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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

M. H. Baillie Scott, Art and Soul

Baillie Scott was one of the most well-known architects of the British Arts and Crafts movement, along with Voysey, Gimson, and Mackintosh, and most certainly studied the work of William Morris.  In 1906, in his early forties, he published his opus, Houses and Gardens, which carefully and systematically laid out his philosophy of architecture and interior design, complete with dozens of drawings, floorplans, photographs, and his own watercolor paintings (some of which are reproduced here, all click to enlarge).

I particularly enjoyed this passage from the book's Introduction:  "And so the art of building as practised in modern times is not so much an Art as a disease.  In the early stages of the Victorian era it took the form of a pallid leprosy.  Nowadays, it has become a scarlet fever of red brick, and has achieved a development of spurious Art expressed in attempts to achieve the picturesque, which in its smirking self-consciousness has made the earlier candid ugliness appear an almost welcome alternative.  There is no town or village but is being gradually disfigured by this plague of modern building, and one has almost forgotten that houses have been and may yet be an added beauty rather than a disfigurement on the land."

Nothing like a good rant, eh?  I am reminded of all the quarter acre lots across our country upon which the ugly McMansions of our day have been built.  Will these houses seem much more attractive, even sought after, a century from now?  The leprosy and scarlet fever Baillie Scott alludes to above are now our gorgeous old Queen Anne, Italianate, Stick Style, and Mansard Victorians.  Does time heal all wounds, architectural or otherwise?

(Dan, thanks for lending me this beautiful book.

  Baillie Scott's Houses & Gardens