The truth runs through all art. There are, alas, so many people who do not seem to have the faculty of taking pleasure, and there is so much architecture about our streets which it is impossible to suppose any one took "pleasure in creating." When a feature is put into a design, not because the designer liked it, but because it is the usual thing and it saves trouble, it always proclaims that melancholy truth. But where something is designed because the designer liked doing it, and was trying to please his own fancy instead of copying what a hundred other men have done before, it will go hard but he will give some pleasure to the spectator. It is from this blessed faculty that a design becomes inspired with what is best described as "character." It is not the same thing as style. I have something to say in my next lecture as to what I think style means, but it is certain that a building may have style and yet want character, and it may have a good deal of character and yet be faulty or contradictory in style. We cannot define "character," but when we feel that it is present we may rely upon it that it is because the designer took interest and pleasure in his work, was not doing it merely scholastically - in short, he put something of his own character into it, which means that he had some to put.Figs. 1 through 3
Now, coming back to the axiom before mentioned, that architectural design should express and emphasize the practical requirements and physical conditions of the building, let us look a little more in detail into the manner in which this may be done. We will take, to begin with, the very simplest structure we can possibly build - a plain wall (Fig. 1).2 Here there is no expression at all; only stones piled one on another, with sufficient care in coursing and jointing to give stability to the structure. It is better for the wall, constructively, however, that it should have a wider base, to give it more solidity of foundation, and that the coping should project beyond the face of the wall, in order to throw the rain off, and these two requirements may be treated so as to give architectural expression to our work (Fig. 2). It now consists of three distinct portions - a plinth, or base, a superficies of wall, and a coping. We will mark the thickening at the base by a moulding, which will give a few horizontal lines (at B), and the coping in the same way. The moulding of the coping must also be so designed as to have a hollow throating, which will act as a drip, to keep the rain from running round the under side of the coping and down the wall.
We may then break up the superficies by inserting a band of single ornament in one course of this portion of the wall - not half way, for to divide any portion of a building into mere "halves" has usually a weak and monotonous effect, but about two thirds of the distance from the base line; and this band of ornament not only breaks up the plain surface a little, but also, by carrying another horizontal line along the wall, emphasizes its horizontality. Always emphasize that which is the essential characteristic of your structure. A wall of this kind is essentially a long horizontal boundary. Emphasize its length and horizontality.
If we are millionaires, and can afford to spend a great deal on a wall, we may not only (Fig. 3) carry further the treatment of the coping and base, by giving them ornamental adjuncts as well as mouldings, but we might treat the whole wall superficies as a space for surface carving, not mechanically repeated, but with continual variation of every portion, so as to render our wall a matter of interest and beauty while retaining all its usefulness as a boundary, observing that such surface ornament should be designed so as to fulfill a double object: 1, to give general relief to the surface of the wall; 2, to afford matter of interest to the eye on close inspection and in detail.
That is the double function of nearly all architectural ornament. It is, in the first place, to aid the general expression and balance of the building, and give point and emphasis where needed; and, in the second place, to furnish something to the eye for study on its own account when viewed more closely.Figs. 4 through 9
We will take another typical and simple erection, a stone pillar to support the ends of two lintels or beams. This may be simply a long squared piece set on end (Fig. 4), and will perform its constructive functions perfectly well in that form; but it is not only absolutely expressionless, but is in one sense clumsy and inconvenient, as taking up more space than need be, presenting an unwieldy-looking mass when viewed at an angle, and shutting out a good deal of light (if that happen to be a matter of practical consequence in the case). Cutting off the angles (Fig. 5) does not weaken it much, and renders it much less unwieldy-looking, besides giving it a certain degree of verticality of expression, and rendering it more convenient as taking up less room and obstructing less light. But though the column is quite strong enough, the octagonal top does not make so good a seat or bearing for the ends of the lintels. We will therefore put a flat square stone on the top of it (Fig. 6), which will serve as a bed for the lintels to rest on securely.
But the angles of this bed plate, where they project beyond the face of the column, appear rather weak, and are so actually to some extent - a double defect, for it is not enough in architecture that a thing should be strong enough, it is necessary that it should appear so, architecture having to do with expression as well as with fact. We will, therefore, strengthen this projecting angle, and correct the abruptness of transition between the column and the bed plate, by brackets (Fig. 7) projecting from the alternate faces of the column to the angles of the bed plates. As this rather emphasizes four planes of the octagon column at the expense of the other four, we will bind the whole together just under the brackets by a thin band of ornament constituting a necking, and thus we have something like a capital developed, a definitely designed finish to our column, expressive of its purpose. This treatment of the upper end, however, would make the lower end rising abruptly from the ground seem very bare.