The Architecture of Robert Adam (1728-1792)



Essay by Julian.Small. 3D computer visualisation by Sandy Kinghorn.






The Tuscan Order was the simplest of  the Classical Orders .  It is thought to have derived from Etruscan and early Roman temples and that, like the Doric Order, it reflects wooden construction.  The most obvious distinction between the Tuscan and other orders is that the columns are never fluted but are always smooth.  The columns possess capitals and bases, but these are simpler than those of the other orders, and the entablature is also quite plain. Robert Adam provided un-fluted columns in many of his designs, for example the Doric columns at the entrance to Edinburgh University and the Ionic and Corinthian columns on the facades at Charlotte Square, Edinburgh, and in this he refuses to follow the rules of classical architecture as laid down by such authorities as Palladio; but in other examples, for example at the Register Office in Edinburgh, the columns are fluted.  Only with the Tuscan order are columns not supposed to be fluted. 

The Tuscan Order was rarely used in later Roman architecture, but it is referred to by Vitruvius, and Palladio devotes a chapter to it, as he does to each of the orders.  Palladio recommends that its plainness make it suitable for use in buildings of utilitarian function, such as farm buildings, and specifically states that the ratio of height to width in the intervals between the pillars, mean that it is possible to manoeuvre a farm wagon between them. 

Robert Adam used the Tuscan Order in the Riding House he designed for Edinburgh in 1763.  The preliminary sketch-design has Doric pillars flanking the door, but the final version - in simpler form than Adam's first thoughts - uses the Tuscan Order both here and in the interior.  It may well be that the utilitarian nature of the Riding House led him to consider it appropriate to use it here.  However, in later years Adam was to renounce its use, declaring in 1774: "as to the Tuscan, it is, in fact, no more than a bad and imperfect Doric," and it cannot be said that even at the start of Adam's career, it frequently features in his designs. 

The Tuscan Order, as used by Robert Adam at the Edinburgh Riding House, designed in 1763.  Note the simple form of the entablature and of the capital and base of the column. 


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