Hi. Welcome to the first leg of our architectural adventure: Beaux Arts. Let’s get right to it!
As one of the two oldest standing buildings on campus (both built in 1909), it seems only right to begin with Nagle Hall for our journey. Nagle Hall is a fantastic start to the Beaux Arts section of our adventure because it has a ton of different neoclassical details to look at on the façade (all of which I’ll list out, but I’ll only go in depth on a few. Look to the later blogs for the breakdown of other aspects you’ll see in the list).
In a second, I’ll breakdown the façade architecturally (so get excited), but first let’s go over the history of the building to get some background.
(Nagle Hall – 10. Photographer Unknown. Courtesy of Cushing Memorial Library)
Nagle Hall is found in the center of campus on the south side of Academic Plaza, but it can be easily missed due to the many trees around, so if you’re starting a walking tour of campus, be sure to seek it out before we begin. Found it? Alright, let’s get started.
Nagle Hall was built in 1909 and was originally named the Civil Engineering Building, but later got the much catchier name of Nagle Hall when it was named in honor of the first dean of the department of engineering, James C. Nagle.
Now take a second to compare the picture above with the picture below. If I were to guess, I would say the first picture was taken not long after its establishment, so over 100 years ago (the date is unknown, so I’m guessing here).
(Nagle Hall 2016. Me)
We don’t exactly see much of a change between a hundred years ago and 2016 do we? One of the most important things about Beaux Arts design (and part of the reason that so many buildings are built in that style) is that the buildings are made to last. Beaux Arts drew on the wisdom of the classical styles of architecture to create a physically sturdy design (The American Magazine of Art 3). That’s why so many neoclassical (and actual ancient buildings) are still standing today.
Alright, now let’s take a quick look at the façade of Nagle Hall. It was hard to take a good picture of the entire front of Nagle Hall due to the trees right out front, so bear with me with the multiple shots.
The picture to the right is the central part of the main façade.
Here is a quick list of some of its most important features:
- Ionic columns
- Tripartite design
- Projecting Cornice
[*Note: we will see all of these details in multiple other buildings, so if we don’t get around to discussing a particular detail in this blog, don’t panic, just look for it in the next post.]
Let’s start our breakdown with the façade’s most notable feature: the four ionic columns. There are five main types of columns in classical design (also called Classical orders): Ionic, Corinthian, Doric, Tuscan, and Composite (“Orders”).
Here is a good image from Encyclopedia Britannica that shows the different columns.
(Courtesy of Merriam Webster and Encyclopedia Britannica)
*Hint: Notice how the Ionic columns are the ones that kind of look like the tops of capital I’s? That’s the easiest way to remember what the ionic columns look like. Most of the columns on campus are from the Ionic order but we might see a few Doric or Composite columns in later buildings.
Here is a close up of a capital (the tops of columns) of one of the ionic columns so we can get a better look at the sweeping scrolls on the front of Nagle Hall.
Looking at that close up picture above, we also get a good view of the entablature. The entablature is made up of three things:
- The architrave (which is just a fancy word for the very bottom support of the horizontal band)
- The frieze which is the flat horizontal strip with the lighter colored details for decorations
- The projecting cornice which is the veeeery top of the picture (it kind of looks like the roofline from this angle).
The entablature is key in any Beaux Arts façade (“Entablature”). This particular entablature also includes one of my favorite details to look for in a building: dentils. Dentils are the little teeth-like projections (hence the name) right underneath the cornice, and as you can see, they give a little more texture to the façade.
I hope you enjoyed the start of our exploration of Beaux Arts style architecture. This concludes our quick overview of Nagle Hall. Next week we will look further into the details of Beaux Arts design, so until then, feel free to go on a scavenger hunt in search of the details we talked about this week.
- Nagle Hall – 10. Unknown. Cushing Historical Images Collection, Texas A&M University.
- “THE BEAUX ARTS INSTITUTE OF DESIGN.” The American Magazine of Art3 (1918): 121-22. Louisiana. The State of Louisiana. Web.
- “Order.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 04 Oct. 2016. <https://www.britannica.com/technology/order-architecture>.
- “Entablature.” Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 05 Oct. 2016. <https://www.britannica.com/technology/entablature>.