The Renaissance of the Ridgelanders

This post is Part 2. Be sure to read Part 1.

Half of the original Madisonian fortified city remains. Scholars believe the other half may have been destroyed in the long war with the Ridgelanders.

Around the 15th century, some Madisonians began to rediscover the old texts describing life in the Roman Empire of their forefathers. They realized that the ancients had shopped not in walled villages and narrow, confining streets like Madisonia but in open-air markets with landscaped parking areas and courtyard spaces and piped-in music on the sidewalks. Some wanted to undertake a transformation of the existing Madisonian gated communities using these new ideas, but many Madisonians were deeply distressed by the idea of open-air shopping. It seemed too risky, plus the humidity and heat played havoc with their hair and makeup.

For about one hundred years, these ideas were discussed and argued within the safe confines of Madisonia’s walls. Finally, a group of utopians decided to secede from Madisonia and build their own new city based on the ancient shopping principles of Rome. They moved about 10 miles south, far enough away, they thought, to avoid friction but still close enough to visit relatives to do laundry if necessary. Their settlement was located on a high ridge that overlooked the fertile plains of Madisonia, so they became known as the Ridgelanders. Revealing their aspirations to revive the shopping traditions of the ancient forefathers from across the sea, they called their new town “Renaissance.”

The ancient planning principles of the town of Renaissance can clearly be seen in this modern aerial view. Notice the plazas, the focal points, and the ancient family names that denote established neighborhoods, like Brooks Bros. and Barnes and Noble

The ancient planning principles of the town of Renaissance can clearly be seen in this modern aerial view. Notice the plazas, the focal points, and the ancient family names that denote established neighborhoods: Brooks Bros., Barnes and Noble, Free People. Is the tall building now known as CSpire a remnant of a wall to protect Renaissance from its angry neighbors to the north?

For over fifty years, the Madisonians and the citizens of Renaissance lived as peaceable neighbors, but over time, the Madisonians realized that more people did seem to enjoy shopping in the open air, regardless of the heat, humidity, and rain and cold. The hippest Madisonians even began making the trek to the Apple store in Renaissance, which was a constant embarrassment to the Madisonian leadership. Their tax base began to suffer. Friction developed and eventually, open warfare broke out.

These two watchtowers, Madisonia's extended cupola, and the Ridgelanders obelisk, give chilling testimony to the tensions that brewed between the two people groups for so long.

These two watchtowers, Madisonia’s extended cupola (left), and the Ridgelanders’ obelisk (right), give chilling testimony to the tensions that brewed between the two related people groups for so long. Brother fought against brother, son against father. Notice that the bottom of the obelisk has been obliterated, perhaps through battering or fire from marauding Madisonians.

Surviving fortifications from this time of civil war include two watchtowers that allowed both groups to watch the other: the Renaissance tower, on which the Washington Monument was based several centuries later, is in the form of an obelisk and stands on the northern boundary of the city. The Madisonians built a stuccoey tower with a domed cupola top and atypical Tuscan columns from which they could view from quite a distance the approach of rampaging Ridgelanders. Some have said that the Madisonian wall was destroyed in a pitched battle during this period, but other scholars believe that the Madisonians themselves finally capitulated and tore down the wall as a tacit admission that open-air shopping was indeed the best approach.

Architecturally, Renaissance is a city located firmly in the Madisonian cultural hearth while offering an interesting parallel evolution after the 16th century. The Madisonian cultural hearth, as we now know, is characterized by a robust interpretation of classical planning and design, at a larger scale and more stuccoey or bricky than the original stone of the ancient Romans. It was at Renaissance that the Madisonian culture attained its highest and best use of EFIS, a strong and durable synthetic stucco that has stood the test of time due to the fine craftsmanship here. The Ridgelanders seem to have been more attached to the Tuscan column than the Madisonians, who adored the Corinthian. Was this an underlying cause of the Hundred Years War between them? Scholars are still searching for answers. Nevertheless, the Ridgelander Tuscan column still bears the marks of Madisonia in its entasis, which as you can see here, is located about two-thirds up the column rather than the ancient one-third ratio.

When approaching from the southern entryway, the “Culvert commercium” or Culvert of Commerce bisects the last of the moats that once encircled the community. Beyond these defenses, a spectacular water fountain, one of the last vestiges of eloquent baroque sculpture in the western hemisphere, provides a fitting homage to the world-renowned Trevi Fountain. Its circular, marbleish or plasticky pool features four hippocamps, or sea horses, each located not on a true cardinal direction, but at intermediaries. Recent research on a similar piece found at what is thought to be the location of the lost civilization of Atlantis suggests the intercardinal positions of the hippocamps had a dual purpose: 1) spatially disorienting enemies as to the true cardinal directions and 2) allowing traders and citizens to reorient themselves before journeying to outlying encampments and trade posts.

Just as has been found at the Madisonia site, elements of Roman city planning are evident in the colorful Piazza del Ruth’s Chris, located within the northwest quadrant of the colony, the oldest section of town that served as the heartbeat of social and commercial activity. This public gathering space with a faux-travertine paving revolves around an empty and off-center circle and seems to only be missing the statue of Marcus Arelius to be an almost exact copy of the Capitol at Rome as conceived by Michaelangelo (1536-1546). Were the Ridgelanders in contact with their ancient homeland during this time? Did Michaelangelo get his inspiration from Renaissance or vice versa? We may never know.

Piazza del Ruth's Chris, located in the northwest Old City.

Piazza del Ruth’s Chris, located in the northwest Old City.

Fletcher00901

The Capitol at Rome, as depicted in Sir Banister Fletcher’s A History of Architecture, p. 891

The central clock tower, built as a monument and possibly tomb for the nearby Brooks family, is an interesting artifact. While it may have been based on drawings or memories of the Roman Tomb of the Julii, itself ancient by the time the Madisonians left Europe in the face of the Barbarian invaders, it is clearly a masterwork on its own, epitomizing the spirit of Renaissance in its combination of the Roman three-stage tower with the robust and modern scaling and stuccoiness of the Madisonians. The clock in the tomb’s tower is an appropriate reminder that Tempus fugit, time flies, so live life to the fullest while shopping in the outdoor courtyard environment.

RenaissanceClockTower

Compare the Tomb of the Julii in southern France (left, 40 BC) with Renaissance’s clock tower (right).

You might be thinking that all the riddles of the Ridgelanders and Madisonians has been solved, but many questions remain for scholars and amateurs alike to examine, not least of which is, which is better, gated or open-courtyard shopping? Did the Madisonians abandon the Tuscan order for the Corinthian because of their hatred for the Ridgelanders? Did Michaelangelo visit Renaissance? Did Renaissance once have live sea horses now memorialized in the fountain? What happened to all the people who lived on the second floors of the Renaissance: Ruth Chris, the Brooks Brothers, the Barnes, and the Nobles? Who were the Free People? A lifetime of meaningful research awaits!

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Categories: Architectural Research

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3 replies

  1. The history of Mississippi never ceases to amaze me!

    Like

  2. Satire egregia!!

    Like

  3. Cara says, “Brilliant!”

    When she was a freshman, the St. Andrews middle schoolers were banned from the Renaissance for throwing things at the clock tower. Every day after school and sometimes during lunch, Renaissance is invaded by hordes of St. A. students, looting and pillaging (well, just a few, eating, shopping, and hanging out).

    Like

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