Not just Antefixes, Don't Cheneaux

January 28, 2015

Bob Kollar asks, "I have an architectural question that has been bugging me for a while–perhaps you can shed some light on this mystery. What ever happened to the antefixes surrounding the roofline of the Carnegie Museum in Oakland? Any idea when/why they were removed? I need to know!

The encyclopedic yet lucid Robert J. Gangewere writes in American Palace of Culture (Pitt Press, 2011), "In 1955, the Institute building saw its first substantial rehabilitation, at a cost of more than $3.25 million: the leaking roof was covered with aluminum, and some decorative details, such as the 1907 copper cheneaus along the roofline, were removed." 

 

Post-War taste found ornament of any kind abhorrent; the greater rigors of historic preservation design and construction had not yet developed. It was common to look at such elements and find them corroded, out-dated and non-functional. Whether they truly contributed to leaks or were simply blamed for them, would be a topic for more detailed research.

 

I applaud you for describing these as antefixes; the term seems to apply, though an observer might expect antefixes to have separation between them. The term "cheneaux," more commonly applies to a continuous band of ornament. (I truly admire Gangewere's writing on these subjects. The issue of spelling is semantics, not intended as a correction).

 

You can find cheneaux all around during this period, in the architecture of Henry Hornbostel in Oakland, and in the writing by Walter Kidney that describes it. 

 

Dontcha know.

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