Item Details

British Pride: Scenography, Classicism, Religion, Politics, Naval Power, Commercialism, Christopher Wren and the Architectural Origins of the Greenwich Royal Hospital for Seamen

Ames, Dewey
Thesis/Dissertation; Online
Ames, Dewey
Wilson, Richard
Boucher, Bruce
Li, Shiqiao
This Thesis explores the scenographic and classical architecture of the Greenwich Royal Hospital for Seamen, founded in 1694 and designed under the supervision of the architect Christopher Wren. While the scenography at Greenwich performs ably as a device for architectural display and presentation, Wren's unorthodox handling of the classical vocabulary has often been criticized as a failure to comprehend the rules governing the terms of its use. However, Wren was no amateur; he had an unshakeable faith in the architecture of antiquity and had a high regard for the theorists and architects of the Italian Renaissance. Moreover, he was virtually legendary for his scholarship in many branches of knowledge, and as a man of great erudition. Thus it is unlikely that his departure from convention was a result of any facile interpretation. Rather, Wren’s break from both the canon of architecture and the sources available to him was deliberate; moreover, it shows that he was filtering his design process though criterion external to architecture. As such, a strict architectural interpretation of Greenwich would leave many questions unanswered. Thus, it is argued, a fair analysis of Greenwich can only be given in conjunction with its historical context. By broadening the scope of our inquiry beyond the parameters of architecture we can begin to understand how Wren's variations reflect, in particular, the political, religious, scientific, philosophical, and economic circumstances of England during the 17th century. Viewed within this broader historical framework we will see how the ideas that influenced England's development as a nation were the very same ideas that influenced the way Wren conceived and evaluated his architectural project at Greenwich. In addition, this article plays close attention to the origins of scenographic and classical architecture during the Italian Renaissance; specifically, it addresses how perspective was used by both artists (in paintings) and theater designers (in stage sets) as an organizational device for rendering convincing three-dimensional architectural environments. As off-shoots of the pictorial realm and stage design it will also be shown that scenography and classicism contain some of there characteristics. Also, a look will be given at how scenography and classicism manifest themselves in different political, religious, socio-economic, and philosophical contexts.
Date Received
University of Virginia, Department of Architectural History, MARH (Master of Architectural History), 2016
Published Date
MARH (Master of Architectural History)
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