Amazing articles on just about every subject...

Expression In Architecture

( Originally Published Early 1900's )

Underlying architecture too, there are subjective modes of expression. There are the ideas, for instance, of support and shelter; and these ideas it is by no means impossible or unusual to represent by gesture. Moreover, in all the other arts too there are objective products intervening between the subjective and the artistic forms. Artificial resonant sounds, spoken and written language, hieroglyphic drawings and carvings are conditions that antedate music, poetry, painting, or sculpture, no less than house building antedates architecture. House building, moreover, according to the principles that have been unfolded, is no less truly a form of natural expression than these others are. It springs from the nature of the primitive man, precisely as nest-building or dam-building from the nature of the bird or the beaver.

That architecture does not reproduce the forms of nature in as strict a sense as do poetry, painting, and sculpture is true; yet, as we shall find hereafter, its products are modeled upon these forms in as strict a sense as is the case in music. This art, like it, is evolved from the unfolding of the principles underlying nature's methods of formation even more than from a reproduction of its actual forms. And yet architecture does reproduce these latter. The portico of the Greek temple is acknowledged to be nothing more than an elaboration in stone, for the sake merely of elaborating its possibilities of beauty, of the rude wooden building with a roof supported by posts, which was used by the primitive man in his natural state. A Chinese or Japanese temple or palace, with its many separate small structures, each covered by a roof sagging downward from the apex before moving upward again at the eaves, is nothing more than an elaboration in wood, for the sake of elaborating the possibilities of beauty in it, of the rude tent used by the nomadic ancestors of these people in their primitive natural states. That Gothic columns and arches are merely imitative elaborations, for the same reason, of the methods and manners of support suggested by arrangements of rows of tree-trunks and their branches, has been strenuously denied and even ridiculed. But the fact re-mains that an avenue of trees with bending branches in-variably suggests the effect of a Gothic cathedral. If so, why could it not have suggested the conception of a Gothic cathedral to the architect who first planned one? . . . There is nothing in the art itself necessarily removing it from a sphere identical with that of painting and sculpture. Its products, it is true, must fulfil the purely technical principles of mechanical contrivance. But so must works of music fulfil the principles of harmony, to say nothing of the technique of execution. So must works of poetry or painting or sculpture fulfil the principles of grammar, rhythm, rhyme, color, or proportion. But in all these arts equally the fulfilment of such laws is only a means to an end. That end is the distinctively human satisfaction derived from elaborating forms in excess of that which is demanded in order to meet the exigencies of material utility, elaborating them simply because they are felt to be attractive and beautiful in themselves. Art in Theory, VIII.


Home | More Articles | Email: