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Thomas Babington Macaulay Macaulay.

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of the divine alloy, and most of our out]nit, like poor castings, are fit only
for the slag heap.

In considering the lilaney villa we shall then regard it as the first-
class product of a first-class mind because we have noted the long fore-
ground and pre])aration behind it, and we might note further that the

• St. Luke's Church. Van Ncsn ami Clay — since destroyed in the flre of l!IO(i.



42



THE AKCHITliCT AXD RXGISF.ER




'-' ~ G






THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER 43

design dates from the third (<r final period of creative effort. The first
])eriod or manner invariably echoes the school training, in the second the
designer gets into his stride and establishes his own individuality. The
tliird manner always shows a tendency to reach beyond into untried
fields. The artist grows tired of recognized forms and strives to e.xpress
ideas almost beyond the medium of his craft or else he harks back to
the primal trail of things. He is passing beyond the violet ray. The
result is sometimes baffling and obscure. It is obviously in this mood
that the iilancy house was conceived. It is saturated with subtleties,
novelties, whimsicalities, even, that transcend the analysis of ordinary
criticism.

We shall therefore have to apply rather unusual methods in generaliz-
ing as to the genesis of this remarkable plan ; but not in the least as we
suppose the architect reasoned. We hold that its real development was
not a matter of the deliberate will, but a sub-conscious process calling up
dee])-rootcd and abysmal origins on which we shall attempt to throw a
little light.

If the reader will turn to the plans he will see at once that house
and grounds are developed on one major axis, but without formal sym-
metry — only a general balance of mass, the greater spread on the left side
being com])ensated for by the greater height, including the tower, on the
right side. There are several minor a.xes. however, upon which are built
symmetrical ei^isodes, but which are so little obvious that the author has
seen fit to indicate them with dotted lines.

The ne.xt feature to note is that there is no bold internal vascular cir-
culation linking the living rooms together in one suite. The circulation
i-; constricted and external, somewhat in the style of a medieval castle or
fifteenth century manor house, this effect being heightened by odd thick-
nesses of wall and random irregularities of plan that suggest the feudal
stronghold for which the original owner has obtained "a license to
crenellate," and a subsecjuent tenant has had the good sense to renovate.
The notion that the house has been added to cannot be escaped and it is
just as apparent that new wings or additions can be added. This point is
im])ortant.

Now all this is Sd much at \ariaiice with every -day practice and school
traditi(jn that we are instantly puzzled. .At first glance, indeed, at the
>kctch i)lan. rather crudely drawn, with obvious mistakes and clumsy
amateurish ])rinting, it seems the work of a beginner — rooms and pas-
sages, closets and stairs being added to one another apparently without
method or end. Indeed, this plan would send the average atelier patron
into a spasm. In essence, in fact and in presentation it goes dead in the
teeth of all latter-day teachings. Hence its compelling interest.

Yet in the fundamental nature of things this plan is right to the core
<if it, just as right as the most symmetrical, clear-cut, o])ened-up h'rench-
iest i)icture plan that could jiossibly be rendered. 1 shall attempt to
show whv.

* H: >i; * *

In the great fire of 1906 a large iron bo.x containing 54 volumes of
MSS., the labor of ten years, was destroyed, with all its contents, in
about ten minutes. These volumes contained notes, data and drawings
inr a work of monumental scoi)e. wdiose title might have been "A. Universal
.Morphology or the I'liilosoi^hv of Form." Its purpose was to reveal the
underlying principles and fornudate the laws governing "form" in the
works of nature and the works of man; for the same laws govern both.



44



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER




CROUXD PLAX. VILLA OF MR. CHARLES
n. BLANEY. SARATOGA. CALIFORNIA
WILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



It included natural form in astroudniical. crystalline and ori^auic matter
and artificial form in weapons, tools, machines, instruments, art and
architecture, including the growth of cities and even the shape of the
continents on the surface of our own and other worlds. The outlines of such
a work may yet be undertaken. I'ltimately it is sure to be developed
among the sciences of the future, which will aim at co-ordination and
.synthesis instead of detail and analysis. At present the subject has been
but briefly touched on from time to time by such men as .Aristotle, Leo-
nardo, Swedenborg. Goethe. Herbert Spencer. Kuskin and Thoreau, and of
course by many less celebrated thinkers.



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGIXEER



45




-^\



StCQHO riOOE PLAN





. Ml ^j ■''"""[" T T^J

H f r [ [dininoLm t"

' v\ifnrH I ' n




FlieaT FLOOE PLAN
1 ". ^ I L i .




FLOOR PLANS. VILLA OF MR. CHARLES
D. BLASEY. SARATOGA. CALIFORNIA
WILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



46



TllR ARCHITIICT AND EXGIA'EER




PORCH AT MAIN ENTRAXCE. FROM WEST GARDEN.
VILLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLANEY. SARATOGA.
CALIFORNIA. WILLIS I'OLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND EXCfXEER 47

From this nebulous mass of researcli and sjjeculation above indicated a
few universal laws have revealed themselves and become detached and
definable.

One of them not hitherto jjut into print has direct bearing^ on the plan
of this fascinating villa, so different from what is beings done and yet. as
I claim, so absolutely in harmony with the laws of esthetics when studied
from a long-distance philosophic viewpoint.

In a very condensed form the thesis runs about as follows: The basis
of all form is symmetry. First universal symmetry about a point as in a
globe or circle, later becoming a square or polygon in section. Stars.
planets, atoms, crystals, raindrops, snowflakes, and cells of petroplasm
and protoplasm come under this head. The globular outline, circular in
section, continues to dominate organic form in most flowers, buds, fruits,
seeds, bulbs and vegetables. Following the same series in the arts and
architecture, we find primitive weapons and pottery globular long before
the turning wheel was invented. The first dwellings of earliest Egypt
were circular mud and wattle huts, still found among primitive savages.
The square hut or tomb, which we take for granted, was in its day an in-
vention of extraordinary originality. Of this type in architecture — sym-
metry about a point — w^ have all types of circular or polygonal buildings,
from Stonehenge to the St. Peters of Michael Angelo — from the Pyramids
and the great .Mausoleum, including nearly all monuments, obelisks and
tombs built ever since, even down to the home of the A. I. .\. in Wash-
ington !

Now, to keep on following "form" as developed by Nature, we come
from the crystalline or inorganic world to the two great branches of the
organic world — animals and plants. The form of all moving animals is
based on exterior symmetry or likeness from side to side of one median
plane and variety or contrast from end to end. Each individual is com-
plete, changeless and detached. You can not add parts to an animal or-
ganism without creating monstrosity nor take parts away without in-
flicting mutilation. Animal forms, moreover, are compact in mass, with
large hollow divisions and comparatively small protuberances, while their
vital sa|) circulates freely well in the depths of each organism.

Plant forms, on the other hand, are based on balance rather than s\'m-
nietry from side to side, the main axis being always in the direction ui
growth. The axes are many instead of one and they tend to be at right
angles to one another. Variety from end to end is of mass or quantity
rather than detail or (]ualily. Each individual is incomplete, ever chang-
ing and attached. You can graft onto a vegetable organism or prune
away with advantage and improvement. Plant forms, moreover, are dif-
fuse in mass, with small hollow divisions and large protul)erances, while
the vital sup circulates in constricted passages near the surface of each
organism.

Before continuing the argunuMit, 1 nuist here relate an interesting inri-
detit. After comj^leting this last paragraph. 1 had occasion to enter a
book store here in Oakland, where I picked up a little volume on ".Archi-
tecture" by Prof. W. R. Lethaby. Almost the first thing I read was the
following remarkable sentence on page 248: "Now that all the styles cm
earth have been surveyed and accounted for historically, what is wanted
is a new type of classification by essential differences of structure — a new
science of building mori)hology." No words Cf)uld more aptly describe
just exactly what 1 started out to do 30 years ago, which now for the first
time I am trying to explain very briefly in these columns of The Archi-



48



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGIXEER




U E^l LOGGIA. VILLA OF MR. OlARLES
I>. BLANEY. SARATOGA. CALIFORMA
IIILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER



49




LiriSC ROOM TERRACE. FROM NORTH GARDE\—
I-ILLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLANEY. SARATOGA
CALIFORX/A. WILLIS POLK » CO.. ARCHITECTS



50



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER




GATEW AY FROM H'EST GARDES TO KITCHES YARD.
I'lLLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLANEY. SARATOGA.
CAUFORMA II II. f. IS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER 51




CATEUAY FROM WEST GARDEN TO KITCHEN YARD.
VILLA OF MR. CHARLES I). BLAXEY. SAR.4T0GA.
CAL/FORNIA. WILLIS POLK &■ CO.. ARCHITECTS



mil ARCHITECT AND EXGIXRER




(jATliWAY IKOM KnCllliX YAKU TO lili.ST GAKDE.X.
VILLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BIANEY. SARATOGA.
CALIFORNIA. WILLIS I'OLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



77//: .IRCIII riiCT AND RXGIXliliR




I7ST.I FROM IIVl'Si; TOWARD POOL AT EDGE OF EAST
GARDEN. yiLLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLASEY. SARA-
TOGA. CALIFORNIA. WILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



54



THE .IRCHITF.CT .L\D EXGIXEER




flEH FROM EAST CARDEX. VILLA OF M^i.
CHARLES D. BLAXEV. SARATOGA. CALI-
FORSIA. WILLIS POLK Sr CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER



55




•^^1?/' "fv






iaS5i3»f.f*s



'^'^'***"iii «« 1111,1111



;■/£((• FKOM EAST GARDES. IILLA OF MR.
CHARLES D. BLANEY. SARAIOGA. CALI-
FORNIA. U-ILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER




THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER



57




58



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER




EXTERIOR ESrRASCE TO PLAY ROOM FOR SEIGHnORHOOD CHIL-
ORES FROM HEST GARDEN. I'lLLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLASEY.
SARATOGA. CALIFORNIA. UILLIS POLK &■ CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER



59




ASOTHER VIEW OF EXTERIOR TO PLAY ROOM FOR NEIGH-
BORHOOD CHILDREN. VILLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLANEY.
SARATOGA. CALIFORNIA. WILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



60



THE ARCHITECT ASD EXGIXEER




LOGGIA AT MAI\' ESTRASCE ASD TOHER AS SEES FROM
WEST GARDES. VILLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLASEV. SARA-
TOGA. CALIFORSIA. WILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER



61




EAST LOGGIA. VILLA OF MR. CHARLES
D. BLANEY. SARATOGA. CALIFORNL-I
iVILLIS POLK &■ CO.. ARCHITECTS



62



rilE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER




CATEUAY FROM KITCHEN YARD TO EAST GARDEX .
yiLLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLA.VEY. SARATOGA.
CALIFORMA. Ull.US POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCHITECT A\D EXGIXERR



63




ItEST LOGGIA— A\ ISTISIATE flEir iSOTE DIVERSITV
OF DETAIL). VILLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLASEY. SARA-
TOGA. CALlFOR.\IA. WILLIS POLK & CO.. ARCHITECTS



64



77//: ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER




II EST LOGGIA. ]1LLA OF MR. CHARLES D. BLAXEY. SAKAmCA. CALIFORXIA
It mil Polk & Co.. Archiltc's




HELL COURT l.\ II EST LOCGl.l



FROM THE BELVEDERE. LOOKING
SOUTH OVER THE ROOF



THE .-ARCHITECT AND EXGIXEER 65

tect and Engineer. The reader will have guessed by this time the main
idea. The works of man repeat the processes of the works of Nature
and the organic creations of man's ingenuity will also group themselves
along the three avenues of organic growth — crystalline, animal or vegetal.

.AH the formal self-consciously designed buildings of the world roughly
styled classic follow the animalistic form, symmetry each side of a single
axis — variety of form and function from end to end. Millions of struc-
tures throughout the world can be instantly classified in this great
division.

Like animals, they can not be added to nor cut without disaster. If
the interior symmetry is not perfect, heart and liver being lob-sided, no
difference is seen in the outer form, just as a Beaux Arts "projet" will show
different offices placed in perfectly similar pavilions, each side of a cen-
tral axis. The sense of detachability is strong in this type of formal build-
ing. In their supreme e.xpression they are always set on a platform or
stylobate, with free and open approaches. They would, moreover, fit on
one plane as well as on another.

On the other hand, all the informal "unconscious" buildings that are
not planned but "grow," which are not classic (in the sense that Amiens
Cathedral is a classic type of Gothic) follow the vegetal system. This
group includes all structures lacking strict integral symmetry but pos-
sessing a balance of dependent and lateral S3'mmetries — like a tree or
creeper. In this group, far less known to the professional architect where
school traditions prevail, will come the farm houses and convents, villas
and castles, cottages and citadels, that grow out of the soil, so to speak, and
were built by primitive communities, unlettered men, cultivators, soldiers.
The type is expressed b\- a tree or shrub. It obeys the law of vegetable and
not animal forms.

The Blaney house is, barring the excessive self-consciousness underly-
ing its naif unsophistication, a splendid latter-day example of the vegetal
type of building. Its prototype and symbol being a tree — say a Scotch
hr on a tall trunk. \'egetable forms are extended widely into space and
of course rooted in the soil. And this block plan has all the qualities of
a tree, is in fact the diagram of a tree.

The main a.xis or trunk rooted in the moisture of the pond rises
straight and high and then near the top splits into several other branches,
the parallel axes, as shown on the plan, with other lateral ones at right
angles. It is to be remarked again that the draughtsman has gone out of
his way to indicate these intersecting axes as though conscious that the
building had so little symmetry that what there was of it should not pass
unnoticed. But of compact and rigid animal symmetry there is none;
only the irregular balance of mass that gives picturesque elegance to a
tall wind-stressed pine tree.

As a matter of fact, this plan is a compendium of most of the elements
that went to make up a medieval dwelling, with certain complicated and
contradictory features that will be taken up later on. It has reminiscences
of the castle in its look-out. barbican and well shaft, of the manor house
in its lofty hall, gallery and secret door, of the farm house in its extended
annexes, outside staircase and walled yards. The arrangement of living
rooms in the center, with the family on the main floor and the servants'
quarters at the opposite end, is essentially medieval. .And so, too, are
the rooms strung together and connected from the outside rather than the
inside. For this is the method of all rural building as distinguished from
urbane ones the wide world over. To this day farm houses, when really



66



THE ARCHirnCT JA'D ENGINEER




INTER/OR. VILLA OF MR. CHARLES
D. BLAXEY. SARATOGA. CALIFORNIA
WILLIS POLK &■ CO.. ARCHITECTS



THE ARCllirF.CT AXD EXGLMiER 67

the j^rowtli nf tlie siiil, consist uf riHinis added to rooms and connected
with an outside jiorch or portico. Another manorial feature is seen in the
massive and conspicuous cliimneys.

The architectural reader may not readily recall |)lans of this type for
the very simple reason that they do not readily gfet into pictorial form.
They did not begin on paper and to paper they do not readily return, as
we say of the dust. Xone the less, this type of building is as universai as
the forest which grew and was not tirst conceived like animals.

In scientific language, animal organisms are wholly integrated — that
is to say, eacii part bears a definite and rigid relation to the whole, is, in
a word, subordinated. And subordination of parts is the ruling principle
of classic or animalistic design. In vegetable forms there is accretion of
parts, but not sui)ordination. A tree or plant has its branches or leaves
integrated, it is true, Init they are added to one another rather than com-
bined. .And note how this lllaney house plan is lacking in sid)ortlination of
|)arts. This is by no means mentioned as a fault. On the contrarw it is
a most interesting and convincing proof that this plan belongs finida-
mentallx' to the \egetal rather than the animalistic type of form. .\nd,
of course, we mean highly devcloi)ed form at the end of long evuhition.
Integration of iovm units is essentially a later de\elopnK-nt than mere
agglomeration.

Now, just as one bough of a tree is \ery like another, both in mass
and form, so do the ramifications of this house tend to be similar to each
other lioth in s])read and in bulk. The circulation in the ])assages and
jjorches is constricted, and on the outside, or near the outside, just as in
a tree the sap circulation is carried in small passages right under the bark.

Again |)lants live upon air far more than animals. Every leaf is a
lung. .\nd now note how this tyi)e of house is also highly articulated anrl
s|)reading like a tree and observe how much of the outer atmosphere it
in\'ites and embraces in its own bulk in its porches, jiorticos, courts and
belvederes. Like a tree also, it is ])art of and rooted in the soil and sur-
roundings in an intimate manner (|uite unsuitable and undesirable in the
formal classic animal type of house. These characteristics as noted above
are universal in primitive and bucolic construction and just as in the
world at large the vegetable forms jirecede the animal, conse(]uentl\- they
are vastly more bulky and e.xtensixe ox'er the jilanet than animal forms. The
layout of the lUane)' house is therefore a reversion to a t_\'])e far more ancient
and utiiversal than the mcjre highly developed and integrated plans of the
schools, and it is important to note, in passing, that the irregular unsvm-
metrical floralistic plan is better adajjted for home ]nir])oses in the countrx-
than the regivlar symmetrical faunalistic ty])e. The most attractive homes
the world over instinctively sha])e themselves on the former and not the
latter ])rinciple.

These generalizations are of course \ ery imperfectly and sketchih'
stated. It would lake a treatise to expound them fullv.

Coming down from these uni\ersal and underlying jjrincijiles. let us
consider another ])hase of the evolution of "form" in architecture. .And here
again I will draw from another chapter of the lost Alor])hology.

I know of no building that is a more interesting blend of two great
principles in art growth which of c<nirse exactly parallel similar laws in
nature. These laws of nature ha\e only recently been discovered, and it is
therefore unlikely that their ai)]}lication to architecture has been often if
ever realized before.



68 THE ARCHITECT AXD ENGINEER

If wc take a ride into Liverniore valley tlirouii^h Xiles Canyon, we can
see fine illustrations of this law. First, if we leave the car on the roadside
and wander down the canyon toward the creek bed, we can find without
much trouble a \ivid green wiry-looking shrub popularly known as "horse
tail." This l(jwly wayside weed may well e.xcite our interest. It is the last
remaining re[)resentative of a titanic verdure that once overran the earth in
paleozoic times: the interminable forests of the carboniferous epoch, whose
remains now have become pressed into seams of coal. Thus the mightiest
vegetation that was ever on the earth has finally degenerated to a wayside
weed. But while the giant cry]jtogamia of this epoch were in their glory
some of the weeds of that period — common lowly grasses have now been
developed into one of the most useful and honored plants of the planet.
As we leave the shaded canv^on and emerge into the sunlit plains, we come
right upon great meadows of it — the king product of the fields — wheat!

In other words, the sovereign plants of one epoch become the weeds of
the ne.xt and vice versa. And in any garden or farm the most valued
products of the soil will be a blend of rare and farfetched exotics that have
been made hardy and common, like peaches and oranges ; and common way-
side plants that have been lifted by cultivation into the plane of usefulness
and beauty, like asparagus and lilies.

In architecture we find growths that run equally to extremes. It is a
long way, indeed, from the temples of the gods and the palaces of kings to
the barns and cottages of the common people. Yet the whole of civilization
consists in the main of a long, gradual process by which in the end palaces
are provided for the people and cottages made fit for kings. .And so clear-
cut are these two processes that it is possible and in fact easy to cast one's
eye over the exterior or interior of any modern building and to pick out in-
stantly the parts that are "degraded" remnants of palace architecture and
the parts that are glorified developments of cottage architecture.

Or, for that matter, we can "place" a whole structure in either group.
Here is a square-topped, rustic-sided, mill-trimmed house, with large win-
dow lights, high ceilings, synunetrical as to inside plan and shiny as to out-
side paint; all earmarks of showy palatial origin. Next door is a high-
pitched, broken skyline shingled structure without ornament mouldings
or paint, irregular in plan, with low ceilings and small window panes — a
beautified barn I

The use of expensive materials, like cut stone or marble, all "orders"
formal and molded work, high ceilings, symmetrical layout and large win-
dows are hold-overs from palace architecture, imitated, diluted, copied and
cheapened Ut )\\'X through the whole community. ( )n the other hand, cheap
materials, shingles, bricks, stucco, rough stone, wood work — ^informal and
low rooms, irregular plan and small windows are perpetuations of cottage
and farm house conditions that have been improved and developed UP
through the whole community.

On the one hand we have the appeal of magnificence and grandeur of all
formal and im]>osing structures that are costly and new. On the other we
have the (juality of the picturesque, comfort, cosiness and "homeyness" of
buildings that are inex])ensive and old and make much wider and more
intimate a[)peal than the other. And for good reasons. The vast bulk oi
the human race has dwelt in cottages and not in castles. Twenty genera-
tions back each one of us has over one million grandparents, increasing
geometrically as you recede into the past. That is why we love the low
ceiling, the cosy home to live in, however much we may admire the man-
sion to look at. Let the bonanza kings build their palatial residences, we



THE ARCHITECT AND ENGINEER 69

wild can afford the aristocrat's pri\ iletje of being natural ])refer to live in a
home. None the less there is that in us which insists in a touch of formal-
ity, (if grandeur even, to match certain dignified moods and moments of life
that vary the democratic humdrum. JelTersonian simplicity in one's home
does not preclude a Jeffersonian colonnade on one's house.

\ow the Blaney villa seems to the writer a most happy compromise and
blend of the cross tendencies in life and in architecture we have just noted.
Here we see a sympathy with simple, ordinary materials, stucco and com-
mon clay, both, however, rendered romantic and beautiful by the hand of
art. .\nd here, too, we find a few features of more formal work: just an
episode or two of magnificence, that give a tone and a touch of courtliness,
as if also in sympathy with what is high-bred and aristocratic.

The entrance portico, for example, is a complete order in Italian Doric,
jialatial in form and spirit but e.xecuted in inex])ensive cement. The entab-
lature over this triple cjjjening is complete and delicate in detail, but with-
out pediment or parapet. It runs its brief course straight across and



Online LibraryThomas Babington Macaulay MacaulayThe Architect & engineer of California and the Pacific Coast (Volume v.52-53 (Jan.-June 1918)) → online text (page 37 of 55)