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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/59

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Sect. X.
27
INTRODUCTION.

to construct ornamentally, the latter to ornament his construction; both reouire knowledge and thought, and can only be properly applied by one thoroughly imbued with the true principles of architectural design.

As proportion, to be good, must be modified by every varying exigence of a design, it is of course impossible to lay down any general rules which shall hold good in all cases: but a few of its principles are obvious enough, and can be defined so as to enable us to judge how far they have been successfully carried out in the various buildings enumerated in the following pages.

To take first the simplest form of the proposition, let us suppose a room built, which shall be an exact cube—of say 20 feet each way—such a proportion must be bad and inartistic; and besides, the height is too great for the other dimensions, apparently because it is impossible to get far enough away to embrace the whole wall at one view, or to see the springing of the roof, without throwing the head back and looking upwards. If the height were exaggerated to thirty or forty feet, the disproportion would be so striking, that no art could render it agreeable. As a general rule, a room square in plan is never pleasing. It is always better that one side should be longer than the other, so as to give a little variety to the design. Once and a half the width has often been recommended, and with every increase of length an increase of height is not only allowable, but indispensable. Some such rule as the following seems to meet most cases: "The height of a room ought to be equal to half its width, plus the square root of its length." Thus a room 20 feet square ought to be between 14 and 15 feet high; if its length be increased to 40 feet, its height must be at least 161/2; if 100 certainly not less than 20. If we proceed further, and make the height actuallv exceed the width, the effect is that of making it look narrow. As a general rule, and especially in all extreme cases, by adding to one dimension, we take away in appearance from the others. Thus if we take a room 20 feet wide and 30 or 40 feet in height, we make it narrow; if 40 wide and 20 high, we make a low room. By increasing the length we diminish the other two dimensions.

This, however, is merely speaking of plain rooms with plain walls, and an architect may be forced to construct rooms of all sorts of unpleasing dimensions, but it is here that his art comes to his aid, and he must be very little of an artist if he cannot conceal, even when unable entirely to counteract, the defects of his dimensions. A room, for instance, that is a perfect cube of 20 feet may be made to look as low as one only 15 feet high, by using a strongly marked horizontal decoration, by breaking the wall into different heights, by marking strongly the horizontal proportions, and obliterating as far as possible all vertical lines. The reverse process will make a room only 10 feet high look as lofty as one of 15.