Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

The Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast (Volume v.42 (July-Sep. 1915)) online

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a purely decorative character. To have preserved the effect of solidity of the
wall and broken the roof, would have been a way of handling the situation
more in accord with the common understanding of the likelv structural con-

70 The Architect and Engineer

dition. Or if the solid character of the dome was an important note to be
preserved, why support it on a member which Ijy its treatment suggests a more
transient type of construction? Under the present arrangement we see the
strong- shadows of the perforations entirely surrounded with opalescent color
conditions, resulting thus in an unexplained structure. The effect is of spots
of dark hanging unsupported in the air ; the color values of walls and dome
being commensurate with the sky values.

Turning to more prosaic details, one's eye lifts to wide expanses of livid
ornament, suspended like giant tapestries before the walls of towers which flank
the Court of Flowers. Here we confess ourselves ignorant of the meaning,
and our powers grow faint before the wizardry, the "wine of wizardry," of the
painter's palette. Here it is difficult to arrive at the point of view of the
colorist. A few Cjuestions will elucidate. Why, for instance, has color been
applied on stone, on exterior wall surfaces, particularly in the diaper pattern,
in a way that suggests oilcloth or a brick texture? Great expense and care
and skill have been exercised in imitating a stone texture ; and are these not
stone forms which are employed in adjacent ornament? Why have these sug-
gested surfaces of stone been destroyed as such by coloring of supposedly stone
details? Why has the illusion of stone, of permanency, of stability, been frus-
trated? Is it more important that a composition be colored than that it be
true to itself?

A natural sequence of thought in architectural composition demands that
the voids find expression in terms corresponding to the wall structure. When
this is not done a manifest confusion in the abstract idea results. Why are
the ornamental openings colored so that they suggest beautiful masses of terra
cotta or brick or plaster, and the wall areas next treated to suggest Travertine
stone ?

The value of a wall surface, either expressed in flat unbroken areas or in
its extreme phase of fenestration, a colonnade, must ultimately reside in static
qualities, its capacity to carry. Why paint a stone wall pink? Are there any
pink, real pink, face-powder pink, stone walls anywhere? And, if there are,
do we need them here ?

Whatever of decoration in color is used on a wall, the quality of stability
and permanence should manifestly not be abased. And the detail in color
should synchronize in character with the supposed wall material. A stenciled
decoration on a plaster wall which has the texture and color of stone, and is
supposed to look like stone, should be stenciled, if at all, to recall some sort of
stone decoration, and not in imitation of the texture of a l)rick wall or of a
plastered surface.

A wall is primarily the reposeful element in an architectural composition.
When a decorative effect is desired in a wall, the wall surfaces should still
indicate more of repose than the local decoration of the voids. A highly
decorated wall surface having a high key of color value must fail in its
structural value as a wall, i. e., a carrying member, unless it is subservient to
still more colorful active interest producing elements at the openings. The
openings should be accented with ornament, powerful, im])elling, thought-
directing, of sufficient force to dominate the color condition in the wall.

Because the architecture of the exposition has been designed by men for
the most part necessarily without the superlative color sense of a Guerin, the
architectural forms express less of activity and power than the color phase. In
general, the main architectural lines of the buildings and the minor forms and
the details have, through the juxtaposition of the color of applied pigments,
dwindled, shrunken and become enfeebled by the contrasts thus imposed upon
them. The abstract message of the architecture is submerged in the emotional
power of the color values with which they are surfeited.

The Architect ami Engineer 7\

This brings us to the idea of the true relation of color to architecture.
Color in architecture is not the end; it is the beginning of an architectural
composition. Color is the reservoir, the ocean, the garden, from which must
spring- the bud and flower of the architect's thought ; just as in literature the
thought is more important than the verbiage with which the thought is clothed ;
as in music the theme is more important than the rendering of the tone values ;
and as in sculpture the abstract quality is more important than the vehicle.

Color in architecture signifies not so much the covering of architectural
forms with pigment:, or the use of highly colored materials, as it means that
fine adjustment of shade and shadow which suggests color. To him who is
sensitive to color a work of architecture is an arrangement of color values
under any circumstances.

Comparative views of the buildings taken when they were in the Travertine
stone and afterward, when ornamented with color, are, of course, only sug-
gestions of the true condition. However, they serve to show that the applica-
tion of pigments which darken the general effect tend to destroy the direction
and force of architectural detail. It would, therefore, appear tliat the colorist
should be the architect, or vice versa, in order that the color values should be
nicely adjusted to the architectural forms.

Paul Bartlett, the sculptor, once said in one of his classes, "A great artist
could make a thing of beauty of an elephant, even though he had never seen
an elephant and knew nothing of its anatomy," illustrating that the poise and
swing of line, the balance and power of composition, were sesthetic powers
within the scope of the sculptor and superior as elements of expression !to
mere details of fact in anatomy. And undoubtedly a master in color, such as
this magnificent spectacle proves Guerin to be, may have the power to compose
a wonderful composition in color, using as his canvas the buildings and en-
tourage of an international exposition, without a specific knowledge of archi-
tecture. But are we not entitled to expect more than a color composition, just
as in an equestrian statue we expect the saddle girths to be in place, no matter
what the charm of rendering otherwise? In short, we should expect to find
not only color in all its glories, but an unrivaled display of fine aesthetic
value of line and form as well. And we are justified in looking for a harmony
of these various elements, which, combined, constitute the art of architecture.
That we do not find this balance is explained only by the fact that no one per-
sonality was available who combined all the qualities of an architect.

In the results before our eyes not a single titanic form announces itself,
not a line in electric, elastic vehemence cleaves the sky without deterrent color
accompaniment. No profile as such feels its way into the mind as a line of
beauty, no group of statuary pulls itself into volcanic activity to acclaim its
sculptured message — all is under the exotic pall of color. The charmed curves
of Corinthian capital and the stately fluted columns stand rank on rank, flat-
tened like colored paper strips set against other colored paper backgrounds.

There are exceptions to this general sacrifice of architecture on the altar of
color. In the Court of Seasons whilst looking out toward the sea between
Bacon's titan columns, which in solemn grandeur proclaim the dignity and
beneficence of nature's bounty, one notes the lilt and lift of the graceful statue
of Miss Longman in splendid joyous abandon — a bit of beautiful line in
silhouette against the sky. The contrast of this statue with the vistas of ad-
vancing ranks of the columns on either side is altogether fine. Here is a
picture of classic repose, undefiled by more gorgeous counterpart than that
given by earth and sky and sea. This Court of the Seasons, its pavements
unbroken save by the level waters of a green bordered pool, stands alone as
being free from unsympathetic treatments of its garden areas. Except for the

72 The Architect aiid Ens^inccr

great central apsidal feature on the main axis, which protrudes a foreign note
where Faville's door and apse form the enclosing feature of the great central
arch, the court stands complete as its architect conceived it. Here the Traver-
tine stone dominates the color scheme. Occasionally where color has been
applied, as on the ornamental wreaths, giving an effect of stencil or intaglio,
the values of the architect have been frustrated. The sculptured groups of this
court are in harmony with the solid dignity of the architectural forms. Many
will feel that this court is more nearly a complete expression of mature classical
thought and feeling than anything in the exposition. Certainly it has repose
and dignity, and great charm — beautiful proportions and the absence of un-
friendly color dominance.

One other line of pure delight there is which, like the statue in Bacon's
Court, must live in the memory. It is the entasis of the columns in the colon-
naded porches of the Pensylvania building. We met this line just after passing
through the fiery furnace of color which encompasses the Art Palace. We
had just said "good bye" to the lovely Greek ladies, who turn classic backs
upon our upturned faces, and to the cool, refreshing, satisfying walls of the
California building, when looking past the elegant refinement and opulence of
New York, we met some old friends — Independence Hall, the New Jersey
building, and the State House of Boston, and others. Greetings, ye gentle
reminders of the Colonial age ! The fine grace of these simple lines, these
forms unafraid to dare the blue of Western skies in the garb of ancient renown,
greets our eyes now surfeited with color. Like a sweet message of ancestral
days these delightfully frank architectural fragments bring a realization of
our real self. These declare our time and temperament ; these, our race and
religion, our birthright, and perhaps our future. The exotic fulminate of
riotous Roman architecture and "Cairo" coloring possess us no more. We pass
as in a dream into the calm realization of the old gold don^ve of the Boston
State House, and we ask the question. Is it the ideals of Patrick Henry and of
Hamilton and of the Adams family and of Franklin, or is it the lure of the
Occident, the voluptuary, the sensualist, the occultist, and the seers and pre-
cepts of the East — the "line" or the "color" — which holds us truest to our
ideals? Go and sit beside the fires of Brangwyn's pictures amid the calm of
Creation's Court, and think a while, then out by the sea, alone beside these
landmarks of your ancient home. The tides that wash on the Pacific shores
wet now the feet of the Pilgrims' sons. Are the eyes of these sons lifted to the
prismatic colors of the Orient or are they stayed by the subtle beauties of
restraint? Or do we look for a future day when into the old shall have been
breathed the breath of the new, when Eastern fires shall have been tempered,
when these exotic flashings of emotional energy shall have been curbed by the
steeled minds of the West, and chilled into finely wrought expressions of a

Return again to the Court of Creation and there you will see more nearly
than elsewhere in this forest of pageantry a realization of a dream come true — •
Brangwyn's pictures and Mullgardt's court. Here, a true blending of Eastern
spirit with Western restraint, of Southern color with Northern lights, a med-
ley vocal with the churning together of rival races, of strident woes, a light
from the burning torch of progress.

For this alone the entire effort of the exposition is worth while, for this
work signals a spiritual growth, an aspirational force, a capacity for expres-
sion in the abstract.

Of the work of Jules Guerin it may truly be said that, whilst his work has
been Goliath-like in that he has brought the temples of beauty down about our
heads, he has nevertheless given the world the greatest demonstration of the

The Architect and Engineer 73

uses of color in exposition architecture with which our time has been favored.
All the compliment which word could convey for the boldness and sincerity
and harmony of his work is due.

The structural aesthetics of color, still veiled and sphinx-like, awaits the
advent of architects who are colorists. Stanford White thought in color, by
the way, and his work is the proof.

However immaterial and irrelevant criticism of a work so generally lovely
may appear, we are bound to recognize in each advance step in art a stepping
stone to something greater. This work in color at the exposition seems to
presage not only a wider appreciation of color in its application to architectural
problems, but a demand on the part of the public for a more precise knowledge
of the use of color by architects.

The day is not far distant, we feel, when the architect shall be required to
know not only the law of the forms which he employs, but the law of color
harmony as well, when, like Michael Angelo, he shall be required to wield the
brush and the sculptor's chisel as well as the builder's square.

The preparation of the drawings, specifications and contract papers needed
for separate trade contracts is arduous in direct proportion to the number of
subdivisions. They have to define clearly not only just what work is to be
included in each, but also just how the work of the other trades will affect each
one. The contractors must know at the time they put in their bids just what
to count on from their associates on the job by way of help or hindrance to
their own work. For instance, if the plumbers are not told in their specifica-
tions that the cutting of masonry, iron, wood or plaster work necessary to the
proper running of their pipes is to be done for them by the masons, iron-
workers, carpenters and plasterers, they will include in their bids a sum to
cover the cost of such cutting, and the owner would be paying for it twice,
since each of those trades will be called upon in their own specifications to "do
all cutting," etc.

So the specification-writer's task is proportionately more complicated. So
is the draftsman's. And so, of course, is the bookkeeper's, whose records show
the state of each contractor's account, the extras, credits and payments. When
there are fifty accounts connected with one building operation, in place of one,
the clerical labor involved is greatly increased ; in fact, the importance of
accurate business procedure by the architect is apparent.

The pitfalls and labyrinths of misunderstandings into which we may be
led through verbal modifications of written contracts, or discrepancies between
drawings and specifications, or other vaguenesses, have to be even more care-
fully avoided when a "general contractor" is not employed. For one of the
functions of the latter is to fill up the holes and bridge over the gaps in his
contract. These holes and gaps always exist, though their number and size
vary according to the thoroughness with which the architect prepares his
drawings and specifications, as well as the contract clauses themselves. Among
the latter is usually inserted that one which calls upon the contractor to "do
any and all other work not shown on or described in plans and specifications,
but necessary to complete," etc.

The actual value of this clause depends largely on the good nature of the
contractor, as its legal worth is nil. If your "general contractor" is making a
good profit out of the work, he will not be averse to filling in gaps and holes
out of his own pocket, with a lively sense of favors to come by thus impressing
the owner with his liberality. Most contractors figure at the outset on doing
this, and their bid for the work is made just so much larger by providing for it.

Under the separate contract system, it is possible to keep a much more
accurate account of the building's progress and the proper times and amounts

74 The Architect and Engineer

for the payments due the contractors. One reason \vh_v contractors Hke it is
that their payments are made to them direct, on the certificate of the architect,
whereas when a "general contractor" is in charge, his sub-contractor's work
is paid for by him out of the payments made him by the owner. An unfair
contractor (there are such persons) is thus given the opportunity to be unfair
to his ''subs" by holding back their money on some pretext. So the trade con-
tractors welcome dealing directly with the owners, for they know that their
payments will be prompt, and at the same time the architect's control is the
more effective, for the argument of a withheld certificate is always potent in
hastening the carrying out of his directions.

The taking of a large number of estimates by trades, which is so important
a feature, develops a fact of much significance, but to which little attention is
usually paid. This is, the wide diiiference in the amounts submitted, though
the bids are of course all based on exactly the same data of drawings and
specifications. Those dififerences are found to be greater in some trades than
in others, but the fact that they are found, and almost invariably run a wide
gamut of change, is one of the strongest arguments in the trade-contract
method's favor.

Various legitimate causes create these dififerences. One bidder bids low
because he is doing other work in the neighborhood of the proposed "job" and
counts on consequent economies accruing from that fact. Another counts on
certain money-saving methods of which he believes himself master, either in
fabricating or erecting material, or both. Still another contractor bids low
through a mistake on the part of his estimating clerk in taking ofif the quanti-
ties or adding up the figures. Some contractors are careless enough to entrust
this important duty to inexperienced or incompetent hands. A well-known
granite firm recently faced, and accepted a loss of many thousand dollars
because it found itself saddled with a contract for stone which the firm's
estimating clerk had figured for on the assumption that the architect's draw-
ings were at quarter-inch scale. The drawings were really at eighth-inch scale,
and were so marked.

Another case is that of the contractor who, when work is slack, is willing
to undertake it at little or no profit to himself in order to keep his men em-
ployed. But from whatever cause they are traced, the diversity in the esti-
mates received is nearly always surprising, and emphasizes the importance of
taking as many bids as possible in each line, as well as in as many lines as
practicable. It often happens that of half-a-dozen estimates taken in a certain
trade, the lowest is one hundred per cent less than the highest.

It is hardly necessary to add that a building built under the trade-contract
system will be better built than one done under a general contract, for the
greater amount of time and attention it demands from the architect is bound
to bring this about. ^

* *

Not Foreman on that Job

The new foreman was a hustler. Nothing escaped his eagle eye, and
whenever he saw a workman suffering from a tired feeling he quicklv woke
him up.

So when he discovered a bricklayer snatching a quiet pipe behind a
wheell)arrow his wrath arose mightily.

"What do you think you're paid for? Get on with your job, if }-()U don't
want to get fired pretty sharp."

"All right, boss," rejoined the workman. "Keep your 'air on. Rome
wasn't built in a day, you know."

"That may be," rejoined the hustler, "but I wasn't foreman of that job."

The Architect and Engineer 75

Decorative Value of Tile Flooring


TILE floors have a practical value ; they also have great decorative value, and
it is with the latter that we are at present concerned. Owing to the
peculiar limitations of the material and the methods of manufacture, tiles
are necessarily small units. To cover a large surface with these units, obviously
requires numerous joints. Therefore, the joints, as well as the tiles, should be
given importance in the design. From a designer's point of view, the limitations
of a material are its greatest asset, each material requiring its own peculiar

Not many years ago. all the tiles that were available for floors were of the
machine-made variety, so perfect in workmanship that they could be laid in a
floor with joints of a hair's breadth. These tiles were made in a variety of
shapes and colors, but it was useless to lay out a pattern in one color, because
the pattern of the joints could not be discovered without close inspection. If
pattern was to count, it was necessary to use color, and the effect was generally
hard, dry, and uninteresting. Conditions have since changed and we have come
to realize the value of the joints. It is seldom necessary to lay a floor of plain
tiles with joints less than one-quarter of an inch in width. \Miether these joints
are left the natural color of cement, or are colored, they will always count in
the design, and the slight unevenness of the tiles themselves will give a texture
that is not as hard and uninteresting as the floors of mechanical perfection.

The character of the building and the location of furniture and rugs affect
the design of the floor. If the floor is in an important room of a monumental
building and is free from large pieces of furniture, it may well be treated so as
to be in accord with the architectural treatment of the walls, but if there is to be
much furniture and many rugs on the floor it is better treated as a whole. This
is a point that is often lost sight of in railway waiting rooms and restaurants.

Church floors afl:'ord as great an opportunity for tile work as the windows do
for stained glass. Much could be said on this subject alone, but it is sufficient
here to make the following observation : The nave aisles should be simple, the
choir somewhat more elaborate, and the sanctuary very rich in pattern, symbols
and color. In short, the elaboration increases as the altar is approached.

It is not necessary to use large tiles in a large room to get scale, as the tiles
can be arranged so that the unit is composed of several small tiles, and the scale
of the pattern increased or reduced.

It is not essential that all the tiles laid in a floor come from one factory.
Herein has the tile setter great advantage, especially in colored tiles. In the
matter of shapes and designs, clay is so easily moulded that there is almost no
limit to the variety that the smallest factors- can produce. It is in the matter of
glazes and quality that makers dift'er.

There are many patterns that have been common property ever since the be-
ginning of tile making, and are to be found, with slight variations, in many tile
manufacturers' lists. New designs can be readily produced and old ones
revived : the process is simply a model in clay or wax, from which a plaster
mould is made, then the clay pressed in by hand, removed from the mould, dried
and baked ; a simple primitive process, to which tiles owe much of their charm.
The difficulties are in composition of the clay and glazes : these, of course, it is
assumed, have been overcome by the manufacturer.

The ideal method of designing a floor is to arrange a general scheme and
then lay out the details on the job, changing and rearranging details as occasion
arises. This, of course, requires an artist as a workman — and there are such —
or constant supervision. This is not always possible, but when it is done, the


The Architect and Ens^iiiccr

result is spontaneous, and free from the mechanical look that might come from
a hard and fast plan laid out on the drawing board.

By the use of color in pattern, and pattern in individual tiles, there is almost
no limit to the richness and elaboration possible for tile floors, but on the other
hand, it is also possible to make an interesting floor of plain tiles in one color by
taking advantage of the joints.

The Federal Architect's Office

THE resignation of Oscar Wenderoth, Supervising Architect of the Treas-
ury, recently announced, gives to the government an opportunity for the
urged reconstruction of that office upon broader and more efficient lines.
Pending definite legislation (as suggested by the Logue bill, or through any
other approved plan), it is necessary that a move toward efficient supervision

Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayThe Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast (Volume v.42 (July-Sep. 1915)) → online text (page 6 of 38)