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Page:History of Architecture in All Countries Vol 1.djvu/81

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Sect. XVIII.
49
INTRODUCTION.

design belongs to Sir Joseph Paxton, how much to the contractors, or how much to the subordinate officers employed by the Company. Here as in a cathedral, every man was set to work in that department which it was supposed he was best qualified to superintend. There was room for every art and for every intellect, and clashing and interference were impossible. This, however, was only the second of the series. The third was entrusted to an Engineer officer, who had no architectural education, and who had never thought twice on the subject before he was set to carry out his very inchoate design for the 1862 Exhibition. He failed of course, for Architecture is not a Phonetic art depending on inspiration but a technic art based on experience. As re-erected on Muswell Hill the building was immensely improved, and far superior to its predecessor, but was burnt down before the public had time to realize its form. As being rebuilt, it probably will be still one step further in advance, and if the series were carried to a hundred, with more leisure and a higher aim, we might perhaps learn to despise many things we now so servilely copy, and might create a style surpassing anything that ever went before. We have certainly more wealth, more constructive skill, and more knowledge than our forefathers; and, living in the same climate and being of the same race, there seems no insuperable difficulty in our doing at least as much if not more than they accomplished.

Art, however, will not be regenerated by buildings so ephemeral as Crystal Palaces or so prosaic as Manchester warehouses, nor by anything so essentially utilitarian as the works of our engineers. The one hope is that having commenced at the bottom, the true system may extend upwards, and come at last to be applied to our palaces and even to churches, and that the whole nation may lend its aid to work out the great problem. So long, however, as ecclesiastical architecture is no longer practised as a progressive art, but remains in the hands of the archaeologist, the onward path is obstructed. In all ages it was Temple or Church building—it was the desire to erect a dwelling worthy of the Deity, or a place appropriate to high and solemn worship, that filled architects with that high aim that enabled them to elevate their art so high in the scale above its sister Technic arts. Till Church building is again taken from those who only copy, and put into the hands of those who think, it will be difficult to furnish the profession with aspirations high enough to enable them to restore their art to its pristine lofty position. The prospect of this being done seems distant, but whenever this and the general significance of the problem is rightly appreciated by the public, the result seems inevitable; and with the means of diffusing knowledge which we now possess, we may perhaps be permitted to fancy that the dawn is at hand, and that after our long wanderings in the dark, daylight may again enlighten our path and gladden our hearts with the vision