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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/46

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14
Part I.
HISTORY OF ARCHITECTURE.

The fifth division, e, carries the advance still farther. In this instance not only is a greater amount of ornament applied, but the parts are so disposed as in themselves to produce a more agreeable effect; and although the height of the floors remains the same, and the amount of light introduced very nearly so, still the slight grouping of the parts is such as to produce a better class of architecture than could be done by the mere application of any amount of ornament.

If it is admitted that the last division in the diagram is an object of architecture, which the first is not, it follows from the analysis that architecture is nothing more or less than the art of ornamental and ornamented construction.

Recurring, for instance, to the Parthenon, to illustrate this principle farther. The proportions of length to breadth, and of height to both these, are instances of carefully-studied ornamental construction; and still more so is the arrangement of the porticoes and the disposition of the peristyle. If all the pillars were plain square piers, and all the mouldings square and flat, still the Parthenon could not fail, from the mere disposition of its parts, to be a pleasing and imposing building. So it is with a Gothic cathedral. The proportion of length to breadth, the projection of the transepts, the different height of the central and side aisles, the disposition and proportion of the towers, are all instances of ornamental construction, and beautiful even if without ornament. Many of the older abbeys, especially those of the Cistercians, are as devoid of ornament as a modern barn; but from the mere disposition of their parts they are always pleasing, and, if large, are imposing objects of architecture. Stonehenge is an instance of ornamental construction wholly without ornament, yet it is almost as imposing an architectural object as any of the same dimensions in any part of the world. It is, however, when ornament is added to this, and when that ornament is elegant itself and appropriate to the construction and to the purposes of the building, that the temple or the cathedral ranks among the highest objects of the art and becomes one of the noblest works of man.

Even without ornamental construction, a building, may, by mere dint of ornament, become an architectural object, though it is far more difticult to attain good architecture by this means, and in true styles it has seldom been attempted. Still, such a building as the townhall at Louvain, which if stripped of its ornaments would be little better than a factory, by richness and appropriateness of ornament alone has become a very pleasing specimen of the art. In modern times it is too much the fashion to attempt to produce architectural effects not only without attending to ornamental construction, but often in defiance of, and in concealing that which exists. When this is done the result must be bad art; but nevertheless it is architecture, however execrable it may be.