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FINE LINES

 

Many of us, simply said, choose to consider ourselves primarily within natural not predominantly man-made environments. Open spaces, light, climate, landscapes and nature do not just inspire us with feelings

of cheer, health, wealth and vibrant confidence but innately provide us with vital visual relief and detail in our
lives, encouraging our enjoyment and use of landscape extensively with buildings and spaces, showering
us with diverse effects of flora, fauna, shade and shelter. Fine choices.
 

Open spaces are synonymous with openness of attitude, opportunity and critical open debate. Similarly honest open
aspirations in building
design and development can reasonably be considered an attempt to lead forward as opposed
to dominate
. Buildings and design elements are quite naturally positioned more significantly than others and

prospectively so with exceptionally good taste. Not least of course the famous New England churches and bell

towers, in themselves far from insignificant scales of buildings with unrivalled qualities of harmony over their

neighbourhood characters and roof landscapes.

 

We consider the elevations of buildings too often simply in terms of hard, basic material divisions abruptly

and sharply defining material spaces less so in terms of our confidence of their need of our opinion, appreciation

and wider influence.

Design wherever of a public face is for individual public opinion free, open and collective and thereby we
should never be afraid to give expression to this especially for large sites.
Fine contrast between subtle even simple elements of proportion we perceive ourselves as onlookers to define
surrounding spaces providing as also omitting the necessary key qualities of elevations and surrounds
creating movement unifying and identifying perspectives. Essentially being creative not deterministic.
Proportion is evident primarily in what we choose to perceive as such.
Proportion is precisely everything of mass and void of a discernible emphasis, even of the balance of 
detail and sophistication, sufficient to be instrumental influencing reflective and creative thinking,
contrasting with crudely defined expressions and elements.
Proportion is all, reflecting the whole, the unity of a building. 
Proportion is a question of open appreciation not otherwise of fineness, efficiency, subtlety, purity of line,
superb elegance and of decoration.
Scale and unity can be enhanced and emphasised, as classically from the human proportions of Golden
Sections, and can appear relatively more elastic where elements of proportion can be exaggerated through
their fineness and subtlety in being confidently handled.
Even the builders of the Parthenon angled the tops of the outer portico columns inwards for us to openly
appreciate
enhanced visual aspects.
Simple to fine elements of proportion evolve simply to more complex appreciations of interpretative associations.
Such proportions can represent even the finest of divisions between glass sheets or the outlines of buildings.
Witness Boston.
 
When we say we don't like the proportions of a building in description what else could be more fitting in
our opinion counting and in effect we mean all of the building.
Conversely such interpretation of its character acknowledges that we describe a building within an inclusive
environment
and that it should prove capable of providing influence.
 

Contrast can extend across groups of buildings displaying various associated qualities, for instance within

a high rise central business district across those much appreciated highly proportioned decorative facades
from earlier periods. These buildings could not easily be replaced in modern economics. One relevance is 
that they show us buildings that we can more easily appreciate as having significant qualities representative
in fine, scarce and diverse values for us. Not an easy factor in considering contemporary design in often
many singular development contexts. Such earlier building compositions can even be enhanced in modern
times through fine choice of contrast in surrounding modern buildings, a feature that can extend
to providing innovative, exciting compositions.

 

Indeed the juxtaposition of views of various prospective buildings can be held by some authoritarian contexts

to require such amicable contrast as to be considered only in simple anachronistic fashion to the extent of
critical creative evaluations being unrealistic and unattainable rejecting both the natural evolution of alternative
solutions and the specific avoidance of homogenous regimes of stylised, exaggerated, elemental rationales.

It is as if such could provide the only sufficient resources of explanation and relevance.
Emphasis in much needed preservation, though, is on the very real urgent need to save the existing evidential
fabric, the wider spatial detail, the most precisely valid influential unity and spatial character of buildings,
settlements and landscape forms often in opposition to determined politically obviated 'ilks and espousals'
of one kind or another designed to provide a dubious benefit excuse sop out of 'out of scale' replications,
historical
pastiche, negative designs or simplistic exclusions of contemporary design. More ususally a
fashionable new concept or use's active visual character and extent being broadly promoted as significant is
of concern in terms of absolute basic deceit, lack of creativity, of originality, even of wit or specific interest.
Buildings stand on their merits 'alone'.
The wider elements of conservation character for new design remain philosophical ones of choice and a
'geographic' issue of influential vernacular landscape and design, of evident buildings and settlement forms.
Appreciating the context of historic qualities alone does not have to be the only one. 

 

ĹNewĺ views of discernment not infrequently offer help to form diverse and complementary qualities to

influence our surroundings. Visual image alone though and especially without cultural context can quickly
become obsolescent reinforcing the need to involve an artistic expression and appreciation in more
detailed form. No building elevation or open associated spaces ever need be left unconsidered. Opportunities
in design need to be encouraged to avoid over simplistic approaches and restrictive interpretations of sites.
New can also be exclusively artistic, particularly in terms of detailing and form, exhibit great craftsmanship
and superb technology and hence notably enhance a wider perception and appreciation of our surroundings. 
 
Defining character in a building or of a site or settlement could be considered to necessitate some form of
landscape ecology, topographical or evident historical precedent or placement other than that of 'isolated character'
as such might be unrepresentative of any wider individual merits. A building with absolutely no associations
could conceivably be considered to have no character at all. Simple visual image of itself as transient and
immediate becomes dated leading towards obsolescence calling for a deeper, fuller appreciation of building
and site spatial
surrounds if these are to avoid interference, irrelevance and redundant vacancy.
 
Simple reversions to experimenting with proportional ratios reflective of character in areas of conservation
should not of necessity have to invoke the employment of detailed characteristics and decorative elements of
previous periods' giving rise to 'pastiche' - to simplistic and for the most part non genuine affectation of an
association with building identities and character of previous periods. This notwithstanding restoring the unity
in instances or areas of period character, despoiled or otherwise. Concealments of what can be misleading
associations are subjective not realistic and are probably not especially intended to relate meaningfully to the
special character of areas, to effective preservation, conservation or enhancement - nor to spreading wider
consideration of and improvements in support of areas of built character.
Sensitive they are not.
 
The purpose of any conservation should seek to prompt achievement - to show us through thinking conceptually
 that which
could be achieved at previous periods the fullest influence, utility and quality of which we would seek to
appreciate, understand and preserve in order to prompt our own specific achievements. How we discuss
issues
honestly, actively and purposefully with resolution in seeking to preserve and enhance existing integrities of
fabric, design and open spatial character enables us more surely to accurately appreciate and spread spatial
influence outwards for conservation interests as opposed to the simple remorseless degrading and infilling of
spatial resources that is of far more real significant issue than attempting to gloss over various aspects with
inadequate 'filigres'. 

 

The proportions of buildings can give us a very real perceived sense of volumetrically increased spatial 

surrounds not just of appreciation of their vertical proportions but of highly expansive lateral qualities of

reflective qualities of use. Most specifically for those spaces immediately in front of or in close proximity to building facades and curtilages which might so often otherwise appear overtly crude wasted

environs isolating and restricting value with less utility.


At their best buildings' curtilages can significantly and visibly expand our spatial interests not only in our

perception of their raison d'etre but in those of their adjoining spaces, defining and enjoining us with their

degrees of character and 'influential presence'. If proffered we are likely to offer both greater time

and perceptive interest.

Such spaces constitute for us what is vital prerequisite visual interest appearing to a degree interleaved in focus,
flexible, almost mobile in characteristics.


Why should we so often allow ourselves to be visually restricted subjectively, perceptively without influence

in what are so often simply exemplified as somewhat 'pasted' two dimensional offerings?

Buildings should be actively enjoyed with our participation and interest in their degree of focus and wit. 
 
In this respect particularly, it is interesting to consider the influence of sculpture and art for our appreciation
of buildings, not least in that such is frequently specifically positioned in close proximity to buildings.

Here, for interest, are some of the descriptions previously on exhibits from the Museum Of Fine Arts, Boston:

 

Henry Moore, 1898-1986
ôsculpture for me, must have life in it, vitality. It must have a feeling for organic form, a certain pathos and warmthö
 
David Smith

Cubi XVIII

feeling of weightlessness and seems to extend into the surrounding space

 

Tony Cragg

exploring the effects of movement and volume within each sculpture multiple axes exist generating unexpected viewpoints

through symmetry and asymmetry resulting in contoured images and figures that are tangible but mysteriously revealed

 

Zhan Wang

connection with the spiritual experience of nature to wander in their minds eye through a substitute mountainside

place for contemplation and meditation

 
 

With buildings much depends of course on their contexts and purposes. Functional or visual, complementary even of

discordant character. Fortunately though there is frequently the opportunity to consider particular character in terms
prospective and opportune.

 

Buildings do have a life of their own being generally viewed most extensively from inside. Outside at ground

level, though, they benefit from an associated informal use of their scale through an atmosphere of vitality and
diverse use to make the most use of spaces by those who are going to breathe life into their environs. Specifically,
no 'side space' should be incapable of holding our considered attention since unifying detail and landscape help us
substantiate, appreciate and utilise spaces in much closer fashion. Spatial relationships involving buildings, though, are
not easily defined nor established, especially with larger scale and higher rise developments.
 
Our concern for what people see and what we hope they will discern and share in our opinion as being 'just fine'
is evident wherever design is articulate in detail to avoid being crude, undisciplined or unfinished, especially in visually
prominent public areas. Intelligent, articulate and refined detailing in any design and an appreciation of art can 
realistically be used to stimulate interest to reflect and reciprocate other persons' energies, sensibilities and 
discernment.
 
Even the thought 'we can do better than that' is not necessarily an idle but a justifiable pride towards building such
abilities and a refined appreciation of the feelings and aspirations of a community seen, held and led by its
individual
membersNeither do aspirations in design in any way have to be based on precursors even when
so influenced by many.
 

How we discern and discuss issues and consensus consistently defining them to raise our levels of perception

itself becomes one of the most significant elements of proportion.
Indeed at any stages of decision-making and design processes, even concerning very large prestigious buildings,
there should be evident opportunities to encourage, discern, involve and discuss existing and new views and
any concerns. The prospect of effective meaningful discussions throughout offers the highest opportunities for
opinion 
and
contradiction. Simple straightforward opinions can retain similar facility to integrate new, conflicting,
subtly distinguished options. Detailed effective evaluations of consensus or otherwise following development
can facilitate such interest for the
future. Many might argue that oral debate and discussion are the finest, most
realistic detailed forms of
explanation. With subtlety we can add ongoing and evolving formats of discussion
throughout decision makin
g processes without such being led by the nose.
 
Fine lines, superimposed perspectives and shared landscapes all involve detailed discussions, appraisals and
assessments. Just as proportion and design is everything so everybody's views and opinions can be inclusive.
Sites and buildings have to relate to more evolving refinements of views, values and opportunities and
prospective sensitivities have to be taken into account. What is most beneficial are realistically defined practical
explanations to avoid abstractions being based on ignorance and inaccuracies. The backbone of competent
discourse is available to us through detailed observation, honesty and experience.
 
Plans and designs are reproductions to the reality they propose. As in photography there can be a lot of posing
even of spurious posturing. We need to apply detailed critical relevant experience based on sound practical observation.
In terms of obvious and subtle good taste communities can fully appreciate and discuss this concern. Indeed,
practice of their good sense surely leads to evident good taste. A design should not really have to be described other
than it is evident in appreciation.
 
Much of what is built will, of course, subsequently be demolished or changed and perhaps we should acknowledge
this issue more often. But encouraging economic and spatial provision for future even partial redevelopment could
unintentionally give encouragement to weak poor development to those frequently emerging as so many unsophisticated
even crass overstatements. Would it be feeble instead to encourage the degrees of subtlety of the historic context providing
for future flexibilities, encouraging and projecting increasing future relevant degrees of historical influence and
appreciation of integrities.
 
Appreciation of issues frequently depends on factors of active discussion, discernment and consensus as significant as
simple visual explanation and description in considering development and design matters. Should such not fit, complement
and perhaps best describe our perceptions of character in buildings, of their particular qualities or otherwise,
notwithstanding that this does also include the 'designers'. Many persons extend this significance of agreement to
engagement of emotional, moral and spiritual factors of environment which we should do well to appreciate in detail.
Is any building that has little or no acknowledged appreciation in proportions or character worthwhile?
 
Plymouth, a small New England town of very distinguished and harmonious settlement character, and incidentally
site of the first pilgrim settlement in North America, has much of interest in this regard. The historic character of
the town is primarily that of timber frame buildings - except for a stone built Unitarian church sited in the foremost
historical area. At first sight intuitively and intrusively one might consider this building, in simple visual terms
apparently a discordant visual feature with the rest of the settlement. However when informed that after a very destructive
fire it had been decided not to contemplate the risk of such conflagration again and to rebuild it in stone one could
understand such a building as the best possible complement for the town and an outstanding decision made. One
we can appreciate even of altering our perception. The church itself was close to the earliest meeting house and place of worship.
 
The point being that our perception of design can be wholly and realistically based on what we know and consider
in a matter of discernment as much as by what we see. Over simplification of visual aspects and statements can be
lacking in terms of discernment. Incidentally this rebuilding effort was endowed with some very fine glass windows by
Tiffany.
 
It is of course a part of our lives to appreciate, retain and provide character in our environment and heritage. We
should know who we are, how we are being influenced, how we are moving forward. At many times though there
emerges instead too much dogmatic idiom of autocratic economic and political propaganda fashioning our
critical environments dissipating our interest in what for us are very precise realities. If we lack proportion it may
be so of almost everything.


 
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