Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Left Over Research--Architecture

I have so much of it. I know that it all gets in there by creating subtle elements of back drop even if it never makes it in in fully formed fact. I seriously researched architecture for this novel. And it was a huge period for architecture.

In France: Louis XIV attended a party at his friend Nicholas Foquet's beautiful new chateau, Vaux le Vicomte. It was a super party: Moliere premiered a play, the food was delicious, the weather perfect and the music was superb. And the house: the house was stunning. So stunning that Louis promptly accused his friend of stealing from the royal treasury (how else could one afford such splendor?) and threw him in prison. He then stepped up his own building plans for Versailles by stealing Foquet's architect (Louis Le Vau), his decorator (Charles Le Brun), and his gardener (Andre Le Notre). And the result? Versailles. Also stunning.

In England: Most of London (including St. Paul's Cathedral) burnt to the ground in 1666. This was only a few months after the city was ravaged by plague in 1665. Together: the bureaucracy of people not wanting to sacrifice their houses for firebreaks (no insurance for houses used for firebreaks but lots of insurance if your house burnt down by fire: you can imagine what people chose), terrible wind conditions, a dry summer and a baker, Mr. Farriner, who possibly did not bank his ovens in Pudding Lane as well as he could have one night in September, created the Great Fire of London.

So, rebuilding. London was almost rebuilt to be very, very, uniform and beautiful as early as 1666--if Christopher Wren had been given authority over the whole of the design. Or, very, very, sanitary--if John Evelyn had been given the whole design. But Charles II could not stand squabbling and he was flat, pancake broke. So he doled out responsibility for the rebuild in dribs and drabs. But he gave Christopher Wren the Monument to the fire: a famously simple stark effective tower and the churches--and they are beautiful. St. Paul's Cathedral was the glorious centerpiece. Wren's tombstone is a small circle on the floor under the center of the dome. It advises anyone interested in remembering the man or the work to "look around you".

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