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Free Tour to the Amazing World of Baroque Architecture

Olla peeps! Architecture is, a vast topic, and there is a lot to learn about it. So, let’s talk about Baroque architecture in this post. I have tried to collect as much information as I could so that you get all your answers in this one post. Let’s make reading more interesting, so stay connected. Now we will start with our free tour to the amazing world of Baroque architecture.

1) What is Baroque architecture?

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  • It is the style of the Baroque era which began in the late 16th-century, Italy.
  • The buildings represented the style of that era.
  • Baroque Architecture took the touch of the Roman vocabulary of Renaissance architecture and modified it in a new fashion, often to express the triumph of the Catholic Church.
  • It played with new forms, light and shadow and dramatic intensity. This brought in a new style called Baroque style.
  • The major difference between Renaissance and Baroque architecture was that Renaissance focused on wealth and power of the Italian courts and it was a blend of secular and religious forces, whereas Baroque focused on both emotional aspects and wealth and power of the Catholic Church.
  • In Italy the term “Baroque” originally meant a pedantic, contorted argument of little dialectic value.
  • Later in almost all European languages, it ended up becoming a synonym for the extravagant, deformed, abnormal, unusual, absurd, and irregular.
  • Eighteenth-century critics adopted this pattern to apply to the art of the preceding century.
  • Baroque architecture went ahead, displaying these specific characteristics: the use of movement, whether actual or implied; the attempt to represent or suggest infinity; gave importance to light and it’s effect; theatrical effects; mixing various forms in paintings, sculptures, etc.
  • Baroque architecture also came in limelight due to its town planning techniques: arrangement of cities, creation of great parks and gardens around residences, etc.

2) Building Styles in Baroque architecture?

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  • Baroque architects understood buildings as a single mass which one can shape according to the number of requirements.
  • For Baroque architects, designing building was like making a huge sculpture. It was like shaping a huge mass of soft plastic or clay into a piece of imaginary lines in the air.
  • Complex, rich and dynamic designs took the place of simple and plane structures.
  • Earlier, the ground-plans were in forms of squares, circles and Greek cross. In Baroque architecture, the designs evolved into ellipse, oval or more complicated geometrical figures.
  • Baroque architects introduced the idea of movement in a building. They gave movements to architectural elements in the form of more or less regular curves.
  • Giving movements to elements became a dominant motif of Baroque architecture.
  • Some of the best examples of this motif are Church of S. Andrea al Quirinale by Gia Lorenzo Bernini, creator, and exponent of Roman Baroque and S.Carlo alle Quattro Fontane by Borromini.
  • The Italian architect Guarino Guarini evolved and put to use an “Undulating order” in his buildings in the form of curvaceous bases and columns.
  • This also led to the evolution of new architectural and ornamental elements. These elements were in the form of a ribbon curling round at the ends.
  • The function of these elements, was not purely decorative, but, principally functional and strengthening .

3) Distinctive features of Baroque architecture

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  • Complex, surprising and dynamic buildings.
  • In churches, use of broader naves and oval forms
  • Dramatic use of light; strong light and shade contrasts as at the church of Weltenburg Abbey, uniform lighting by means of several windows as at the church of Weingarten Abbey.
  • Use of incomplete architectural elements to give different effects.
  • Rich use of colour and ornaments( figures or putti made out of wood, plaster or stucco,marble finishing).
  • Huge ceiling frescoes.
  • The interior is a shell for paintings, sculptures and stucco(especially in late Baroque).
  • External facade often characterized by a dramatic central projection.
  • illusory effects (3-D appearance) and the blending of painting and architecture.
  • Pear-shaped domes in the Bavarian, Czech, Polish and Ukrainian Baroque.
  • Marian and Holy Trinity columns erected in Catholic countries.

4) Manipulation of light in Baroque architecture

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  • Light plays a significant role in emphasizing the appearance of a building.
  • The textures of each material used in a building are different from each other. The texture of a brick wall is not the same as that of a similar wall on smooth marble or rough stone.
  • The light reflects differently on different textures and hence produce different contrasting effects which add to the beauty of a building.
  • Baroque architects exploited this fact for interiors and exteriors of their buildings.
  • During Renaissance constructions,  the purpose of the light was to make the buildings clearly visible, and monochrome with uniform lighting was in use.
  • Baroque changed this pursuit of “effect” of light and played with it. Their motive was to create uneven spaces to play with light.
  • Baroque architects achieved their concepts by various possibilities like: contrasting strong projections and overhangs or by making surfaces uneven with change in materials, etc.
  • The above techniques gave a movement effect to the building, which emphasized it.

5) Orders in Baroque architecture

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    • There were five traditional orders of architecture before Baroque era- Tuscan, Doric, Iconic, Corinthian, and Composite. These had their unique styles, forms and proportions.
    • When Baroque architecture entered, a new order got introduced, named as “Colossal order.”
    • Colossal order was order, with columns running up through two or three storeys. The details of the traditional orders too became enriched, complicated, and modified.

Other features which came along with the new order :

  • The arches connecting one column or pilaster to the next were no longer restricted, as in Renaissance. Arches became semi-circular but were often elliptical or oval.
  • Sometimes, arches were interrupted in form, with sections of straight lines which were inserted into the curve.
  • This curvy element was also used above doors, windows or a whole building.
  • The canonical shape of a pediment got a bit changed in Baroque architecture. They were sometimes open or combination of curved and straight lines or fantastic. Example: In Palazzo Carignano by Guarino Guarini’s- pediments appeared around doors and windows like draperies rolled back.
  • Windows got changed from classical forms to more creative forms. Windows were seen including shapes like ovals or squares topped by a segment of a circle, or rectangles beneath little oval windows.
  • Other details on entablatures, doors, and keystones of arches and at corners, everywhere included- volutes; stucco figures; huge, majestic and complex scrolls; and other fantastic shapes.
  • Another major characteristic of Baroque architecture was the use of towers. Whether single one or pairs, but they erected the towers on the facade; domes of churches, with complex and highly decorated appearance.

Each work of Baroque architecture created its own balance between its various features. Each country developed these components in different ways. An understanding of these regional and national differences is essential to a proper understanding of the Baroque era. So, let’s learn how differences were there in different regions and nations under Baroque architecture.

6) Baroque architecture in Italy

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  • Italy is the platform for Baroque. It produced many good professional architects who are rated as excellent.
  • Some of the most famous architects of Italy from Baroque era are Bernini, Borromini, Pietro da Cortona, and Guarino Guarini.

St. Peter’s Basilica and Bernini

  • It is the most important example of Christian art. It is itself a history of the transition from Renaissance to Baroque.
  • Carlo Maderna (Renaissance era) built a nave which was not a happy feature of the whole plan of the Basilica.
  • In 1667 Bernini was given the great and difficult task of giving the Church of St. Peter it’s urban setting.
  • He added a tower to Maderna’s facade but it didn’t workout. To increase the height of Maderna’s facade was technically impossible but Bernini took this challenge.
  • In the true spirits of Baroque, he produced an impression of height by ingeniously misleading the eye.
  • The open space before the church was rose in a slight gradient, crossed by pathways which approached it obliquely, enclosing an acute angle. Due to this, the facade seems narrower.
  • All this led to enhancement of the Michelangelo’s dome which had been diminished by the addition of the nave.

Borromini’s designs were quite different from Bernini. They were more extravagant and restless. They included complex ground-plans and masonry, and contradiction of traditional details. His designs included oval shapes which reflected confusion and uncertainty and movements. The buildings had an elaborate and subtle combination of convex and concave forms, which again had no constructive purpose. Example- Church of S. Carlo alle Quattro Fontane.

7) Baroque architecture in France

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  • France gave a succession of excellent architects, more in number than Italy- Salomon de Brosse, Francois Mansart, Louis Le Vau, Jacques Lemercier and the great, Jules Hardouin Mansart.
  • French architects considered themselves professional men, dedicated to the service and glorification of their king.
  • In France, the ground plans were less complex, facades were more severe with greater respect to details and proportions of the traditional architectural columns.
  • Example: The court of Roi Soleil.
  • Landscape gardening was the glory of French Baroque. Andre Le Notre was the brilliant architect who created the new, perspective form of the garden which was earlier in the Italian Baroque Style.
  • Garden style- on one side was the approach drive, the gates, the wide graveled area for carriages; and on the other side were lawns and parterres, or flower-beds in geometrical shapes, fountains, canals and broad expanses of water. Beyond all this was the dark line of woods pierced by long, wide, straight avenues which were linked by circular clearings. Example: Park at Versailles.
  • France Baroque came in light for it’s maintained balance between Baroque tendencies and classical traditions.
  • The Baroque architecture of Belgium and the Netherlands likewise got inspired from French.

8) Baroque architecture in Germany

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  • German Baroque architecture was closer to Italian Baroque, in Austria and Germany.
  • The architects of this time were great as they were exceptionally accomplished and blessed with enthusiastic patronage from several royal courts of Germany- Johann Balthasar Neumann, Francis de Cuvillies, Matthaus Poppelmann.
  • In Germany, Baroque sculpture was one of the propaganda as: in palaces, it impressed on the onlooker, the importance of absolute monarch; in churches, it was at the service of ‘the Counter-Reformation.
  • Great architect Balthasar Neumann, produced a miracle of palace architecture in the Wurzburg Residenz. This showed his capability of producing an effect of unlimited space by an optical illusion. He included picturesque vistas and tricks of lighting. Example: Schloss Bruchsal, Vierzehnheiligen.
  • Vierzehnheiligen (the Fourteen Saints) near Bamberg:
    There was a flood of light while entering it and everything seems moving. It was enclosed with circles and undulating forms.
  • Unlike the facades of Italian churches, German churches have kept their towers. Combination of forms reached its height.
  • Effects of hidden lighting, the inclusion of fresco painting in stucco decorations, and every other possible illusionist trick came in application.
  • These styles spread to Poland and Russia.
  •  German architects avoided sharp contrasts of light and darkness in favour of a more diffused and serene glow.

9) Baroque architecture in Spain & Portugal

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  • The salient and particular characteristic was a profusion of decoration.
  • Whatever the form of a building was, it use to appear merely as a pretext for the ornamentation encrusting it.
  • A particular style, known as ‘Churrigueresque’ dominated Spain and Portugal for two centuries.

Urban Planning

The first step was to understand how to plan a town? So, the architects dealt with it concerning the Circus and the Straight Road. It was not a perfect solution, but it was ingenious for the time. Working on the style of the French type of gardens, the evolution of great monumental fountains happened, in which architecture, sculpture, and water combined to form an ideal centerpiece and to express the feeling of Baroque. Rome became the city of fountains. Everything added up to the enhancement of its beauty.

Interior Designs

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Two main characteristics of Interior Designing were :

  • The complex, great staircases- began to appear in all aristocratic buildings from the seventeenth century onwards. Sometimes they became the dominating feature.
  • The gallery- in origin a wide, decorated corridor, and display of showpieces. Example: Galerie des Glaces at Versailles.

Baroque is essentially an art of illusion. It implies all the tricks of scene painting, false perspective. Baroque painting or carving is an important part of its setting. If we remove them from it, then it will nearly loose all its effect.

So, this was all about Baroque architecture. I hope you liked this post and got your answers. I am always ready to take suggestions from you. So, if you have any suggestions or you want to ask any questions, you can comment below or email us directly on our website. Do subscribe to my Blog to get such relevant articles. As we were talking about architecture in this post, below are the topics which you can also check to gain more knowledge on this subject.
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