Monday, June 27, 2011
Another Small Jewel
Buildings such as this are the reason we chose to dedicate our work to garden architecture: their garden settings allow their architects a license to dream, creatingin the best of circumstancessmall, virtually unknown masterpieces that are nonetheless unforgettable once you have encountered them.
This miniature neo-Palladian pantheon, the Temple of Friendship at Pringy, distills one of architecture's most potent archetypes and limns it with one of architecture's most haunting styles. All the more remarkable as the architect himself is quite obscureSoufflot the Younger, nephew to the great French mid-18th century architect, Jacques-Germain Soufflotauthor of another, much grander and world-famous Pantheon in Paris.
As is often the case with garden folliesthough in this case the building has more powerful a presence than what those words might conjurethe Temple of Friendship has a charming back-story: commissioned by the friends of the Duchess of Gontaut-Biron and erected on her estate of Pringy, located near Melun to the south of Paris, during her extended absence in 1785. Today, it is difficult to imagine the generosity and complexity of such an extravagant gesture, so characteristic of the aristocracy of the Ancien Régime.
And the building itself is simply and forcefully detailed with a severe, stripped-down and abstracted classicism that is clearly Palladian but also offers intimations of the Revolutionary-era architecture of Claude-Nicolas Ledoux. The cream-white stucco work plays masterfully against the reddish rubble walls, and those walls as well as the stuccoed wall of the temple front are battered, or angled slightly outward, giving the building its remarkable sense of presence.
Finally, a shameless plug: if you haven't done so, please do visit the new page on our main site, Latest Work, where we present a number of our most recent watercolors (this one among them).