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From the introductory "Choosing a Style for the House."
ONE is sometimes asked whether there are not some fundamental principles which should control the choice of style for any given building, and especially of a dwelling house, in which fashion rather than reason so often dominates.
Without attempting to beg the question, the first thing that occurs to me is that a deliberate choice of style is by no means essential, and is, indeed, often a grave hindrance to a right, reasonable, and beautiful solution of the problem of building. And by style, I here mean what is ordinarily meant by that word; that is to say, a well defined mode of building prevalent in some certain place and at some certain time. Normally, style of this sort originates from the needs of a people, from the materials at hand and from a desire to build with beauty; but in the course of its evolution it is always modified and held in control by the builder's knowledge of what has gone before or what is going on at his own time. Until the revival of learning, the age of the conscious, passionate striving to resurrect the glory of the classic ages, there were but few, if any, deliberate attempts to hark back to an earlier manner of building. The ancients had done that sort of thing in sculpture when they had imitated the early work of their forbears in a way which, strive as it might, could not seize the real archaic spirit, the way we now call archaistic. But in architecture it is hard to put one's finger on that sort of thing earlier than the time of the Renaissance. Then, gradually, the old order gave way to the new. To be sure, even after the change, the needs of the people had to be met, and their needs were very different from those of the ancient Romans, but, such as they were, they were met in the way in which the men of the Renaissance thought the men of the Augustan era would have met them.
And thus for the first time arose the question of a deliberate choice of style, a resuscitation of a way of building in use in other ages and under other conditions. And this is what we have been trying to do ever since, only we out-Herod Herod. The men of the Renaissance were in unison as to the style they wanted to imitate. We do not know our own minds; we do not know what age, what country to set up as our standard, and the voices that would guide us are crying in this wilderness of indecision. But there is one thing well known, completely agreed upon by all who have given serious thought to it:- that it is not by the copying of the outward forms of any architectural style that we can hope to make our work vital and worthy. If from a plan suited to the needs of a given building, if from a reasonable and appropriate choice and handling of materials, there should grow beauty, it is all that we can ask and all that we need to ask. Simple as it sounds, the doing of the thing is difficult beyond conception. Few can do it well or even passably. Granted that this is the right way, the only way by' which we1 can hope to make buildings truthful and beautiful and eloquent of their time and place, it is easy to see how a choice of style from a priori considerations is a most grave hindrance to the following of it.
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