Monday, January 24

The General's House Part 2: Fortification

It has always been difficult to pick out the advances in architectural style from the advances in structures built for military defense. When people say that General Galant's house looks like a castle or a fortress, they are probably reacting to the way the corner masses of the house project outwards from the connecting wings. These structures, known as bastions, were an important advance in the defensibility of walled cities about 2000 years ago. With a bastion, a defender along the top of the wall could step out from the perimeter and shoot an arrow at the back of an attacker trying to breach the wall. The shape of bastions has changed over the years, from the simple square bastions of the ancient Middle East through to the rounded ones of Scotland and the Loire Valley, and, with the development of accurate gunfire, on to the star-shaped fortresses of Renaissance Italy. The walls of the Old City of Jerusalem, as rebuilt with square bastions by Sulieman between 1537 and 1540, were obsolete at the time of their construction, due to the vulnerability of square bastions to battering rams.

The vast resources used in times of war to construct adequate fortifications were free in times of peace to produce the houses of the rich and powerful. Not coincidentally, these powerful individuals were often the same leaders who had commissioned the fortifications, and their architects freely and poetically used the architectural language of war to create their glorious homes.

To be continued...

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