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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/54

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Part I.


Construction has been shown to be the chief aim and object of the engineer; with him it is all in all, and to construct scientifically and at the same time economically is the beginning and end of his endeavors. It is far otherwise with the architect. Construction ought to be his handmaid, useful to assist him in carrying out his design, but never his mistress, controlling him in the execution of that which he would otherwise think expedient. An architect ought always to allow himself such a margin of strength that he may disregard or play with his construction, and in nine cases out of ten the money spent in obtaining this solidity will be more effective architecturally than twice the amount expended on ornament, however elegant or appropriate that may be.

So convinced were the Egyptians and Greeks of this principle, that they never used any other constructive expedient than a perpendicular wall or prop, supporting a horizontal beam; and half the satisfactory effect of their buildings arises from their adhering to this simple though expensive mode of construction. They were perfectly acquainted with the use of the arch and its properties, but they knew that its employment would introduce complexity and confusion into their designs, and therefore they wisely rejected it. Even to the present day the Hindus refuse to use the arch, though it has long been employed in their country by the Mahometans. As they quaintly express it, "An arch never sleeps;" and it is true that by its thrust and pressure it is always tending to tear a building to pieces; in spite of all counterpoises, whenever the smallest damage is done, it hastens the ruin of a building, which, if more simply constructed, might last for ages.

The Romans were the first who introduced a more complicated style. They wanted larger and more complex buildings than had been before required, and they employed brick to a great extent, even in their temples and most monumental buildings. They obtained both space and variety by these means, with comparatively little trouble or expense; but we miss in all their works that repose and harmony which is the great charm that pervades the buildings of their predecessors.

The Gothic architects went even beyond the Romans in this respect. They prided themselves on their constructive skill, and paraded it on all occasions, and often to an extent very destructive of true architectural design. The lower story of a French cathedral is generally very satisfactory; the walls are thick and solid, and the buttresses, when not choked up with chapels, just sufficient for shadow and relief; but the architects of that country were seized with a mania