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A Renaissance Leaning Facade at Genoa (Classic Reprint)

A Renaissance Leaning Facade at Genoa (Classic Reprint)

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Excerpt from A Renaissance Leaning Facade at Genoa

In several numbers of the Architectural Record magazine which appeared during 1896-7-8, announcements were made of surveys which have been carried out by the Brooklyn Institute of Arts and Sciences in various mediaeval Italian churches and cathedrals. A summary account of the surveys was also published by the Brooklyn Institute in 1896, showing that hitherto unrecognized architectural refinements and subtleties are prevalent in many of these buildings.

In the summer of 1901, these surveys in Italy were continued with important results. It had hitherto seemed probable that the mediaeval architectural refinements, which had been discovered, had generally become extinct before the Renaissance, and the manner and cause of this mysterious extinction were one of the puzzling features of this study. In 1901, however, several instances of Renaissance survivals of the phenomena were observed. One of these is the case of a constructive leaning facade in the Renaissance church of S. Ambrogio at Genoa.

On the day of sailing from Genoa for New York in 1895 (after six months surveying work in Italy), a forward inclination of this facade was noticed, which appeared to be constructive. Among the various indications of constructive intention those at the southwest corner of the church are most easily described, because the side view is concealed on the southeast by an adjoining monastery.

At the southwest angle, as seen from the side (Fig. 1), the base courses, plinth, and mouldings were noted as level. On the other hand, the pilaster had a slight forward tilt, which appeared to be produced by masonry cutting. The front lower angle of each pilaster block appeared to be slightly obtuse, and the rear angle of each block appeared to be slightly acute (Fig. 1).

Of course, if the obvious lean (Fig. 3) had been due to settlement, then the base mouldings would have dipped downward toward the front.

There was no time, in 1895, to test these observations by the level. They were consequently not mentioned in an article which was published on constructive leaning facades in 1897; Architectural Record, Vol. VII., No. 3, "The Problem of the Leaning Tower of Pisa."

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