Abbildungen der Seite

there should, at least, be a plenty of ornament of some other kind. Rich voluted scrolls, and other designs of the same character, might be introduced with great beauty of effect, and would tend, in a great degree, to produce that harmony and consistency of embellishment, which is the hightest charm of a building, and which convinces the spectator, that one predominating principle has regulated the whole design. There is nothing, in architecture, worse than tasteless misapplication ; it is wearing the second-hand clothes, and not the garb of the ancients ; it has the effect of bringing the resources of modern builders into the humiliating position of a kind of architectural Bratıle street. If it be received as an important truth, that nothing, however subordinate in itself, is to be passed over without its due share of attention, it certainly must be allowed that the entablature, the highest and most imposing member of the superstructure, should be carefully studied with reference to its effect upon the whole. “ If you cannot be consistent in decoration,” says an eminent critic, “ at least be consistent in the omission of it, and do not seem even to aim at what you can only imperfectly accomplish. If circumstances prevent you from producing a finished picture, do not work up parts, here and there, while others are merely sketched in ; in a word, attend to keeping.

So far, however, as ornamental sculpture appears upon this front at all, like Obadiah, “it had better been a league off.” Who can look without laughing at the allegorical display over the front entrance, where every separate emblem of commerce is cut to a scale of its own, and grouped in a style that puts Hogarth's perspective to the blush ; the “almighty dollar" expanded to the size of a dinner plate ; the mast of a merchantman shrunk to the dimensions of a

king cane ; and “the great globe itself” hardly emulating in size the proportions of a portly pumpkin ? There is no wonder, that this effort of native design, when first elevated to its place, attracted such crowds of delighted lookers on. The architect must, in sooth, be a superstitious mortal, who could put his faith in such an uncouth enormity.

The great hall of the interior, with its flat dome, its bright scagliola columns, its composed capitals, its staring white walls, and its profusion of plaster ornaments, now cracked in every direction, presents a tawdry and miserable failure.

Such things as these are not architecture, but frippery. They always mark the composition of one who goes pompously to work, after other people's ideas, without possessing enough of his own to arrange them ; " perpetually misquoting and misapplying his authorities, and sneaking about in his stolen peacock's seathers, in the most unpeacock-like manner imaginable."

Under the same category with the foregoing, would we include the Custom-house at New York, and the Girard college at Philadelphia. It ought by this time to have been discovered, that a Greek temple and a sash-windowed house of three stories are ill reconciled to each other in the same edifice. The Grecian style scarcely affords a precedent for any accommodation to the wants or uses of our own time; least of all, is it to be chosen in a building where the windows constantly occur in the different floors, and become so numerous as to influence the whole composition, and stamp it with a character entirely at variance with the expression professedly attempted in the elevations.

" It is hardly possible,” says Mr. Leeds, “ to reconcile the columinar with the fenestral character ; since, at the best, a certain tertium quid will be the result, — an Italianized Grecian, or a Grecianized Italian design.' Doric and plate-glass have a natural antipathy, which no ingenuity can overcome ; chimney pots certainly rise above a pediment with a less pleasing effect than the classical acroteria ; and the necessary offices can never be added, either to the right or the left, without becoming in themselves a grievous sin against architectural fitness, and producing a most uneven and discordant effect upon the whole.

We proceed to the examination of one other example in support of our preliminary remarks. The church in Somerset place, which has been recently completed, has called forth several unfavorable notices in one of the most influential public journals of the day, and appears to be regarded, not without reason, as a very faulty though pretending edifice. The front is, in fact, a mask only, built with finished and costly material, and carried up to quite an elevated height, having a façade of very considerable architectural pretension, with a true Attic pitch of roof, and containing no other apertures throughout its whole extent than the three doors of entrance. But the side elevations must be admitted to present a woful contrast to the assumed elegance of the front. Roughly and coarsely built, of very inferior material, without one particle of ornament, or even of customary finish, they absolutely fall below the style of construction that is adopted in the most common warehouses, machine-shops, and founderies in the suburbs and low outskirts of the city. On the east side, the Church is closely hemmed in by a row of handsome dwelling-houses ; but even this does not prevent the shallow facing of stone from obtruding itself upon the eye, as, scarcely three inches round the corner, it is backed


with the coarse brick-work of which we have spoken ; while, on the west side, the whole is still open to a public street, presenting an aspect of architectural hideousness, that is certainly unsurpassed by any similar exhibition we have ever noticed. The observations of Mr. Pugin upon this manner of church building are so exactly appropriate in this connexion, and so fully express the ideas which we would convey, that we adopt them with a very hearty pleasure. These forcible remarks occur in his late work,

The true Principles of Pointed or Christian Architecture, set forth in Two Lectures ; a book which claims the highest consideration for the keen discrimination, the honest severity, and the thorough understanding of the subject, which it everywhere exhibits.

“ A room full of seats at the least possible cost is the present idea of a church ; and, if ornament is indulged in, it is a mere screen to catch the eye of the passer by, which is a most contemptible deception to hide the meanness of the real building. How often do we see a front gable carried up to a respectable pitch, and we might naturally infer that this is the termination, both as regards height and form, of the actual roof; but on turning the corner, we soon perceive that it is a mere wall, cramped to hold it in its position, and that it conceals a very meeting-house behind, with a flat roof, and low, thin walls, perforated by mean apertures, and without a single feature or detail 10 carry out the appearance it assumed toward the street. The severity of Christian architecture is opposed to all this deception. We should never make a building erected to God appear better than it really is, by artificial means.

These are showy, worldly expedients, adapted only for those who live by splendid deception. Yet, in these times, all that does not catch the eye is neglected. A rich looking antipendium often conceals rough materials, a depository for candle-ends and an accumulation of dirt, which are allowed to remain, simply because they are out of sight. All plaster, cast-iron, and composition ornaments, painted like stone or oak, are mere impositions, and although very suitable for a tea-garden, are utterly unworthy of a sacred edifice. “Omne secundum ordinem, et honeste fiat." Let every man build to God according to his means, but not practise showy deceptions ; better is it to do a little substantially, and consistently with truth than to produce a great but fictitious effect. Hence, the rubble wall and oaken rafter of antiquity yet impress the mind with feelings of reverent awe, which never could be produced by the cement and plaster imitations of elaborate tracery, and the florid designs which, in these times, are stuck about our mimic churches in disgusting profusion.”

We have thus endeavoured to fortify ourselves upon the broad ground we assumed in the outset, and to give a reason for the decided opinions to which we shall always adhere. But unlike the fat knight of Eastcheap, we give it only

upon compulsion.' We allude to existing examples only because it is necessary, while we sincerely deplore the necessity that compels us thus to speak. We would not willingly detract from any merit which the buildings we have criticized may

be found to possess ; far less would we seek to undervalue the professional reputation of their architects beyond that point to which their own works condemn them. Toward each of these gentlemen, indeed, we feel every inclination to observe the “Complete Angler's" advice as to impaling the minnow ; to “ treat him tenderly, as though you loved him.” There is here no possible motive for that undue severity, which defeats its own object, and stupidly overshoots the mark at which it attempts to aim. But Sir John Harrington has wisely told us, that

" It is an act of virtue and of piety

To warn men of their sins in every sort; " and these gentlemen will do well to recollect, that, if they have chosen to accept the emolument of such works as they have given to the world, they must also be content to bear the odium which of right belongs to them.

We trust, then, it will be conceded, that we are no dogmatists in the opinions we have now expressed. We have only gone about to try the architecture of our times by the

Pugin's Christian Architecture.


standard of received maxims, which, as it has been seen, are often quoted, ipsissimis verbis, from the most distinguished authorities. We think there can be little doubt, that the examination has been fairly conducted. And the impression which it leaves on the mind, only strengthens us in the views we have gradually been led to adopt, from the frequent and careful reading of the most pains-taking architectural criticism of the day. We are firm in the belief, that the introduction of Grecian architecture among us has been a great mistake. Its edifices belong to another climate ; they are the legitimate offspring of a remote age, an antagonistic religion, an obsolete form of government, and a widely different state of society from our own. With us they have no

As well might the stately, statue-like tragedies of Euripides be expected to supplant, on our modern stage, the glowing pictures of Shakspeare and Otway. Beautiful as may be the forms which this pure style assumed, when used by its original authors, — chaste and elegant as are the Parian columns that lie scattered "on Sunium's marbled steep, majestic as appears the frowning temple of Jupiter, or the elegant shrine of the guardian goddess of Athens, standing in their sublime solitude on the hills of Attica, we must still conclude, that the forms and uses to which it was then applied are far too few to satisfy the numerous and complex demands of modern art. It has, indeed, been studied with devoted diligence, and defended by its advocates with an almost Quixotic zeal. It has been declared to possess every excellence, and to combine every beauty. But whatever may be thought or said of it, in the abstract, we only see that it has, so far, failed to produce among us a single example that does not contradict and stultify itself repeatedly, upon the most cursory reference to the principles of its ancient prototypes. It must certainly be admitted to be deficient in variety. Originally exhibited under only one form, it is unfair to expect that it can be pressed arbitrarily into the service of all. It cannot be moulded to every purpose, nor can we engraft upon it, with impunity, whatever features our own occasions may happen to call for ; whether they are provided for or not, in the limited theory of their originals. It is, therefore, by no means an easy task, in reducing the system of the Greeks to modern practice, to avoid even the most offensive and glaring inconsistencies ; to do so will yet

« ZurückWeiter »