Page images
[blocks in formation]

2861 to 2946. Mr. Gwilt wrote, in 1842, Chapter V., PUBLIC AND PRIVATE BUILDINGS. The several sections were revised and enlarged and additional ones inserted in 1867, and again in 1876. The progress in most of the subjects, as well as of others, has been so great of late years that a volume for each might well be written, giving the later examples and principles of arrangement. As it is a convenient place in this work for specially treating some subjects, the chapter is retained under a now heading. The sections VENTILATION OF BUILDINGS and WARMING OF BUILDINGS are taken to Use of MATERIALS or PRACTICAL BUILDING, Chapters XIII. and XIV., and most of the other sections are inserted in the GLOSSARY. The student will find in the LIST OF Books many works relating to the subjects, of which he may be in search.


THEATRES. 2947. A taste for dramatic representations prevailed at a very early period among the people of antiquity, and this was not diminished by the introduction of Christianity, even when the temples were deserted and paganism seemed extinct. The destruction of these, however, was its concluding triumph. It would be a difficult matter to fix the precise date of the abolition of the pagan theatre, but it seems likely to have resulted rather from the falling into decay of the old theatres than from a disinclination on the part of the people to the pleasure they received at them. With the revival of the arts, the taste for scenic representations appeared with the literature on which they are dependent. In Italy we find, therefore, the drama at this period represented in very large enclosures, such as the amphitheatre constructed by Bramante in the large court at the Vatican, whence the taste soon spread over all the nations of Europe.

2948. The pleasure which flowed from this renewal of an ancient art was at first contined to few, and those were either men of learning or select societies, who bore the expenses, and again raised in the country a renewal of a theatre much resembling those of the ancients as respected the form and disposition. To prove this, we need only cite the example of the celebrated theatre at Vicenza, built by Palladio in 1583, and designed in imitation of the ancient theatres. A full account of this building is given in L’Origine dell' Academia Olympica, gc. Opera di Ottavio Bertotti Scamozzi, Vicenza, 1690. For dramatic representations this theatre is no longer used, and at present it is only recognised as a monument of the extraordinary skill of the architect, and a memorial of the dramatic buildings of its period. The theatre at Parma, built by Aleotti, is another building belonging to the same class, and preserved, like the last-mentioned, as a curiosity.

2949. When, however, the taste for scenic amusements began to spread, the sovereign princes, who alone could support the expense of such establishments, began to make them a necessary part of their palaces; and the theatre, no longer a public and essential building, became what it now is, a place which served for the habitual amusement of those who could afford it. The drama again revived, and its history is an index to the edifices that rose for its representation. Becoming thus necessary for the amusement of the better classes of society, the establishment of theatres was undertaken by individuals in almost every city, and competition was the natural consequence. Then began the division of the theatre into different parts, the entry to which was marked by different prices, and the separation of the common people from those of rank and fortune.

2950. Italy does not contain so many theatres, nor of such consequence, as might be predicted from the taste of its inhabitants. Among the earliest of consequence was that built at Bologna in 1763 by Antonio Galli Bibiena (not to mention that built at Verona under the direction of the celebrated Scipio Maffei by Francesco Galli Bibiena), with a noble portico in front and salons in the angles, possessing moreover great merit in its

interior distribution. In the Italian theatres there is almost invariably a certain feeling of grandeur and unity about the interior little to be expected from the exterior, which in no way leads the spectator to the suspicion of a fine Salle de Spectacle behind it.

2951, France has the credit of having erected the first modern theatre that can be deno minated an example in this species of monumental architecture. That to which we allude is the theatre at Bordeaux, which is 325 feet in leugth, and half that measure in width. Whether we consider the exterior or interior of this edifice, everything is grand; the accessories are worthy of the whole, and the richness of the interior decoration is only equalled by the fine forms whereon the decorations are used. The ingress and egress are admirable; and a splendid concert-room and magnificent staircases complete the destination, to which it is so suited, as to afford the finest model of a theatre to which we can refer the student. The plans, &c. of this work were published by its architect, V. Louis, under the title of Salle de Spectacle de Bordeaux, atlas folio, Paris, 1782.

2952. The principal points for the consideration of the architect in the composition of a theatre may be classed under the heads of utility, suitableness for the purpose, and taste in combining them. Under the first head must be placed the accomplishment of two main objects, those of seeing and hearing what passes on the stage. These, indeed, are intimately connected with each other, and are entirely dependent on the form adopted for the plan of the interior, that is, the general form giren to the boxes which surround the purt before the curtain. We are not aware of any plan which, in this respect, is not based on a quadrangular, elliptical, or circular form.

2953. The quadrangular form, besides its want of beauty, is not well adapted for fulfilling the objects with which we set out. In this, the greater number of spectators or audience who occupy the side boxes are so inconveniently placed, that, to observe what is going on, their heads must be turned sidewise, and they are hence in a false position for the object. The actor being generally the point to which all eyes are directed, the spectator opposite the proscenium will look at him in a right direction; but as the spectator removes to the extremity of the side, it is manifest that the angle in which the head must be turned becomes sharper, and the position is then painful. Besides this objection, the form is known to be unfavourable to hearing or to the propagation of sound.

2954. The truncated oral is in some measure subject to the same inconveniences on the sides as the last-mentioned figure. It removes also a large portion of the spectators to a considerable distance from the centre of the scene, besides which, in the boxes near the prosceniam, their seats tend in opposite directions to the actor. It has been to remedy these faults that the form of the horseshoe has been adopted, which is a sort of mean between the quadrangular and oval forms: and where the plot of ground is much longer than it is wide, it is a suitable figure, and one which affords the opportunity of increasing the number of boxes.

2955. When, however, the circumstances concur in allowing it, the adoption of the semicircular plan is doubtless the best. It is a figure which allows each spectator to be at an equal distance from the scene, that also by which the spectators in adjoining boxes less interfere with one another, that which affords the means of all seeing equally well, that in which the sound is most equally distributed, and that whose uniformity and simplicity seem to engender the best decoration. The semi-elliptic, with the transverse axis parallel to the proscenium, has interior advantages in some respects over the semicircle; but it induces great difficulty in connecting the proscepium itself with the auditory part of the house, and, by increasing the width of the proscenium, increases the perplexity in framing (as formerly) the roof conveniently for the painting rooms, and securely as respects the walls.

2956. Upon the destruction by fire of Drury Lane Theatre a pamphlet appeared, entitled Observations on the Principles of a Design for a Theatre, by Benjamin Wyatt, London, 8vo. 1811. These observations are so well worth the notice of the student that we shall close this section by giving the substance of them. The heads for consideration, says the author, are :

2957. First. The size or capacity of the theatre, as governed by the width of the proscenium or stage opening; and by the pecuniary return to be made to those whose property may be embarked in the concern. Second. The form or shape of the theatre, as connected with the primary objects of sound and vision. Third. The facility of ingress and egress, as materially affecting the convenience of those who go to every part of the house respectively, as well as their lives, in cases of sudden accident or alarm. Fourth. Decorum amongst the several orders and classes of the visitants to the theatre, as essential to the accommodation of the more respectable part of those visitants, and consequently of great importance to the interests of the theatre. Fifth. Security against fire, as well in regard of insurance, as with relation to the lives of individuals going to the theatre.

2958. The size or capacity will necessarily depend very much on the width of the proscenium or stage opening, inasmuch as it is from the extremities of that opening that the form of the theatre must spring. The annexed is a statement of the width of the proscenium at the theatres named in that publication :

[merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small]

A width beyond 40 feet seems to have been considered by the performers as inconvenient, from the space they would have to pass over in the business of the drama, but 50 feet appears now to be the maximum adopted. A greater width, indeed, than that stated prevents the easy and secure working of the scenes, for the machinery is increased in magnitude and weight as the height and breadth of the scenes increase. In mere spectacle and scenic grouping a reduction in the width of the proscenium, and depth of the stage, reduces the number of extra performers, or supernumeraries as they are called, which become necessary for filling the stage. Again, every additional foot given to the stage opening increases the quantity of canvas used in the scenes, as well as the framing whereon they are fixed.

2958a. In the Edinburgh New Philosophical Journal, vol. xxvii., Mr.J. S. Russell gives some elementary considerations of certain principles in the construction of buildings designed to accommodate spectators and auditors, well worth the architect's notice. In every large room, says the writer, a perfectly good seat is one in which, without uneasy elevation of the head or eye, without straining or stretching, we can calmly and quietly take any easy position, or variety of positions, which we may be disposed to assume, and yet may in all of them see and hear the speaker with equal clearness and repose, so as to give him patient and undisturbed attention. The object, then, is to ascertain in what manner the interior of a building for public speaking should be formed, so that throughout the whole range which the voice of a man is capable of filling, each individual should see and hear without interruption from any of the rest of the audience, with equal comfort in an easy posture,

Ma 1357.

And 18 clearly as if no other individual auditor or spectator were present. (See figs. 1947, and 1348.) The position of the seats is first investigated. In the usual variety of station

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

end of position, it appears from experiments that the range required for the purpose is more

than a foot and less than 18 inches, so that these may be taken as the limits; that is, over the head of the person before you there must be a clear range of 12 or 18 inches, through which the head may be moved upwards or downwards without interruption. In other words, that a straight line drawn from the speaker's head over that of the anterior spectator shall intercept the straight line which forms the back of the seat of the posterior observer, so as to cut off a height of 12 or 18 inches, within which the bead of the spectator shall at times be comprehended while sitting in a comfortable. position. Thus let S (fig. 1347.) be the speaker and XYZ be three successive ascents ; then the line SX must fall below SY, so as to leave the space Yz = 18 inches = Zy.

2959. Applying this formula to every individual place in the room or building, we shall have the form required to satisfy the auditors. Let 21 feet be assumed as a constant representing the distance of one spectator behind another, measured horizontally; and 11 feet as the clear space, measured on the vertical line, for the mean range of comfortable vision for each. If the level of the floor, that is, of the lowest seats, be already determined, the form of the interior accommodation may be thus described. AY (fig. 1348.), the height of the speaker, YX the level floor. From Ay take Yy=4 feet. Draw yr parallel to YX. Take Ay to yr as 14 to 2, that is, as h, the range of position of the spectator, to do the distance between the seats. Take horizontal distances 1, 2, 3, 4, &c. = 24 feet, prolong A.x to s', then the height x' to l=14 feet. Join Al and prolong it to r", and take a distance r" to m=11 feet. Through m draw Am, and prolong it to z'', and take r'n=11 feet. Continue the process in the same manner to p, q, r, s, t, &c., and the points will be found of the successive places which the heads of the auditors should occupy.

2960. But it is not only in receding that the back seats must rise; those too far forward may be also unpleasant. They are too low; they also should be raised : but this must be done so as not to interrupt those who are behind. It may be accomplished in a similar way; for, as formerly set off, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, &c. =24 feet (fig. 1949.), 1 is the first anterior point. Join Al, and let it cut the vertical line through 2 in r", the portion downwards r"l=11 feet; then l is the point found. Join Al, make x'k

=14 feet ; join Ak and x'''i=1feet; and so on. g, h, i, k, l, are the places found which the heads of the spectators should occupy, and show the elevation to be given to the seats successively.

2961. If the simple process described be accurately performed, the points which indicate the places of the spectators will lie in the branches of a very beautiful curve, which may be termed the iseidomal or the isacoustic curve, that is, one of equal seeing or hearing : it will be of the form in fig. 1950. A being the place of the speaker, and the heads of the spec




[ocr errors]


Fig. 1349.

[blocks in formation]

tators being placed on the line Amn, continued as far as the voice will reach, XAX being the axis of the curve, and YY its parameter. This curre has two branches on opposite sides of A, showing that if the building extend behind the speaker, or if the spectacle be visible or the sound audible on every side, the same may be continued all round. By means of this curve, the position of seats in a theatre may be satisfactorily determined.

2962. For any great assemblage, where it is desirable that one individual or group of individuals should be seen or heard, an amphitheatre of this form might be constructed from the surface of revolution generated by moving the curve round its axis, which would perfectly accommodate 10,000 individuals.

2963. According to the arrangement of London audiences, Mr. Wyatt calculates that a theatre consisting of three fourths of a circle on the plan, with a stage opening of 35 feet, will contain, in boxes in four tiers, tour other boxes next the stage, a pit and two galleries, 2,869 persons, exclusive of four boxes in the proscenium, and fourteen immediately under the dress boxes. Perhaps no modern theatre can be required to hold above 2,500 people,



2964. We have already given some general hints relative to the form ; we shall here add the author's view of this matter; and thereon he very properly says that, with reference to distinct sound, the safest method is to adopt a form known to be most capable of conveying sound with facility, to construct that form of materials that are conductors of sound, and to avoid all breaks and projections on the surface of that form, because they obstruct and impede the progress of the sound. It is well known that a circular enclosure without breaks possesses the power of conveying sounds with facility, as the whispering gallery in St. Paul's Cathedral ; and that wood is an admirable conducting material for the purpose. Count Algarotti, in his treatise on the Opera, says, daily experience teaches us that in a box whose walls are naked, the singer's voice reverberated in a particular manner; it sounds crude and harsh, and by no means flattering to the ear; the accents are quite lost it the box be hung with tapestry; whereas they are reflected full, sonorous, and agreeable to the ear when the boxes are only boarded, which is an obvious proof, and confirmed by experience, that the best lining for the interior part of a theatre is wood, as is said to have been the case in Her Majesty's Theatre, burnt in 1867.

2965. Whatever be the form of the theatre, it ought in every part to be limited in extent to such distance as the voice will distinctly reach ; and the nearer that figure conforms to the proportions wherein the natural voice is heard in each direction, the more equally will the sound be heard in every part of the theatre. The experiments tried by Mr. Wyatt proved that the reach of the voice when moderately exerted was in the proportion of about two ninths further in a direct front line than laterally; and that being distinctly audible on each side of the speaker at a distance of seventy-five feet, it will be as plainly heard at a distance of ninety-two feet in front of him, declining in strength behind him so as not to be clearly heard at much more than thirty feet. Accoraing,” says Mr. Wyatt, “ to these data, it would appear that the geometrical figure, which comes the nearest to the extreme limits of the natural expansion of the voice, is a semicircle of 75 feet radius, or 150 feet in diameter, continued on each side to the extent of 17 feet, or in the proportion of about two ninths of its lateral expansion (fig. 1351.) beyond the limits of the semicircle, and then converging suddenly until the two lines meet at C, behind the back of the speaker." But though the voice may be heard at these distances, it does not follow that a theatre of this extent should be erected; indeed, it would be absurd to do so, for the actor varies his place almost every moment; and as he removes from the centre, from which it has been assumed he is speaking, he would become inaudible to some parts of the audience as he receded from it. It is evident, therefore, in planning a theatre, the radius or semi-diameter must be so reduced as to bring the extreme distance at which he may in any case be placed within the space of 75 feet, that is, that when the speaker is placed at the extremity of either side of the stage, his voice may be heard by those seated on the opposite side of the house. In the diagram, the widest part of the theatre inscribed in the larger figure is 58 feet upon the level of the dress boxes ; and allowing 9 feet 6 inches for the depth of the boxes on that floor, by means of a projection of 18 inches more than the boxes above, there will be 67 feet 6 inches between the extreme part of the stage on one side and the back wall of the boxes on the opposite side: but as the speaker is in no case placed at either extremity of the stage, and even if so situated, the distance between him and the opposite side of the house would be within 8 feet of the reach of his voice in its lateral direction, and 25 feet within its limits in a direct line, it hence appears that the circular is preferable to any other form; and if we fix a limit for the diameter of that form, we are in possession of the rules which limit the length of the theatre, or the distance from the front line of the stage to the boxes immediately in front of that line. Taking 75 feet for the distance at which the voice can be heard laterally, as the space between the front line of the stage and its immediately opposite boxes may occasionally be in the lateral direction of the voice, the greatest distance from the front wall of the stage to the back wall of the boxes opposite the stage should not exceed 75 feet, the limit of the voice in its lateral direction, because of the turns of head which he must often make for the business of the scene, when that which was opposite might become lateral ; and thus those persons sitting in the opposite boxes would be 92 – 75 feet = 17 feet beyond the reach of his voice.

2966. The use of a semicircle without modification would, however, involve the extension of the stage opening to an inconvenient width; and Mr. Wyatt very properly considers that the whole area of a theatre should contain little more than one-third of the space over

front line of stage

- 150

Fig. 1351.

« PreviousContinue »