I deliberated for some time over what to title this page, ‘words of the wise’ or ‘wise words’. It’s intended to be a collection of thoughts from famous writers and theorists of various periods. I steered away from ‘wise words’ as the statements here are not some kind of gospel or key to the ultimate architectural answer. The truth that I am interested in lurks in the thoughts or debates that these words ignite.
“May I take you to the shores of a mountain lake? The sky is blue, the water is green, and everything is at peace. The mountains and the clouds are reflected in the lake, as are the houses, farms and chapels. They stand there as if they had never been built by human hands. They look as if they have come from God’s own workshop, just like the mountains and the trees, the clouds and the blue sky. And everything radiates beauty and quiet….
What is the discord, that like an unnecessary scream shatters the quiet? Right at the centre of the farmers’ houses, which were not built by them, but by God, stands a villa. Is it the product of a good or of a bad architect? I do not know. All I know is that beauty, peace and quiet have been dispelled.”
Adulf Loos – Architecture (1910)
“One of the interesting things to me about our spaceship is that it is a mechanical vehicle, just as is an automobile. If you own an automobile, you realise that you must put oil gas into it, and you must put water in the radiator and take care of the car as a whole. You begin to develop quite a little thermodynamic sense. You know that you’re either going to have to keep the machine in good order or it’s going to be in trouble and fail to function. We have not been seeing our Spaceship Earth as an integrally-designed machine which to be persistently successful must be comprehended and serviced in total.
Now there is one outstanding important fact regarding Spaceship Earth, and that is that no instruction book came with it. I think it’s very significant that there is no instruction book for successfully operating our ship. In view of the infinite attention to other details displayed by our ship, It must be taken as deliberate and purposeful that an instruction book was omitted. Lack of an instruction book has forced us to find that there are two kinds of berries – red berries that will kill us and red berries that will nourish us. And we had to find out ways of telling which-was-which red berry before we ate it otherwise we would die. So we were forced, because of a lack of an instruction book, to use our intellect, which is our supreme faculty, to devise scientific experimental procedures and to interpret effectively the significance of the experimental findings. Thus, because the instruction manual was missing we are learning how we safely can anticipate the consequences of an increasing number of alternative ways of extending our satisfactory survival and growth – both physical and meta-physical.”
R. Buckminster Fuller – Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969)
“Let us understand at once that change or variety is as much a necessity to the human heart and brain in buildings as in books: that there is no merit, though there is some occasional use, in monotony; and that we must no more expect to derive either pleasure or profit from an architecture whose ornaments are of one pattern, and whose pillars are of one proportion, that we should out of a universe in which the clouds are all of one shape, and the trees all of one size.”
John Ruskin – The Nature of Gothic (1853)
“One day, all that will be left of the Parthenon will be fragments imprisoned in museums; copies by the banks of the Mississippi, the Kelaniya, the Thames, the Spree, the forth, or the Danube; the drawings of Stuart and Revett; millions of fading photographs; and hundreds of written eulogies….Then, liberated from physical being, the Parthenon will have become nothing but an idea, and at last it will be perfect.”
Edward Hollis – The Secret Lives of Buildings (2009)
“It is not enough to copy even the very best buildings of another generation or another locality. The method of building may be used, but you must strip from this method all the substance of particular character and detail, and drive out from your mind the picture of the houses that so beautifully fulfilled your desires. You must start right from the beginning, letting your new buildings grow from the daily lives of the people who will live in them, shaping the houses to the measure of the people’s songs, weaving the pattern of a village as if on the village looms, mindful of the trees and the crops that will grow there, respectful to the skyline and humble before the seasons. There must be neither faked tradition or faked modernity, but an architecture that will be the visible and permanent expression of the character of the community.”
Hassan Fathy – Architecture for the Poor (1973) – Previously, Gourna: A Tale of Two Villages (1969)
“The philosophy and know-how of the anonymous builders presents the largest untapped source of architectural inspiration for industrial man. The wisdom to be derived goes beyond economic and aesthetic considerations, for it touches the far tougher and increasingly troublesome problem of how to live and let live, how to keep peace with one’s neighbours, both in the parochial and universal sense.”
Bernard Rudofsky – Architecture Without Architects (1964)