Studio: international art — 60.1914

Page: 250
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The Lay Figure

THE LAY FIGURE: ON COT-

TAGE ARCHITECTURE.

“ What a lot of talk there is just now about
the housing of the rural population,” said the Man
with the Red Tie. “ It seems to have become of
late one of the most absorbing questions of the
moment.”

“ Oh yes, but only as a matter of politics,” replied
the Architect. “ It is not a question, I am afraid,
in which people with artistic inclinations are taking
much interest.”

“ I am not so sure about that,” broke in the Art
Critic. “A great many people are much concerned
about rural housing from the picturesque stand-
point, and they are troubling a good deal about
what they regard as the serious degeneration in
rustic architecture. It is, I think, becoming a
question of real importance to every one who is
anxious to preserve the more attractive features of
this and, indeed, all other countries.”

“ Then you would agree with me, I expect, that
the character and charm of rustic architecture are
disappearing rapidly?” asked the Architect. “I
feel it strongly myself, but I was beginning to be
seriously afraid that every one else was absolutely
indifferent.”

“ Do you imagine that no one but you has any
sense or power of observation ? ” laughed the Man
with the Red Tie. “ The tendency to exalt a very
stupid type of utilitarianism into a sort of fetish and
to treat all idea of the picturesque as if it were an
actual impropriety seems to me to be one of the
worst difficulties one has to face in all discussions of
the rural housing problem.”

“ And it is a difficulty that is likely to become
more acute in the future,” agreed the Critic. “ I
quite admit that the picturesque cottage is dying
out; the last nail, I fear, will be driven into its
coffin when the Government, as seems likely, starts
cottage building all over the country.”

“ But don’t you think the Government will give
architects a chance ? ” asked the Architect. “ It
might do something to revive the earlier picturesque
type.”

“ It is much more likely to adopt a kind of sealed
pattern and to stick up a quite unattractive regula-
tion building in every district,” scoffed the Man
with the Red Tie. “I do not hope much from
any official department.”

“ Yes, that is likely enough,” said the Critic,
“especially as a good deal of the trouble we are
talking about has arisen from the rigorous imposi-
tion of local by-laws authorised by Acts of Parlia-
250

ment. The sealed pattern is undoubtedly a danger
because it will take no account of local conditions
and will allow of no variation to suit particular
exigencies. Half the charm of the old-time cottage
was its automatic adaptation to local conditions ;
it fitted naturally and happily into its surroundings
and became as a matter of course part of the
landscape.”

“ Ah, those by-laws ! ” sighed the Architect. “ I
was hoping that under an intelligently planned
Government scheme they might be made less
unreasonable, or at all events a little more elastic.
They are undoubtedly, as a consequence of their
want of adaptability, the cause of many of the evils
which we are deploring.”

“And they will probably be made more rigorous
and more inelastic if a very vigorous attempt is not
promptly made to stir up public opinion to realise
how much has been already lost and how much
more is going to be lost in the near future,” de-
clared the Critic. “The tendency here, and in
other countries too, is to do things more and more
by rule, to become steadily more commonplace and
stereotyped, and to allow always less scope for the
display of individual taste.”

“ I suppose, after all, these much abused by-
laws have done some good in practical ways,”
suggested the Man with the Red Tie.

“ Some good, no doubt,” admitted the Architect;
“ but their purpose is so absolutely utilitarian that
they have stood sadly in the way of artistic progress.
They have killed the old thatched cottage with
its mud walls which was both comfortable and
picturesque, and they have brought into existence
a cheaply built brick box which is not really
weather-proof or pleasant to live in and which is
certainly appallingly ugly. They have created a
uniform type of building which in no part of the
country assorts in the least with the landscape, and
which is too stereotyped in its plan to be decently
adaptable to the needs of different kinds of tenants.
Really, it is a question which I find extremely
difficult to answer, whether the various building
regulations by which we are so heavily weighted
have not done in practical matters as much harm
as they have in aesthetics.”

“ And the pity of it is that all this harm has
been done unnecessarily,” said the Critic. “A
picturesque cottage which is comfortable to live in
would appeal to the countryman—who is not
wanting in taste—far more than the brick box
which is now forced upon him. Why should he
not have what he wants ? ”

The Lav Figure,
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