If you've just stumbled onto this blog, please forgive the appearance; it's still under construction. If I've used one of your photos (found on Google) in a lecture and you don't approve, please write a comment and I'll remove it.
The purpose of this blog is to explain the basics of art and culture to English language learners in secondary school in Slovakia. This is not for profit. If you look to your right, you'll see a long list of topics that I plan to cover. This is a large project that will most likely take years to complete, covering some topics I know little about (like dance), so I will be borrowing heavily from other experts, with their permission, giving credit wherever possible. Please be patient, and, of course, all advice is greatly appreciated.
ØArchitecture is both the process and the product of planning,
designing, and constructing buildings and other structures.
projects are a collaborative process, with many people working together, facing
challenges such as aesthetics, structural integrity, social function, light
& shadow, and costs.
greatest buildings are often perceived as cultural symbols and works of art.
first book on architecture was written by the Roman Vitruvius in the 1st
century AD. According to Vitruvius, a good building should satisfy three core
principles: durability, utility, and beauty.
Mesopotamian architects, including Sumerians,
Babylonians, and Assyrians, developed the first urban planning, with markets,
temples, canals, and gardens.
Artist Rendering of the ancient city of Uruk, which flourished from 4000-700 BC
Residential areas were grouped by profession.
They built forts, towers, and palaces.
Ruined palace of Uruk
They designed the first known courtyard
houses, and large temples called ziggurats.
Ziggurat of Ur, build around 2100 BC
They developed buttresses and columns to support their walls. Windows and doors were supported using a post and lintel system:
Stonehenge in Britain is an example of the post & lintel system
They also created pilasters, enameled tiles, mosaics, bas-relief, and frescoes to
decorate them. They made doors with hinges, locks, and keys. Their houses had
no windows facing the street, strictly separating public and private life.
Their materials were mostly mudbrick and wood, although the Assyrians also used
Egyptian architects are most famous for the pyramids, the Sphinx,
The Sphynx, 2558-2532 BC
the Necropolis in the Valley of
the Dead, the temple complex at Karnak,
and for burial tombs called mastabas.
an Egyptian mastaba - burial tomb
Egyptians also designed the world’s first palaces, at Thebes. Many towns from ancient Egypt were washed away by Nile
floods, so most of what’s left are their temples and monuments. They used
mudbrick, but their most ambitious projects used limestone, sandstone, and granite.
Like Mesopotamia, all of their monuments were
post and lintel constructions, with many interior columns. All exterior and
interior walls and columns were painted with hieroglyphic frescoes.
Egypt is famous for having one of the earliest known architects, Imhotep, who designed Djoser’s step pyramid, and was one of the only
Egyptian commoners to earn divine status. He may have been the first architect
to use columns.
statue of Imhotep, from around 2,650 BC
Greek architects are famous for temples, open-air amphitheatres, gateways,
squares, town council buildings, mausoleums, and stadiums. Greek towns had
paved streets with gutters, public fountains, and markets surrounded by a colonnade with shops. They also had gymnasiums (fitness centers, not
schools) for men to exercise. Temples
were post & lintel designs, like the Egyptians, and were more like
treasuries, holding all the gifts that people offered to the Gods. Greeks were
also famous for the acropolis, a
defensive citadel on a hill with cliffs on most sides.
The Acropolis in Athens, with the Parthenon on top
The most famous is in Athens where the Parthenon
sits, but there are others in Assos, Pergamon, Argos,
Greek Thebes, and Corinth.
Greek architecture can be divided into three orders of design: Doric, Iambic, and Corinthian, which you can identify most by the capitals of the
The three Greek Orders: Doric, Ionic, and Corinthian
Major building materials were limestone, marble, and clay. What makes
Greek architecture so special is their obsession with proportions. The lines of
their buildings are rarely straight. Every line is slightly curved to make it
look better, like the columns that swell in the middle, like muscular arms.
Greek architecture has been extremely influential in later periods, up to the
Roman architects learned from the Greeks and from the Etruscans, a
civilization that had lived in Italy
before them. So, Roman architecture looks very similar. The Empire lasted from
about 500 BC to 500 AD. In this time, they developed arches, which are superior to the post & lintel system, because
they bear the weight evenly.
This shows the limitations of post & lintel construction
Arches can hold heavier loads
By joining two arches together, the Romans developed vaults.
Putting vaults together (ribbed vaults) created large, open, interior spaces, an innovation used for thousand of years in cathedrals and palaces.
Arches allowed the Romans to design vaulted ceilings, domes, arched
bridges, and aquaducts that carried
water for hundreds of miles to their cities.
Pont du Gard, the aquaduct of Nîmes, France, 40-60 AD
Famous buildings include the Colloseum, the Pantheon,
The Pantheon in Rome, 126 AD
the Baths of Diocletian and of Caracalla, the aquaducts
of Rome, and
many basilicas - public court buildings. Romans developed ways to improve their homes and hygiene, with
baths, latrines, heated floors, and hot & cold running water. They also developed concrete, a strong, new building material.
Art can be put into two categories: high
and low. Civilization is most proud of its high art. It’s a product of genius.
It’s so great that it’s iconic––countries use it as a way to promote themselves.
has Leonardo Da Vinci, Raphael, and Michelangelo. Austria has Mozart and Beethoven. England has
has Hemingway and Mark Twain.
Low art can be
beautiful, charming, skillfully made, and intelligent. But it’s still not so
impressive (pôsobivý) as high art. High art is more profound (hlbšie). It’s more
complex, and philosophical. It requires more concentration and sensitivity to
make and to appreciate (ceniť). Higher art is harder to understand. Lower art
is easier––like art for children. People who make low art can be popular and
loved, like J.K. Rowling, but they’re not as highly respected as people who make
high art, like Shakespeare.
It’s good to
know what these words mean, but it’s not very important in judging art. It
doesn’t refer to the quality of the art so much as the quality of the ideas
behind them. Some people don’t like to distinguish (rozoznávať) between high
and low art. They think it’s snobbish and insulting (urážlivý). Many people
prefer “low” art, and they don’t like to feel embarrassed about it.
hard to say if an art form is high or low. It’s in-between. Some jazz music is
very complex, having more to do with classical music theory than with
pop. But, then some jazz music is very simple, like pop. Some films combine
elements of high and low art, like Being John Malkovich, or Eternal Sunshine of
the Spotless Mind. And, some artists devote their lives to making one-of-a-kind
toys, selling them at high prices. So the line between high and low art is
blurry (rozdiel je nejasný).