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The Compositional Analysis of Two Cathedrals Separated by Time, Place, and Style

Nearly 600 years separate the construction of the Milan Cathedral in Italy (1386) and the Reykjavik Cathedral in Iceland (1945) but they are notably different in terms of their compositional design. The Milan cathedral was designed in the gothic style and the Reykjavik Cathedral follows the nationalist style. Both are theatrical as they have elements that stun the visitor from the moment they approach the exterior of the building to when they approach the worship area. For Milan, it is the immense amount of intricate details on the façade. The interiors feature typical gothic vaulting. The Reykjavik cathedral’s main tower has geometric forms that slope down the sides to pull your eye up to the top. It also has gothic vaulting in the interior, but the lines are cleaner and more modern. With fewer details, visitors can more easily enter a mindset for worship. As a result of these differences, this creative project will study the plan views, elevations, and sections of the two cathedrals to find commonalities and differences in how composition is used in sacred buildings at different times in history. The purpose is to show the compositional similarities and differences in a graphical context for one to better understand sacred architecture. As this project will be in the form of a watercolor analytique rendu, several items will be displayed in a way to show the contrast between the two buildings. A half elevation of both cathedrals will be displayed at the largest scale to show the contrast between styles and composition of external forms, differences in detail will be evident. Below, a similar contrast in sections will show the difference in structure and detail and the similar use of interior gothic vaulting. Lastly, floor plans will be displayed to show similarities in overall massing and circulation.

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Tressa Messenger


Brandon Ro


Tressa Messenger

Type: Visual Arts
Discipline: Fine Arts
Institution: Utah Valley University

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