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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/43

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Sect. III.
11
INTRODUCTION.

exactly in the proportion in which it resembled a heathen temple; and that the merit of a civic building was to be measured by its imitation, more or less perfect, of some palace or amphitheatre of classic times.

In the beginning of this century these answers were somewhat modified by the publication of Stuart's works on Athens; the word Grecian was substituted for Roman in all criticisms, and the few forms that remain to us of Grecian art were repeated ad nauseam in buildings of the most heterogeneous class and character.

At the present day churches have been entirely removed from the domain of classic art, and their merit is made to depend on their being correct reproductions of mediaeval designs. Museums and town halls still generally adhere to classic forms, alternating between Greek and Roman. In some of our public buildings an attempt has recently been made to reproduce the Middle Ages, while in our palaces and clubhouses that compromise between classicality and common sense which is called Italian is generally adhered to. These, it is evident, are the mere changins fashions of art. There is nothing real or essential in this Babel of styles, and we must go deeper below the surface to enable us to obtain a true definition of the art or of its purposes. Before attempting this, however, it is essential to bear in mind that two wholly different systems of architecture have been followed at different periods in the world's history.

The first is that which prevailed since the art first dawned, in Egypt, in Greece, in Rome, in Asia, and in all Europe, during the Middle Ages, and generally in all countries of the world down to the time of the Reformation in the 16th century, and still predominates in remote corners of the globe wherever European civilization or its influences have not yet penetrated. The other being that which was introduced Avith the revival of classic literature contemporaneously with the reformation of religion, and still pervades all Europe and wherever European influences has established itself.

In the first period the art of architecture consisted in designing a building so as to be most suitable and convenient for the purposes required, in arranging the parts so as to produce the most stately and ornamental effect consistent with its uses, and in applying to it such ornament as should express and harmonize with the construction, and be appropriate to the purposes of the building; while at the same time the architects took care that the ornament should be the most elegant in itself which it was in their power to design.

Following this system, not only the Egyptian, the Greek, and the Gothic architects, but even the indolent and half civilized inhabitants of India, the stolid Tartars of Thibet and China, and the savage Mexicans, succeeded in erecting great and beautiful buildings. No race, however rude or remote, has failed, when working on this system, to produce buildings which are admired by all who behold them, and are