Pavilions, Fabriques, and the Reverential Copy

[This paper discusses a category of building that is related to, and sometimes overlaps with, the pavilion: the fabrique. The fabrique is not to be confused with the folly, although both are found in parks and gardens and the terms are often used interchangeably. The fabrique is a building whose sole purpose is to generate cultural meaning. It is by definition not functional in the usual sense, although a fabrique may be given a function. The fabrique was a creation of eighteenth-century France and England, but the examples I want to focus on are more recent than that. Paper given at Pavilions: a symposium, University of Melbourne, 3–4 October 2016. A collaboration between MPavillion and The University of Melbourne.]

Pavilion, fabrique and folly: some definitions

The term ‘pavilion’ is defined by dictionaries in a number of ways.

The Oxfoed English Dictionary’s etymology describes the origin of the term, and what seems to be its core meaning: ‘Middle English (denoting a large decorated tent): from Old French pavillon, from Latin papilio(n-) ‘butterfly or tent’.

Architectural historians use it to describe a unit of a larger whole:  ‘a part of a building projecting from the rest’; ‘one of several detached or semidetached units into which a building is sometimes divided’ (Merriam-Webster). For example in an English Palladian country house there may be wings with subsidiary buildings attached that are called pavilions (Figs 1, 2). This is interesting because the core building is gone, leaving the pavilions isolated. In the case of the American academy in Rome semi-detached and detached artist’s studios that nevertheless form part of the architecture of a larger whole are called pavilions (Fig. 3). The definition that is of most interest to contemporary artists and this project: ‘at an exposition, a detached building erected for an individual exhibitor’; that is, a biennale pavilion (Fig. 4).

The core definition of the pavilion, and the one of most relevance to this paper, transforms the idea of tent-like openness into a more generalised lightness of structure: ‘A light, more of less ornamented building in a park, garden, athletic ground, or the like’.

The function ascribed to such buildings in dictionaries is generally that it serves as that it serves as a pleasure house for entertainment, or as a building that provides shelter. This definition has resonance in the Australian building industry, to judge from this product (Fig. 5). The authors of definitions often refer to cricket pavilions, bandstands or park buildings used for concerts. While this example of a cricket pavilion (Fig. 6) is partially open and a little tent-like, other examples of cricket pavilions retain the function of being a place for watching cricket, but lose site of tent-like openness and lightness of structure (Fig. 7). The function term—cricket—tends to push away the stylistic elements – openness and lightness.

So the particular pavilion I would like to extract from all this is a lightweight structure in a garden that is ornamented and serves as a ‘pleasure house’.

This definitional excursus has effectively led us to another term which I find more useful: the fabrique. A pavilion may be a fabrique, but not all fabriques are pavilions. A fabrique may be, but need not be, open like a tent (Fig. 8). A fabrique, though commonly a lightweight structure, need not be so. A Palladian pavilion is not a fabrique because it is not a building in its own right, although as a detached structure it might well make a good fabrique. A fabrique is indeed normally found in garden or park, but does not exist primarily for shelter (like a cricket pavilion) or to house a particular function (a place for music).

So what is a fabrique? It is a French term that comes to prominence in the eighteenth-century and is defined in today’s Larousse as ‘Petit temple, ruine ou autre construction de fantaisie servant à l’ornementation d’un jardin (particulièrement à l’anglaise), d’un parc paysager.’ This usefully takes us away from cricket pavilions, tents, music venues, and expos into the eighteenth century landscape garden in its French manifestation, known as the Jardin Anglo-Chinois. This acquired this name because the French were reluctant to attribute the landscape garden wholly to England, and because it was seen to have been inspired by, or had affinities with, the landscapes in Chinese paintings (Fig. 9). These landscapes were full of small, lightweight and frequently open structures, which might useful be termed pavilions. Hence the Jardin Anglo-Chinois is full of small buildings, that is, fabriques, and fabriques play a more central role there than in English gardens (Fig. 10).

A fabrique, then, is an ornamental building in a landscape garden (Fig. 11). But here I would like to stress that the core idea of the fabrique, which separates it from the pavilion, is that it is a non-functional building. This does not preclude it having a practical function, such as shelter, but this function is incidental to its primary purpose, which is to generate meaning. That meaning, of course, resides in the engagement of the spectator with the structure. Like any work of art, the fabrique is a means by which a creator communicates with an audience. The principal means by which it does this is by alluding to something else. It is, if you like, pictorial: a three-dimensional picture of something else-in this case, the Pantheon in Rome. But the fabrique has the potential to be more than this, and this is what I want to explore today.

Let us start with the idea that a fabrique is a building in a garden that often represents or alludes to something else. It may be a good place to sit and have a gin and tonic or to store chairs, but function follows form, not the other way about. With this definition lightness or openness of structure is not essential in the way it seems to be for the pavilion.

The English equivalent of a fabrique is usually considered to be ‘a folly’, but this is misleading, even if this terms is also French in origin. Many buildings that ought to be called fabriques are called follies in an English context. The term ‘folly’ has inescapable associations with foolishness, which is hardly surprising when the term is synonymous with a term for silly behaviour. The use of the term ‘folly’ to describe a building is never neutral. It immediately conjures up one of these associations: (1) the building of the structure was a reckless act, and probably a financially reckless one. (2) It has no practical purpose; indeed, it gives the finger to practicality. Hence the Oxford English Dictionary definition is ‘A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park.’ The fact that the term may derive from an earlier sense of the French word ‘folie’, meaning ‘delight’ or ‘favourite abode’ is now beside the point. But a fabrique does not carry the same associations of foolishness and financial recklessness, though many fabriques may indeed be follies in this sense. As an example of a folly explicitly intended to be one is the Faringdon Folly on Folly Hill (Fig. 12). It was designed by the architect Lord Gerald Wellesley, later 7th Duke of Wellington, for Lord Berners in 1935.

This has been described as the last folly in England. Lord Berners’ whole persona was the jokey interwar wealthy aristocrat and dilettante artist (although he was more than this) who, after the chaos of the First World War and the marginalisation of the aristocrat in a middle- and working-class world, builds a folly to proclaim this situation. In the same way that his eighteenth-century predecessors would build a folly to demonstrate their superiority—that they were above bourgeois or peasant practicality—so Lord Berners built his folly in order to link himself defiantly to that lost culture while mocking the present and his creation at the same time.  It once had a sign saying ‘members of the public committing suicide from this tower do so at their own risk’. Lord Berners’s structure was, because useless, necessarily expensive, since, because it is functionally useless, its cost must be measured against the cost of not building it, even if Wellesley was careful not to spend more on constructing it than was necessary for the realisation of the design and it did not bankrupt its builder.

This account, perhaps paradoxically, reveals that the Faringdon Folly is a fabrique in the sense I have defined it. That is, it a building whose primary function is to generate meaning. In this case the meaning is Berner’s world-view.

A key element of the fabrique as I have defined is that it is to be found in a large garden or park, or something corresponding to this. A large garden or park is by definition a place of leisure, and the fabrique has no place in the humdrum, everyday world. It is like a novel; it is something involving the willing suspension of disbelief, in which you lose yourself imaginatively.

I want now to look at some instances of gardens of fabriques in order to see where all this might lead.

The Garden of Wörlitz

The finest eighteenth-century garden of fabriques is Wörlitz (1762-1773). This was built by Prince Franz von Anhalt-Dessau (1740-1817) (Fig. 13) and his architect and friend Friedrich Wilhelm von Erdmannsdorff following their return from the Grand Tour and a trip to England. Duke Leopold was the ideal enlightenment ruler: he encouraged uncensored publication, promoted religious tolerance that extended to Jews, and promoted innovative agriculture and forestry.

These fabriques include the usual small buildings based on the Pantheon (Figs 14, 15) and Roman round temples (Fig. 16), but also a working representation of Vesuvius (Figs 17, 18), with the villa of Sir William Hamilton on one side (Fig. 19), and a scaled down version of the Iron Bridge near Coalbrookdale in 1777 (Figs 20, 21). These fabriques, therefore, were representations of known buildings or places or representative antique building types that were freighted with cultural meaning, and provided talking points for progressive contemporary ideas as one toured the garden.

Chateau de Groussay

While Wörlitz has the largest and richest collection of fabriques, the paradigmatic garden of fabriques dates not to the 18th century, but to the 20th. This is the garden of the Chateau de Groussay at Montfort-l’Amaury, west of Paris (Fig. 22). The Chateau itself was built in 1815, but was bought in 1938-39 by Charles de Beistegui. Beistegui was the heir to a Mexican fortune and was born to Mexican parents in France, and lived mainly in France and Spain. He mixed in artistic circles, commissioning a penthouse from Le Corbusier, whom he annoyed but installing rococo chairs, with a roof terrace by Salvador Dalì. He had a Spanish diplomatic passport and so had an easy war, being even more self-consciously disconnected from the contemporary world than Lord Berners. He also owned the Palazzo Labia in Venice, and in 1951 had there the party of the century, all the heavy socialites in Europe dressed in Venetian eighteenth century costume. (I am convinced the fancy dress ball at the end of Alfred Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief was inspired by this). At Groussay, with the help of the Cuban-born French architect, artist, interior decorator and landscape designer Emilio Terry (1890–1969) he filled the garden with fabriques and part of the house with a theatre based on the Baroque theatre at Bayreuth, but with floral Axminster-style 50s carpets (Fig. 23). These fabriques hoovered up the fabriques of eighteenth century European gardens, including a Turkish tent (Fig. 24), a Roman figured column (Fig. 25), a Chinese pagoda (Fig. 26), a Neoclassical pyramid (Fig. 27), a Palladian Bridge (Fig. 28) and more.

What are we to make of a garden of fabriques constructed in the 1950s? The traditional view, coloured by modernist teleology and Marxist ideas of social progress, these belong to the dustbin of history. The real artists of the day were the Abstract Expressionists; they embodied the present power of the USA and the future of the modernist project. Beistegui and Terry were downright silly, the expression of a feeble nostalgia for an old Europe that was gone for ever. (This pretty much sums up the Australian view of Europe today.) But if we set aside this stale historicism, there are more productive ways of looking at the Groussay fabriques than this. We may, for example, draw on the account given by Jas Elsner of the reproduction of Greek art by the Romans during the second and third centuries CE, when many of those ‘Roman copies of Greek originals’ were made (Fig. 29). Such copies were valued from antiquity through to the early modern period but despised by modern archaeology, which sought only the true and authentic Greek originals that lay behind them.

But, as Elsner points out, the Romans copied Greek statues not because they lacked the ability to be original, but because reproduction is interpretation. He argues that the transition from ‘Imperial Rome to Christian Triumph’ (the title of one of his books) came about because of the reverential reworking of the past exemplified by such copies: ‘one might even say that the transfiguration of culture in late antiquity was the product not of rejecting the past in favour of something new, but of constantly reworking the past in a spirit of almost reverential respect until the new emerged from the process.’[1]

Hadrian’s Villa

At his villa below Tivoli, the Emperor Hadrian extended this practice to whole buildings. As Hadrian’s biographer writes:

His villa at Tivoli was marvelously constructed, and he actually gave to parts of it the names of provinces of the greatest renown, calling them, for instance, Lyceum, Academia, the Prytaneum [Town Hall], Canopus, Poecile [Stoa Poikile, painted stoa] and Tempe. And in order not to omit anything, he even made a Hades.[2]

The most securely attributed of these today is the identification of a small valley at the east of the villa with the Valley of Tempe in Thessaly in Greece, between Olympus and Ossa (Fig. 30). Although the cult site of Tempe was dedicated to Apollo, overlooking Hadrian’s Tempe there was a temple of Venus now called the Doric Temple. The most problematic of these identifications is the Canopus, which was a town in Egypt with a canal and a temple of Serapis (Fig. 31). The town was notorious in antiquity for revellers who came down from Alexandria on the canal for public festivals—day trippers in other words—who, in Strabo’s words, ‘play flutes and dance without restraint and with extreme licentiousness, both men and women, with each other and with the Canopeans, who have places close to the canal adapted to relaxation and carrying on of this kind.’[3] The pool at Hadrian’s villa that has been identified with this canal has a dining triclinium at the end which has, with apparently little justification, been identified as a representation of the Temple of Serapis, although it is unlikely even then to have borne a visual resemblance to what that might have been.

Arguably these features of Hadrian’s villa fit my definition of a fabrique, since they are buildings in a pleasure garden designed to have meaning by being representations; they also indicate why lightness of structure is not a requirement for a fabrique, even though it may be for a pavilion. They also raise the parallel theme of the extent to which a fabrique, and also its setting. can be turned into a representation by naming, even though it may bear only a tenuous visual similarity to what it represents.

Bramante’s Tempietto at S. Pietro in Montorio

Another important precedent for the early modern garden fabrique is Bramante’s Tempietto in S. Pietro in Montorio (Fig. 32). According to the definitions I am using this is not a pavilion – it lacks tent-like openness and lightness of structure – but is arguably a fabrique. Although not situated in a pleasure garden, it is certainly a structure the primary purpose of which is to generate meaning. It was commissioned by Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain to mark the site of the martyrdom of Saint Peter, which old texts state, took place ‘inter duas metas’; that is, between two markers like the turning posts in a circus. In the Renaissance these metae were identified as the Pyramid of Cestius and another Pyramid destroyed in 1500, the Meta Romulae. These are shown in a painting by Giotto (Fig. 33). Arguably all three structures, if not created as such, here have become fabriques. More importantly, the Bramante tempietto is a fabrique that is a copy or re-interpretation of an existing building—the Temple of the Sibyl at Tivoli or the Temple of Hercules Victor by the Tiber—and much of its meaning resides in this fact. Indeed, Jás Elsner’s arguments are applicable here. The tempietto was immediately recognised as the first building in the true style all’antica of the Renaissance, and appears in sixteenth-century architectural treatises among the antique buildings, not the modern. Its revolutionary forward-looking nature was made possible because, as a purely symbolic building, it was possible for it to be a backward-looking reverential copy of another building.

The reverential copy

But to return to my main argument, Beistegui was in effect engaged in the same project as Hadrian and Bramante. By reproducing past buildings in a spirit of reverence, even to the point of making copies, he was both valorizing the past and creating a future as valid as any teleological one. But there is one difference, which is that Beistegui was making a representation not of an admired monumental building, but of a fabrique. In other words, he was paying homage to the idea of the fabrique and only indirectly to what those fabriques were modelled on. His Turkish tent (Fig. 24) is first a representation of the Turkish tent at Drottningholm (Fig. 34), and only through that to the Turks themselves. Indeed, he probably had no interest in the campaign tents of seventeenth-century Turkish armies as such.

Stuart Rattle’s Musk Farm

This can lead to some interesting tensions, as is demonstrated by an example closer to home, the garden of the late Stuart Rattle at Musk near Daylesford (Fig. 35). The garden itself owes much to English Arts-and-Crafts models, and, before the contents were sold after his death, there were references to eighteenth-century English country houses in the clubbish décor of the sitting room, a seventeenth-century still life by Sinibaldo Scorza and eighteenth-century portraits in the hall (I am reminded of Gilbert and Sullivan’s The Pirates of Penzance, where the Major-General says of the portraits in his newly acquired stately home: ‘I don’t know whose ancestors they were, but I know whose ancestors they are). These are also found in statues in the garden. These consisted of copies, many generations distant, of two statues in the Capitoline Museums in Rome: the Marble Faun and the Spinario or thornpuller (Fig. 36). The Spinario is a Roman statue which survived outside the Lateran basilica until it was moved to the Campidoglio in Rome in the sixteenth century (Fig. 37), where it is became almost as sacred a symbol of the continuity of civic Rome as the she-wolf (which had a similar history). Copies crop up in English country houses and gardens from the eighteenth-century onwards. Rattle acquired it fortuitously, but it fitted his conception of the garden, and it is now in the botanical gardens at Daylesford as a gift from Rattle’s heirs (Fig. 38).

This is a living example of Elser’s arguments: it is part of the endless process of copying and giving new meaning to ancient sculpture. Today, its significance is no longer that it is a symbol of the continuity of ancient Rome into the present, nor whatever it signified when the original was first made; in its current site its primary significance is that it once belonged to Stuart Rattle, a modern martyr, worshipped by clients, cruelly slaughtered, and now a secular saint.

A slightly different kind of response is generated by a fabrique in Rattle’s garden. This is a building—which is also a pavilion— that is Chinese in style (Fig. 39). Clearly in erecting this building in the garden—in the wilder, long-grass area––Rattle was consciously imitating eighteenth–century garden designers, since such Chinese-style buildings were a standard part of the repertory of the fabrique, as we have seen at Groussay (Fig. 25).

In the eighteenth century there was only a tiny amount of information available about China, just enough culturally to encourage fantasies about the benevolent rule of enlightened emperors, and just enough visually to provide motifs, colours and themes to become the basis of the European style of chinoiserie. If in the eighteenth-century they could have acquired actual Chinese buildings they would have done so, but it was not so easy then. But this is what Rattle did, purchasing in China a Chinese pavilion from a nineteenth-century Chinese park and re-erecting it in his garden.

The strands of meaning passing through this structure are now extremely complex. To begin with, this fabrique is, perhaps primarily, a homage to eighteenth-century gardens. From here one pathway leads to China, the eighteenth-century China as eighteenth-century Europe understood it. Yet this fabrique came directly from China to Australia, which causes us today to also think about modern China, a country which has very different associations for us than it did for the eighteenth century: benevolent enlightenment government does not immediately come to mind. But also we have to bear in mind that this fabrique came from a nineteenth century Chinese park, which means that there might well be thread leading from there to European, and worldwide, thinking about public parks in the nineteenth century, which would have been in part shaped by the eighteenth-century landscape garden.

Although these questions of response need to be developed further, what I have tried to do here is to clarify the distinction between the fabrique and the pavilion, two categories that only occasionally overlap. The ‘pavilion’ has developed a life of its own because of its resonance with contemporary architectural practice and thinking, as the Pavilions project demonstrates; perhaps the fabrique could do so as well, as a force working against the shallow presentism that threatens to stiffly us.

© David R. Marshall 2018

[1] Jaś Elsner, Imperial Rome and Christian Triumph: The Art of the Roman Empire AD 100-450, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998, p. 157.

[2] Elsner, p. 175; Historia Augusta, Life of Hadrian, 26.

[3] William L. MacDonald and John A. Pinto, Hadrian’s Villa and its Legacy, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1995.p. 109.

This entry was posted in All Posts, Architecture, Art, Arts and Crafts Movement, Baroque architecture, Baroque Gardens, Daylesford, English Gardens, Fabriques, Garden History, Rome, Town and Village, Uncategorized, Villa Castagna, Villas, Wombat Hill Botanical Gardens and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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