Living Heritage: Roman Architecture in Today’s America, A

0 1275

Szerző: Howard Phillips Lovecraft • Év: 1934

Aside from the morphological characteristics and neural, glandular, and organic reflexes determined by aeons of physical evolution, all that we are—all that we feel, think, say, do, hope, and dream—is the sole product of our environmental heritage. Allegedly “innate” tendencies in our mental and emotional life generally turn out to be mythical. We do, it is true, seem to have basic biological instincts of ego-assertion, manipulation, curiosity, and rhythm (each probably connected with self-defensive and other utilitarian reflexes) which lie at the base of thinking and feeling, but the part played by these in a full and satisfactory life is so small that we would be insane to attempt the establishment of a culture on them alone. The really supreme and determinant ingredient in everything which we consider “good”, “beautiful”, “significant”, “normal”, “appropriate”, “agreeable”, “comfortable”, “important”, and the like, is nothing more nor less than a certain kind of familiarity; a state involving some symbol or reminder of things we have known before. We have no ideas, standards, likes, dislikes, or interests except those which the accidents of personal and racial history have bequeathed to us; hence any new form or conception is, in our emotions, almost absolutely meaningless to us unless it can be associated with the chance background behind our individual lives—the background of usages, typical objects, habitual feelings, accustomed sights, ostensible goals, and quasi-instinctive criteria.

In an eternal and indifferent cosmos of which the galactic universe, the solar system, the earth, organic life, and the human race form only a momentary and negligible incident, there can be no such things as value, purpose, direction, or meaning, or even interest, except in a strictly local and relative sense. That is, nothing has value, direction, meaning, or relevance save in connexion with that fortuitous jumble of experiences, beliefs, and customs constituting each observer’s local inheritance.

For example, the music of the Chinese is largely meaningless to Americans because the latter have not inherited the ideas and customs, nor shared the experiences of the Chinese people. Abstract harmony counts for little, since it is upon association that the primary appeal of anything depends. If we have no personal associations with a set of sounds, they will remain merely a set of sounds so far as we are concerned. They will not please us, nor become “music” to us, unless we are able to relate them to sound-combinations which we are accustomed to consider harmonious. What is music to one race is discord or irrelevant din to another—and so with all the arts and all phases of human feeling. Beliefs and standards which seem all-important to one culture-group may be either unimportant or antipathetic to another.

It all depends on what especial chaos of ideas and customs and habits the group in question may happen to inherit. (One says inherit because no other manner of acquisition—whatever be the mistaken beliefs of Russian bolsheviks—is sufficiently potent and pervasive to build up a quasi-instinctive pattern of standards and interests.) In some cases, it is true, different groups may share certain fields of experience and heritage to the extent of making a few isolated sections of their respective mental and artistic lives intelligible and significant to one another. Thus, although we cannot understand and appreciate Chinese music, we can keenly enter into the spirit of Chinese decorative and even pictorial art. But that is pure chance. Remove all sources of familiarity—all the subtle landmarks supplied by what we know of the past—and no phase of art or life can have more than the slenderest vestige of appeal, beauty, or meaning. Despite all careless talk of individuality and self-sufficiency, it is really only as part of a pattern that man can effectively envisage himself as a significant object. Take away all reference-points and he is lost. It is only against the background which stretches around and behind him that he is able to attain any sense of placedness, meaning, purpose, direction, or interest.

Hence the tragic fallacy of the “functional” and “modernistic” theories which in recent years have formed a serious threat to the artistic life of the western world. According to the pedlars of these theories, all art ought to be divorced completely from tradition and from earlier art-forms. Each age, they assert, ought to express itself in its own fashion and with its own materials; ignoring the modes of expression dictated in other ages by other modes of life, and existing only to fulfil an utilitarian function. If a chair or table or house is built, they would have us design it without any reference to the kind of chairs or tables or houses we have known; consulting only first-hand science, mathematics, and engineering to determine the most practical device as related to its use and to the materials and tools to be employed in its construction.

A literal following of this formula, they insist, will automatically result in something which we ought to recognise as “beauty” whether we like it or not. Materials, tools, and function are everything—the one must express the other, and nothing else must be expressed. The associative element in beauty is “false” even though it is obviously the most powerful of all elements. We must narrow our aesthetic feeling to the purely ego-assertive, constructive, and abstractly rhythmical aspects, even at the cost of stripping life and art of nine-tenths of the apparent significance and real value they possess. Nor do the modernists pause even here—for we find them arrayed against anything familiar or associatively beautiful even when such familiarity or associative beauty does not conflict with the existing materials, tools, and function! They hate the known and the homelike not merely on abstract grounds, but intrinsically, for their own sakes.

To cap the climax, these decadent madmen attempt to tell us that such a course of past-repudiation and scientific functionalism is merely a duplication in our own age, with our new materials, methods, and purposes, of what our predecessors did in their respective ages. They claim that the Athenians who conceived the Parthenon, the Choragic Monument of Lysicrates, and the Olympian Zeus, the mediaeval Nordics who conceived the cathedrals of Chartres and Lincoln, and the Georgian cabinetmakers who conceived the magnificent furniture of two centuries ago, were precisely on a par with the depression-age theorists who laboriously reared the steel-and-glass horrors of the late Chicago “Century of Progress’”, and who continue to plan and perpetrate nightmares in chromium, bakelite, glass, concrete, and other media—calling upon corkscrews, factory refuse, gas-tanks, oil derricks, chicken-coops, radio masts, and other “typical forms of our twentieth-century machine ‘civilisation’” as models for what they ironically term chairs, tables, buildings, and the like. In the less utilitarian arts—where they declare that the only legitimate object is a scientific record of the images in the artist’s subconscious—they affect to draw a parallel betwixt the ordered beauty Of Theocritus and Virgil and Michelangelo and Shakespeare and Rembrandt and Keats in their ages, and the amorphous emanations of Gertrude Stein and Picasso and James Joyce and Modigliani in this age. In each case, they vow, the artist has merely embodied the feelings of his social-economic milieu in a piece of construction wholly conditioned by the materials, tools, and function of the moment. Backed by this specious theory, they shout warnings against “the sterile imitation of the past”, and spout admonitions to us to “be creative and original in our own age, as the Greeks and the mediaevals and the Georgians were in their ages”. Over and over we find such febrile propaganda in the books and articles of the “young intelligentsia”.

This mess of theory and propaganda is dangerous because it brings in a vague general principle which really does have some truth in it. Otherwise it would have collapsed long ago. The principle in question is, of course, that of basic appropriateness. Certainly no work of art ought to be encumbered with excrescences wholly alien to its purpose, or to counterfeit—beyond certain bounds and without powerful and instinctive associative reasons—objects of alien function or alien workmanship. Fully half of the fatal weakness of Victorian “art” came from just this type of irrelevance and insincerity. But the existence of this shadowy and elastic principle is one thing, while its childishly literal interpretation and fanatical overapplication are another thing. Actually, we realise that the total function of art is by no means limited to the narrow image-catharsis, and mathematically rhythmical and practically efficient construction, beyond which the modernists refuse to look.

Art, to be real, must express all the overtones of our feelings—and among these the passionate quest for pattern-placement and continuity with known things is of course an overwhelming force. Our longing for familiar symbols—our homesickness, as it were, for the things we have known—is in reality the most authentic possible expression of the race’s persistent life-force. It is the pitiful struggle of the ego against that ineluctable change which means decay and engulfment in the illimitable dark. Upon this struggle for survival and increased force depends the whole epic of organic life. It motivates all our acts, and gave rise to our ancestors’ persistent illusion of personal immortality. How silly, then, to fancy that its most direct symbol—the protest against the loss of familiar things which appears alike in sorrow for deceased relatives and in yearning for old, familiar ways—can be deposed from its supremacy in aesthetics?

The “art” of the moderns is not really functional because what they conceive to be “function” is not in truth fully or even approximately such. A chair is not, in essence, simply a “sitting machine”. A house is not merely a “living machine”—Frank Lloyd Wright and the late Raymond Mathewson Hood’ to the contrary notwithstanding. Both chairs and houses fail in their true functions unless they contribute to our emotional adjustment by corresponding in greater or lesser degree with our naturally ingrained and traditional images—based on our especial form of the past—of what a chair and a house ought to be. Thus certain lines or decorative elements in an object may not contribute to its direct material purpose, and may even suggest earlier and abandoned methods whereby similar objects were formerly made. The modernist condemns this, but the really reflective thinker is willing to accept the departures from practical function and constructive method if they are sufficiently symbolic of deep and permanent human yearnings. Victorian irrelevancies, excrescences, and insincerities were offensive and unjustified because they were not symbolic of such yearnings, being more often departures from tradition than adherences to it.

As for cases where material function neither demands nor contradicts traditional forms, there is of course no excuse whatever for a rejection of the traditional and all the enormous emotional force it involves. When a modernist, faced with a flat surface for treatment, deliberately chooses repulsive and meaningless stripes and conic sections in place of symmetrical classic patterns which soothe the eye and stimulate the emotions, he is committing an absolutely unjustified aesthetic crime. The fact is that the real emotion behind “functional” modernism is not by any means the undiluted scientific theory which is its proponents so loudly mouth. Actually, modernism is very largely a mere decadent dissatisfaction with existing things—an hysterical emotional extravagance precisely akin to the very Victorianism it condemns. The absurdities of 1935 and those of 1885 are all of a piece. Both represent decadent emotion justifying itself with an imposing facade of overdrawn theory and mistaken originality-worship. 1885, like 1935, sought to “express the age in the age’s own way”—but its copyrighted catchwords happened to be “romanticism” and “eclecticism” instead of “functionalism”. Both ages produced and are producing a melancholy amount of junk which the future will be anxious to sweep out of sight. They have failed because they have disregarded tradition.

The claim that older art-forms were purely functional and untraditional, each in its age, is nonsense which any unbiassed survey of aesthetic expression from Egypt and Chaldaea down ought to knock on the head. The truth is that every civilised art stream has been a natural and continuous development from some previous stream or streams, with hold-overs of innumerable familiar phases. Even Greek art was no momentary, autochthonous, and artificial growth. As every informed person knows, it possesses roots in Cretan, Egyptian, Persian, and Mesopotamian art, and represents simply the gradual fusion and modification of earlier ideas and methods by a new people on a new soil. And as for “functional sincerity”—it is no secret that this was not pushed to extremes. The Doric triglyphs, for example, were symbols of the beams used in earlier and bygone modes of construction. Mediaeval pointed architecture, too, had a long and gradual history including debased Roman and Saracenic sources. It did not spring up overnight in response to some theorist’s conception of what ought to express the economics and technology of the period, nor did it overthrow any deeply seated and sharply differentiated school. Instead, it developed spontaneously amidst a sterile chaos of crudity, seven hundred years after the decay of the last well-defined preceding school of architecture. The modernists might as well realise that no successful aesthetic forms were ever created to order through the repudiation of all the influences extending behind them. Although Renaissance art may have seemed revolutionary, it was tremendously spontaneous, and was indeed merely a return to earlier forms which had never been wholly forgotten or absent from sight and tradition.

If the moderns were truly scientific, they would realise that their own attitude of self-conscious theory removes them absolutely from all kinship with the creators of genuine artistic advances. Real art must be, above all else, unconscious and spontaneous—and this is precisely what modern functionalism is not. No age was ever truly “expressed” by theorists who sat down and deliberately mapped out a technique for “expressing” it. What actually “expresses” an age is the perfectly unhampered and untheorising creativeness of artists who simply do what they feel like doing—who fashion what they conceive to be beautiful, without reflecting on why it is beautiful or whether it mathematically symbolises the politics, economics, raw materials, engineering methods, and tools of the existing civilisation. Who is so silly as to fancy that Wren, Gibbs, Hawkesmoor, or the brothers Adam fashioned their exquisite buildings in accordance with some theory of engineering, carpentry, masonry, or contemporary sociology?

Nor is this all. It is not enough to shew that the attitude of the modernists prevents their achieving any real art. We may further demonstrate that their grotesque nightmares do not in any way truly express the period they are claimed to express. Would any reasonable psychologist justify “The Waste Land” as typifying 1922 as “Endyinion” typified the early nineteenth century? How characteristic or universal is the mood expressed? And as regards the motifs of modernistic furniture and architecture—visible marks of materials, machine design, and scientific adaptation of form to function—who is so naive as to fancy that these obscure technical elements enter into the popular conception of the given products sufficiently to form valid symbols of those products and of the milieu behind them? The moderns hold that an architectural outline like a steam-boiler or a fertiliser-grinder is a poignant and proper symbol of steel-and-aluminum construction and therefore the only suitable design for a building with a steel or aluminum frame! The real truth is that nobody except a few theorists and technicians knows anything about construction details—or would attach the least aesthetic significance to such matters even if he did know! To the normal man the natural emotional symbol of a house is not the machine that produced its girders, but simply the mental picture of what has always been recognised as a house—a visual image unmixed with thoughts of carpentry and engineering.

How, then, can the strained and artificial system of symbolism behind the modems’ position be anything but a sorry joke? They launch new decorative designs of cones and cubes and triangles and segments—wheels and belts, smokestacks and stream-lined sausage-moulders—problems in Euclid and nightmares from alcoholic or-gies—and tell us that these things are the only authentic symbols of the age in which we live. But who on earth really does, in his basic emotional life, ever think of these things as the motive forces of his environment? Common sense sweeps the whole preposterous fakery out of court in three seconds. We have not even the brains to conceive of external forms, deeply and continuously, in terms of their concealed components and processes of construction!

Regarding the question of changed function—the claim that the present generation does not really want the traditional objects which it accepts through tradition, and that it would prefer objects radically untraditional to fulfil its new wants with mechanical directness—one concrete instance will dispel such nonsense. We are told that modern hygiene demands a life of increased sunlight, while modern domestic needs call for large, non-private rooms of adjustable size. Therefore, say the moderns, let us dwell in houses of aluminum with great glass sides instead of windows, and with interiors having light movable partitions. We do not need small individual rooms now that the technique of heating is perfected. Such is the picture—but what do common sense and a knowledge of human psychology say of such a scheme? Is homesickness for every vestige of accustomed living conditions to be wholly discounted? Is the natural instinct for individual privacy to be ignored? Are the requirements of different climates to be overlooked? Have the disposition of furniture and the conservation of wall-space been investigated? The real truth is that the doctrine of changed function is in this case, as in most others, a sheer myth. A nightmare dwelling of the modernists’ type is not truly functional because it is not what people want. Actually, the traditional type of house with normal windows and partitions is exactly what the modern man, like his ancestors, requires for the fulfilment of his real wants. It is therefore just as appropriate as ever—as a study of contemporary building projects will shew in the most practical fashion.

It would seem, then, that we are justified in regarding radical aesthetic modernism as in the main a somewhat annoying and potentially harmful false alarm. Good sense dictates a gradual growth from our normal and familiar antecedents—holding fast to whatever elements we still deem beautiful and useful, and attempting no theory-born outrage upon our natural craving for the familiar. Science and philosophy unite in testifying how anchorless and emotionally impoverished we should be if all the long-recognised externals of life were stripped away—and reason assures us that nothing has happened to make such a tragedy needful.

Nor need we worry with the modernists over the fact that the last few decades—or centuries, for that matter—have produced no wholly [original] set of artistic forms. Why should they, when the previous forms are still valid? Do we really think in cones and square roots and dynamos to such an extent that Shelley and Praxiteles and Balzac are obsolete, whilst the dwellings and public halls and furniture around us are no longer appropriate for our bodies and activities? Is it indeed usual for radical new schools to arise every century? How about the life-spans of Egyptian, Greek, Roman, Gothic, and Chinese art? When a given age has no new natural impulse toward change, is it not better to continue building on the established forms than to concoct grotesque and meaningless novelties out of thin academic theory?

Indeed, under certain conditions is not a policy of frank and virile antiquarianism—a healthy, vigorous revival of old forms still justified by their relation to life—infinitely sounder than a feverish mania for the destruction of familiar things and the laboured, freakish, uninspired search for strange shapes which nobody wants and which really mean nothing? Who can say that the Egyptian art of the eighteenth dynasty—a revival of eleventh-dynasty forms—was less vigorous and genuine than that of any other period? This was the age of Tut-ankh-Amen and his splendours. Or that the revived Memphian art of the twenty-sixth dynasty (though admittedly inferior to the eighteenth dynasty’s revival) was feebler than any new experiments in which that late and basically uncreative age might have indulged?

Naturally, every new age has additions, subtractions, and modifications to make to its inherited art traditions. No one argues in behalf of a rigidly static art. As man adds to his knowledge of the cosmos and his own relation to it, the new light on his mental and emotional processes is certain to produce moods requiring new tones in literature, music, and painting. New objects are invented and old ones are altered, thus providing constant opportunities for reworking and expanding our familiar structural forms. The point is that there is no need to destroy and replace accustomed aesthetic fundamentals when they can so much more advantageously be retained and developed as reason and conditions dictate. The basic elements of design and expression around which all our memories, traditions, affections, sense of normality, and feelings of cosmic placedness, direction, and purpose are intertwined, are just as effective and susceptible of expansion and recombination today as in the past; and there is absolutely no excuse for their arbitrary radical destruction. New elements may indeed be introduced with proper caution if they are capable of harmonious assimilation to the main fabric. But such novelties must not be antagonistic nor destructive; neither must they seek a supremacy which they have not rightly earned. They must blend with what we already possess and cherish.

Whether the radicals admit it or not, our genuine stream of art and civilisation is still the ancient western one which took its general form in Greece and Rome. Pretending to repudiate it does not give us any other real stream in its place. Let us therefore accept it as our fathers did, and rejoice in possessing so great a tradition. We shall not find it inadequate to the demands of either the present or the future.

 

II

 

Discounting the claim of the radical modernist that our basic emotional life today centres in cog-wheels, ellipsoids, rheostats, aluminum cylinders, superheterodynes, and other background shapes and phenomena of a machine civilisation, what are the permanent visible forms which, aside from the natural landscape, most insistently surround us and determine our idea of a normal, homelike, and psychologically comfortable environment? It is obviously in our regional architecture that we must look for such forms. What, then, may the denizen of the average American city expect to find as he glances about?

Assuming that he dwells where the true colonial tradition is strongest, he will see many houses and public buildings of a Georgian or neo-classical type of design. There will be doorways with Corinthian or composite columns and steep pediments, and rows of fluted pilasters flaunting acanthus-leaves. Panels with leafed garlands in relief will appear here and there, and carved urns will top many a gate-post. Inside the houses there will be paneling with pilasters, and mock-pediments and arched concave niches, and much of the furniture will be of graceful caleriole [sic] outlines. Here and there will be a many-storied apartment-house of kiln-baked brick, built around an inner court and (if in a local business section) having a row of shops on the ground floor beside the entrance. Perhaps the vestibule will contain a mosaic pavement with fanciful or geometrical figures . . . and perhaps the facade will bear a coat of stucco. Nearby may be a church with Corinthian portico, and with galleries, rows of interior columns, and a curved apse at the farther end; while in the distance the state capitol will rear its gilded dome above a facade with pedimented windows and engaged composite columns on high bases. These buildings, though of brick, may possess marble facings—like the pilastered Citizens’ Bank with the heavily vaulted crypt beneath it. The railway station will probably have a huge vaulted roof with dingy groinings, while in front of it we may notice a row of slender fluted columns whose capitals sport both volutes and acanthus leaves. The post-office, on the edge of the park across the square, has a semi-circular facade pierced by ugly arched doorways, while within there are great wall panels bearing historic paintings. Out near the domed and pedimented college buildings is the great amphitheatre for athletic sports—tiers of seats rising above arched entrances. And farther out, in Maple Grove Cemetery, many a circular tomb of marble rises among the shafts on the green hillside.

In the park is the tall World War Memorial—a slender column surmounted by a statue—while the college has a memorial of its own; a huge marble arch at the entrance to the south campus, with its great opening flanked by lesser openings for pedestrians. Connecting University Hill with the city proper is a vast stone viaduct with titan arches, while one may notice the arched bridges of granite and concrete that cross the river to the northward hills. One of them—the one with the high double tier of arches—is part of the aqueduct system which supplies the town from Upland Reservoir. Along the lower waterfront one may possibly notice the black, megalithic archway of a mighty trunk sewer, while out into the country stretch the long, radiating motor highways—straight, ballasted, and level, cutting through hills and crossing valleys on great embankments like so many railway lines. On the lawn before the County Court House with its Corinthian columns and flattish dome is a bronze equestrian statue of heroic proportions showing General Washington in classic robes. Down town are many shops with great hinged shutters, and with fixed awnings extending over the sidewalk. Arcades of small shops penetrate the lower stories of business blocks. And if the town is one of the real old-timers of coastal New England, it is likely to have a house or two of the middle seventeenth century (perhaps used as an historical museum), with second story overhanging the street on its own yard. Imitations of this type—or of similar Tudor houses—may be found; while there may be pseudo-Spanish buildings with stuccoed walls, inner courts, and arched loggias.

That these are typical sights of our life today, and that they all belong to our mainstream tradition of Western civilisation, we realise without prompting. Idly we may ask if it be possible to narrow down their origin a trifle more, and assign them to some one branch of the Western ancestral tree whose influence is paramount with us. Surveying and classifying, we find this most emphatically the case—for the truth is that every feature we have here described, both as regards outlines and materials, is the specific legacy of one great culture which gathered into itself all antiquity, fixed the forms of life and art over the whole world from Mesopotamia to Scotland, and served as the sole transmitter of classical civilisation to the present. In a word—all these features, which comprise so substantial a part of the total impressions we receive, are things either originating or first brought to prominent use in the architecture of the Romans.

It was in architecture that the aesthetic instincts of the Roman people found their highest embodiment, and the tradition established during some five centuries of vigorous and undecayed architectural practice is one not likely to die as long as any trace of Western civilisation exists. There are those who extol above all else the purity and delicacy of Greek architecture, or the Cyclopean majesty of Egyptian design, or the airy grandeur of the Gothic, or the strange magic of certain of the Oriental schools of building. Let us admit that in isolated buildings, or in special types of building, each of these various architectures may have produced triumphs surpassing any simple achievement of the Roman genius. If, however, we survey the entire field of architectural effort, and compare the manner and success with which each national tradition has dealt with all the problems—great and small—confronting the builder . . . houses, temples, palaces, bridges, roads, gates, aqueducts, theatres, administrative edifices, tombs, shops, monuments, and every other type of construction needed by an advanced and complex civilisation . . . it is likely that we shall have to award real supremacy to the practical and supposedly inartistic sucklings of the she-wolf. Nor is this supremacy any mere matter of engineering or mechanics. In the subtle task of imparting beauty and dignity to all the diverse constructions called forth by Rome’s opulent life—the first of the truly modern civilisations, since only by chronological accident does Rome fall within the ancient world—the architects of the world-swaying Republic displayed a sense of form and fitness typical of art in its purest sense. Lacking in a certain Grecian fastidiousness they may have been—but the test of the centuries and the millennia confirms their dominance. Today, as our casual glance at our common environment has showed us, the basic architecture of the western world still remains—despite vast accretions and adulterations from other sources—the architecture of Rome.

It is perhaps significant that Virgil’s famous disclaimer of artistic and intellectual skill on the part of the Romans, in the sixth book of the Aeneid, did not expressly mention architecture as one of the arts in which others might excel to have done so, could have been too modest—for was not Augustus, aided by the taste and skill of M. Vipsanius Agrippa, even then laying the foundations for his boast that he had found Rome brick and left it marble?’ To regard Roman architecture as merely a poor or bombastic copy of Greek architecture is an error against which we should be carefully on guard. Certainly, Greek design formed a tremendously important factor; but it was an extremely sensible and aesthetically justified thing to adopt so congenial and appropriate an influence at a time when Roman culture was expanding in consonance with developments roughly paralleling those of the closely related Hellenistic world. Fortunately the Romans did not share the mistaken fanaticism of our modern nationalistic functionalists, who froth so rabidly at the mouth when any such thing as intelligent borrowing or adaptation is mentioned.

And yet the architecture of Rome was at no period actually Grecian. This ought to be manifest at once when we reflect how inseparably the curved line—whether in arch, dome, minor pediment, or ground plan—is associated with every type of Roman construction. What Grecian examples of this curved design—except the monument of Lysicrates5—can one recall at a moment’s notice? Obviously, the fundamental spirit of Roman design involved something wholly non-Hellenic, and absolutely typical of the conquering race that produced it. It is worthy of note that early Rome seems to have been influenced relatively little by the Greek colonies in Southern Italy. When Greek influences were adopted on a large scale, it was through the contact attending the conquest of the Hellenic world. In the early days it was not to Hellas but to the cruder culture of the mysterious Etruscans that the people by the Tiber turned for inspiration. This was, of course, the most advanced non-Hellenic civilisation in Italy—and one with very distinctive forms of its own despite its many Grecian borrowings.

In architecture the Etruscans had advanced from a very crude state to a condition of much proficiency; graduating from rough polygonal masonry to neat rectangular stone work, and supplanting the Greek false arch of overlapping courses with the true arch of balanced wedges and keystone. Formerly the true arch was encountered only sparingly in Egypt, Greece, and the Orient; but the Etruscans made much of it, bringing it to a degree of excellence illustrated by the still-surviving gateway at Volaterrae. This principle the Romans took over and raised to a still greater level of prominence, until the arch became almost a symbol of the essence of Roman architecture. Many Greek forms, moreover, came to Rome only through Etruria. For example, the composite column—involving both Ionic volutes and Corinthian acanthus leaves—is definitely of Etruscan origin; while a form of debased Doric never lost its name of “Tuscan”. From the Etruscans, too, came the inspiration for Rome’s great engineering projects—the massive arched sewers and drainage canals.

Rome’s first achitecture was without doubt very primitive—with rough walls, sewers, and public buildings of megalithic masonry, and modest wooden dwellings. All designs were probably plain and utilitarian, and more or less Etruscan in model. No coherent remains or explicit description of its early type of construction survives. When an Etruscan dynasty ruled at Rome, the influences of Etruria doubtless increased. It was then (B.C. 616–509.) that typically Etruscan buildings or peperino stone covered with stucco began to appear. The use of stucco was derived by the Etruscans from the Greeks—the best form of the material being made of powdered marble dust and lime mixed with milk, and affording a surface not much inferior to that afforded by marble itself. A typical edifice of this age, perhaps, was the famous Temple of Jupiter Capitolinus completed just before the expulsion of the Tarquins, and known to us only through written accounts. It was of the columnar architecture which the Etruscans had taken from Hellenic sources, and rested upon an enormous stone base or podium. Such heavy bases always remained typical of Roman temple design. It was 180 feet wide and 200 feet deep, and was surmounted by a low wooden roof which reached out over the rows of columns—three in front and two on the sides. The triangular pediment was surmounted by a terra-cotta group—in the Etruscan sculptural manner—representing Jupiter in a chariot drawn by four spirited horses.

Another work typifying the Etruscan period was the great sewer of arched masonry known as the Cloaca Maxima—still in active use today after 2400 years. Also surviving are parts of the megalithic wall of Servius Tullius, including a massive arch.

Thus Roman architecture received its real start. We may see that the columned building—which indeed was no pure Grecian invention, since the Greeks adopted the notion of the column from Egypt and the East—entered the tradition in no really imitative way, but formed a natural and gradual acquisition through Etruscan influence. Mainly, that is—but it would be pedantic to deny any possible influence from Magna Graecia. With this beginning, it is not remarkable that more direct Grecian borrowings were later made. The spontaneous native forms were so much akin to the Greek that no incongruity existed. There is a common notion—which has even crept into printed books—that Rome had no early columnar architecture, but that she adopted it suddenly and radically after her conquest of Greece. This ought to be vigorously corrected whenever found. And yet the resemblance was merely superficial. We can recognise even at the outset the enormous basic difference of Roman architecture, prompted by a basically different spirit and typified by the increasing employment of the arch. During the early Republican age architecture remained very plain, and probably of the same Etruscan type. The chief building material was unbaked brick protected by stucco, though volcanic tufa, peperino, and travertine limestone were also used. Ambitious edifices of circular ground plan—something wholly un-Hellenic—now began to appear; a typical specimen being the famous Temple of Vesta, in which a ring of columns supported a flattish domed roof. Possibly this form was derived from the circular huts in which the primitive rural Latins lived. At any rate, it became a popular and persistent type. The capacious basilica, or low-cast with nave and pillared aisles, dates from the second century B.C. Meanwhile the architecture of engineering flourished—roads of prodigious solidity being laid out in straight lines and kept on a level with huge cuttings and viaducts, vast aqueducts (the first in B.C. 312) crossing the plains on lofty arches, and arched bridges of stone and concrete appearing in the second century B.C. Here we have a growth purely Roman—for permanent bridges were virtually unknown till Rome introduced them. The modern Pons Sublicius—made famous by the tale of Horatius—dates from the fabulous age of the kings. Many bridges of Roman construction are still in active use. The memorial or triumphal arch appeared soon after B.C. 200, and quickly became a characteristic object. Still older is the use of the tall single column as a triumphal monument.

When Rome conquered the Hellenic world in the second century B.C., it was only natural that a vast importation of Grecian art forms should occur. In many cases the changes called forth protests from stern devotees of the ancient traditions; but so far as architecture is concerned, we may see that the shift was not as abrupt as it sounds. Columnar architecture already existed in Rome—nor did the Romans at any time employ the Greek designs without modifications. At first there was considerable experimenting with all the Grecian classic orders, but even then the rigid Greek law of design and proportion were seldom followed. Doric and Ionic models turned out feebly in Roman hands, and soon fell into comparative desuetude. Effort centred in the Corinthian style—a late afterthought among the Greeks, and seldom found in the best Hellenic work—until at last a modified version of this was evolved; becoming emphatically the composite style (Ionic and Corinthian) which seems to have come through Etruria.

Beginning with the late Republican age, Roman architecture took on a splendour, sumptuousness, size, variety, and boldness which soon raised it to a place of supremacy in the world. The Greek theatre was adopted, modified by separation from its hillside setting, and finally doubled into the typically Roman amphitheatre. The elongated stadium or circus for races grew to impressive grandeur, with ornate tiers of marble seats; whilst Agrippa developed the thermae or public baths into great vaulted buildings later expanded to still further extremes of luxury and giganticism by Titus, Caracalla, and Diocletianus. Palaces waxed in richness, culminating in the short-lived Golden House of Nero, while bridges and aqueducts multiplied on every hand. Triumphal columns and arches arose in great numbers. The dome (as in the Pantheon) was increasingly employed, and huge circular tombs became a common sight. Baked brick supplanted the old unbaked variety, and made possible the use of this material in buildings of the most ambitious sort—so that, indeed, by far the greater number of Roman structures in all parts of the world came to consist of the old-time Italian fabric ... brick and stucco. Marble facing, however, occasionally replaced the stucco.

Temples meanwhile continued to be built on high bases, and often in circular form. Typical interior decorations developed—large painted panels, mosaic pavements with varied designs, and marble wall-facings with classic pilasters, imitation pediments, and arched niches, serving the function of modern panelling. Domestic architecture assumed distinctive forms, both in the private house with inner court and the vast, many-storied insula or apartment house of the large cities. The maenianum, or projecting upper story, was frequent. Engineering kept pace with pure architecture, and plumbing and central heating became widespread. Fora or public commercial squares were elaborately planned with buildings and colonnades, while arched city gates partook of the splendour of the times. Basilicas, with their vast size, rows of inner columns, and rounded apses, multiplied profusely, and became the pattern of the Christian churches—classic, Romanesque, Byzantine, Gothic, Renaissance, and hybrid alike—of all the ages that followed. In the cities rigid laws were enacted to regulate the height and spacing of buildings, since the hazards of fire and of collapsing masonry were always great. Statues grew numerous—many of them equestrian and imposing—and imported obelisks from Egypt added an exotic note. Arcades with shops sometimes extended through the lower levels of buildings.

It is plain that the massed effect of all this was far from Hellenic. Everything had an atmosphere distinctly its own, and overwhelmingly Roman. Rome, and other cities with similar architecture, could never for a moment have been mistaken for Athens or Corinth or Antioch. Though decadence set in during the Antonine age, late Roman architecture continued to be impressive and colossal—increasing, indeed, in sheer giganticism. While many of the older buildings perished, enough remained to blend harmoniously with the new and to furnish a general guide for further construction. Wisely enough, architects followed the models of the past instead of devising freakish doctrines of novelty. The fourth century A.D. represents perhaps the final phase of pure Roman architecture, and we may well believe that at that time the city of Rome presented the most glorious vision of human workmanship which has ever before or since been unfolded to mortal eyes.

But of course Rome itself held only a minute fraction—albeit perhaps the choicest fraction—of the Roman architecture in the world. Most of the human world sooner or later came within the Roman domain; and wherever the conqueror went, he took his architecture with him. From Babylon to Spain and from Africa to Britain Roman cities sprang up with characteristic houses, temples, amphitheatres, baths, aqueducts, roads, bridges, basilicas, circuses, arches, and columns, whilst Italy had long been dotted with them. Some of the finest surviving Roman ruins are in England, France, the German Rhineland, Spain, Syria, Arabia, and North Africa. Indeed, the only parts of the Roman world where the conqueror’s designs did not become dominant are Egypt and the Hellenistic regions. Greek art was almost never displaced where once it had a footing; though in many Greek cities Roman buildings elbowed those of the natives, while in Byzantium—afterward Constantinopolis—Roman architecture did triumph and for, the basis of the corrupt Byzantine style of later generations. The structures of the remotest regions followed the Roman tradition in every minute detail—ornaments, mouldings, carvings, proportions, and constructive technique—although in many cases they possessed a coarseness or provincialism foreign to the best work in Rome. A single visual environment had become universal, and the citizen of Petra or Palmyra might feel himself at home in London, Lincoln, or York.

We have perhaps dwelt sufficiently upon the differences between this Roman world-architecture and the architecture which the Greeks had scattered along the Mediterranean littoral and through the Near East. Columnar architecture, favouring the Corinthian and the totally non-Hellenic composite, involved details and proportions wholly Roman. Pediments are steeper, and sometimes we find columns on high bases. Temples are mounted on great stone or concrete pedestals, and the roofs of porticoes are often vaulted on the under side. Moreover, columns and pediments are constantly used in connexion with curved buildings, domes, and arches in a fashion unknown to Greece. Generally speaking, the elements of design are not employed with that undeviating regard for fixed combinations and proportions which characterised Grecian architecture. Individual buildings differ more widely, and variety knows scarcely any restraint. There is less care in the execution of delicate details, but the greater individuality and variety of designs makes for increased vigour and vitality. Circular ground-plans, apses, arches, and domes open up new possibilities of grace and grandeur; while the wholesale employment of brick has its advantages. One weak point is the occasional lack of symmetry—plus perhaps a less than Grecian fastidiousness in correlating every detail with the whole mass of a building.

The groined, vaulted roof, the arched crypt, the massive bridge, road, and viaduct, the great baths, the circular tomb, the triumphal arch and column, the amphitheatre, the circus, the building of many stories, and dozens of other unique Roman touches all work off the imperial world-architecture from the old Hellenic and Hellenistic forms. Size, too, plays its part—for not since Egyptian days have such bold and imposing masses been flung to the sky. Many differences of Roman from Athenian architecture doubtless come from the fact that Rome’s special model was more often Hellenistic Alexandria—chief Grecian city of the Roman age—than purely Hellenic Athens. There is evidence that Alexandria had moved somewhat in certain directions typical of Roman variants.

At any rate, the Roman use of engaged columns along the sides of buildings, and the application of mock-columns and pediments (the latter often curved or broken at the top) to wall surfaces and the use of two wall pediments or entablatures to surmount doors, windows, and niches, are thoroughly un-Hellenic in spirit and practice despite a very few Grecian examples. These last-named tendencies, found most often in late or provincial edifices, violate the austere theory of “functionalism” more than any other forms in classical architecture—being in effect a washing [?] of Roman arch construction by an appearance of Grecian column-and-architrave construction. But no liberal observer, appreciative of the perfect harmony of line afforded by the decorations, and sensitive to their authentic visual symbolism in the light of familiar architectural images, can regard objections on that score as other than frivolous and pedantic. Such objections involve the same frantic overworking of abstract theory which one finds in the vagaries of our modern functionalists.

We have said that Roman architecture in its purest form ends with the fourth century A.D., when the culture and political unity of the West broke up beneath the impact of barbarian invasions. To say, however, that the whole tradition died then—or that it is even now dead or ever likely to die—would be the very opposite of truth. All through the Dark Ages the new nations slowly taking form in the invaded empire clung to the models which they found around them—using the Roman methods and designs in their own constructional work as well as their limited skill would let them. There was much of the Roman in the rambling basilicas with mismatched columns and nondescript exteriors which men like Boethius, Cassiodorus, Rutilius Namatianus, Venantius Fortunatus, and Isidorus Hispalensis saw going up around them. What other models, indeed, had the West?

Meanwhile the eastern half of the empire, which survived by almost a millennium, formed its own decadent variant of the Roman tradition and branched off only gradually as Oriental feeling crept in. Hence the Byzantine school of art—which in architecture gave us domed structures of clearly Roman outline, though differing enormously in details and decorations. This school, of course, diverged farther and farther from its source as centuries wore on. In the sixth century—the date of the great church of St. Sophia in Constantinople—the Byzantine empire reconquered Italy for a while and established the “Exarchate of Ravenna”. One result of this event was a curious growth of Byzantine-tinctured architecture in Ravenna, including churches whose general lines follow the old Roman basilicas and vaulted thermae, though their exteriors are without the decorative scheme of engaged columns and mock-pediments found in genuine late Roman work. St. Mark’s in Venice is even more strongly Byzantine. Elsewhere in Italy and in the western parts of the defunct empire the Semite Roman stream (typified by the sixth century church of San Lorenzo in Rome) shows less of eastern imitation. Byzantine architecture, encountered by the conquering Moslems in Egypt, became the direct parent of Saracenic designs—despite the vast changes made by the Arabs in proportions, outlines, decorative features, and the form of the arches. Expanding in another direction toward the barbarous North, it gave birth to Russian architecture, which in turn has had echoes amidst the snows of Scandinavia. Thus has the influence of Rome reverberated down the years.

In those regions untouched by the Byzantine stream, old Roman traditions continued to wear thinner and thinner from largely internal causes. It is both amusing and melancholy to reflect that much of the apparent conservatism was a thing connected with practical thievery. The mediaevals liked to plunder old Roman buildings of their finely carved columns, hence had to adhere to an architecture near enough to the original to permit of their harmonious use. When the easy column supply finally gave out, we find important changes of design setting in!

What we call “Romanesque” architecture, with its gloomy masonry and typical adornments, is the result of the northern Teuton’s handling of the debased Roman designs. It was born circa 1000 A.D. where the lingering Roman aura was thinnest—and the supply of antique columns scantiest. Into it went much of the distinctive feeling of the Nordic as distinguished from the Mediterranean culture-heritage. Its basic difference from its sources is that true columns with pure arches resting on them—the typical basilica form—are abandoned in the interior construction; these being supplanted by enormously massive piers, round or square, from which gradually spring vaultings like those in Roman crypts, gateways, triumphal arches, and other important heavy applications of the arch. The result is ponderous and depressing, as we sadly realise through the American revival of the style in the 1880’s and 1890’s, but it is none the less Roman in all its skeletonic elements. Only the decorations, combinations, and details are alien to the Roman stream. Romanesque worked its way southward, but was more or less diluted by the time it reached the Mediterranean. It did not suit the Latin temperament, so that the buildings of the south remained largely hybrids of various different Roman corruptions till the Renaissance brought back fresh doses of the classical spirit. In England, Romanesque appears as the “Norman” style. Meanwhile the Moslems had conquered North Africa, Sicily, and Spain, implanting there the exotic version of Roman-Byzantine architecture which they had made their own, and popularising their three typical departures from the Roman round arch—the keel-shaped arch, the horseshoe arch, and the pointed arch.

In the twelfth century the restless Nordic spirit which had evolved Romanesque took one further step. Retaining the altered plan and structural innovations of his first product, the Teuton proceeded to substitute for his former scheme of ornamentation a totally new scheme—founded on the pointed arch of the Arabs, as encountered by his Norman kinsfolk in Sicily. This arch, in turn, probably represented the Saracen’s vague memories of ancient Eastern constructions he had seen. Another novel feature was the replacement of the ugly solid piers by clusters of slender, reed-like columns. In the hands of the Frank and Norman and Englishman, this fresh style quickly attained heights of beauty and majesty—preeminently in connexion with large church buildings—utterly beyond comparison with any achievement of Romanesque. Its airy, soaring details took novel and unpredictable forms, creating the first really new form of beauty which the world had seen since classical times. The tall tower—increasingly frequent in debased Roman and Romanesque churches—took its cue from the pointed arch and became a spire, while the transept and front facade, in such forms, acquired new and satisfying proportions. Thus was born the immortal Gothic tradition, destined perhaps to last as long as its ancestral Roman stream. While Romanesque prospered chiefly in Germany, it was in France and later in England that Gothic best unfolded its lacy, gossamer delicacy and almost vertiginous ethereality. This style, like its predecessor, never became thickly and completely engrafted upon the south—notwithstanding fine specimens in both Spain and Italy, including the magnificent Milan cathedral.

Apart from ecclesiastical design, Gothic was less brilliantly successful; though the use of its details in mediaeval dwellings and fortificiations was often highly felicitous. Castles and forts of the period retained much directly from Roman models, and dwellings (especially in the Latin countries) had many links with their classical prototypes, The overhanging second story, for example, is a clear descendant of the Roman maenianum. It is often customary to contrast Gothic with Roman architecture; yet we may plainly perceive that the former is, at bottom, only a third-stage variant of the latter except in ornamental detail. In plan and elements, Salisbury cathedral is clearly a great-grandchild of the Basilica Porcia which the elder Cato erected in B.C. 184. Certainly, the elements of Roman architecture never died. When the Renaissance dawned, it was not upon a totally alien scene, but upon one in which the classic architectural heritage slumbered lightly, decayed and encrusted with later growths.

Roman architecture, however, was too vital and basic to languish for ever in a state of obscure submersion. After mediaeval darkness came the Renaissance with its rebirth of intelligent thought and refined feeling—as nearly a return of the antique spirit as the accidents of history would allow. In this revival architecture necessarily had a part, so that in the fifteenth century we find the aesthetes of Italy turning back to Roman days in search of the lost principles and precepts of classic buildings. There could, in view of altered living customs and long habitation to mediaeval types of housing, be no literal re-creation of the old Roman dwellings, fora, baths, theatres, and temples. Such a radical return would bring too vast a rift with the settled ways and aspects of the vital present. But there could at least be a faithful attempt to recapture the classical spirit and elements of design; treating these as living material and employing them in the building of structures suited to the present’s needs. No sounder theory could possibly have been conceived, and upon this the famous Brunelleschi proceeded to act . . . a generation before the birth of Columbus. Gothic was meanwhile falling into extravagance and decay. In England it virtually died a natural death during Elizabeth’s reign, though traces survived into the seventeenth century . . . just long enough to give a few structures of the original Gothic stream a foothold on American soil. Of these the salient and perhaps the only well-defined surviving example is St. Luke’s church in Isle of Wight County, Virginia, built in 1632 and distinguished as being the oldest English edifice on the continent.

Unfortunately for us, the sound doctrine of the classical revivers was not matched by their alertness of observation, accuracy of scholarship, and taste in adaptation. Neglecting to study at first hand the surviving monuments of antiquity, ignorant of the very notion of scientific archaeology, and insensitive to the nuances and varieties of feeling entering into the actual buildings of the Romans, the fifteenth century pioneers and the designers of the cinquecento were content to mould their efforts on the cut-and-dried precepts of a very inferior architect of Augustus’ age, whose pedantic and often grossly erroneous treatise on his subject is the only piece of Roman architectural writing to survive. This resuscitated ancient, Marcus Vitruvius Pollio, was a military engineer under Caesar; and far gone in a somewhat embittered senility when he composed his text book—about B.C. 15.9 Himself unsuccessful as a practicing architect, he wished to air his grudge against prevailing taste and complaining of the styles which he saw rising around him. Vitruvius has a great store of Grecian learning, but seems unable to understand either the true spirit of Hellenic architecture or the real meaning and extent of the Roman departures from it. He tends to be formal and cut-and-dried, and his rigid account of the four orders of columnar architecture (Ionic, Corinthian, Doric, and Tuscan—to which the composite was added to make the famous “Five Orders” of the Renaissance) perpetuates the worst errors rather than the finest triumphs of classical practice.

Thus taught by a poor master, and slow in appreciating the actual remains of the Roman past, the architects of the fifteenth century and afterward evolved a school which was—though undeniably productive of vast beauty—far inferior to what it might have become, and destined to sink into insipidity and extravagance on the soil of its inception within two centuries. But at least they relighted a mighty torch. At its worst, Renaissance architecture had something of the grace of the Roman patterns; at its best, it caught immortal gleams of the truest Roman grandeur.

There is no need to describe Renaissance architecture in detail. Using the modern type of building with symmetrical windows as a basis, it covered that mass with a wealth of classical ornament mapped out with mathematical precision and including all the decorative pilasters, engaged columns, mock-entablatures, niches, and door and window pediments found in later and provincial Roman art. True porticoes with genuine isolated columns were totally neglected; and the bad proportioning of arches and pilasters, and choice of unsuitable ornamental pediments, betrayed all too well the lack of that classic feeling for which the practitioners were groping. The dome, now frequently used, departed from the flattish Roman type and became (under Eastern and Byzantine influences) a bold prolate hemisphere rising above the structural mass and dominating the whole silhouette. This was the Renaissance’s most striking architectural innovation—a form of beauty which rang true and became part of the western world’s main tradition. Today such domes greet the eye in every European city—those of Paris’s Pantheon and London’s St. Paul’s being typical. Crossing the Atlantic, they have become the fixed symbol of America’s legislative halls, and can be found atop the hills of most of our capitals—Washington, Boston, Providence, Hartford, Madison, Boise City, and most of the rest. One more indirect legacy of Roman design.

The spread of Renaissance architecture from Italy was thorough and continuous, even when slowed down by distance and by the vigour of preexisting schools. Bramante, Michelangelo, Vignole, Della Porta, and Fontana were among its salient representatives, and much was done by the celebrated Andrea Palladio (1518-1580) of Vicenza and Venice to remove its extravagances and bring it closer to the true antique models. Palladio studied Roman architecture at first hand and sought to apply it in practice—doing much toward the revival of the genuine separate column as distinguished from the merely decorative engaged column and pilaster. His treatise on his art (I quattro libri dell’Architectura), published in Venice in 1570 and well illustrated with designs of buildings ancient and modern, spread his fame throughout Europe, and became a definite authority whose importance and precepts may still be acknowledged despite the flaws picked by posterity. Today we owe a double debt to Palladio because of his carefully recorded measurements of structures now vanished or mutilated. In his time his reputation was such that the term “Palladian architecture” became a synonym for the whole neo-classical movement—this usage surviving in the name of the gracefully arched triple “Palladian window” so frequently found in British and American Georgian architecture.

France was quick to catch the classic revival, diluting its solid Gothic stream with Renaissance designs before the reign of Francis I was over. The old Lenore being demolished in 1527, its classical successor was under way within a decade. The French gave the Roman patterns a local character of their own, evolving a school which perhaps culminated with Perrault in the age of Louis XIV. Fontainebleau and Versailles typify Gallic classicism in its most local form. In the eighteenth century a severer Roman taste produced the Pantheon, and since then there has been ceaseless conflict between the archaeological and the localised “Halo-Vitruvian” spirit. The revolution and Neopoleonic era gave a vast stimulus to true Roman feeling. Spain adopted and abused the revival; one of its typical early products being the gloomy Escurial, whilst later developments touched the nadir of extravagance. Germany followed France in turning to classicism, achieving a somewhat ponderous style now menaced by “functional” modernism of the most freakish short. In Russia, St. Petersburg was built to order in the Renaissance manner, though the old Byzantine styles and shapeless machine-age products of the bolsheviks probably predominate today in Moscow and the provinces. Scandinavia and Finland, having turned to classicism in the eighteenth century (Denmark began in the seventeenth century), are now dealing dangerously with the “functional” will-o’-the-wisp. In general we may fairly say that, aside from the ugly intrusions of an experimental modernism which has neither source nor meaning, the dominant architectural tradition of Europe is still that of classic Rome; a decayed and transformed Roman school—the Gothic—having been replaced by a more direct revival from the ancient source. We must, however, admit that on the continent the type of revival leaves much to be desired. It has beauty, but it could have more. In Italy itself he Renaissance style sank from the majesty of St. Peter’s and of Michelangelo to the baroque and rococo of the seventeenth, eighteenth, and nineteenth centuries. One may hope that the future will confirm a more classical trend already manifest in connexion with Mussolini’s archaeological triumphs, and that the daemon of freakish modernism may be safely resisted.

Our own experience with the Renaissance design has been distinctly happier and more classical. With good Gothic building as late as the fifteenth century—and even the early sixteenth—the field for neo-classical design in England was not freely open during the period of early experiments. When Halo-Vitruvian influences appeared, as they did in Queen Elizabeth’s reign, they trickled in very slowly and gradually as mere modifications of the old Gothic; forming a distinctive and pleasing—if somewhat hybrid—Tudor style. The transition did not begin in earnest till the reign of James I, when the famous Inigo Jones (1572-1651), who had studied architecture in Venice as an ardent disciple of Palladio and had designed two Renaissance palaces for the King of Denmark, returned to his native country and was made surveyor-general of the royal buildings. Jones, who was called “the English Palladio”, brought to Great Britain a distinctly purer form of Roman design than was common on the continent, and is the architect of the finely classical Banqueting House at Whitehall. His influence on national design was very great, though the civil wars soon brought their chaos and were instrumental in hastening the artist’s unhappy and poverty-haunted end in 1651. One of Jones’s finest surviving works is the exquisite water-gate on the Victoria embankment in London near the foot of Villiers St.—a fragment left from the demolition of stately York House. Another is the church of St. Paul’s in Covent-Garden. With structures of this sort, England intensified her hold on the Roman tradition.

After the barren commonwealth age, Charles II brought in the Renaissance taste of his French land of exile; thus hastening the spread of neo-classicism, albeit a somewhat vitiated form of it. From this Gallic dilution we were saved largely through the delicate taste, creative genius, fine scholarship, and forceful character of our greatest architect—Sir Christopher Wren (1631-1723), who turned from a career of mathematics and astronomy to become the foremost classic designer of his day. Wren, a thorough student of Roman, Halian, and French forms, was virtually the first architect to react sharply from the solecisms and extravagances of the Halo-Vitruvians: penetrating their defects, he looked to the works of the ancients themselves (known to him only through pictures and descriptions) for inspiration; giving to the Anglo-Saxon world a Roman tradition whose classic purity and correct use of details surpassed anything achieved in modern Continental Europe. The great fire of 1666 in London, opening up a field for new construction on a stupendous scale, gave Wren his chance to influence the main British architectural stream.

Having already been approached on architectural matters by the King, he was placed in charge of the rebuilding of St. Paul’s Cathedral, as well as of fifty city churches and numerous secular edifices. Gradually devising a set of plans in accordance with his notions of Roman design as applied to English needs, he built the great domed cathedral between 1675 and 1710, and created such lesser masterpieces as the churches of St. Bride’s; St. Michaels, Cornhill; St. Stephen’s, Walbrook; and St. Mary le Bow, in whose steeples ring the famous and now newly reconditioned Bow Bells. Wren was the first to join classical ornament to the hitherto Gothic church steeple—thus evolving a form as novel and as vital as the Renaissance’s prolate dome. This type of steeple, flourishing in both England and America, will always be associated with his name—excessively associated, indeed, in the United States, where it is a common [trait] of would-be antiquaries to attribute such and such a Georgian spire to him. In sober truth, the only example of Wren’s design on the American continent is the main building of William and Mary College in Williamsburg, Virginia, lately restored to its pristine state in connexion with the archaic restoration of the whole town. Of other buildings Wren designed the London Royal Exchange, Marlborough house and other mansions, Temple Bar (formerly) in the Strand, the Sheldonian theatre and Ashlean Museum at Oxford, Trinity College library and Pembroke chapel at Cambridge, and many more, both perished and surviving, too numerous to cite. It is to Sir Christopher Wren, more than to any other one person, that we owe the supremely graceful Anglo-Saxon architectural style of trim lines, fine symmetry, and Roman ornament used with a classic correctness and simplicity unknown to the cinquecento tradition, which—from its wide diffusion in the last three quartes of the eighteenth century and the first quarter of the nineteenth—is today known as the Georgian. Weer, is buried beneath the choir of St. Paul’s, and there is a supreme truth and appropriateness in the epitaph set over the inner north doorway:

 

“SI. MONVMENTVM. REQVIRIS. CIRCVMSPICE.”

 

The successors of Wren fortunately appreciated the value of what he established, and combined to develop the great stream of English Georgian architecture. Sir John Vanbrugh offended only in too great massiveness. Hawksmoor restored the columned portico in all its Roman dignity. Gibbs likewise emphasised the portico, and designed some of the finest classic steeples of all time. From one of his designs the splendid spire of the First Baptist Church (1775) in Providence, Rhode Island, was constructed. Peter Harrison, said to have been associated with Vanbrugh and Gibbs in England, practiced nobly in Newport, Rhode Island.

In the middle eighteenth century Pompeii and Herculaneum were first properly excavated, and architecture profited by this sudden revelation of Roman life just as it was in the early imperial age. For the first time there were opportunities to study the minor domestic decorations of the Romans, and notions regarding the proper lines and proportions of classic architecture became immensely clarified. It was realised that earlier Renaissance work involved many basic incongruities arising from the use, for minute ornamental purposes, of architectural features meant only for use on a massive and monumental scale. Now that a glimpse was obtained of what the Romans had used for minor household ornamentation, the more thoughtful purists conceived the need of a new school of classic design, based on the actual practice of antiquity.

In England the honour of founding this new school belongs to Robert Adam (1728–1792) and his brother James, Scottish architects who had studied deeply in the actual architecture of the Romans without heeding the formalisms of the Halo-Vitruvians. Robert spent three years in Italy and Salmatia among the Roman ruins; making the most careful observations and measurements, and having working diagrams prepared by experts. He was especially charmed by the ruinous palace of Diocletianus at Spalatro (now Split, Jugoslavia), and in 1764 published a book containing his survey of that noble relique . . . a colossal pile still impressive in its fragmentary state, with the facades of modern houses clogging the spaces between the columns. Having been appointed architect to the King in 1762, Adam quietly practiced his profession in England until his death thirty years later. In all his houses he observed the strict classical principles he had learned, and was instrumental in modifying furniture to suit the newer and more accurate school. In conjunction with his brother (hence the name) he reared the famous and still-existing Adelphi Terrace in London; and in general established a new and finer era in the history of Georgian design.

Adam-period architecture, with its delicate straight lines, classically exact mouldings, and tasteful ornaments in low relief—urns, ovals, spandrel fans, authenia, [sic] and pendent husks—forms the high-water mark of domestic design, and employs the decorative principles of the Romans with maximum effectiveness. It is with this sort of setting that the neo-classic furniture known as Hepplewhite and Sheraton best goes. Introduced in England before 1770, it reached America just after the Revolution and remained in vogue—especially in New England—till well into the 1820’s. Samuel McIntire of Salem and Charles Bulfinch of Boston are its best-known practitioners on this side of the water, though John Holden Greene of Providence ought not to be overlooked. In the hands of these men, the architectural elements of eternal Rome met modern needs with no less vitality than that with which they had met the needs of M. Porcius Cato and C. Cilnius Maecenas in their respective days.

The school of archaeologically precise Graeco-Roman revival, without the modern tempering of the Georgian tradition, was probably started by the same accessions of accurate antiquarian knowledge which launched the Adam school. But this impulse went further—stimulated by the classic rationalism of the French Encyclopaedists and by the historic sentiment of the American and French revolutions, and of the imperial Napoleonic age—and attempted to resurrect the literal lines and equipment of the Hellenic and Roman past without any of the homelike adaptations of the Adams. More marked in America than in England, it produced a stupendous wave of pedimented, porticoed pseudo-temples whose real purpose might be anything from that of a doghouse to that of a state capitol. The country still teems with specimens of this school from Maine to Georgia, though the South was its supreme habitat. It is the keynote of Charleston public building today, and set the style for a dominant and persistent type of plantation-house in the “deep South”—Natchez being its preeminent stronghold. Thomas Jefferson’s “Monticello” in Virginia, and his personally designed state capitol and University of Virginia buildings, are notable early specimens of the type.

The classic revival in America began in earnest about 1795, and lasted in the north till the start of the neo-Gothic fashion around 1840. In the south it persisted until and after the Civil War. In merit its specimens varied from the utmost crudeness to the finest antiquarian accuracy and spirit; public buildings—being the most appropriate subjects—usually faring best. While including Greek as well as Roman imitations, it leaned palpably (even when unconsciously) toward the Roman in feeling and proportions; demonstrating afresh how deeply and instinctively the Roman tradition has become ours. Curved lines and domes often gave it an unmistakable touch of Roman character. Its characteristic furniture was the frankly Roman style launched by the French and now known as “Empire”. Bulfinch worked much in this medium, as did also Benjamin Latrobe, Robert Mills, James Hohner, and Major Pierre L’Enfant. That it harmonised perfectly with the older Georgian buildings is a fresh proof of the universality of the classic.

The American Gothic revival of the 1840’s was part of a similar movement in Europe, but was followed by an utter collapse into the depths of decadent chaos which has no parallel in architectural history. From 1850 or 1860 onward, the building traditions of the country present the aspect of a nightmare or delirium-tremens attack. All known styles from Egyptian to Romanesque, Persian to Renaissance, Grecian to Gothic, Pernerian [sic] to Algerian, were exaggerated, parodied, and mixed in one and the same building. This was done in the name of “romanticism”, “eclecticism”, and “originality”. It was thought monotonous to adhere to the classic forms of our age-long civilization. America, forgetting its European roots, demanded something new, distinctive, and autochthonous—and in the jigsawed, turreted, excrescence-barnacled Bedlam architecture of the nineteenth century’s second half we see what it got! Now the “functionalists” are pleading on precisely the same grounds for a movement which will doubtless be precisely the same! By 1880 the severity of the mess was manifest to many, and vague groupings toward purism—or toward a neo-mongrel school of some sort—began to be manifest. Unfortunately the first chosen remedies proved quite as bad as the disease—forwhat the late Victorian age gave us were the muddled Romanesque turrets of Richardson and the Christmas-pastry Renaissance bric-a-brac of Stanford White.

It was with the splendid examples of pure classic and Renaissance architecture shewn at the Columbian Exposition of 1893 that American design embarked on its latest upward curve. These models, and the aesthetically critical mood accompanying them, did much to show Americans what a morass they were in; and since that time there has been a vastly gratifying climb toward firmer ground. Classic design—predominantly Roman—became applied with increasing purity to public buildings—Rhode Island’s marble state house (1898) and the government buildings now rising in Washington being cases in point. Domestic and smaller public architecture sought out its own background and rejoined the main stream whence it had been severed nearly a century before. In most regions this meant a return to the beautiful and appropriate Georgian forms which had long ago set the local scenic keynote. The skyscraper developed, but was generally handled with traditional elements of design—or else was given a non-committal simplicity harmonious with its existing background. And Gothic—long subject to ineffable debasement—was raised to heights of poignant purity almost rivalling its thirteenth century status by sympathetic scholars and artists like Ralph Adams Cram and the late Bertram Goodhue.

Such is the generally harmonious fabric—stemming in every phase, either directly or indirectly, from Rome—that the apostles of “function” and modernity wish wantonly to wreck. That they can accomplish their disastrous object, it is almost impossible to believe. The great main stream of Roman feeling is too strong in us to permit of that. But they can and may make vast nuisances of themselves as the Victorians did—cluttering the landscape with nauseous and meaningless tanks and hog-pens and pill boxes in the sacred name of art and originality, and creating wearisome problems for the wrecker and the junk man a few decades hence. That is why they ought to be lulled into quiescence if such a benevolent feat can possibly be accomplished.

Meanwhile, say what we will, we continue to live in a Roman world—architecturally and otherwise. To the Georgian-Renaissance buildings around us are gradually added other Ronian things called forth by our crystallising environment—things not intentionally Roman, but so because whatever forms the most direct fulfilment of our needs happens to parallel something Roman . . . one more proof of the inevitability of the Roman tradition as an expression of our normal daily lives. Arched bridges . . . aqueducts . . . stadia . . . insulae to house our huddled population . . . roads as straight and firm as the Via Appia . . . vaulted cellars and megalithic sewers . . . and above all, familiar sights for eyes wearied with strangeness and lost for lack of landmarks.

In the light of this demand, can we afford to give up every trace of homelike adornment and proportion in our buildings, merely because their inward structure may happen to depend on unseen girders instead of unseen arches? The faddist may have his answer ready, but I for one refuse to be impressed. Better to stick to the main stream of known sights and impressions, retain the reference-points which alone give us the illusion of placement, meaning, interest, and direction in the universe, and draw on the reserves of aesthetic and psychological strength which reside in one’s own living heritage.

 

FINIS

S.P.Q.R.

Legújabbak

Clark Ashton Smith:
Hasisevő, avagy a Gonosz Apokalipszise, A

Olvasás

Robert E. Howard:
Harp of Alfred, The

Olvasás

Robert E. Howard:
Red Thunder

Olvasás

Legolvasottabb

Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Cthulhu hívása

Ez az egyetlen történet Lovecraft részéről, amelyben jelentős szerepet kap a szörnyisten, Cthulhu. 1926 későnyarán, kora őszén íródhatott. A dokumentarista stílusban megírt történet nyomozója, Thurston, a szemita nyelvek egyetemi kutatója darabkáról darabkára rakja össze a rejtélyes kirakóst. A fiatal kutató egyre több tárgyi és írásos bizonyítékát leli a hírhedt Cthulhu-kultusz létezésének. A kultisták a Necronomicon szövege alapján a nagy szörnyisten eljövetelét várják. A történetek a megtestesült iszonyatról beszélnek, ami átrepült az űrön és letelepedett a Földön sok millió évvel ezelőtt. Most hosszú álmát alussza tengerborította városában: Ph’ngluimglw’nafh Cthulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn, vagyis R'lyeh házában a tetszhalott Cthulhu álmodik. A Csendes-óceán déli részén néhány bátor tengerész megtalálta a várost és felébresztette a Nagy Öreget. Ennek hatására őrülethullám robogott végig a Földön, több ember lelte halálát ezekben az időkben. A találkozást csak egy tengerész élte túl, de ő is gyanús körülmények között halt meg. A fiatal kutató érzi, hogy ő is erre a sorsra juthat... A novellát nagy részben Lord Tennyson Kraken című költeménye inspirálta: Cthulhu is egy csápos, polipszerű szörny, egy alvó isten (ez a gondolat nagyban Lord Dunsany műveinek Lovecraftra gyakorolt hatásának köszönhető). S. T. Joshi felveti, hogy számottevő hatást váltott ki Lovecraftra Maupassant Horlája és Arthur Machen A fekete pecsét története című története is. Maga Lovecraft e történetet roppant középszerűnek, klisék halmazának titulálta. A Weird Tales szerkesztője, Farnsworth Wright először elutasította a közlését, és csak azután egyezett bele, hogy Lovecraft barátja, Donald Wandrei bebeszélte neki, hogy más magazinnál is érdeklődnek a sztori iránt.

Olvasás

Howard Phillips Lovecraft:
Őrület hegyei, Az; Hallucináció hegységei, A

Egy déli sarki kutatócsoport, köztük a narrátor, William Dyer a Miskatonic Egyetemről az Antarktiszra indul 1930/31 telén. A fagyott környezetben 14, a hideg által konzerválódott idegen lényre bukkannak. Miután a kutatók több csoportra oszlanak, és az egyikről nem érkezik hír, a megmaradt tagok felkeresik az eltűntek táborát, ahol szétmarcangolt emberi és állati maradványokat találnak - néhány idegen létformának pedig mindössze hűlt helyét... Legnagyobb döbbenetükre azonban a kutatás során feltárul előttük egy évmilliókkal régebben épített, hatalmas kőváros, amely a Nagy Öregek egykori lakóhelye lehetett. A kisregényt szokás Poe Arthur Gordon Pym című kisregényének folytatásaként tekinteni, az enigmatikus és meg nem magyarázott jelentésű kiáltás, a "Tekeli-li!" miatt. Eredetileg a Weird Talesbe szánta Lovecraft, de a szerkesztő túl hosszúnak találta, ezért öt éven át hevert a kisregény felhasználatlanul a fiókban. Az Astounding végül jelentősen megváltoztatva közölte a művet, több bekezdést (nagyjából ezer szót) kihagyott, a teljes, javított verzió először 1985-ben látott napvilágot.

Olvasás

Abraham Merritt:
Moon Pool, The

Amikor dr. David Throckmartin elmeséli egy csendes-óceáni civilizáció ősi romjain átélt hátborzongató élményeit, dr. Walter Goodwin, a regény narrátora azzal a meggyőződéssel hallgatja a hihetetlen történetet, hogy a nagy tudós valószínűleg megzavarodott. Azt állítja ugyanis, hogy feleségét és kutatócsoportjának több tagját magával vitte egy "fényjelenség", amely az úgynevezett Holdtóból emelkedik ki teliholdas éjszakákon. Amikor azonban Goodwin eleget tesz Throckmartin kérésének, és társaival a titokzatos szigetre utazik, fantasztikus, megdöbbentő kalandok sorozata veszi kezdetét.

Olvasás

Kommentelés

Minden mező kitöltése kötelező!

Hozzászólások

Nem érkezett még hozzászólás.

szövegkereső

keresés a korpuszban

Az alábbi keresővel az adatbázisban fellelhető irodalmi művek szövegeiben kutathat a megadott kifejezés(ek) után.

...

Keresési beállítások:

bármelyik kifejezésre
mindegyik kifejezésre
pontos kifejezésre