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Roman Architecture: Engineering an Empire

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Author Topic: Roman Architecture: Engineering an Empire  (Read 4468 times)
Krystal Coenen
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« Reply #45 on: July 16, 2007, 05:20:12 pm »

The Maison Carrée is a perfect example of Vitruvian architecture in its most classical mode. Raised on a 2.85 m high podium, the temple dominated the forum of the Roman city, forming a rectangle almost twice as long as it is wide, measuring 26.42 m by 13.54 m. The façade is dominated by a deep portico or pronaos almost a third of the building's length. It is a pseudoperipteral hexastyle design with six Corinthian columns under the Pediment at either end,[1] and twenty engaged columns embedded along the walls of the cella. Above the columns, the architrave is divided by two recessed rows of petrified water drips into three levels with ratios of 1:2:3. Egg-and-dart decoration divides the architrave from the frieze. The frieze is decorated with fine ornamental relief carvings of rosettes and acanthus leaves beneath a row of very fine dentils.

A large door (6.87 m high by 3.27 m wide) leads to the surprisingly small and windowless interior, where the shrine was originally housed. This is now used to house occasional art exhibitions. No ancient decoration remains inside the cella.

The building has undergone extensive restoration over the centuries. Until the 19th century, it formed part of a larger complex of adjoining buildings. These were demolished when the Maison Carrée was turned into a museum, restoring it to the splendid isolation it would have enjoyed in Roman times. The pronaos was restored in the early part of the century when a new ceiling was provided, designed in the Roman style. The present door was made in 1824.

It underwent a further restoration between 1988-1992 during which time it was re-roofed and the square around it was cleared, revealing the outlines of the forum. Sir Norman Foster was commissioned to build a modern art gallery, known as the Carrée d'Art, on the far side of the square. This provides a startling contrast to the Maison Carrée but borrows many of its features, such as the portico and columns (but rendered in steel and glass). The contrast of its modernity is thus muted by the physical resemblance between the two buildings, representing architectural styles 2000 years apart.

The Maison Carrée inspired the neoclassical Église de la Madeleine in Paris and the Virginia State Capitol in the United States
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