Traditional Proportion in the Buildings of Annapolis, Maryland
Annapolis is the state capitol and one of the oldest cities in the US. In common with all state capitals it has at its centre a domed capitol building which is the home of the state government. It has a large number of houses in the colonial style. What interests me is that many of the buildings still display the classic threefold proportion. Have a look at the window sizes particularly and you see that rhythmical progression of gradually decreasing size as you go up for three layers (or more), with the first relating the second and the second relating to the third. Many houses from this period have had the windows replaced in standard sizes as the wooden frames rot. Double glazing usually comes in standard sizes and these do not correspond to the traditional range of proportions. When this is done it destroys so much of the beauty of the old houses.
Annapolis is the home of the US naval officers college and and old port.
The proportions of these buildings are derived from those used by the ancient Greeks which were subsequently used by the Romans and then Christian culture up to about 1900.American colonial architecture is similar to the British Georgian style, which is based upon Italian Palladian architecture of the High Renaissance. The proportions for this came from the rediscovery of a text book on architecture written by a Roman architect called Vitruvius. The Roman text book was published in England in the 17th century, in translation (although given a Latin title) under the name ‘Vitruvius Brittanicus’. As a British colony, this style was used in America (with the addition of French style window shutters!) and then retained after independence.
If you want to know more about the mathematics of this proportion my courses on Pontifex.University will teach you about it; otherwise you can read my book, the Way of Beauty which is the text book for all these course. In this description you will discover how the mathematics of proportion is derived from the numerical description of the patterns of the motions of the planets, of musical harmony, and of the pattern of time the worship of God in the Church’s liturgical year. All of this, for the Christian points to one ultimate source, the beauty of God in heaven.
If there are any architects reading this who are looking to make a name for themselves, then take note. A modern building could as easily be built using these proportions as any other, and the beauty of the buildings that use them always attracts attention. So here is a way of raising your reputation as an architect, and adding value to buildings at very little extra cost.
It’s not always possible to have three storeys in a house – but even if you have two, as in the photo above, the basement window is made (through the size of the glass panels within it) to look as though we are seeing the top section of a much larger window that projects below ground, so maintaining this sense of threefold rhythm.
You can see the state government house in the distance with the dome.
Actually (just in case any were going to comment on the fact) this isn’t in Annapolis, but in Frederick, Maryland, which is smaller town of similar age. I took these photos, above and below, on the same trip to Maryland.