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proportion and reasonableness

Post #360 • September 6, 2004, 1:27 PM • 5 Comments

Veritas et Venustas excerpts some interesting posts on the Traditional Architecture Listserv, which runs out of the University of Miami.

I have a friend who is one of the best dealers in English antiques. He once pointed to the leg of an 18th century English table and said, "That's a very good leg."

"Why?" I asked.

"Look at the best 18th century English tables 4 or 5 times a week for 6 months, and you'll see why," he said.

He's right. If you have a talent for proportion (anyone can improve their eye, but it is both an acquired and inherited talent - just as I can improve my musical skills but will never have perfect pitch, so people are inherently more and less visual), you can train it and significantly improve it.

Perhaps I'm reading too much into this, but I feel that architects have a better grip on quality than artists do for the most part, perhaps because they have some basic parameters to their field (building must stay up, ceilings must span higher than six feet, etc.). I think this practicality spills over into their discussions about immaterial considerations regarding their profession. I contrast this with the art conversation, which seems to demand repeated injections of reasonableness. Because one can do anything in the name of art, infinite avenues exist for failure, and infinite justifications can be conjured up for each one. Whereas that roof had at least better keep the rain off of your head.




September 6, 2004, 9:22 PM

Because you & the quoter use lots of implied value terms here, like "best", "good", "talent", "improve", "better" and "failure", and because it seems to me that what you have raised here is both very interesting and quite accurate, I will not be surprised if the ensuing discussion is heavily larded with posts of the "whaddya mean by 'good'?" variety.

That would be unfortunate, because you are bringing up an interesting comparison of value-determinants: that of a practice which relies very heavily on practical structural considerations but which we call an "art", and "art" as such, which by now has almost no underlying structural or evaluative assumptions. This kind of comparison, if intelligently discussed, can lay out a lot of fresh & interesting angles on the "value" problem if we can keep it out of the kind of stew the "criteria" matter got into a few pages ago.



September 7, 2004, 6:26 AM


i have been given to understand, that in some sense (perhaps some meaningless sense), architecture is the 'highest' of all the art and design disciplines. This statement is said to be supported by the fact that individuals who have studied architecture can go on to become artists, graphic designers, furniture/product designers, photographers, etc., while the process can never work in the other direction. Supposedly, the study of architecture gives one an understanding of how the world works that is applicable to many other pursuits.

i present this theory without wholly endorsing it. someone laid it out for me once, quite convincingly, and i've been thinking on it since.

one more thing: the communal work area of the architecture building at FIU has a glass facade which faces the perimeter road just west of the main entrance to the university. I have often been at the photo lab on the campus at odd hours. I've noticed that when I leave late at night, whether at 11 pm or 4 am, there are always a number of architecture students working in there on their models and whatnot.



September 7, 2004, 3:29 PM

Alesh: I think "some meaningless sense" comes close to it. This is a nice example of an unjustified logical extension of value: because architecture demands the study of particulars without which it cannot be practiced, unlike the others ("anyone" can take a photo, paint a picture, design a chair), that it is therefore "higher". Although I this kind of claim is intrinsically invidious and useless, one could take a devil's advocate position that these facts make it "lower" because it is so tied to such "mundane" necessities.

Nevertheless, art-making has become so rootless, diluted and wayward that I find myself envying any profession that can boast an embedded discipline, goals and values and students that work on projects at 4 AM.



September 7, 2004, 6:41 PM

Thank you for "painting" that picture of those architecture students working at any and all hours alesh. These images give me a sort of fuel for myself to not go too far from my own studio. Its the comment that oldpro ends with that has spurred me into writing. I have been but a humble observer the whole while. I too feel envious of those other professions that are embedded in discipline, goals and values. Its what I struggle with ONLY when I lift my focus from my canvas to what is out there. Its that other side of my intended proffession that seems scary. I feel that you are right that the art-making is diluted and wayward. This is why I get so excited when I see something good out there. A couple of paintings by Harumi Abe at the Dorsch this week is an example of what gives me more of that good feeling fuel. I purposely try to see works of value to ME, and just glance over that other stuff. In this is what I am trying to say; the glancing over is enough of a comment to disregard the work. I feel that in talking on how bad, diluted, wayward, disgusting, etc.. a work is the more the cycle continues. Lets talk of the good stuff. I know that is difficult but anything worth achieving always is. I by no account am trying to insult or pick an argument with you oldpro. I am just trying to keep my self sane. Thank you for being the catalyst for me writing on Franklin's fine little community here.



September 7, 2004, 9:45 PM

Jsanz: Very good to hear from another art lover. Keep on contributing; we are slowing up around here.

I take no exception to anything you said. I agree that we seem to concentrate on the negative side of things. It gets me down sometimes. It was so much fun, years ago, arguing about and fighting for the AE painters I admired so much and I miss it amid all the current dreck.

I have not seen Harume Abe's painting at Dorsche, but whether or not I like them it is clear that you have been inspired by them, and that's enough. The value to you is what counts for you, and that's what you have to go for.





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