Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Ludlow, Shropshire

You know the Orders, the modes, as it were, of Classical architecture? Doric, with its fluted columns topped with square abaci, Ionic with its spiral volute capitals, Corinthian, with its gorgeous bunches of acanthus leaves? The Orders were designed to provide builders with a complete architectural vocabulary, a set of standard designs for the key bits of a building – columns, with capitals on top of them, and entablatures on top of them. Everything standardized. Everything in order.

It was never quite like that, of course. The ancient Greeks rang changes on the orders and the Romans introduced two others (Tuscan and Composite). But there was still a sense of correctness, of decorum, to use a Classical word, about how to use these bits of architectural vocabulary. When English builders get their hands on the orders, though, quite different and bizarre things sometimes happen. What, for example, if you were to combine the idea of a Classical Order, with its column, capital, and entablature, with the pointed-arched Gothic style of the Middle Ages?

What you get is this Gothic doorcase of 1768 on the Guildhall in Ludlow. It’s all there – column, capital, entablature, but the columns are slender triple shafts, and the entablature is adorned with little quatrefoils, details straight from the visual vocabulary of the medieval parish church. And so between the columns is a doorway topped not with a flat Classical lintel but with a gently curving arch above which is a pointed Gothic arch. It’s a delightful combination, architecturally incorrect and very English. Capital!


Thud said...

What can I works...beautiful.

Peter Ashley said...

I love undisciplined architecture. The hastily scribbled plan for the door done on the back of a rates demand envelope and the Town Clerk saying "That's the sort of thing" and putting on his tall hat and going out into the Ludlow sunshine. Or straight into the pub.

Philip Wilkinson said...

The builder was probably clutching one of his pattern-books, too – perhaps one by the popular and wonderfully-named Batty Langley. It's Batty - but why not?