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Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1959.13/923495
- Clouds and sky ceilings: landscape symbolism and the architectural imagination
- Vincent Scully said in 1969, 'the first element of architecture is the natural world, and the second element is everything manmade. In that relationship between the manmade and the natural, the metaphysical wholeness of architecture is always seen.' Gottfried Semper, in a footnote in The Four Elements of Architecture (1852), proposed that large indoor spaces (theatres, auditoria, cathedrals) are, historically, external spaces-roofed atria, courtyards with ceilings: 'there is actually no significant architectural form that did not arise from the original concept of the court.' Semper's argument triggers speculation on the methodology of architecture, 'the architectural imagination': perhaps the great interior spaces of historical architecture (the Pantheon, Hagia Sofia, Chartres), do not merely suggest the outdoors, but may be understood as exterior spaces, enclosed by symbolic ceilings. At different periods through the twentieth century Erik Gunnar Asplund; Alvar Aalto and Jørn Utzon - all famously aware of landscape-contemplated the problem of the relationship between the manmade and the natural. Their methods are exemplified in the representation and symbolism of clouds and sky in Asplund's Skandia Cinema and Stockholm Public Library, Aalto's Viipuri and Seinajoki libraries, and Utzon's Bagsvaerd Church. The ceiling of the honorific space in a public building is a major programmatic and aesthetic element, an artifice of conceptual, intellectual, technical and perceptual daring; it would seem to merit investigation, as realized in three related periods of twentieth-century architecture. Semper's argument may also be used to reflect that the respect shown by Asplund, Aalto and Utzon for historical models may have its roots in natural, as much as cultural, aesthetics. This paper explores the poetics and aesthetics of the sky ceiling. It discusses sky and clouds as natural phenomena, architecturally represented in ceilings in works by Asplund, Aalto and Utzon. It refers to Colin St John Wilson's ideas of Natural and Artificial Imagination to discuss how the aesthetic phenomenon of the sky ceiling, combining landscape and history, demonstrates the scope and authority of the architectural imagination as it mediates between artificial and natural worlds.
- 27th International Conference of the Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand (SAHANZ 2010). Imagining ...: Proceedings of the 27th International SAHANZ Conference (Newcastle, N.S.W. 30 June - 2 July, 2010) p. 348-353
- Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand
- Resource Type
- conference paper