June 17, 2010

The Makers

Every now and then I run across something that feels like it steals the thoughts out of my head and conveniently scribes them on paper.  Laura found this commencement speech given to a class of craftsmen.  I cannot recommend enough reading it (though some will find it more enjoyable than others).  It is located here:

Some of the highlights:

-“A durable and beautiful built environment provides the best physical and spatial context for human life, and thereby supports the different kinds of inventiveness and daring that modern life demands.”

-“You, however, know that matter is real; you know and respect its properties; you know what good work is.”

-“Beautiful things judge us; they change us, and make us want to be better than we are. Beautiful things elevate us.”

And finally I’ll end with the poem by Dorothy Sayers:

“The Makers”
The Architect stood forth and said: “I am the master of the art;
I have a thought within my head, I have a dream within my heart.
Come now, good craftsman, ply your trade with tool and stone obediently;
Behold the plan that I have made—I am the master; serve you me.”
The Craftsman answered: “Sir, I will, yet look to it that this your draft
Be of a sort to serve my skill—you are not the master of the craft.
It is by me the towers grow tall, I lay the course, I shape and hew;
You make a little inky scrawl, and that is all that you can do.
Account me, then, the master man, lay my rigid rule upon the plan,
and that which serves the plan—the uncomplaining, helpless stone.”
The Stone made answer: “Masters mine, know this: that I can bless or damn
The thing that both of you design by being but the thing I am;
For I am granite and not gold, for I am marble and not clay,
You may not hammer me or mould—I am the master of the way.
Yet once that mastery bestowed then I will suffer patiently
The cleaving steel, the crushing load, that make a calvary of me;
And you may carve me with your hand to arch and buttress, roof and wall,
Until the dream rise up and stand—serve but the stone, the stone serves all.
Let each do well what each knows best, nothing refuse and nothing shirk,
Since none is master of the rest, but all are servants of the work—
The work no master may subject save He to whom the whole is known,
Being Himself the Architect, the Craftsman and the Cornerstone.
Then when the greatest and the least have finished all their labouring
And sit together at the feast you shall behold a wonder thing:
The Maker of the men that make will stoop between the cherubim,
The towel and the basin take, and serve the servants who serve Him.”
The Architect and Craftsman, both, agreed the Stone had spoken well;
Bound them to service by an oath and each to his own labour fell.


Joshua Butcher said...

Hey Jacob,

Interesting piece, but as one who is largely ignorant of architectural history and theory, what constitutes "traditional building," as a definition, and what are some examples?

Jacob Haynes said...

When one references “traditional” in the context of architecture, it immediately conjures a stylistic expression – pitting the lofty modernists with their white boxes against the nostalgic traditionalists. But there are several ways to define a “traditional” building:

-one with more craftsman type ornament or having a pitched roof
-one built before the 1930 modern architecture movement
-one built with traditional techniques and materials

The first definition is an issue of style – in a very superficial way. The second definition could be referencing style but could also be referencing particular philosophical theories. The third definition is primarily is concerned with substance (though it also references style, but more broadly) and is the definition that I believe the speaker is referencing.

I very much appreciate the stylistic variety that the modern movement has opened up to the built form so I do not advocate going back to a purely traditional style. What I particularly liked about the speech was its call for craftsmen to fight for substance (for durability, morality, and beauty) in the built world.

Will Blair Art said...

Fantastic speech. I agree wholeheartedly with the dude. The traditional and functional is all too often overlooked for the name of modern or unique. People are so anxious to break the mold they they forget practical constraints. They ignore what has been passed down as "good". I was guilty of this when I first started working. I designed some really cool curved stone and wood seating. The client loved it. Then the contractor called. "How the hell do I build this?"...Traditional is good.
Also, I thought is was cool that he touched on the subjectivity of beauty since we just discussed that with the Banksy review. I don't agree that beauty is found in completion. I think it can just as easily fit into anticipation (See Michelangelo's slave sculptures).
It was great read man. Thanks for sharin'!