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Inter War Skyscraper Gothic

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  10 BMA House
 Macquarie Street
08 State Theatre  010 Former Grace Building
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  014 Former Sun Building    
       
The skyscraper evolved in the United States during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. It was a response to high urban land values, and it was made feasible by the fireproofed steel structural frame and the elevator. By the early twentieth century the tall office building had become a powerful symbol of corporate prestige. Towers vied to outdo one another in sheer height, and their silhouettes against the sky became very important as they rose above their ground-hugging neighbours. The Woolworth Building in New York was completed in 1913, its 241-metre height accentuated by the insistent verticality of skillfully applied medieval styling. In 1922—23, after a well publicised international architectural competition, the Chicago Tribune newspaper built Raymond Hood’s winning design—a tower topped by a Gothic ‘lantern’ ringed by Gothic ‘buttresses’. The case for Skyscraper Gothic was simple and powerful: Gothic cathedrals soared; skyscrapers soared; therefore the Gothic style was appropriate for skyscrapers. Whether the soaring was towards God or Mammon seemed to matter little.
The Woolworth Building and the Chicago Tribune Tower are among the best known of these medievalised high-rise office blocks, and a close look at them shows that the Gothic detail tends to be spread fairly thinly, with concentrations where the visual impact is most telling. The real influence of these buildings is to be found in the fins and other vertical features of the many Art Deco skyscrapers which had the insistent upward drive of Skyscraper Gothic without its specifically medieval characteristics.
During the 1920S and I930S, no Australian skyscraper exceeded sixty metres in height. Tall buildings were three-dimensional manifestations of the often odd-shaped sites they almost completely filled, with the result that few of them had a tower-like configuration. The effect of great height was, however, still sought, but principally by the use of Art Deco motifs. There are in fact only a few examples of Inter-War Skyscraper Gothic in Australia, but the style’s powerful influence on commercial architecture, design and graphics throughout the Inter-War period warrants its inclusion.
Taking a cue from the 1913 Woolworth Building in New York, several Australian essays in the style used architectural terracotta (faience) as a facing material. Especially popular during the 1930s, terracotta enabled the designer to choose from a wide range of colours. The versatile material enabled complex Gothic shapes to be mass-produced from moulds or cast in special configurations for ‘one-off’ details such as lettering.

Quoted from:
"A Pictorial Guide to Identifying Austrlian Architecture; Styles and Terms from 1788 to the Present"
RICHARD APPERLY, ROBERT IRVING, PETER REYNOLDS. PHOTOGRAPHS BY SOLOMON MITCHELL.
Angus & Robertson Sydney 1995 ISBN 0207 18562 X
Copyright © 1989 by Richard Apperly, Robert Irving and Peter Reynolds.

 
Style Definition
Neo-Gothic is a revival of Gothic architecture, the dominant style of medieval architecture in Western Europe. Building shapes and details have a strong vertical emphasis, with sharply pointed arches and finials. An element of the grotesque is also common, and many Neo-Gothic designs incorporate gargoyles and rich figurative carving.

Although Gothic architecture is best known for its cathedrals, the Neo-Gothic draws inspiration also from religious and secular buildings of the Middle Ages, including town halls and mercantile structures.

During the eclectic early 20th century when Neo-Gothic flourished, most architectural firms working in this style were also fluent in the other popular revival styles. Architects whose output included major Neo-Gothic buildings included H. Craig Severance in New York and Robert S. DeGolyer & Co. in Chicago. The firm of Hood & Howells, which won the famous Tribune Tower competition, was instrumental in the transition between Gothic verticality and Art Deco streamlining.

 
   
   

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