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Share your own stories and photos of the Hall of Architecture

Did you take art lessons in the Hall of Architecture? Or get married or graduate among its magnificent collection of casts? Perhaps you remember your very first visit to this local treasure or have fond holiday memories of strolling through it to listen to a concert or view the Holiday Trees? We’re looking for personal accounts and/or photos of special experiences inside the Hall of Architecture to inspire our upcoming exhibition, On a Grand Scale: The Hall of Architecture at 100. Please send accounts to Mattie Schloetzer, Carnegie Museum of Art, at schloetzerm@carnegie
or 4400 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15213.

















Aging Gracefully:
The Hall of Architecture Stands the Test of Time

Then: Members of Associated Artists gather for the 1915 Annual.
Now: A 2006 Associated Artists show.

For nearly a century, Carnegie Museum of Art’s Hall of Architecture has captivated Pittsburghers as a portal into a magical, ancient world of architecture that many would never experience otherwise—except perhaps in books—and as a muse for generations of aspiring artists in the museum’s Saturday Art Classes.

Today, it’s a national treasure, as well, distinguished as the largest architectural cast collection in the country and rivaled internationally only by collections in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and in the Musée National des Monuments Français, Paris. The collection includes more than 140 plaster casts and is unique for having remained essentially intact in the grand skylit space designed especially for it by Andrew Carnegie, as part of the expansion of the Oakland facility in 1907.

The Hall will turn 100 next year, and to celebrate, Carnegie Museum of Art’s Heinz Architectural Center will present On a Grand Scale: The Hall of Architecture at 100 beginning next September. It’s an exhibition that will tell the storied history of the great hall, featuring little-known facts such as: Did you know that while Carnegie’s collection was crafted to provide Pittsburgh with an appreciation for the classical, the classical Greek nudes were a bit too risqué for Carnegie, who directed that they be draped to fit with the sensibilities of the time. Carnegie Museum of Art also went to great lengths to develop its own, unique casts and preferred them to be poured directly from molds of the original buildings, suggesting that although they were reproductions, high-quality craftsmanship was at work.

At the time the museum was creating its great architectural cast collection, architectural and sculpture cast collecting was in vogue. Years later, though, because of changes in taste, many museums eliminated their large architectural cast collections. Decades later, these collections have acquired a new significance because, in some cases, the originals have been destroyed and the cast is a unique record of lost work. At the very least, comparing a cast to a still-standing original reveals a lot about the effect on the surface of the carving after more than 100 years of pollution. In most cases, the casts are in far better shape than the buildings themselves.

Even now, when travel is much more affordable, the Hall of Architecture’s collection is the means by which many Pittsburghers are introduced to great classic, European and ancient edifices in full scale. The most magnificent, and one of the largest architectural casts ever made (measuring 38 feet high, 87 feet wide), is the west portal of the Abbey Church of St.-Gilles-du-Gard, a 12th-century Romanesque church in Provence, and the dominant presence in the hall. Behind it are bronze reproductions of furniture, pots, and statuary excavated from the ruins of Pompeii and Herculaneum. The design of the hall itself is based on the Mausoleum at Halicarnassus, and the adjacent Hall of Sculpture, also added in 1907, resembles the interior of the Parthenon.

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