A guide to art in NYC, with families in mind.

Monday, May 23, 2011

goARCHkids: Grecian Orders Tutorial #1, DORIC COLUMNS

I thought it might be fun to start with some basics. The three orders of Greek Architecture: Doric, Ionic and Corinthian. They were used for temples, and are probably the most influential bit of design ever in the history of man. They are all over NYC. The simplest, most squat, and strongest in appearance is the DORIC order. As you can see, there are no curly bits at the top. The top is called the capital. Classically, the column will sit directly on the ground or floor of the temple and will have twenty flutes running vertically around it. It is slightly bigger in circumference at the bottom. The Doric order really emphasizes strength and stability. Oddly enough, Doric columns are few and far between in NYC. The corner of 116th Street & Madison Avenue in Harlem, the former Public National Bank, boasts a set of near perfect Doric columns. Not much is known about the bank except that it was formed in 1908 and this building was probably built around then. A better known Doric building is Federal Hall, downtown on Wall Street. The current Federal Hall building was built in 1842 as a Customs House. Later it was used as a treasury. This structure needed to evoke a sense of security, strength and power. Also, in 1842, the US was still a new country and wanted to be taken seriously. What better way to do that than create a link between the original democracy in ancient Greece and the new one in the US? Just like the Parthenon in Athens, Federal Hall was designed in the Doric order. Walking around town, I quiz the kids constantly on the orders. My eldest says I'm dorky, but she'll thank me one day.
- Rudie Hurwitz