different challenge of fitting more and more people under one roof. This is where the flying buttresses come in.
Of course, flying buttresses are not the only way to affect a large span. But they sure get the job done.
Let's back up a second. Cathedrals, until the Gothic age, had been built a lot like castles. Thick masonry walls held up greater and greater weight of bigger, heavier buildings. However, while thick stone walls did well at handling the weight of these larger buildings, they didn't do much structurally to support the wider span. Through the 11th century, the structural support of cathedral roofs took up more and more room of the interior, creating big walls that formed cavities of the interior