Open main menu

Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/47

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
Sect. III.
15
INTRODUCTION.

If these premises are correct, the art of tlie builder consists in merely heaping materials together so as to attain the desired end in the speediest and readiest fashion. The art of the civil or military engineer consists in selecting the best and most appropriate materials for the object he has in view, and using these in the most scientific manner, so as to ensure an economical but satisfactory result. Where the engineer leaves off, the art of the architect begins. His object is to arrange the materials of the engineer, not so much with regard to economical as to artistic effects, and by light and shade, and outline, to produce a form that in itself shall be permanently beautiful. He then adds ornament, which by its meaning doubles the effect of the disposition he has just made, and by its elegance throws a charm over the whole composition.

Viewed in this light, it is evident that there are no objects that are usually delegated to the civil engineer which may not be brought within the province of the architect. A bridge, an aqueduct, the embankment of a lake, or the pier of a harbor, are all as legitimate subjects for architectural ornament as a temple or a palace. They were all so treated by the Romans and in the Middle Ages, and are so treated up to the present day in the remote parts of India, and wherever true art prevails.

It is not essential that the engineer should know anything of architecture, though it is certainly desirable he should do so; but, on the other hand, it is indispensably necessary that the architect should understand construction. Without that knowledge he cannot design; but it would be well if, in most instances, he would delegate the mechanical part of his task to the engineer, and so restrict himself entirely to the artistic arrangement and the ornamentation of his design. This division of labor is essential to success, and was always practised where art was a reality; and no great work should be undertaken without the union of the two. Perfect artistic and perfect mechanical skill can hardly be found combined in one person, but it is only by their joint assistance that a great work of architecture can be produced. A building may be said to be an object of architectural art in the proportion in which the artistic or ornamental purposes are allowed to prevail over the mechanical; and an object of engineering skill, where the utilitarian exigencies of the design are allowed to supersede the artistic. But it is nowhere possible to draw the line sharply between the two, nor is it desirable to do so. Architecture can never descend so low, nor need it ever be afraid of ornamenting too mean objects; while, on the other hand, good engineering is absolutely indispensable to a satisfactory architectural effect of any class. The one is the prose, the other is the poetry of the art of building.

In addition, however, to the convenient arrangement and proper construction of a building, which is the province of the engineer, or its