Today, if you go around a European city, it is impossible not to come across an overly ornamented building with elaborate, elegant balconies. The otherworldly looks of the balconies may make you wish to be up in there sipping your coffee while watching the flow of people on the streets and contemplating, right? Well, most of the time, these buildings belong to the Baroque era, and thus they have a Baroque balcony. Even the word Baroque sounds intriguing; we know that. So, wouldn’t you like to learn more about these balconies? Let’s dive into the history of architecture to discover!
What is Baroque Architecture?
Baroque is an architectural style that emerged at the dawn of the seventeenth century. It was an age of complex religious, social, and political conditions in Europe, and Baroque is, in fact, a representation of this environment. Its original impact remained local, especially in Italy (the birthplace) and partly in France. The origins of the emergence of Baroque brought about this limitedness inevitably: it arose in Italy as a symbolic representation of the Catholic Church’s triumph in Counter-Reformation. Therefore, the non-Catholic countries of Europe did not accept the Baroque style entirely, only its specific parts.
The most prominent architects of the Baroque Era were Gian Lorenzo Bernini and Francesco Borromini. Both of the architects have designed the most spectacular works of Baroque. While Borromini had created less work, he pushed the traditional limits. His most famous work is The Church of San Carlo Alle Quattro Fontane in Rome. In contrast to him, Bernini left an enormous amount of works in architecture, sculpture, monuments, and even urban design.
Characteristics of Baroque Architecture
Because of the diverse nature of the 1600s, it is not easy to strictly determine the boundaries of Baroque style, in contrast to Gothic or Renaissance, for example. But, when you observe a Baroque building, you can see that it gives certain ideas like dynamism, energetic construction, dramatic looks, and a theatrical setting.
One of the most significant differences in Baroque art compared to other styles is its use of movement in every aspect. In the case of an architectural piece, the movement is usually created through curved lines, oval shapes, and moving figures used in decoration. Architects used concave and convex shapes following one another to create a dynamic construction. Baroque buildings never look like a heavy, solid mass of matter, they are energetic.
Unlikely ways of lighting are used skillfully by Baroque architects to boost the dramatic atmosphere. They did not prefer to shed light on the building’s structure but used the light in a way to create contrast between different surfaces. Because they wanted the observer not just to watch and enjoy the beauty of the building. But also they wanted to impress and “move” people.
Geometrical thinking was central to Baroque architecture. The architects of the era employed interwoven geometrical shapes to increase a space’s depth and enrich the surface texture. The most common geometrical shape was the oval shape, which can be observed in foundation plans and other parts of the buildings like ceilings, balconies, and other decorative features.
Many Baroque buildings have vibrant surfaces. The decoration in most Baroque buildings is usually exhaustive to the eye. The execution of sculptures and architectural elements like vaults, arches, and columns is so detailed that the design becomes blended into the ornamentation, making it impossible to follow the lines of separation. So, it looks like the Baroque artists wanted everything at the same time. They wanted to create spaces that imply the grandeur and the richness of the Catholic Church.
Over time, the value of Baroque slowly declined and led to the emergence of Rococo at the beginning of the eighteenth century. But it was not the end of this influential style. Baroque has revived once more in the late nineteenth century, only this time originating in France. Neo-Baroque (the other naming of this era) was not exactly the same as the original Baroque era. Still, it consists of many architectural elements and articulates the feelings of grandeur.
This newer version of Baroque was more widespread. Many neo-Baroque buildings can be found in all European countries, the USA, Canada, Turkey, and even Japan. So, if you come across those balconies we talked about and are not in Italy, you are probably looking at a neo-Baroque building!
Baroque Balcony -An Outstanding Architectural Feature
As mentioned above briefly, theatricality is an important strategy for the Baroque style. The structure of a balcony is in close relation with this idea. The platform projecting from the outer wall is like a theater stage. It makes one immediately think that this space is a place to perform, apart from its practical use. So, the balcony is complementary to the theatricality of a Baroque building.
Moreover, the balcony becomes an ornament itself in Baroque architecture. Just like any other element of Baroque architecture, a Baroque balcony has an elaborate execution. The windows or the balcony door may have decorative columns on the side. On top of the columns, there are always fancy reliefs and decorative arches.
As in all Baroque buildings, the architectural elements are merged with ornaments. So, sculptures, cartouches for relief, mascarons, and column spurs are always incorporated into the design. Balcony parapets, too, are usually part of the ornamentation. The stone-carved Baroque parapets are very sculptural, and sometimes you can see figurative sculptures as parapet columns. In Neo-Baroque, balcony parapets are usually cast iron, but they are never dull. They are always cast in abstract floral shapes.
So, well, we hope that in this short introduction to Baroque architecture you find enough information to recognize Baroque balconies when you are on a trip! Just keep your eyes up and try to distinguish an extravagant balcony!