Thursday, November 26, 2009

The Roman Rotunda...

I just love this picture (above) from the archives of Country Life magazine, of a classical rotunda of decent proportions. Following on from our previous post on the Lime walk going to the rotunda, I thought it would be apt to do a post on rotundas and the sort of rotunda that we will have at Willowbrook.

In Classical architecture, a rotunda was a building (or room within a building) that was circular in plan and covered with a dome. The ancestor of the rotunda was the tholosof ancient Greece. They differed in as much as a tholos was shaped more like a beehive rather than a dome.

One of the better known examples of the rotunda is the Pantheon (pan-theos meaning all-gods), a temple started by Marcus Agrippa in 27 BC. However, he did not live to see it completed, and it was finished by Hadrian in 126 AD. Like many buildings, it has been rebuilt at times, and in its current incarnation is a Catholic church (the many alcoves once filled with statues of every god of Rome are noticeably empty).

Above: Picture taken of altar inside Pantheon last year.

The Latin inscription on the front of the pediment reads "M·AGRIPPA·L·F·COS·TERTIVM·FECIT" (Marcus Agrippa, Lucii filius, consul tertium fecit), which translates as "'Marcus Agrippa, son of Lucius, Consul for the third time, built this".

Still nearly 2000 years later, it remains the world's largest unreinforced concrete dome.

It is highly coffered on the inside, up to the large oculus at its zenith.

The dome is also noted for its perfect hemisphericism - its diametre at the base of the dome is twice as wide as the height.

It was built by building a huge mound of dirt, then creating the dome over the top and excavating the dirt out again.

The Villa Rotunda at Vicenza is an Italian Renaissance example, designed by the influential architect Andrea Palladio (post to follow).

It was begun in 1550, and features a large central hall that is circular with a low dome. For further information on Villa Rotunda, have at look at Architect Design's post about it here.

It was later copied by English architects in houses such as Lord Burlington's Chiswick House, which also features a rotunda pavilion in its gardens:

I am leaning more towards the styles of rotunda below:

The plan below (from Haddonstone) shows a rotunda without balustrading, like the picture above.

The plan above (from Haddonstone) shows a rotunda with balustrading, like the picture below:

Above and Below:
The Queens Theatre from the rotunda at Stowe House,Buckinghamshire.

More examples of charming rotundas:

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Pleached Lime walk and the Copper Beech glade...

From the Chapel Garden to the Roman Rotunda we are planting an avenue of Lime trees (Tilia europaea).

They have a lovely leaf (above), and adapt well to pleaching (below). They form a lovely walk way of shade in summer months:

Above: A side view of the pleached lime walk at Sandringham.
Below: Another example of pleaching.

Pleached hedges also allow for layering with hedges behind or on either side
(as above and below).

They also provide for a dramatic vista to the rotunda at the far end, which will be in a glade surrounded by Copper Beeches (Fagus sylvatica purpurea):

Above: An avenue of Copper Beeches in Autumn.
Below: The Copper Beech in our back yard.

And while we're on the subject of Beeches, our architect Chris and his lovely wife Robyn gave us two weeping Beech trees for the park. They grow to a huge size and make great specimen trees (see below). Now where to put them...

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

The Lych Gate...

The chapel will be located on the left side of the courtyard as you draw near to the main house itself. It is enclosed by a hedged and walled rose garden. As one walks from the courtyard into the chapel precincts, one will pass through a lych gate, which will be the only passage through the hedge on that side of the garden.

The word lych, come from the old English, Lic, meaning corpse. It was where the body would rest before being taken inside a church during a funeral procession. As morbid as the history sounds, they are actually very charming architectural features...

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Chapel and Rose Garden...

We have started to design the chapel for Willowbrook Park. The picture above demonstrates the concept for the exterior of the chapel: a small stone, English styled, country church with Victorian Gothic-revival elements (and lots of climbing roses).


Above: The front elevation for the chapel.
Note the gothic bell tower and over-sized gothic-arch doors (about 10 feet tall)

Below: The side elevation as viewed from the main courtyard.
Note the castellated, English styled walls, and the stone buttresses.

Here are some pictures of similarly styled chapels:

And a Gothic potting shed for good measure:


The chapel doors will be solid wood, probably oak, with large ornate hinges. Around the door we will plant lots of rambling roses, which will tie in to the theme of the chapel garden, that of a medieval monastic rose garden / walled garden.

Above photo from Architect Design

And a beautifully carved arch above a doorway...


We want to make the gardens as picturesque as possible in order to provide an abundant variety of backdrops to make the photographer's job easier, and to ensure that a couple's special day is just right. Here are some pictures of the direction in which we are going with the gardens...

We hope that by offering a variety of locations around the park in which people can celebrate their personal events, we will be able to cater to a wide range of tastes and requirements. For example, a couple could get married in the Chapel, of by The Lake, in the Roman Rotunda, in the Orangery in the Orchard, or simply on the Formal lawn and terrace. Then they could celebrate with a reception either in the ballroom or in marquee, again, in a setting of their choosing.


We want to create a very traditional English 'high-church' feel to the inside of the chapel with lots of architectural detailing and masonry features. Willowbrook Park is all about having the detail and having it in abundance. People who come here will come for the drama, therefore one can not make a half hearted attempt at being dramatic, nor try to water it down. It is this attention to the detailing and finish which will set this venue above the rest. For those who would like an entirely non-religious service there will be plenty of other sites around the park catering to their needs.

Above: Two Piranesi sketches for baldachinos for over altars (wishful thinking!)

Below: Interior concepts.

I like these photos for the feeling or atmosphere which they evoke. All spaces, but especially spiritual spaces need to create an atmosphere which draws people's emotions in a certain direction, in this case upwards, through the ephemeral to the eternal.
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