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The dichotomy between subject and object has frequently troubled architects in the past, causing the pendulum to swing between styles, between object/objectivity and subject/subjectivity. The Renaissance was a period when architecture was object-oriented, conceived as a rigorous and transparent structure based on mathematical proportions. When a subject was introduced into the space, this was revealed as an illusion. The rigorous composition and proportions existed only when seen from upon high, from a godlike viewpoint. The moment the viewpoint was lowered to ground level all geometries lost their effect. Premised on this human viewpoint, design became a matter of deciding how to distort and deform architecture effectively. Architecture gradually became more subject-oriented. The painstakingly transparent structures of the Renaissance were transformed into distorted, exaggerated objects, that is, baroque architecture. Design came to be based, not on geometry, but on perceptual effect. Instead of the rigorous circles and spheres favoured by classicism, space was organised around ellipses, which had greater perceptual impact. The baroque style was, in turn, eventually supplanted by neoclassicism, where a building was typically an independent object standing in the midst of nature. The Petit Trianon in the gardens of Versailles is a representative neoclassical work – a pure form in stark contrast to the palace proper, a grand, distorted exercise in the baroque. Neoclassical buildings were typically designed to be viewed from a distance, thus avoiding the distortion inherent in perspective and solving the problem of the dichotomy between object and subject. (At least on the outside: the interiors were another matter.) Architects were well aware that the neoclassical solution was ineffective when the distance between object and subject could not be maintained, so they had no qualms about abandoning geometry and adopting the naturalistic and ornamental rococo style for interiors.

Added by Édouard U.
Updated a year ago

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