Architecture and Allegory, A Tale of Three Sites

Lau, C. 2021. Architecture and Allegory, A Tale of Three Sites. 15th European Architectural Envisioning Association (EAEA) International Conference, Envisioning Architectural Narratives . Online, organised by the University of Huddersfield 01 - 03 Oct 2021 University of Huddersfield.

TitleArchitecture and Allegory, A Tale of Three Sites
AuthorsLau, C.
TypeConference paper
Abstract

Architectural narratives in this paper are used as means to interpret buildings and spatially reinterpret research material. History and/or historical events are not regarded as passive sources of information but are actively prescribed within current architectural sites and reworked as design proposals. Hence, events that would otherwise be consigned to memory or totally forgotten are retold and given new readings and meanings. These discussions concern the Ditchley Portrait, c.1592, and the National Portrait Gallery, London where this portrait of Queen Elizabeth I is exhibited. The three sites of interest are Ditchley Manor and Woodstock Palace , the original Gallery designed by Ewan Christian in 1896 and the outcomes of the major overhaul by Dixon Jones Architects in 2000.

The narrative and analysis of the first site starts with the stories of and in the Portrait, a painting that is embedded with symbols, adhere to Elizabethan ideas of allegory and the notion of ‘lost sense of sight’. These compositional techniques also allude to the Accession Day Tilts, a major sixteenth-century event that is tightly intertwined with the elaborate festivities concerning the inception of the Portrait. This study is essential for the reconstruction of the Manor and Palace as neither building survives, and the historical site confines are not definite. In this instance, the notion of history as manifested by means of associated memories and intangible allegorical narratives, are critical to the construction of the architectural narrative.

The next site regards Christian’s 1896 design that enabled the east wing of the Gallery to appear as integral with the National Gallery’s short façade. Visual deception was adopted as a design strategy to address the stipulated requirements through continuing the language of the first three corner windows of the National Gallery at the junction of Trafalgar Square and St Martin’s Place.

A century later, similar negotiations with the National Gallery resulted in another design solution that also concerned windows, this time to accommodate the ‘right of light’ easement. The ensuing NPG 2000 project was essentially a triple volume block that was inserted into the shared courtyard between both Galleries in exchange for the aforementioned east wing, and necessitated the bricking up of the original courtyard windows for protection due to conservation and planning laws. Hence this material feature of history is completely hidden from the views and knowledge of the current visitors. Consequently, the Ditchley Portrait is exhibited in the new NPG 2000 Tudor Gallery.

These design strategies and the notion of sites within sites demonstrate that the intertwined architectural narratives can be further devised as dialogues with the users to enhance the reading and experiential qualities of the works. Hence the idea of allegory and term ‘lost sense of sight’ can be simultaneously applied to the analysis and reading of all these sites and suitably demonstrate the term ‘layers of meaning’. The narratives serve to confront, place and integrate chronological shifts to initiate the notion of multiple interpretations in the meaning, reading and experience of these sites. The different aspects in terms of historical events, site features, and the allusion of these events and features to other narratives in relation to the contexts provide a landscape of different readings that not only contribute to their presence and historical significance, but further reveal different manners of envisioning architectural narratives.

KeywordsNational Portrait Gallery, London; Ditchley Portrait; History; Elizabethan Allegory; Allusion; ‘Lost Sense of Sight’; Issues of Site; Layers of Meaning
Year2021
Conference15th European Architectural Envisioning Association (EAEA) International Conference, Envisioning Architectural Narratives
PublisherUniversity of Huddersfield
Accepted author manuscript
File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Web address (URL) of conference proceedingshttps://research.hud.ac.uk/architecture/events/eaea15/
Web address (URL)https://pure.hud.ac.uk/en/publications/envisioning-architectural-narratives-monograph-of-the-15th-bienni
File

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Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/v8454/architecture-and-allegory-a-tale-of-three-sites


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