To many, it seems peculiar to construct new buildings in a traditional way. They concede that such buildings, when done well, are beautiful and fit with their surroundings in a delicate and timeless manner that is only enhanced by the passage of time. And yet, to shun Modernism still seems to go against the spirit of the age… little more than nostalgia.
SO WHY BUILD THIS WAY?
The traditional design of buildings has never been a static art. There have been periods of stylistic apogee, decline and periods of change when improvement or rebirth was called for. Even then, improvement was never wholly new and what was retained was never wholly obsolete. Novelty and the desire only to be ‘different’ have been rightly viewed with suspicion.
All that care and accumulated experience-based knowledge was abandoned in the early years of the 20th century, as industrialisation appeared to bring forth a ‘new’ world. Men felt obliged to discard everything that had previously worked in favour of a colossal experiment in all fields of the human condition including, naturally, architecture and urban design. After a century of effort, many would agree that Modernism has not lived up to its promise and most consider it to have been a disastrously retrograde step. The time is ripe to call an end to the Modernist counterfeit and return to a way of building based on good practice and convention.
Until our contemporary (and transient) period of cheap and plentiful energy, architecture was, above all else, a practical art based upon the principle of conservation and correction. Traditional design was rooted in the materiality of building in a profoundly rational way that gave rise to custom and discriminating taste. The arrangement of towns and villages was rooted in the patterns of human use…walking distances, hierarchy and the need for visual interest. Traditional architecture is humanist at its core.
Until the Modern era, architecture developed over countless generations through trial and error to be truly and intrinsically sustainable because there was no other choice. A situation we will face again. All buildings, great or of small importance, had to be as simple as befitted their role, robust, repairable and, finally, reusable either in whole or as material.
The re-adoption of those time proven techniques is nothing less than the repositioning of contemporary architecture with the boundaries of usefulness; a re-sighting of the art of building in that long and profitable furrow of custom and tradition; a history that has consistently produced innumerable places and buildings of great beauty and astonishing resilience.
To design and build traditional architecture in the early 21st century is to affirm a civilisational continuity of almost three millennia. It is a defence of high culture and an angry repost to a contemporary milieu awash in false ideas and vain expectation united only in contempt of the past; that most constant of foes.
The creation of contemporary traditional architecture is a lament for the loss…for the dispossession of a great and worthy civilisation. Its bringing forth to existence will be counted as the first small flowers of a new Renaissance or the last bloom of a passing culture.
A spirit of innovation is generally the result of a selfish temper and confined views. People will not look forward to posterity who never look back to their ancestors
Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France.