The Architecture of the Museum Alerreth: A Geometric Perspective (essay)

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This is a creative work set in the world of Elanthia, attributed to its original author(s). It does not necessarily represent the official lore of GemStone IV.

Title: The Architecture of the Museum Alerreth: A Geometric Perspective

Author: Rohese Bayvel

Radiating from the center of the canvas are brightly colored triangles of varying dimensions and alignments. Representing reflections of the landscape on a vertical glass facade, the shards of white, green, and blue bend at sharp angles as they approach the frame and are cleanly severed by a copper and turquoise-streaked border. Every element of the painting is aesthetically pleasing in terms of their geometric proportions and closer inspection reveals perfect symmetry on several planes.
Reflections on Glass ~ The Museum Alerreth

Situated on Caear Var, the museum occupies an impressive space and its architecture is notable for the verdigris copper framework and glimmering panes of glass forming both the roof and façade.

On a sunny day, it serves as a reflective canvas for the expanse of green spread before it and the white marble columns and blue-tiled domes around.

And - speaking of canvases - it has been painted by many artists over the centuries with myriad interpretations because of its visual impact.

Approximately 5,000 years ago, the building was originally constructed as a depot to bring airship travel within Ta'Illistim.

It was the first construction project of Argent Mirror Caladsal Illistim - a descendant of Alerreth Nellereune Illistim.

Unfortunately, the Sea Elf War resulted in the project being deemed a security threat and the infrastructure of the airship industry moved out of the city.

The depot was re-purposed several times through its history.

It was once a music hall, an indoor market place, and even a hospital for wounded soldiers under the policies of Irinara.

It was most recently a secondary storage facility for the Library Aies, but was closed for several hundred years and sadly fell into disrepair.

We Illistim abhor an eyesore and concerns about the building being "structurally unsound" were raised, which led in turn to a demolition order.

Following advice from the Trustees of the Library Aies, however, our beloved Argent Mirror Myasara ordered a major renovation project in 5,100 Modern Era to save it as a work of historical preservation.

Consideration was duly given to the structure's history, context, and spatial organization.

Intentionally or not, architects and construction experts use geometry as a basic yet important tool for the soulful purpose of design and execution of a building project.

The renovation of the Museum Alerreth is no exception.

An aesthetic mix of old and new, the copper framework of the former airship depot was refitted with glass panes and coffered tiles to form an open arched roofline.

Sympathetic modifications and enhancements were made to the depot’s ticketing area to maintain its historical integrity yet make it fit for a modern-day purpose.

The hemispherical entrance hall now boasts a refurbished marble floor with the famous horologe set in its original lozenge-shaped medallion overhead.

We are fortunate to have one of the original schematic designs for the renovation project for this afternoon's talk.

a badly faded schematic design
Although faded, it is possible to make out a drawing in ink on a faint gridwork that represents the floor plan and front elevation of a proposed building project. The schematic design illustrates the basic concepts of the renovation work and includes an indication of the scale and spatial relationships between an existing frame and a repurposed interior layout. A configuration of geometric shapes denotes a series of inner chambers with symmetrically aligned entrances leading off a central nave.

My thanks to Curator Zenlynn for her assistance in tracking it down.

As you can see…

Rohese turns her attention to the design and carefully traces her finger over the basic geometric shapes denoting a main space with a series of smaller inner chambers spaced at equal intervals.

The main area essentially consists of a rectangular central nave - or lower platform - with smaller squared galleries leading off through symmetrically aligned arched openings.

The gridded glass ceiling gently curving overhead gives the sky a mosaic quality, turning it from a single expanse into a multitude of smaller compositional elements.

Another of the museum's most striking architectural features is a wall comprised of alternating glass panels and thick copper ribs.

This effectively cuts up the view of blue-tiled roofs, mosaic domes and occasional spire or bell tower outside into neat squares and rectangles.

Both the glazed ceiling and wall allow for natural light to flood the lofty nave and elevated platform, thereby activating the space within.

While the footprint of the building itself was not enlarged, the layout was reconfigured to make optimum use of this natural light and to ensure that the backdrop of other impressive architecture surrounding it was not impeded by any of its interior functionality.

As one of the chief architects of the project has been quoted as saying:

"The building and its location have a life of their own that informed every decision we made – large and small." 

Another significant decision was the addition of an elevated upper platform with a walkway that connects two smaller wings.

The impressive marble staircase to this second story is placed on a diagonal to allow for both freedom of movement and a continued appreciation of the city's vista beyond.

Contemporary railings line the edges of this high gallery to provide a slatted view down onto the nave below.

As well as the principal geometric shapes previously mentioned – that of rectangles, squares, diamonds and semi-circles - the museum's architecture also features an abundance of other decorative devices such as foils.

These are based on the symmetrical rendering of leaf shapes, defined by overlapping circles of the same diameter that produce a series of cusps to make a lobe.

Motifs such as trefoils and quatrefoils complete the underside of interior arches leading to galleries and chambers off the central nave.

Composition in architecture begins with space development and, as I have discussed, geometry makes an important input to this process by dealing with the study of figures, shapes and forms as elements.

At the same time, however, proportions, differences, angle positions and transformations should be considered as relationships between those elements.

This is usually referred to as sacred or occult geometry - a system of measurements or dimensions which are considered "secret" or "divine," whether that is through its manifestation of proportion or its visual effect.

Whilst it is mostly deemed to be philosophical or spiritual in nature, sacred geometry has a place in architecture since the relationship between design and geometry starts with the notion of harmony as a principle for all creation.

This powerful relationship is often overlooked.

Good architecture tends to be thought of on two levels, the first linking geometric properties to design terms, the second linking these to an emotional message or aesthetics.

"The first place anyone looks to find the geometry in architecture is in the shape of a building, then perhaps the shape of the drawings of the building."

Rohese indicates the schematics.

Heavily influenced by such sacred elements, a key part of the Museum Alerreth's architecture links geometry, nature and organic elements in a seamless way.

From the use of the golden ratio in the proportions of its main construction and layout to the use of natural decorative elements and the symbolism of the number three that regularly occurs within.

Consider the floral-themed medallion encasing the horologe in the entrance hall with its greenish copper leaves, flowers, vines and fruits patterned across the oversized piece.

Then there are the three main arches at the entrance followed by three steps to the nave ... a trefoil arch and similar configuration of seating within the Auditorium.

... where three represents the perfect balancing of body, mind, spirit or balance, stability and strength – the integration of polarity which reveals a new creation.

But perhaps what is most sacred about the architectural space is the actual purpose of its sun-bathed halls and galleries.

The museum holds an extensive range of items in its collection that chronicle elven history, ranging from jewelry, airship paraphernalia, and portraiture.

A recent new addition features elven costumery within its seven purpose-built alcoves.

An exhibit I can personally recommend and all accessible to the general public.

So, having given you an insight into some of the lesser known aspects of the museum, I now challenge you to stand in its golden sacred space and not be in awe.