Pagina-afbeeldingen
PDF
ePub

plans for every description of build- | Building committees, in ninety-nine ing, it behoves society to protect itself cases out of a hundred, are composed against false and presumptuous pro of men unable to judge of the merits fessors in an art, partly æsthetic, but or demerits of the plans submitted to to a greater extent, essentially practi them, and as a consequence, a man cal. The word architect means chief who thoroughly understands his proworkman,' and not as commonly ac fession is very chary of exposing his cepted, 'draughtsman.' As architec. work to an ordeal he cannot precisely ture is now practised, it is contended gauge. He cannot tell that his judges that without certain necessary safe. are not ignorant; he does not know guards, such as exist in the legal and that they are not venal and partial, other so-called learned professions, the and therefore does not like to run the public interests are not sufficiently chance of an inferior work, with pubprotected. It has been remarked that lic acclamation, being preferred to his architectural works should be the ut superior one. The premiums offered terance of public sympathy and should by these building committees for what not be treated by those interested in they consider the best design are so them in the spirit of a clique. Architec-' | despicable, that even a man who is ture is daily becoming more depressed, doing a good business and does not faulty, and full of shams, from the perchance understand architecture, interference of sciolists and connois either as an art or a science, will not seurs. An architectural work is chief withdraw his attention from a cer. ly valuable for its details, but so long tainty for an uncertainty. as the designs for buildings are selected These building committee men seem by men who know nothing whatever to forget the old saying, “that a of the correctness or incorrectness labourer is worthy of his hire.' They of those details, and who areguided by forget that a doctor is paid his bill, those calling themselves architects,' even if his patient has taken adulterwho, in their turn, studiously ignore ated drugs and died a lingering death. the art-workman and the intellectual They forget that a lawyer is paid his labour of theartisan, so long will money fee, even if he has made faulty pleadbe squandered on unsightly buildings, ings, and thereby lost the widow her and our public edifices be destitute of last mite. They forget that a merartistic power and feeling. The public chant does not buy a cargo of wheat being wholly uninformed on such sub or import a thousand dollars' worth of jects generally defer to the opinion a 'special line' of goods or the chance of these sciolists and connoisseurs, of Mr. So-and-so taking either the one who having neither confidence in or the other off his hands. Physicians themselves nor in any architectural and barristers do not come in crowds, draughtsman, advertise throughout and bring hundreds of prescriptions the length and breadth of the land for and deeds made on speculation for a designs, fondly imagining that they man's approval, yet it is no uncomwill obtain thereby the best plans at mon thing for so-called architects to the least price. Facts prove, how swarm like bees round a man and ask ever, that no first-class piece of archi him to take a pick from their rejected tecture has, in any part of the world, wares. A man who writes 'Architect' been put up from a competitive de after his name has a great variety of sign. No architect who loves his pro things to know and understand, totally fession simply as an art, and for the distinct from the qualifications of a mere pleasure he derives from its pursuit, draughtsman. He should be a judge but only he who regards his calling of all kinds of material used in buildas a money-making one, will risk his ing, their qualities, properties, strength, reputation on the competition die.' | durability, etc., together with their various methods of mechanical work-i in this way a once noble art is demanship, and, likewise, should possess graded. Competent architects are set a thorough knowledge of English so as on one side because they will not pander to write out a clear and unambiguous to ignorance and conceit, and buildspecification, in order that justice may ings are put up which remain till they be done both to his employer and to are either burnt or pulled down, or the mechanics who carry out his plans. crumble away from faulty construcInasmuch as many valuable works on tion-memorials of the folly of those architecture are written in French who selected the designs and of the and Latin, a knowledge of these two incompetence and want of experience languages is a decided advantage, of those who made the plans. Comthough perhaps not a necessity; yet petition amongst architects, it is conwithout the capacity of reading any tended, puts a premium on quackery other language than one's own, and fraud by its almost forcing men a man can scarcely be said to be to display their designs in the most liberally educated. A mere draughts meretricious garb, based upon a false man- a man who has spent but three estimate of the cost, in order that or five years in an office-is totally they may have a show of superiority unable to acquire a sufficient know- over other plans that may be chaste ledge of both the æsthetic and practi and pure and which rest upon a true cal features of architecture, so as to be estimate of the cost. Competition entrusted with the designing and ex nominally aims at obtaining the best ecution of a building of any import skill in the market, but fails for the ance. The average time that a young reasons above stated, and also from man, say from sixteen to eighteen the fact that one who has been but years of age, spends in an architect's two or three years at the business may office is between two and three hit off a design or plan that captivates years, and by the time he is twenty the uninitiated, and, from want of one years old, he casts his bread on skill and experience, may make such the waters, and puts forth his sign as errors in his detail-drawings and * Architect.' Full of self-importance, specifications as to cause the expendiand with builders anxious to do any ture of thousands of dollars more work he may chance to obtain, flatter than the contemplated outlay, in ing him and paying apparent defer order to render the captivating buildence to his architectural skill, he ing' even fit for occupancy. ceases to study, even if he has the incli Architecture cannot raise its head nation, and the consequence is, if he without wealth, and since wealth is now succeeds in business, he assists, with more diffused than formerly, and not others of the same stamp, in putting confined (as in days gone by) to the up buildings in which the fiveorders are educated and upper classes of society, burlesqued ; in erecting edifices which it has long been under popular influare nauseous imitations of the Farnese ences which are always fickle, unsetPalace; and in constructing churches tled, and more or less inimical to with tin spires and flying buttresses the spread of true art. in honour of Him who hates a lie.

Painting, which is essentially a fine Architects who are in the habit of art, has undergone the same deterioracompeting, being aware that the men tion ; the object of the present race of composing building-committees and artists being to paint pictures to suit who select the designs, do not under the masses, but not to raise the standstand the meaning of a line when ard of art. Inasmuch as people are drawn, or whether the specification is surrounded in daily life by bricks and correctly written, use all their skill to mortar, and as the outward eye is catch them by glare and frippery, and l naturally affected by what it sees, it

forms an estimate from the objects pre- / who yet, at the same time, hold, in sented to it. It is common to hear popular estimation, more or less promen, otherwise tolerably informed, minent positions. openly avow that they do not under In order that the practice of architecstand architecture, but that they know ture should not be followed by incomwell what pleases the eye. Such petent men, and that money should not people, however, forget that unless be wasted, and our towns studded with that which is continually around tbem unsightly and badly constructed buildand before their eyes, is more or less ings, it is contended that the I.egislarefined, they are totally unable, except | ture should throw its protecting ægis by study and contemplation, to form around architecture, and compel every a correct idea of what is chaste and one who follows it as a profession and elegant. People who have, from early a means of livelihood to undergo, in childhood, heard no music except that common with land-surveyors, lawyers, which meets their ears from the hand and others, an examination as to his organ on the street, would have but a skill and capacity. poor appreciation of Mozart and Beet Competition amongst architects has hoven. The man who says he knows | lowered the standard of the artisan, what pleases his eye in matters of arinasmuch as the former having, in but chitecture, and sets himself up as a few instances, sufficient knowledge to connoisseur, when his whole life has guide the latter in the conduct of his been spent in a place where nothing art, prefer employing one who knows but bricks and mortar, heaped up with just enough to keep them straight in out regard to either art or science, matters of strength and stability to have been constantly before him, and | one who is so thorough a mechanic as who has never read about or studied not to be persuaded to violate his art the art, is as much able to give an in- | by carrying into execution any crudity telligent opinion upon what is correct, or absurd novelty in matters of detail. chaste, and pure in architecture, as the Another cause of the decline in man whose knowledge and taste of building and architecture is, that cheap music has been acquired by listening labour is carrying the day against to the soft and dulcet strains of the skilled, and so long as that is the case, street-organ. In both of these imag. the thorough and intelligent mechanic inary cases it is apparent that some. must lose ground, and his place be supthing more than good eyesight and plied by men who have never served perfect hearing is necessary to appre their apprenticeship to what they prociate or understand what is truly cor fess tofollow. Men who have no pride in rect and pleasing in art. In truth, it | their art, have, as a rule, no character is cultivation or training, and without either for skill or integrity to mainthat, no man, whatever his abilities tain. A mechanic, now-a-days, is not may be, can give a correct opinion employed because he is skilled and upon anything relating to architecture, honest in the conduct of his craft, and sculpture, painting, or music. The consequently has no inducement to poet who wrote

earn a good name in these respects, in

asmuch as he knows that the veriest It is the mind that sees, the outward eyes Present the object, but the mind descries,

tyro will be employed, if he under

takes to do the work at a lower price. knew full well the necessity and value A good mechanic, for his skill, and the of cultivation.

benefits he bestows on society, is enti. From this lack of knowledge and the tled to a better position than he now uncritical faculty of the public, it comes holds, and it is much to be doubted that the profession of architecture has whether more real ability is not rein its ranks men totally incompetent, ! quired by those who execute the finest

joiner work, put life into stone, turn thing which showed that wealth had an intricate vaulted arch, and make the been spent upon it has been mistaken exquisitely wrought engines that drive for art. our looms, railway cars, and steam The restorations that have been made boats, than by those who sell tea, sugar, by such men as Scott, Street, Burgess, dry goods, and grain, or who dabble in | and others, have detracted from the stocks. The system of suretyship also beauties of the original works, and the works prejudicially in matters of build people of England should rejoice to ing, and causes, in many instances, good know that Dean Stanley and other and reliable mechanics to be ignored, architectural amateurs were foiled in by placing skillat a discountand money | their almost successful scheme of reat a premium. Suretyship, moreover, storing and beautifying' St. Paul's adds to, instead of diminishes, the cost / Cathedral. As with us, the draughtsof building, simply for the reason that man there has been exalted, the thorif a mechanic is skilled in his calling ough architect passed over, and the and has not the means to procure the art-workman entirely ignored ; and necessary funds as a guarantee for the until the mere draughtsman finds carrying out of his contract, his tender his proper level, and the compeis rejected and the work is given, often tent architect works hand-in-hand at a higher price, to one who may with the art workman, no improve not be as skilled, but who is able ment will take place, and the pubto furnish the requisite guarantee. lic will be the sufferers. A short In large and heavy undertakings, time since, in Toronto, architects especially in those of railways, the were invited to compete for a large system of causing the contractor to building, which drew out a numfind suretyship, moreover, enhances the ber of designs. The building.comcost of construction, while no advan. mittee had not amongst its members a tage at all accrues to the public either single person possessing any knowin the quality of the work or in secur ledge of plans or of architecture. ing the completion of the contract by The most highly-coloured and flaunty the time specified. Were the system drawing, with statues here and of suretyship abolished, there is no there on the façades, was chosen. doubt but that work would be done The architect who made the design cheaper and better, and contracts knew full well that the statues could would be carried out by skilled men, never be put up at the cost, and and not, as is often the case now, by a his only object in showing them man who has money, but has no know. I on the design was to catch the unledge personally of construction. We wary, and give a better aspect to the in Canada are apt to look to England building than it would have without for whatever is excellent in the arts | them. The ruse succeeded ; the deand sciences, and doubtless the Mother sign with imaginary statues was acland, in many instances, is a good ex- | cepted, but, of course, they were never emplar. But notwithstanding the vast put up, no places having been left for sums of money that have been spent in such ornamentations by the frauduEngland on ecclesiastical edifices during lent designer and the no less crimthe last quarter of a century, there is inal committee. In church architecnodisputing the fact that the architects ture especially, there ought to be, there have put up no buildings compar above all things, truth and honesty of able with those of the mediæval crafts construction, yet in no class of buildmen. The main reason of this is, that ings is there more sbam and disarchitecture, even there, has also been honesty. A building erected to the under the controlling influence of scio Almighty ought not to appear better lists and connoisseurs, and that any than it is by artificial means. No

thing is to be more deprecated than making a church appear rich and beautiful in the eyes of men, yet at the same time full of trick and of falsehood.

All plaster, cast-iron, and composition ornaments, painted like stone, are the veriest impositions, and notably unfit for a sacred edifice. “Omne secundum ordinem et honeste fiat.' Let people build according to their means, and consistently with truth, and not endeavour to aim at grandeur by fictitious effect. Plain stone and brick work, and wooden principals and rafters impress the mind with feelings, of reverential awe which never can be produced by cement and plaster imitations of stone groining and elaborate tracery, any more than by tin spires, tin pinnacles, and tin flying buttresses, which in these days are stuck about churches in painful profusion.

From want of knowledge, it is no uncommon thing to find the entrance gates and archway to a cemetery adorned with pagan instead of Christian emblems. Had the Romans not practised burning instead of burying their dead, they would not have used cinerary urns; had they believed in the glories of the Resurrection, they would not have sacrificed bulls and goats, and decorated the friezes with the heads of goats and oxen, nor placed the inverted torch of despair on their mausoleums. They were at least consistent : we are grossly inconsistent. In matters purely mechanical, the architect of the present day has far superior advantages to his professional brother of ancient or mediæval days,

and should avail himself of such improvements, confine them to their legitimate uses, and prevent their being substituted for nobler arts.

There is too much reason to fear that the wealth and art-taste of the present day lean towards ready-made manufacture. Nevertheless, castings for ornamental sculpture should be entirely rejected as bringing about monotonous repetition in place of beautiful variety, flatness of execution for bold relief, while encouraging cheap and false magnificence.

Branding-irons were formerly used for marking slaves, and most appropriate is their use for marking owners' and makers' names on carriages and machinery ; but when used to replace the sculptor's art they tend to subvert a principle, and in this way mechanical inventions in untrained and unskilled hands become degrading and objectionable.

A piece of architecture differs from a painting, inasmuch as the latter can, when finished, be concealed from view if found to be discreditable, while the former, if faulty and mean, remains a public eye-sore and mars the beauty, it may be, of nature. For this reason, and many others, it behoves the public to know that those following the profession of architecture are educated and skilled men. At the present time any one, whether skilled or not, may set up as an architect; but for the public weal, considering the vast importance and varied ramifications of the building trade, it is necessary that the Legislature should protect its interests.

« VorigeDoorgaan »