Even mass housing can be made uplifting by using traditional proportions
What makes a beautiful building? I would say that traditional proportionality is one vital component that is virtually ignored by all modern architects. The new online course of the Way of Beauty (see the page of that name on this blog) gives the most detailed answer to this question yet. It’s all about traditional proportion and harmony which was principle, derived from the patterns of the liturgy, that was used to govern the whole of the culture. All of time and space, not just the beautiful buildings of the past, were ordered according to its principles.
This is why the building above left, built in the 18th century, is not only still standing, but is also a listed building and is sought after by professionals in the North of England as a fashionable place to live; but many of the equivalent mass housing projects of the 20 century, like the one show below, are already being knocked down. The one shown was Rockwell Gardens which was demolished in 2003 and didn’t even last 50 years.
The traditional idea is that certain combinations of dimensions of a building speak to us more clearly than others because they are more beautiful. The modern idea, in contrast, is that there is an infinite range of ratios and proportionalities to choose from and one is no more valid than any other, it’s just a matter of opinion.
The Christian tradition says that certain proportions are beautiful because they reflect the divine order; and the Creator hardwired us to recognize them. When we see something as beautiful in the natural world for example, it is this is divine order – the thumbprint of the Creator in His work – is what we are responding to. The work of man can reflect this as well, with God’s grace and humility and good sense on the part of man. These proportions were used in architecture almost without question through
to the end of the 19th century. (To get more information take the online course from this blog or sign on direct here.) By the end of the 19th century, its use seems to have been disconnected from the Christian understanding. When traditional taste was challenged, those who wished to resist the destruction of the old methods were not equipped with underlying principles to defent their case. The Bauhaus movement (Read More)